BRC welcomes Sunak’s response on Apprenticeship Levy funds but needs more

The Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium has commented on Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spring Statement.

Helen Dickinson (pictured), said, “Last week, we wrote to the Government to call for reform to the Apprenticeship Levy. By improving the flexibility of the way Apprenticeship Levy funds are spent, the government could help create thousands of new retail apprenticeships.

'We are heartened to hear that the Chancellor has heard our concerns and is set to examine whether the Levy could be improved, to allow businesses to invest in the right training.

'We urge him to introduce measures which allow high-quality short courses in functional skills, allow Levy funds to cover associated training costs, and allow a wider range of courses to be supported.'

Dickinson continued, “The Chancellor also announced an initial cut to National Insurance Contributions that will save households around £300, with a further cut to income tax in 2024.

'This reduction will come as a welcome relief for consumers at a time when households across the country are squeezed by the cost of living crisis. Nonetheless, with the energy price caps rising in April, and inflation now running at a 30-year high, households are likely to see a fall in their discretionary income over the course of 2022.'

Dickinson went on, “The Chancellor announced reforms to research and development tax credits to support business investment and increase productivity. However, if he wants to increase investment by retail businesses that would create jobs, increase productivity, and benefit towns and high streets, he should also focus on bringing down the unsustainable business rates burden.

'Currently, retail businesses pay 25% of all business rates, despite accounting for 5% of the economy. The announcement of a 50% relief is a welcome help to small businesses but will have little impact on the industry’s £8 billion business rates bill.

'Better news was given through the announcement that the ‘green investment relief’, that supports environmental property improvements, will be brought forward. This will support the investment the industry is making to become net zero by 2040, ten years ahead of the government target.”