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Sunak prepares for post-Covid economy

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has delivered his Budget speech. Opening with the news that, "Employment is up, investment is growing, public services are improving, public finances are stabilising and wages are rising," Mr Sunak promised a budget to prepare for a new economy after the pandemic.

The Budget 2021 and Spending Review covered several issues of particular interest to the plumbing and heating industry, including:

  • £24bn earmarked for "a multi-year housing settlement."
    • £11.5bn of the funding will aim to build 180,000 new affordable homes, with brown field sites targeted for new housing.
  • £1.6bn over three years will be dedicated to roll out new T-levels for 16 to 19-year-olds. It also funds 40 additional hours learning per student per year for 16-19-year-olds.
  • £2.8 billion capital investment so young people and adults can learn in high-quality facilities, establish Institutes of Technology across England, and raise the condition of further education colleges in England.
  • A total investment of £554 million by 2024-25 to substantially increase retraining and upskilling opportunities for adults. This includes giving more adults access to courses at Level 3 in high demand areas such as engineering and digital skills, scales up Skills Bootcamps, supports reforms to the adult skills funding system, and invests in the skills local employers need.
  • No rise in fuel duty.
  • A £421 million Household Support Fund, which will provide Local Authorities in England with an additional support for vulnerable households to cover the cost of essentials such as food and energy bills this winter.
  • To make buildings and homes warmer and more environmentally friendly, the Budget confirmed £3.9 billion to decarbonise buildings, including £1.8 billion to support tens of thousands of low-income households to make the transition to net zero while reducing their energy bills.
  • Increasing public investment in R&D to £20 billion by 2024-25. 
  • Up to £200 million funding to deliver eight freeports in England, creating regions that will flourish as hubs for global trade and investment.

 

Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) has welcomed the budget, “The Chancellor has built on previous announcements around the Prime Minister’s lifetime skills guarantee and further funding for apprenticeships, by focussing on T-Levels and building new Institutes of Technology. It is encouraging to see the Chancellor investing in vocational and adult education, especially when we are on the cusp of having to upskill engineers for the move to low carbon heating. However, I implore government to work more closely with the CIPHE to ensure that training from T-Levels to technological enhancement is fit for purpose. As ever, we would urge government to push further to help SMEs in developing the next generation of the workforce.

“Overall, the budget looks good for the industry, with funding for new housing and confirmation of investment to make homes and buildings warmer and more environmentally friendly. I sincerely hope that the shortage of adequately skilled installers does not prevent the Chancellor’s aspirations coming to fruition. It is hoped that there will be long term benefits to the supply chain with the confirmation of eight freeports in England with more to come in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However, this will not deliver the urgent solution required regarding the availability of essential plumbing and heating industry materials as we head into the winter months.

“For consumers, it is encouraging to see government intervention for low income families, with the introduction of the £421 million Household Support Fund. There will be many vulnerable people struggling with high fuel bills, having to make the stark decision between eating or heating this winter. It’s vital that help and support is available for those who need it.”