Terry Murden: George Osborne will deliver Plan A, plus or minus

GEORGE Osborne will try once again on Tuesday to provide some stimulus to the fast-stagnating economy while sticking to his deficit reduction plan. It may be his last chance to “do something” before Britain slumps back into recession.

The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement 24 hours after the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tells him to expect the economy to shrink in the first half of the new year, dragged down by the eurozone crisis. By the time he stands up in the Commons the Office for Budget Responsibility will have stuck another boot in by downgrading its forecasts for growth and private sector job creation.

If he hasn’t decided already, he should be thinking of putting a gentle brake on his cutback programme and speeding up his growth plans. He will announce further investment in infrastructure and more help for small firms, including his credit easing initiative.

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But with so little room for manoeuvre and a commitment to tackle the debt burden – broadly supported by the markets and the public – he will be more focused on raising tax revenue than giving anything away. There may be a postponement of the rise in fuel levy, a softening of stamp-duty rules and some help for savers, perhaps by tweaking the benefits of tax-exempt individual savings accounts, but there’ll be little pre-Christmas cheer. He is expected to target the wealthy and announce a further crackdown on tax avoidance to help pay for the package of support for small firms.

Will it add up to a Plan B? Not really, because there will be too little content and he will not be diverted from his core programme. Call it Plan A plus, or minus, or whatever, but as someone who prefers not to see the Autumn Statement as a mini-Budget, he’ll be hoping it is seen as no more than moving Britain in the right direction.

Nothing ventured nothing gained

THOSE with memories of the dotcom boom may remember the networking phenomenon called First Tuesday. It began in a London bar in 1998 and helped kickstart firms such as lastminute.com, one of the survivors of the era. Scotland joined the following year and Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of lastminute, was among those who addressed its members.

Early meetings were full of bright-eyed internet pioneers and venture capitalists, but when dotcom market values crashed, the venture capitalists departed and the organisation in Scotland focused more on training and business-to-business networking. In 2004 First Tuesday Scotland became Now-Business. Others followed, including Weentrepreneurs and Bacon Eggs and Entrepreneurs.

Another on similar lines is being launched this week. Backed by Edinburgh University’s school of informatics, iVenture Tuesdays will attempt to gather a new generation of would-be technology entrepreneurs to hear from high achievers and get some tips on how to build a company of their own.

There have been numerous attempts to stimulate new businesses and there can never be too many. The young are said to be particularly persuaded as they worry less about what they have to lose and are not so worn down by what life throws at those trying to start a business. Let’s look forward to iVenture Tuesdays’ first success.