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The Autumn Statement - What you need to know.
03-Dec-14
With less than six months to go to the general election, major surprises were unlikely to appear in today’s Autumn Statement.  
 
George Osborne presented an economy on the front foot, saying that 1,000 new jobs have been created every day in this Parliament and outlining the government’s expectation that  unemployment will fall to 5.4% next year. Shadow chancellor Ed Balls was quick to refute the claims that the economy is now on a sustainable path.  
 
We’ve picked out some highlights from today’s announcements for businesses and recruiters:
 
Creating a ‘northern powerhouse’
The chancellor committed to significant transport improvements and £427 million in funding for science,  research & development, and innovation hubs spread throughout the North, including new facilities in Manchester, Newcastle, Sedgefield and Warrington.
 
Meanwhile, an extra £1 billion has been made available to Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as part of the Local Growth Fund. 
 
NICs relief for young apprentices 
Employers’ National Insurance contributions for apprentices under 25 will be ‘abolished’. This extends the previous announcement excluding employer NICs for anyone under 21 and builds on the calls made by the REC’s Youth Employment Taskforce way back in 2010. Meanwhile, postgraduates under 30 years old will have access to up to £10,000 in government loans for course fees from 2016.
 
More support for business
SMEs are set to benefit from an extra £900 million for the British Business Bank and extensions to relief in business rates for small businesses.
 
A review of business rates was announced, and as we were signatories of the British Retail Consortium’s business rates reform campaign we’re glad to see this step in the right direction.
 
Businesses considering overseas expansion are also set to benefit from a £20 million package for ‘first time exporters’ including more UKTI trade advisors and more assistance for SMEs to attend international exhibitions.
 
Tax avoidance crackdown 
Whilst most attention focused on plans to tackle tax avoidance by multinationals, there was a brief mention by the chancellor of umbrella companies.

Looking at the details, it appears this was a reference to HM Treasury’s ongoing review of travel and subsistence payments.
 
It is interesting to note that whilst the government has only committed to reviewing the use of travel and subsistence by umbrella companies and publishing a consultation paper, it has calculated £360 million in additional tax revenue from the measure. 
 
Whilst the extra funding is good news, many of the benefits will only be felt by business in the long term. With many recruiters already struggling to find suitably skilled candidates, a greater priority on addressing current skills shortages and involving recruiters in the growth plans of LEPs is required.