Did chancellor review Apprenticeship levy thanks to this magazine?

Ian Mean

Listening to Chancellor Philip Hammond deliver his speech at the Tory conference this morning, I wondered if he had-by chance- seen the September issue of Business & Innovation magazine.

By Ian Mean, Business West Gloucestershire Director & GFirstLEP board member for small business

In my column  on apprenticeships and the government levy, I wrote :”It all started to fall apart last April when the government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy.

“This meant that businesses with an average wage bill of at least £3 million had to pay 0.5 per cent of their payroll costs into a fund to pay for training.

“The levy must now be reviewed: that is the conclusion of the heads of the further education colleges I have talked to.

“It is an overly bureaucratic ill thought-out policy that is patently not working. In fact, the levy is actually proving a deterrent to recruiting apprentices which our colleges have not seen before.

“I am afraid that many companies now see the levy as a tax.

“The government must now review the levy as a matter of urgency to make it simple and more accessible, particularly for SMEs if they are to stand any chance of honouring their apprenticeship pledge”

Well, thanks for listening Mr Hammond.

Today he announced that long overdue review of the Apprenticeship Levy process.

Not before time.

Since the levy came in last April, it has been chaotic with many larger companies simply using the cash not to take on and train apprentices but putting the money into areas of management training for instance.

At the same time, apprenticeship starts have fallen off a cliff with—more than 50 per cent down in the last year at a time when we need all the new, young skilled workers we can get here in Gloucestershire.

And as a result, the much vaunted government apprenticeship programme which was targeted at delivering 3million apprenticeship starts by 2020 now looks pretty impossible to achieve.

Reviewing the levy is a  first step in the right direction to get this government closer to business, and by his own ad mission today, Philip Hammond said they may have to do more to make the levy more flexible.

At least it was something to give business something to smile about after the Boris Johnson tirade of **** Business.

And the Chancellor made a pledge that “the Conservative Party will always be the party of business”.

That is welcome after a year in which business-particularly small business-has very much seemed to be out in the cold in terms of government thinking as No 10 immersed itself in the Brexit bubble with the exclusion of virtually everything else.