By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Business leaders in Nottinghamshire say budget reforms on childcare costs and other incentives have not gone far enough to bring people back to the workforce.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his Spring Budget in the Commons on March 15.
He outlined policies aimed at getting more people into work and also extended help with energy costs for households.
It was also announced that a scheme offering 30 hours a week of free childcare for working parents will be extended.
Eventually, the scheme will cover all children from the age of nine months – but it won’t be fully in place until 2025.
The Chancellor said the UK is now expected to avoid a recession and inflation is forecast to fall to 2.9 per cent by the end of the year.
Business leaders gathered at an East Midlands Chamber event to watch the budget and discuss what it means for their industries.
“As an employer, I am having to provide lots of support for my team such as private healthcare, flexible working and mental health training.
“I heard about the childcare reforms and I was speaking to a new starter in the office. We calculated if she worked full time she would pay £15,000 for childcare.
“She is in an entry-level role and it isn’t sustainable. She said she is coming to work to pay for childcare.
“I was really keen that the chancellor would bring forward those reforms.
“It’s not something which is new, I think we should’ve been looking at this some time ago.
“Last year in April I gave all my team a 10 per cent increase in pay but I can’t afford to do that again this year.
“The predictions on inflation coming down has somewhat calmed my nerves a little as a business owner.”
Corrina Hembury is Managing Director at Access Training which provides training, apprenticeships and recruitment support in the Midlands.
She added: “I don’t think it was a very inspiring budget. It was billed as a budget for growth but I didn’t see many opportunities for that.
“I think there were some good initiatives but I don’t think they’ve gone far enough or are going to happen fast enough.
“There was no mention of young people or apprenticeships really.
“There was talk of ‘returnerships’ for the over 50s getting back into the workplace, which will be interesting to see the detail behind that.
“We do work with older people in terms of training. Being able to have more funding to train these people is really welcome.”
Government figures show hundreds of thousands of people aged under 65 who were working before the pandemic are now not in work due to ill health or early retirement.
Ministers see getting some of these people back into work, alongside incentives for other people such as working parents of young children as key to re-igniting the economy.
Chris Hobson, Director of Policy at East Midlands Chamber, added: “The feeling in the room was quite flat, there wasn’t a whole lot in the room that people were getting excited about.
“There were some measures that seemed interesting but perhaps wouldn’t have an impact for a couple of years.
“Overall there was no big picture or vision for what the economy wants to look like.”
On unveiling the budget, Mr Hunt said: “Our plan is working – inflation falling, debt down and a growing economy.
“Britain is on a lasting path to growth with a revolution in childcare support, the biggest ever employment package and the best investment incentives in Europe.”