Chancellor Gordon Brown’s prebudget proposals have received a mixed reaction in a straw poll around the laundry and drycleaning industries.

The Chancellor forecast the budget surplus would continue to grow, £11 billion in 2000 and £13 billion in 2001. Employees will be encouraged to invest in their companies through generous tax breaks and there are reductions in capital gains tax on longer-term investments.

Plans to reduce the Climate Change levy were generally welcomed, as was the proposal to abolish the automatic fuel escalator and set the level budget-by-budget.

Unfair duty TSA chief executive, Murray Simpson was pleased to see that in both respects the chancellor appeared to be listening to industry’s concerns. The fuel duty escalator had been inherently unfair. He was also pleased to see that industry associations would be able to negotiate reductions in the energy tax for members based on real savings achieved.

Colin Rowe at Cornish Linen called both measures a move in the right direction. The proposed reductions in fuel duty would help operators in rural areas.

Richard Zerny, chief executive of the Johnson Service Group, gave the statement cautious welcome, although he added that we would have to wait to see what the budget actually delivered. However, anything that encourages discretionary spending power would be good for the drycleaning industry. He also welcomed the proposed reductions in energy and fuel taxes.

However, Anne Parris, president of the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers, was less positive, saying: “All the gains are for the big boys, there’s nothing for small businesses” although she was pleased that part of the industry would gain.

Malcolm Berger of Manchester-based drycleaners Harry Berger called the prebudget a non-event and he too criticised the failure to help small businesses.

Returning from a conference in the Netherlands, FCRA MD Chris Tebbs had only scanned the headlines. He said there appeared to be some good signs but wanted to see the small print.