Headlines around the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget were inevitably going to be around inflation, higher prices and tax hikes.
But if you delve into the detail, there were some useful announcements around the so-called ‘skills revolution’ – that’s the plan to build the skills the UK will need to increase productivity and prioritise spending to increase skills in sectors where there is high demand, like trades and construction.
We’ve pulled together some of those improvements that have the potential to boost your trades business.
Apprenticeships and skills
The Budget confirmed a £170m increase in spending by 2024/25 which will help to fund the extension of the £3,000 incentives for small firms to take on an apprentice of any age (or £4,000 for takin on a 16 to 18-year-old). This was due to finish at the end of September but has been extended to allow more business to take advantage of the scheme. This has been extended until 31st January 2022.
This in addition to the Levy Transfer Service, announced earlier this year, means the next few months are a really good time to think about taking on an apprentice. Some are suggesting the window between now and early 2022 is the best time ever to take on an apprentice because of the financial incentives.
The Budget also mentioned an improved recruitment service for SMEs and there is expected to be a flexible apprenticeship solution for SMEs next year.
There was also extra investment for the Sector Based Work Academy Programme (SWAPs) will gives unemployed people the opportunity to undertake work experience, learn new skills and retrain into high-demand sectors in their local area. SMEs can get funding to be part of the scheme, so this is something worth exploring if you’re thinking about taking on an apprentice.
There were several announcements on business rates, including support for companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint:
- There’s new investment relief for green technologies. Until 2035, plant and machinery used onsite for renewable energy will be exempt from business rates, including rooftop solar, or the installation of cycling infrastructure. This will run from 2023 to 2035. Heat networks will get total exemption during this period.
- From 2023, businesses making property improvements will pay no extra business rates for 12 months.
- From 2023, property valuations will take place every three years instead of five.
- The £520m ‘Help to Grow’ initiative will support SMEs with skills training and software. Research from the British Business Bank has revealed that most UK SMEs are less prepared than corporates for the Net Zero transition, largely due to a lack of in-house expertise and finance. You can register your interest here.
- The Recovery Loan Scheme will be extended until 30 June 2022. Small and medium-sized businesses can borrow up to a maximum of £2m per business.
- The British Business Bank’s (BBB) regional fund was given a boost of £1.6bn providing debt and equity finance to SMEs. It will provide £660m for the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund which includes an expansion into the Northeast of England, £400m for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and £200m for a new fund for businesses in the Southwest of England, which small firms can apply for.
- New funding to deliver 33,000 loans through the Start Up Loans scheme, which provides funding and mentoring to people who want to start a business.
For more information on taking on an apprentice and taking advantage of the funding available, have a look at our section on steps for employers here https://homeservefoundation.com/steps-for-an-employer/.