Yesterday (8 July), the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a number of new measures that the Government hopes will help ‘kick-start’ the UK economy in-light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we all know, Coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation and will cause concern and disruption to businesses of all sizes for the foreseeable future. Mr Sunak’s announcements fully-recognise this situation and the need for some creative thinking to not only protect our existing economic strengths, but to also aim to future-proof them as best as possible.
A particular ‘nod’ towards future proofing was the proposed investment supporting young people into work. Mr Sunak stated in his House of Commons speech that the UK ‘cannot lose this generation’.
The Government clearly sees future apprenticeship provision as key – a positive message for us here in Oxfordshire, given the number of high-quality apprenticeships available within world-leading companies and sectors.
Mr Sunak has said that companies will be encouraged to create apprenticeship schemes and will be awarded £2,000 per placement. Companies will also receive £1,500 per apprentice recruited who is over the age of 25 – this is excellent news and will help to create clear pathways for our young people, many of whom have faced a difficult summer due to exam uncertainty.
The critical nature of ensuring a skilled workforce was further acknowledged through the £100m investment towards training opportunities, with the Government’s commitment to paying employers £1,000 when they take-on either a level two or level three-standard trainee.
Meanwhile, the ‘Kickstart Scheme’ will see the Government pay employers to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-olds, at risk of long-term unemployment – with jobs needing to be a minimum of 25-hours per week, paid to at least the National Minimum Wage level.
All of these are welcome measures and it is key for us – as the Local Enterprise Partnership for Oxfordshire – to highlight to our business community this new support and incentives, not only ensuring that they are able to remain productive, but also help them to attract real talent to their business, which can only further support their own individual economic recovery.
OxLEP's transformative technologies tour for Oxfordshire schools - February 2020
Further key announcements included news of the £2bn ‘Green Homes Grant’.
Homeowners and landlords can apply for vouchers to make homes more energy efficient, with the aim of also supporting the creation of further ‘green jobs’ across the UK. Grants can cover at least two-thirds of costs with up to £5,000 available per household.
From an Oxfordshire-perspective – the county’s energy strategy, which we’ve led and created with the help of a number of committed partner organisations – has three guiding principles; one of which is to secure a smart, modern, clean energy infrastructure, with an ambition to enable the county to be at the forefront of energy innovation to foster clean growth. All very much aligned with Mr Sunak’s thinking.
Incentives to support the move towards a greener economy again are a positive step and again it’s key that we encourage our businesses and wider communities to understand the benefits of moving towards a greener county and economy.
Launch of the Oxfordshire Energy Strategy - November 2019
One other focus for Mr Sunak – and rightly so – was the hospitality trade and wider-visitor economy, probably the worst COVID-19 hit sector in the UK.
Mr Sunak announced a 15% cut in VAT for the hospitality sector (food, accommodation and visitor attractions) from 20% to 5%, plus a new ‘Eat Out and Help Out’ scheme, where every member of the public will receive a 50% off discount – up to £10 per head for adults and children – on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays during August.
As a sector so badly hit, innovative and new ways of supporting the sector really was required to give it a must needed lift.
These are welcome moves, though – as our many visitor economy and hospitality partner organisations have said – where the public can spend, it should be encouraged, though done safely and responsibly.
It is our aim to continue to work with Government to ensure that our business community can be supported as best as possible during this challenging period and we will work hard to ensure all of our communities are aware of these new announcements.