The general feeling is that Rishi Sunak delivered for the economy – again- with his summer statement this week.
A whole raft of measures, including a multi-billion- pound green package, investment into a Kick-Start initiative for 19-25 -year olds and changes to Stamp Duty were expected, but nonetheless welcome, initiatives from the Chancellor.
For the hospitality sector, the cut in VAT was positive, although I would have gone further and introduced Zero VAT for hospitality services. The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ plan is a bit gimmicky and I’m not sure how impactful it will prove to be. A Rent furlough for the industry would have been more equitable and useful.
Elsewhere, there is a chunk of cash for apprenticeships, traineeships and skills. Undoubtedly this will be hugely important moving forward. He is also investing £1billion for coaches via the Department of Work & Pensions and job centres.
It is these key areas of his ‘create jobs’ part of his plan that the Chancellor needs to start worrying as much about delivery as the financial commitment.
Business is nervous about apprenticeships. The investment may not be in cash, but time and resource can be costly. Without an experienced and trusted partner to navigate you through the inevitable bureaucracy that comes through apprenticeship and traineeship projects, the take up – which has fallen quite dramatically in recent times anyway – will fail to match the government’s ambition.
On coaching, I’d be as confident in putting King Herod in charge of childcare facilities as I am of job centres delivering a return on the £1billion windfall they have received. Rightly or wrongly, the job centre brand is not the most trusted among the unemployed, and they have virtually zero engagement with business, begging the question what sort of mentoring will they be offering?
The Whitehall machine should be on the phones today talking to devolved governments, local authorities and FE institutions, looking at building a strong infrastructure within these organisations that have been hammered through austerity measures for a decade, but that are the most viable and realistic vehicles for delivering on the cash that has been made available.
The sense of local delivery is unarguable. The One-size-fits-all approach has failed the country miserably for decades now, not least in the area of education and training. Continuing such an approach at this critical time would be criminal.
Rebuilding local government and local institutions, devolving the decisions on how the new cash available will be spent and developing a new partnership between government and local councils would add credibility to the Chancellors headline grabbing plans. Will the Westminster Mandarins – and Dominic Cummings – let him adopt this more inclusive, radical delivery process? If they don’t, much of Sunak’s good work may fail to hit its intended targets.