Autumn Statement faces criticism from construction for missing opportunities

autumn statementThe construction industry has responded to the government’s last Autumn Statement before the 2015 General Election, with some figures claiming that the policies provided little for the industry.

With much of the Statement focused on investment in the NHS and infrastructure, and tax reform, only a small number of announcements affected construction, such as new incentives for employers to take on apprentices.

From April 2016, employers will not have to pay National Insurance contributions (NICs) for all but the highest earning apprentices under 25. This leads on from the announcement made in 2013’s Autumn Statement that employers won’t have to pay NICs on those under 21 from April 2015.

Dr Diana Montgomery, chief executive of the Construction Products Association (CPA), said: “Abolishing employer’s National Insurance for firms taking on apprentices acknowledges the need to develop a new generation of skilled young people across all sectors.”

Adrian Belton, chief executive of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), said: “Abolition of National Insurance on apprenticeships [is] a real boost for employers looking to invest in young people.

“The priority now for industry and government is to make apprenticeships simpler, ensure providers respond to needs, and create a simpler framework for engaging with schools.”

This should be helped by the announcement that œ20m is to be invested in careers advice for young people, which is particularly important for the construction industry.

Steve Radley, policy and strategic planning director at CITB, said: “Our research highlights that many people do not choose a career in construction simply because they are not aware of the opportunities available. This investment should go some way to reversing that trend and help young people to find out about the terrific jobs and careers that are there for them within our industry.”

However, there are some who still have reservations about the government’s funding policy for apprenticeships. Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said: “Apprenticeship funding still hangs in the balance, with no clarity offered by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement.

“Although we welcome the abolition of employers’ National Insurance contributions on earnings up to the upper earnings limit for apprentices aged under 25, what we really need to hear is an alternative way forward for SME apprenticeship funding. Perhaps government has decided to kick the issue into the long grass in which case I urge Ministers to respond as soon as possible – uncertainty around apprenticeship policy is the last thing our industry needs when facing an ever-growing skills gap.”

However, Mr. Berry was not against all of the announcements made through the Autumn Statement. He said: “On a more positive note, the extension of the Funding for Lending Scheme is welcome, particularly its renewed focus on SMEs. Acquiring appropriate levels of finance remains the single biggest barrier to construction SMEs, which are trying to grow and prosper and government must pull as many levers as possible to address this issue.”

Other feedback to the Autumn Statement has focused on what was left out of Chancellor George Osborne’s speech, with many claiming that house-building and energy efficiency policy was severely lacking.

Dave Sheridan, chief executive at Keepmoat, said: “Unfortunately the chancellor made no mention of the lack of housing supply. Without more measures t

No posts to display