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Budget: The industry responds

Rishi Sunak's mini-budget promised to cut VAT, boost hiring and pump £3bn into green infrastructure. Here's what the industry had to say about it.

The British International Freight Association

The British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association that represents UK freight forwarding and logistics companies, says that it welcomes the package of measures unveiled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today to scale up employment support schemes, training and apprenticeships. Director General, Robert Keen says: “Whilst our members are currently rightly focused on significant business continuity issues, we welcome the additional funding.

“We are ready to help any of our members that are willing to capitalise on the funding being made available to either recruit apprentices; make traineeships available; or increase training for existing employees.”

As one of the largest providers of freight forwarding and Customs-related training courses, BIFA is currently delivering those courses via video conferencing, due to the Covid-19 crisis preventing face-to-face training.

Carl Hobbis, BIFA’s Training Development Manager, says: “Having been actively involved in the creation of an International Freight Forwarding Specialist apprenticeship, BIFA has committed to promote its availability since it was introduced in 2018.

“We will continue to  encourage employers and potential entrants to consider this apprenticeship as a route into the industry.

“There is a dedicated area of the BIFA website  – apprentices.bifa.org - that can help both employers and potential recruits to better understand apprenticeship opportunities in the freight forwarding industry.”

Keen adds: “We will also be reminding our members, than in addition to the finance announced today, last month the government made available an additional £50 million to accelerate growth of the UK’s customs intermediary sector via training, with applications for the new funding being open since the start of this month.”

ParcelHero

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT says: ‘Britain’s retailers and the logistics companies they rely on will find plenty to welcome in today’s financial statement. A new jobs retention bonus of £1,000 for businesses who bring staff out of furlough and retain them through to January will give companies the funding to retain valuable (currently furloughed) employees, such as warehouse and back office staff preparing orders for delivery.

‘Many couriers and retailers are looking to take on new staff to cope with unprecedented levels of home deliveries and e-commerce. The new £2bn kickstart scheme for 16-24 year olds, with businesses being paid directly for new starters, will be a boon for many firms.

‘New funding measures such as £1,000 per new trainee, £2,000 for new apprentices and a further £1,500 for apprentices over-25 will also boost logistics companies who make considerable use of trainees and apprentices in distribution centres and vehicle maintenance roles.

‘The slash in VAT from 20% to 5% for hospitality and tourism industry businesses will be a significant boost to, for example, home delivery companies that rely on delivering food from restaurants and take-aways to customers’ homes.

‘Finally, the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, which will halve the price of a High Street meal from Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August, will further boost High Street footfall and encourage people to return to town centre stores. This is more good news for any retailer that has a multichannel physical store and an online sales strategy. 

‘Far from being a traditional 'tax and spend' budget, this was a 'tax cuts and send' mini-budget that will considerably ease the strain on stretched retail, manufacturing and delivery organisations.

British Retail Consortium

Responding to the Chancellor’s economic update, Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“We welcome the Chancellor’s huge support for employment and training in the UK as the economy emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Any interventions that aim to protect jobs and incomes are vital to households around the country. Time will tell if such measures can also bolster consumer demand, which remains well below pre-crisis levels, and the Chancellor must be ready to take further actions if necessary.”

“The new Job Retention Bonus will provide welcome support for bringing back hundreds of thousands of staff who have been on furlough in recent months. Furthermore, the measures put in place to support businesses to hire more young people, will be vital to boost the opportunities for them around the UK.”

“The apprenticeship training landscape is in need of a shot in the arm. The Chancellor’s announcement to incentivise apprenticeships will be welcome news for millions of people of all ages. The next steps must be to carry out a wholesale review of the apprenticeship system with the aim of creating more flexibility to enable the Apprenticeship Levy to meet the skills needs of retailers. Retail is evolving; it is essential that those working in the industry, now and in the future, have the digital and technological skills to capitalise.”

“Measures to bolster the property market and green home improvements will be warmly welcomed by homeowners and businesses. It is essential that the UK uses the recovery to create a more sustainable and green economy. This is why the retail industry is coming together with a carbon roadmap to plan for a Net Zero future.”

“The Chancellor’s proposals of a VAT cut will be important in reviving these sectors, and the 1.8 million people who work there. However, it was disappointing that the Chancellor did not extend this measure to the retail industry and the three million people it employs. It was a missed opportunity and we hope that the Government will reconsider this ahead of the Autumn Budget.”

KPMG UK

“A £30bn package to help secure jobs is welcome, but more efforts should be directed at creating a national training scheme to equip the rising number of unemployed for future jobs” says Yael Selfin, Chief Economist at KPMG UK.  

“Given the scale of unemployment expected in the second half of this year, a major ramp-up in training is required to help those affected find new opportunities.  

“It will require a new approach, with a flexible national training programme set up to upskill and retrain large numbers of people. It also needs to be designed and delivered together with businesses across the regions, and focused on equipping those who lost their jobs with the skills needed to go back to work in the growth sectors of the future. 

“Many of the larger announcements have been put off until the Spending Review and Budget in the Autumn. An important omission was in relation to the most crucial infrastructure used during the lockdown and a vital component of the future growth of the economy. Even when restrictions are eased, demand for digital products and services will stay high and that requires investment in infrastructure to support it, accelerating the build-up of fast broadband and 5G.” 

British Ports Association

Commenting, Richard Ballantyne, Chief Executive, at the British Ports Association said: 

Today's statement is welcome news and we support the focus on jobs as a priority for Government. The Chancellor must now turn his attention to scaling up ambition in green investment and further infrastructure capacity.

Ports have shown incredible resilience during the pandemic, part of an impressive supply chain that has ensured critical food, medicine and other goods have continued to flow into the country despite significant challenges. Despite this, planned investment has been hit and some parts of the sector are still suffering. Our sector recovery plan highlights the need to build back better with a green maritime fund, targeted support, and infrastructure upgrades that will support both physical, digital and energy connectivity.

In addition to extending some business support measures, employment initiatives and the £5bn of infrastructure spending that were announced today, it is important that the Government now seriously look at the remaining priorities we have set out when planning the next stage of intervention.

There needs to be more focus on coastal regions of which ports are a key component. We would like to have a government minister in all parts of the UK, specifically given responsibility for coastal development as well as the establishment of a coastal communities taskforce to examine regional growth opportunities. Ports are important economic clusters and with strategic support, they can stimulate investment and jobs to benefit their regions and the country.

 

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