AS Chancellor Philip Hammond was poised to deliver the crucial autumn budget to the Commons, dozens of local business representatives gathered at Swindon’s County Ground to discuss money matters.

The networking event to talk about the much-anticipated financial statement, organised by Optimum Professional Services and Handelsbanken, saw around 40 people listen to guest speakers.

Mike Stannard, 57, a self-employed financial adviser from Purton, said: “What I hope for is that Mr Hammond leaves pensions alone and most areas of personal finance.

“But what I expect is that he will try to claw money back for Brexit.”

Employer Sandy Steele-Davis, 72, who runs his own building contractor firm in Devizes, said recruitment remains an issue for him.

He explained the push to build more houses deprives him of potential employees, but if restrictions on staffing levels were imposed this could help his business.

Among the speakers to take to the podium were CEO Richard Matthews and accounts director Jon Lacey, both from Optimum, and Handelsbanken corporate manager Paul Brown.

“One thing we are particularly interested in is making tax digital,” said Mr Matthews.

“It is the only way for revenue to operate going forwards.”

He added: “It will be seriously important how small businesses cope.

“There will be all kinds of challenges to it but I don’t think it will be enough to stop them pushing ahead with it.”

Mr Lacey emphasised the importance of public opinion when it came to Mr Hammond addressing tax avoidance, emphasising the strong systems already in place to tackle this.

On the subject of making tax digital, he said: “A lot of programs brought out by HMRC are scrapped because there are no IT contractors to implement them.”

Farmer James Sheppard, 55, interjected to point out that many Marlborough constituents where he is from aren’t even connected to the internet.

Mr Lacey responded: “The revenue are aware of this – they say they are going to make sure everyone is online by the time it happens.”

Mr Sheppard said after the talk that more and more people are being ‘left behind’, especially those living on the edge of the county.

“They have to make sure that the infrastructure is in a position where it is useable,” he said.

He thinks the Government shouldn’t underestimate the number of small businesses operating in more peripheral areas.