Responding to the budget, Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said: “The Chancellor’s commitment to supporting the economy through the crisis has been welcome, and today’s announcement of extensions to this support is good news for the business community and for job creation. We’re pleased to see extensions to the furlough scheme, the deferral period for VAT and business rates. Expanding access to grants for the self-employed is also welcome – but there is still no sign of a support scheme for owner-operators of small limited companies, who have so far received no help at all, despite their vital role in driving the recovery.”
However, Carberry also highlighted areas which seemed untouched: “Where the Budget missed the mark was on the plan for recovery,” he said. “There are bright spots – the new super deduction tax incentive will certainly address a long-term failing of UK policy and boost productivity and job creation. But what we needed from this Budget was a clearer strategy for tackling unemployment and resourcing growth. There was little on the skills transition this requires, including reforming the failed Apprenticeship Levy so that it supports rather than hinders training.”
Carberry was also negative about the rise in corporation tax but noted that repayment of the support received in the last year is necessary over time – and doing it later in the Parliament via a tax on profits, rather than on day-to-day operations is the right lever. “The small profit rate and greater carry-back on losses will help soften the blow, but the OBR shows that this will increase tax on profits to its highest since the 80s – it can’t become a long-term trend.”
Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library, also commented on the Chancellor’s moves: “The key to the Chancellor’s statement concerning the job market is his pledge to support businesses ‘beyond’ the challenging months ahead,” he said. “Even if the government’s roadmap out of the latest period of national restriction is achieved, it’s going to take at least another 12 to 18 months for the job market to recover from COVID-19 and a system that goes beyond the furlough scheme is vital. Businesses need to feel confident that the support offered today really will continue as long as is necessary as this hasn’t been the case over the last year.”
Finally, Neil Pattison, director at the UK’s biggest hospitality jobs board, Caterer.com said: “The gradual re-opening of hospitality will continue to pose major challenges to employers so the extension of the furlough scheme and five per cent VAT rate are a crucial lifeline for our sector. Hospitality will play a pivotal role in rebuilding the economy, creating jobs and generating income. Whilst we await re-opening it is essential that the ‘restart’ grant scheme is rolled out as quickly as possible, to get businesses through the next few months.
“There is a long road ahead,” continued Pattison, “but we are seeing positive signs with more evidence every day that businesses are staring to hire in preparation for re-opening and in order to meet significant pent-up customer demand. The number of jobs posted on Caterer.com rose by 35 per cent following the roadmap announcements on 22 February, showing how much confidence a little clarity can bring.”