Timber Industry organisations give views on Spring Budget 2017
On Wednesday 8th March, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Budget 2017.
The Government's action plan includes measures that could have strong impact on UK Timber Industry especially in key fields such as business rate, technical education and labour market.
Responding to the Budget statement, Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), said: "There was some good news in the Budget and despite the productivity issues that were highlighted, Britain’s businesses are showing resilience and keeping Britain building. Overall, the Budget is good for business, but not so good for people running small businesses. The focus is rightfully on productivity and, as per our submission, the Chancellor has picked up the areas of skills, business rates and investment. It is encouraging that the Chancellor has listened and addressed concerns around complexity of claiming R&D relief and on business rate valuations. "
The continued focus on low corporate taxation is welcomed, but some of the gains for business will be offset by changing the tax structure for business owners, the Chancellor is in danger of here of taxing hardworking SME business owners in a blunderbuss attack on disguised employment.
The focus and more funding for Further Education is welcomed, and yet again we heard of the importance of parity of esteem, but we remain unconvinced that the reforms announced will genuinely put this behind us. The ‘T-levels’ may simplify and we have already started the process of mapping our qualifications, but this is not the root of the problem, we must seriously look at prioritising the UCAS style process, but there is still a danger that we are just filtering out the best for University regardless of what is best for them or the economy."
Government's new approach on skills was also welcomed by John Newcomb, Managing Director of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF). “The building industry and its supply chain are experiencing huge skills’ shortages", said Mr Newcomb. "Construction firms, large and small, face real difficulty attracting new faces. Our industry is not seen by young people as a long-term career option - especially by young women.
“This week is National Apprentices’ Week and we ask ministers to look at what more can be done to encourage school- and college-leavers to take up the trades we so desperately need - the bricklayers, the roofers, the carpenters, the electricians, the plasterers and the merchants.
“If the Chancellor’s announcement about ‘T’ levels helps redress the parity of esteem between academic and vocational training, then that is good news. Merchanting provides fantastic career opportunities for young people, and the BMF is keen to persuade parents that university is not always the right choice for their children".
David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) was rather more sceptical about the Chancellor's announcement: “There were no great surprises from this spring Budget. And very little that was great at all. Maybe this was deliberate, the drama of Brexit is hugely distracting and consuming all the energy in Government so this looked like the calm before the storm".
"Given this, we would have liked to have seen a much clearer focus on vocational education and training. This is the biggest obstacle to economic growth. We have a skills shortage now, and face a greater shortage in the future. The plan for industry training and apprenticeships needs to be clearly spelled out. The new “T-levels” sounds good, but is merely a sticking plaster when major surgery is needed", Mr Hopkins concluded.