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Cautious welcome for Chancellor's mini-budget

Business leaders today cautiously welcomed the Chancellor’s economic statement as an opportunity to help get the country’s economy moving again, but some warned several issues that are key for business were not addressed.

The £1,000 job retention bonus for employees who bring back furloughed staff and the Eat Out Help Out scheme were seen as a welcome innovative approach to tackling specific issues that could also be applied elsewhere.

The Chancellor also announced an immediate change to stamp duty, increasing the threshold to £500,000, cutting VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20 per cent to five percent and a new £2 billion initiative to create thousands of job placements for young people. Other announcements included:

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Bekki Phillips, managing director of In-Comm Training, said: “Any funding that goes directly to companies to encourage them to take on apprenticeships is welcome, but we need to see the full details to see what a difference this will make to businesses and their recruitment intentions.

“Firms are already receiving a £1,000 grant to take on 16-18 year-old apprentices so we’re presuming the £2000 announced is on top of that or does it replace it? Likewise, can this be used in tandem with the Kickstart scheme, designed to get more young people back into work? If it can be, then this really is a game changer.

“With over 700 apprentices currently being trained at our three academies, we wanted to see specific support about protecting those currently studying so their jobs are safeguarded.

“The bonus for bringing a furloughed worker back could help in a small way, but I think we needed a bit more. We also wanted to see the Government look at funding a programme-led approach to apprenticeships, where we could train young people up to Level 2 and then find them an employer at the end – hopefully when the economy has picked back up again.”

Richard Partington (pictured), managing director of Telford-based AceOn Energy, said efforts to drive job creation in the green economy and improve energy efficiency across the country would play an important part in the recovery from Covid-19.

But he added that it was vital the measures formed part of a longer-term strategic plan to tackle climate change and energy use.

AceOn – based on Stafford Park in Telford – is pioneering an innovative Virtual Power Plant which can be installed in individual homes and uses state-of-the-art battery technology to store renewable energy from solar panels for use when needed.

Mr Partington said: “There is much in what the Chancellor has said that will be good for homeowners and the economy – such as the news about home insulation and double glazing. We will want to study the detail of the announcement but would hope that there is a strategic plan behind it to tackle climate change and help the country reach its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“To do that it is fundamental that the Government invests in new forms of energy storage, renewable technologies and infrastructure and planning changes to accommodate it.

“Technologies such as the Virtual Power Plant we have developed will play a major part in helping the country capture, store and efficiently use renewable energy for years to come, reducing capacity on the National Grid and helping drive down emissions.

“By working with local authorities, housing associations, private developers and others we can make a truly significant contribution to ensuring we meet our responsibilities to the environment and the generations to come.”

Jarna Rahman, head of conveyancing at law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said the stamp duty holiday would mean a much needed boost for the residential property market. 

“The Chancellor is correct – people do need to have confidence to buy, sell, move and improve. The announcement means that nearly nine out of 10 people will pay no stamp duty at all between now and March 31 2021. It is a welcome move by the Government and will help the wider economic recovery.

“It was also good to hear about the investment in the installation of green measures – buyers are looking for ways to cut energy bills and the energy efficiency of buildings is a factor when making decisions for many buyers.”

James Worthington, managing director of Telford-based workwear specialist MyWorkwear, said: “As a passionate advocate for the future of UK manufacturing and long time supporter of STEM initiatives, we welcome the announcement on trainee incentives.

“This age group is facing a tough employment market for many years to come and therefore it’s essential to offer as much support as possible to our workforce of the future.

“We are also pleased to see the announcement of the Job Retention Bonus, but fear it will not be enough for struggling companies who face the difficult decision of having to make cuts just to keep the lights on. On a more positive note, with so many clients in the hospitality business, we’re pleased to see the VAT announcement, which will hopefully help this hard hit industry to recover more quickly”.

Sir John Peace, chairman of Midlands Engine, said: "From the commitment to finding, creating and protecting jobs through to the measures that will enable the levelling up of our economy – with the significant investment that will entail – this was a statement I believe we can and must all get behind. 

“The collective package of measures announced will undoubtedly provide vital support for our region’s people, businesses and communities. 

"I particularly welcome his commitment to supporting young people through the Kickstart scheme, the focus on upskilling and measures to prevent people being lost to the scourge of long-term unemployment.  This must remain our collective focus over the weeks and months to come.

"However, as the Chancellor acknowledged, this can only be the beginning.  As chairman of the Midlands Engine, I see three clear cut priorities that we must keep firmly in mind as we look to build on the Chancellor’s announcements."


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