Logistics business groups have welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s series of measures to get the economy back on its feet, but warned that further initiatives are needed to prevent a slew of job losses.
Rishi Sunak announced a £160bn support package, which includes supporting over a million businesses through grants, loans and rate cuts.
He said that as the UK entered the second phase in its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, he would support jobs by focussing on skills and young people and to create jobs in every part of the country.
A £1,000 job retention bonus will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers, with the money paid for each furloughed employee still employed as of 31 January 2021.
A £2bn ‘Kickstart Scheme’ was also announced, which is designed to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for those aged 16-24 and companies will be given £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire under the age of 25.
Elizabeth de Jong, FTA policy director said there was “great news” for logistics in the Chancellor’s plan and that protecting jobs in the sector was a priority.
But she added: “While we welcome the increased training of younger people proposed in his speech, we are hoping for further initiatives to re-train those of all ages who have been made redundant.
“FTA has been campaigning for the apprenticeship levy to become a skills levy which would mean people of all ages could have the right training to meet the needs of our industry.”
The SMMT welcomed moves to safeguard jobs, but chief executive Mike Hawes added: “It’s bitterly disappointing the Chancellor has stopped short of supporting the restart of one of the UK’s most important employers and a driver of growth.
“The automotive sector has been particularly hard hit, with thousands of job losses already announced and many more at risk.
“Of Europe’s five biggest economies, Britain now stands alone in failing to provide any dedicated support for its automotive industry, a situation that will only deter future investment.”
He said sector-specific measures were required to boost manufacturing, such as business rates holidays, tax cuts and policies that provided broader support for consumer spending.
Meanwhile, the government intends to issue further certificates of temporary exemption (CTE) for vehicle testing, amid calls for the system to be fixed to secure economic recovery.
The FTA said the DVSA withdrew its staff for three-and-a-half months during the pandemic and the testing regime wouldn’t cope with the current backlog of 250,000 tests: “The CTE protocol may have delayed the need for tests during the height of the Covid crisis, but this is, at best, a temporary fix which does not solve the issue of uncertainty,” said de Jong.
“Vehicle testing and maintenance schedules are meticulously planned by most operators so that they are undertaken to maximise capacity.
“For many operators, the dates for maintenance have been moved back into the pre-Christmas period, the busiest time of year for our sector, and will reduce capacity at a time when the economy needs hauliers to help deliver a successful festive season.”
The FTA has written to the transport minister requesting that operators engaged in the earned recognition scheme, or rated green on the DVSA’s risk score, can extend their exemption to one year: “An extension of up to 12 months would ensure peak vehicle capacity would be available to operators during the festive season – a crucial time of year for the whole economy,” de Jong added.
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