BUDGET 2013: Leicestershire firms plea for funding help
Austerity isn't working, high street chains have dropped like flies and, as we speak, Cyprus is doing its best to tear the EU apart.
The miserable economic outlook leaves Chancellor George Osborne teetering on the edge of a precipice with his hands tied behind his back and his head in a lion's gaping mouth.
If he gets tomorrow's Budget wrong, homeowners, the jobless, pensioners, families and small business people could be left struggling even more.
If he actually comes up with something that helps to kick-start the economy without simply making life easier for the rich, it will be nothing short of a miracle.
Richard King, principal at Mark J Rees chartered accountants in Granville Road, Leicester, said the chancellor could stimulate Leicestershire's economy by investing in infrastructure, improving access to finance and by simplifying taxes.
He said: "Businesses are telling us the chancellor's number one priority has to be to inject some growth into the economy.
"They need the right conditions for growth at home and they need encouragement and help to export and access the many global markets where there is growth.
"With Sterling at its current lows there is great potential to grow through export.
"Businesses do not need a tiny tax adjustments which have no meaningful benefit to them or to the economy. What they need is simplification to give clarity and cut costs.
"Lots of firms are continuing to struggle to convince banks to lend. Growth will remain elusive if companies are not able to put their investment plans into action."
He also wants the chancellor to stop penalising pubs and breweries with unfair taxes.
At KPMG's Leicester offices, senior partner Ian Borley said lots could be done despite the constraints on the public purse.
He said: "A factor such as the reintroduction of tax incentives to encourage companies to invest in UK infrastructure is one such element. This would provide a long-term boost to our economy and would be welcomed by those working in the region's beleaguered construction sector."
He said jobs could be stimulated by cutting National Insurance contributions, maybe introducing a National Insurance holiday for new staff, or tax breaks for companies offering apprenticeships.
Slashing red tape would also be a step in the right direction, with businesses already worried about the demands of the PAYE reform Real Time Information.
He said: "Many smaller employers have said this is likely to create a significant administrative headache. They will be hoping for some concessions to ease this imposition on their resources, for example, changing the reporting requirements to monthly."
He said the Government should also provide more direct support to the city and county – such as via Regional Growth Funding – after years of missing out.
Mike Tuhme, regional partner for tax services at accountant RSM Tenon's Enderby office, predicted the chancellor would reveal more on a new General Anti-Abuse Rule to deal with tax avoidance, and on long-term plans to support businesses who want to invest in research and development.
He also hoped there would be news on the rise in tax relief on capital equipment – which jumped from £25,000 to £250,000 last year – which will be made permanent and the chancellor would set a date for cutting corporation tax to 20 per cent.
There could also be news on the employee-shareholder contract, he said, under which staff could be able to swap jobs rights for up to £50,000 in company shares. He would also be listening for hints Mr Osborne might be planning to cut the full rate of tax to 40 per cent.