Spring Statement 2018
14 March 2018
On the 13 March, the Chancellor presented his first Spring Statement to Parliament. Here’s what professionals from across industry have to say in response:
The Spring Statement gives people and businesses certainty and stability to plan for the future. In particular, is has prompted a renewed focus on the UK’s productivity, with the Shadow Chancellor highlighting Britain has the lowest rate of industrial robot use in the OECD.
In response, Mark Gray, Universal Robots has made the following comments:
“It is correct to say the UK has the lowest robot density in Europe and that it is the only G7 country that is lower than the world average. However, that means there is huge potential for our manufacturing base to leverage automation and increase productivity.
“The high costs and inflexibility of traditional industrial robots puts them out of reach of the average SME. However, collaborative robots (cobots) are very different as they typically achieve payback within just six months. As UK manufacturers consider the consequences of Brexit to their operations cobots offer a clear strategy for addressing skills shortages, increasing output and upping productivity.”
Reducing single-use plastic waste through the tax system
Commenting on the consultation on using the tax system to address single-used plastic waste, Stella Amiss, head of tax policy at PwC, said:
“The Chancellor’s approach to tackling the plastic problem was by no means a 'throw away'. The Chancellor is actively looking at how the tax system can play a role in delivering a change in behaviour for better environmental outcomes. With time to consult over the summer, the Government will be in a stronger position to present proposals that we can all buy into at the Autumn budget.”
Jayne Harrold, environmental tax leader at PwC, added:
“If the tax system is to be used to drive behavioural change, then it’s clear that different measures will be needed at different points in the supply chain. Measures to persuade producers to reduce single-use packaging, to encourage alternative materials, or to design packaging for increased recycling, are very different to those measures that will persuade consumers to either reduce their consumption or reuse single use packaging.
“China’s recent ban on imports of plastic for recycling has increased the scale of the challenge for the industry. Even the current targets for plastic recycling are likely to be challenging to meet.
“There was also a focus on rapid innovation to create new greener products and services. Some of the money raised from any tax changes will support a £20m business and university fund to research ways to reduce the impact of plastics on the environment. This will go a long way to helping the UK lead the way in using the fourth industrial revolution to solve some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.”
Supporting people to get the skills they need
Peter Finegold, Head of Education Policy at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said in response to the Spring Statement 2018:
“We welcome the Chancellor’s proposed release of £80m for small businesses so that they can fully participate in the Government’s target of 3 million apprenticeships. Positive perception of the apprenticeships ‘brand’ amongst young people, their parents and teachers is heavily reliant on ensuring all apprenticeships are of high quality, are for an extended duration and develop transferable skills alongside specialist competences. Engineering apprenticeships are a perfect exemplar of this approach.
“We support the Chancellor’s £500m commitment to the introduction of T-levels, with a specific commitment of £50m to prepare work placements – since this is a major hurdle to be overcome if the proposed scheme is to succeed. But there is still a good deal of work to be done in changing perceptions in our schools that would allow technical training to be viewed as equivalent to academic study – especially among teachers. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ STEM Insight teachers in industry programme, led by STEM Learning, provides teachers with professionally life-changing exposure to how employers value their skilled expert technicians.”
Improving the UK’s digital connectivity
The Autumn Budget 2017 launched a £190 million Challenge Fund to help roll out full-fibre to local areas – providing the fastest, most reliable broadband to more homes and businesses. The Spring Statement 2018 has allocated the first wave of funding, providing over £95 million for 13 areas across the UK.
The successful projects include:
• Using hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries as “anchor tenants” - providing a full-fibre “hub” which surrounding homes and businesses can then also be connected to.
• Upgrading schools, libraries and emergency response buildings to gigabit-capable full fibre connections.
• Strategic re-purposing of existing infrastructure, allowing full fibre to be rolled out at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.
• Creating “fibre spines” along major transport routes and public building networks. These extend a supplier’s fibre footprint, making full fibre connections more available to surrounding homes and businesses.
For further details on the Spring Statement 2018, click here.