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Cumbria Chamber of Commerce welcomes boost for apprenticeships

Rob Johnston

Small businesses in Cumbria should find it easier to train apprentices, thanks to a cash boost from the Chancellor.

Delivering his first Spring Statement, Phillip Hammond promised £80m to help small firms take on apprentices.

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “We don’t know yet how the scheme will work, but in principle we welcome it.

“Cumbria has a high proportion of small businesses, and anything that helps them to upskill their workforce and recruit new staff is a positive thing.

“We know that Cumbria faces a demographic time bomb with an ageing workforce, so this has to be priority.”

As of now, the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub can offer free training to small and medium sized businesses that take on apprentices or retrain existing workers.

However, the funding for this, through the Employees Support in Skills Project, is due to run out in July.

Rob also welcomed the Chancellor’s pledge to consult on ways of “ending the scourge of late payment”, to reduce vehicle excise duty for low-emission vans, and his promise to bring forward the next business rates revaluation to 2021 and hold revaluations every three years after that.

Rob said: “Regular revaluations should avoid sudden sharp increases, as we saw last year when we had the first revaluation since 2010, but they are no substitute for wholesale reform of business rates, which is badly needed.”

He added: “We were encouraged by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s predictions, which show continued economic growth and falling government borrowing.

“In particular, the OBR is predicting that inflation will fall back to the Government’s target of 2% over the next 12 months.

“That underlines what we have been saying – that there is no need for the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

“Businesses are already grappling with rising costs. The last thing they need is to pay more for borrowings, especially the retail sector, which is already under pressure.”

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