The IWFM has welcomed the chancellor's 2021 Budget but says it does not address inequalities or support for decarbonising buildings and transport.
IWFM CEO Linda Hausmanis said that despite some of the encouraging measures announced by the chancellor yesterday: “The Budget lacked any evidence of addressing inequalities in our society – an issue which has been further highlighted during the pandemic – therefore, we will continue to pursue the desire for a fairer society for all.”
She said: “It is also vital, in the year that the UK hosts COP26, that government funding for its decarbonisation plans – including the aim for new non-domestic buildings to be ‘zero-carbon ready’ by 2025 – matches their ambition for the built environment. We were therefore surprised that the Budget makes no provision for further funding to support the decarbonisation of buildings and transport."
She said the IWFM calls on the government “to deliver on a green recovery and not jeopardise progress by withdrawing spending on green homes grants”.
But Hausmanis welcomed other aspects of the chancellor’s announcement, especially those related to the post-pandemic economic recovery. She said it was a positive move to extend “support and protections to businesses and the self-employed up to and beyond the current pandemic restrictions and whilst the vaccine programme is rolled out. In particular, the extension of the furlough scheme until 30 September should help to ensure continuity of employment for thousands of workers and a smoother, more gradual reopening of workplaces”.
She also welcomed the pledges to boost skills and training policy as this will help “to create employment opportunities and equip people with the tools to take on the jobs of the future” and “will be key to our improved productivity and future economic success". Hausmanis said this is “particularly important for the workplace and FM profession which has quickly evolved into a diverse, multi-faceted discipline; a trend which has been sharpened by the pandemic” and the profession’s “skills shortages have already been well documented and it is far from clear yet how this issue will be exacerbated by the UK’s post-Brexit immigration policy”.
The additional funding for apprenticeships and traineeships in England, including doubling the current cash incentive to £3,000 for firms that take on an apprentice, regardless of age, and extra money for 40,000 more traineeships, was also welcomed by Hausmanis.
She said: “With unemployment at its highest level for almost five years and apprenticeship starts curtailed by the pandemic, we hope these steps will encourage workplace and facilities management organisations to create new opportunities, particularly for younger workers entering the profession. We await with interest further detail on the new ‘portable’ apprenticeships that, from July this year, will enable apprentices to work across multiple projects with different employers in one sector.”
But Hausmanis said the IWFM was “disappointed that the chancellor has not taken this opportunity to reform the apprenticeship levy by giving employers the flexibility to use it across a wider range of training provisions. A more flexible levy would allow businesses to upskill existing staff through other forms of training that are less expensive, and more suited to the needs of individual employees”.
She also greeted the new Help to Grow fund aimed at helping SMEs to improve their productivity and lauded the government's decision “to hold back on planned increases to the National Minimum Wage from April as a means of helping businesses with the economic consequences of the pandemic”.
Adele Oxberry, CEO and founder of training and apprenticeship provider Umbrella Training, said the ‘flexi-job’ apprenticeships “in principle, [were] a progressive move which enables both employers and the apprentices themselves to create a flexible and more dynamic workforce”.
But Oxberry, sounding a note of caution, added: “It is worth noting that the devil is always in the detail, so we wait to see some further clarification about what this looks like.”
Oxberry also welcomed the doubling of grants which she said would “help businesses get back on their feet”. She said: “The 3k helps organisations begin to think about how they can start taking on apprentices and how this can fit into their overarching people strategies. The expansion of Kickstart and Traineeships is also seemingly incredibly positive. The programme helps to pay staff wages, give employers a cash investment and help to build tomorrow’s workforce."
Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UK Green Buildings Council, said: “This Budget appears to ignore the huge part that greening our buildings can play in delivering our post-Covid economic recovery. Tackling carbon emissions from buildings – particularly the existing housing stock – is not easy, but we cannot afford to duck the challenge any longer."
She added that the chancellor’s emphasis on local growth is welcome, as "we recognise that local authorities have a vital role to play in seizing local green growth opportunities". But she noted that "local authorities alone cannot deliver the change we need without central government leading from the front" and the chancellor’s ‘investment-led green recovery "should not ignore the voice of the industry calling for a national retrofit strategy to unlock vital green jobs across the whole country”.
On the impact of the Budget on the food and beverage sector, Matt Ashman, head of leisure and restaurants at Cushman & Wakefield, said he was unsure if the announcements in the Budget "will be enough to support the long term changes required" for the sector.
He said: "A 5 per cent reduced rate of VAT for the sector until 30th September is welcome, but only allows indoor trading for just over four months (from 17 May) before being increased to 12.5 per cent for another six months (March 2022). Likewise, the business rates holiday continuing to June, then a third payable for the rest of the year helps, but pushes down the road the need for an overhaul tying in an online tax to level the playing field.
“While together these measures should result in a substantial reduction in operational costs and increased profits, which in time will help mitigate some of the losses over the last year, it is a shame not to see a reintroduction of a similar wider scheme such as Eat (or Seat) Out To Help Out, which will help drive business, rather than just save costs.”