This Budget is a victory for the small business lobby's comms machine

I love Budget Day. When I worked in the Budget team at the Treasury, it was one of my favourite days of the year. I would have been working on it solidly for months - and latterly, would have seen very little of the world outside HM Treasury's HQ.

The Chancellor, George Osborne (Pic credit: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images)
The Chancellor, George Osborne (Pic credit: Andrew Matthews / PA Wire/Press Association Images)
I ran the document sign-off process for a number of years, and would inevitably have been up until three or four in the morning the night before, until the document went to press. 

On the day itself, all I needed to do was to turn up slightly before the Chancellor spoke, play Budget Bingo throughout the speech itself – and then head to the Westminster Arms and try to avoid falling asleep mid-afternoon. 

And then the process would start again.  

I now see the Budget differently. The market is full of agencies pushing their ‘insight’ to clients and potential clients – the content can be very variable, no matter how slickly packaged.
Much of this is not very interesting – indeed, pedestrian – and recycles the FT far too often. 

For me, the real interest is now about the impact on clients. This is where insightful communications professionals, who combine an understanding of the politics with a real knowledge of the Budget process and the policy detail, are vital. The Budget is not just about bullets dodged, but opportunities created.

Clients are understandably focused on the impact of individual measures upon their markets – the insurers, for example, are concerned about the impact of today’s increase in Insurance Premium Tax. 

The soft drinks industry will be worried about the impact of the sugar tax, scant details of which have so far been offered – this despite much work being done on it in the Treasury and HMRC since 2009.

However, the Budget is also a vehicle to create reforms of real value, and a platform to market a distinctive offer, and communicate more clearly to members and customers.

Today’s announcements on business rates is a victory for the small business lobby and the Federation of Small Businesses in particular. 

For a membership organisation like the FSB, this is not just money in the pocket of its members, but a huge vindication of its communications operation. 

It can clearly present this to its members as evidence of how belonging to the FSB pays off. 
Organisations can also recruit on the back of prospective member interest in policy and politics. 

The appearance of success and connection with the political process is attractive, and itself invites people to get involved – join this organisation, and you also can be put in touch with the political class.

For me, now, the Budget is of interest as a communications platform. Sensible engagement with it offers real opportunities to create wins for clients – and to demonstrate the real strategic value that communications advisers can offer.  

James Dowling is head of public policy at Lansons

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