Attractions industry news

14 Mar 2019

Fitness industry welcomes government commitment to Apprenticeship Levy

The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has presented his Spring Statement to parliament, making updates to apprenticeship reforms previously announced during the Budget.

The changes will affect every leisure sector and mean that, from 1 April, employers will see the co-investment rate they pay cut by half from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

Levy-paying employers will also be able to share more levy funds across their supply chains, with the maximum amount rising from 10 per cent to 25 per cent.

Commenting on the changes to the apprenticeship system, Huw Edwards, director of public affairs for ukactive said: “We welcome the government’s renewed commitment to addressing issues raised with the Apprenticeship Levy, making it easier to recruit new apprentices into our sector.

“We're also pleased to see assurances that government will consult on how to rejuvenate the nation’s high streets, where the role of fitness and leisure facilities should clearly be integral."

Edwards added, however, that the ongoing Brexit chaos is causing severe damage to the entire UK economy.

"The continued failure of parliament to find a Brexit solution is damaging the very fabric of our society," he added.

“All sectors, including the physical activity sector, are undermined by the political uncertainty Brexit continues to create. Furthermore, the prospect of losing out on both vital public service investment and tax incentives – in the form of the Chancellor's "deal dividend" – is an issue of grave concern.

“It is ultimately communities across the country that are suffering the most – losing facilities, activity programmes, and wider health services to the bite of austerity."

Another to welcome the changes in the apprenticeship system was Brigid Simmonds, CEO of the British Beer & Pub Association.

“Despite being light on detail, there was some encouraging news for brewers and pubs in the Spring statement," she said.

“Bringing forward reforms to apprenticeship schemes worth £700m to April – including increased ability to transfer apprenticeship funding into the supply chain and reduce the co-investment rate to 5 per cent – is a welcome move for the hospitality sector as a whole.

"The sector has seen the number of apprentices soar in recent years, with 165,000 people starting apprenticeships in hospitality and catering between 2013 and 2018."

Tourism was perhaps the biggest leisure industry winner to emerge from the statement. Hammond revealed that, from June 2019, citizens of the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea will be permitted to use e-gates at UK airports and at Eurostar terminals. The move has been designed to "significantly reduce queues and improve the flow of passengers and the overall experience at the UK border".

Cumbersome landing cards will also begin to be abolished from June 2019 in a move to reduce bureaucracy for travellers and speed up the processing of passengers on arrival in the UK.

The biggest headline figure in Hammond's statement was to do with housing – and the announcement of a £3bn scheme to fund the building of 30,000 affordable homes.

Hammond made his speech to a backdrop of mixed economic signals over the future of the UK's finances.

While the number of people in work has increased by more than 3.5 million since 2010 – and the OBR forecasts employment will increase by a further 600,000 by 2023 – the Bank of England predicts that the economy is set to expand at its slowest rate this year since the crisis.

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