News in brief: spending review, productivity, Northern Powerhouse

News in brief
News in brief

Autumn Statement review 

The Spending Review and Autumn Statement has been set out to Parliament – here’s a summary of what was announced last year:

  • £4 trillion of spending has been allocated by the government over the next five years – in 2016/17 the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills will receive £13.4bn
  • Local councils will get control over local taxes and provide extra support for social care. From 2020 they will be able to keep money from business rates collected from shops and businesses, to spend on local services like street repairs, libraries and transport.
  • April 2016, the basic state pension will rise to £119.30 per week, an increase of £3.35. This will be the highest real terms increase to the state pension for 15 years.
  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will all receive more money to be spent on infrastructure projects, with each government deciding where this will be spent.
  • This will be an increase of around 14% for Scotland, 16% for Wales and 12% for Northern Ireland.
  • At Summer Budget it was announced that three million new apprenticeships will be created by 2020, funded by a levy on large employers. The apprenticeship levy will come into effect in April 2017, at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill. A £15,000 allowance for employers will mean that the levy will only be paid on employers’ pay bills over £3 million. Less than 2% of UK employers will pay the levy.

Government’s Productivity Plan ‘lacks clear timelines’

The Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee has claimed in a new report that the government’s Productivity Plan has vague timelines, and has called for clear milestones for implementation and success.

The committee recommended that the government produces a supplementary document outlining the success of each policy in the plan, which is regularly updated to measure performance. The report claims that: “Only once the government publishes quantifiable metrics of success and a roadmap to implementation of the policies contained within the plan, will the Parliament be able to hold ministers to account.”

The Federation of Small Business national policy director Mike Cherry said that closing the productivity gap is the best way to boost the long-term health of the economy, and it’s a key step to closing the budget deficit and delivering higher wages.

Cherry said: “The Committee is right to press hard for a clear and distinctive roadmap as to how Britain will close our productivity gap. Small firms have an important part to play and our latest research shows steady improvement in productivity among our members. What is clear is these efforts require a long-term focus from both Government and the private sector if the UK is to close the gap with our competitors.”

Businesses in the North still unsure of the Northern Powerhouse

Around 93% of businesses in the North of England have heard of the government’s Northern Powerhouse, but a fifth of those do not understand the concept, according to research conducted on behalf of the Federation of Small Business (FSB).

The FSB survey also found half of small businesses in the North of England (50%) think the Northern Powerhouse concept will have a positive impact on their business. However, almost a fifth (16%) Northern firms still need to be persuaded about how the Northern Powerhouse will positively impact their business.

FSB found significant support right across the UK for increased local control over public spending with one in three businesses (36%) listing this as a priority. This increased to two in five (40%) among businesses in the North of England. However, there was less support for local tax setting powers with just 16% of UK businesses backing the idea.

Local businesses to benefit from devolved Sunday trading laws

High streets and city centres are set to benefit from government plans to devolve Sunday trading laws, Business Secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

New powers to devolve Sunday trading laws to local authorities will allow councils to “zone” any relaxation so they will be able to prioritise high streets and city centres.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “These new powers are about giving local areas the choice to extend Sunday trading hours to meet the needs of their local businesses and communities. It is local people who will make the decision.

“Extending Sunday trading hours has the potential to help businesses and high streets across the UK better compete as our shopping habits change. The rights of shop workers are key to making these changes work in everyone’s interests. We are protecting those who do not wish to work Sundays, and those who do not want to work more than their normal Sunday working hours.”