Amidst the continuing debate and confusion surrounding Brexit, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivered his latest Spring Statement yesterday (13 March), providing an update on the UK economy and setting out the Government’s priorities ahead of the Spending Review which will determine its spending plans for the next three years.
Emphasising the benefits of leaving the EU with a withdrawal deal and the economic uncertainty that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would create, the Chancellor repeated his assurance that "austerity is finally coming to an end” and forecast continuing - but slower - economic growth, lower Government borrowing and continued high employment.
The Chancellor highlighted the Government’s aim of building a more sustainable economy with higher wages and rising living standards by tackling the productivity gap and embracing technological change. The key announcements with significance for the workplace and facilities management profession were:
- A wide-ranging review of the impacts of minimum wages to inform the Low Pay Commission’s future remit, with the ultimate objective of ending low pay in the UK. IWFM will continue to represent the views of our sector on minimum wage proposals through our ongoing engagement with the Commission
- Implementing reforms to the Apprenticeship Levy that were announced in the 2018 Autumn Budget to take effect from April 2019. These will see the rate that non-levy paying employers pay for apprenticeships cut from 10% to 5% and the maximum amount levy-paying employers can pass on to their supply chains increased from 10% to 25%. The Government has already recognised that the levy is not meeting its aims and has announced a review of the system. Through our engagement with Government stakeholders we will continue to suggest the improvements that we believe are fundamental to meeting the needs of employers and helping individuals develop their careers
- A review of the funding for new infrastructure projects following the end of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and its successor PF2. We will also be feeding into this debate to reflect the views of our members
- To address the issue of late payments for SMEs, a requirement for corporate audit committees to review payment practices and report on them in their annual accounts
- Steps to reduce UK carbon emissions including a consultation on a new Business Energy Efficiency Scheme focused on SMEs, and a Future Homes Standard to be introduced by 2025 specifying that new build homes have low carbon heating and are energy efficient
You can read the Chancellor’s full Spring Statement speech here.