Autumn Statement: Implications for 2015
The recent Autumn Statement included a significant focus on the Government’s plans for the north of England, specifically the Manchester Devolution deal. It appeared that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, was using the area as an example of how Government can support a region in renewed success. But will Osborne’s pledges be enough to deliver economic equality across the UK during 2015?
A recurring theme in the statement was that of a Northern Powerhouse. Osborne revealed how he plans to bolster the northern economy this year to complement the strength of the UK’s capital, and the Devolution of Manchester certainly presents a step in this direction. Allowing the region to control its own budgets in vital sectors such as housing and infrastructure is a strong start towards bridging the commercial gap between the north and south.
One key industry which will benefit from substantial public investment is the northern transport infrastructure. A total of £15m has been allocated for rail and road improvements to encourage regional interconnectivity, while current transport measures are set to be markedly improved too. Again, this is positive news for all within the North West.
In order to increase footfall to the region, improve employment opportunities for those living outside of cities and encourage investment, we must be willing to connect our region. Upgrades to rail links will simplify travelling into the city, making the prospect of commuting more attractive. With the HS3 proposal now going ahead, we can also expect labour contracts to increase as the demand for work rises.
Osborne also proposed that National Insurance should be abolished for any Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) which hires apprentices, giving an incentive to employee trainees. However, greater support must also be given to candidates who apply for apprenticeships in the first place. The Living Wage plus, an above minimum wage salary for apprentices and trainees introduced by Procure Plus, offers trainees a rate of pay they can feasibly live on which can ultimately prevent a decline in enthusiasm for placements.
Improved recognition of the value of social enterprises is also crucial this year to maximise their commercial potential. According to Government data, in 2012-2013 social enterprises employed almost a million people and contributed £18.5 billion to the UK economy but these achievements may only continue if opportunities are tailored in such a way that does not prohibit these types of businesses from bidding.
There’s no denying that the Autumn Statement held good news for us but it is ultimately the long term sustainable plan we must focus on throughout the next 12 months if we are to create a northern pillar that truly rivals London and completes our journey to a geographically balanced UK economy.