THE Bradford Chamber of Commerce has welcomed some of the measures set out  today by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 

He unveiled an emergency package of support to help keep people in work as the coronavirus economic crisis hits.

He warned that “hardship lies ahead”, but insisted that no-one will be left “without hope”.

Unveiling announcements in a “plan for jobs” which could cost up to £30 billion, Mr Sunak also:

– Confirmed plans to abolish stamp duty on properties up to £500,000 in England and Northern Ireland.

– Announced an “eat out to help out” plan for dining out in August to boost the hospitality sector, with a 50% discount per head from Monday to Wednesday up to a maximum discount of £10 per diner.

– Slashed VAT on food, accommodation and attractions from 20% to 5%, a tax cut worth up to £4 billion.

– A £2 billion scheme of taxpayer-funded work placements for 16-to-24-year-olds on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

– A £3 billion green package, with grants for homeowners and public buildings to improve energy efficiency.

– A £111 million programme of unpaid traineeships combining work experience with training.

Suzanne Watson, President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: “In our submission to the Chancellor we said that we needed to see support for young people, who will likely be the hardest hit from economic fallout from Covid-19, so plans for the kickstart programme to provide funded work experience are welcome.

"So too is the extra support for employers to take on apprentices. We cannot afford to lose a generation of young people to the crisis.

"However, we felt the Chancellor could have gone further by allowing apprentices to undertake much of the off the job training upfront to give employers more time to recover and ensure apprentices are better prepared to enter the workplace.

"This really does bring to light the importance of this, our third year of delivering the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks initiative, which aims to boost apprenticeship numbers and develop those essential connections between employers and schools. We also still need to see greater flexibility in the apprenticeship levy so that employers can help their people get the skills they need to succeed in an evolving workplace."

She added: “It was good to hear recognition of the huge impact that the lockdown has had on the leisure and hospitality sectors, and measures to reduce VAT whilst encouraging consumers back into restaurants with half price meal vouchers may bring some footfall back to our city centre and district high streets.

“The Chamber’s recently published economic survey showed investment intentions have been hit hard during the pandemic, and so the Government should be preparing new incentives for business investment in the UK, including extending the £1 million Annual Investment Allowance for a further two years and  broadening its scope to include training, the transition to net zero and spending on making workplaces Covid-secure.”