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Industry welcomes budget commitments

Industry commentators are largely encouraged by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak's budget in which he recommited to existing green policies and offered extra support to businesses, the self-employed and SMEs

Iain Bevan, commercial manager – heating & renewables at eco-technology brand Daikin UK, said: “It’s reassuring to hear the government affirm its commitment to the UK’s transition to net-zero. Investing in the green industry is not only crucial to long-term economic growth, it is also vital in enabling us to achieve this low carbon vision.

“Now, prioritising investment in training in particular is essential if we are to build the highly-skilled workforce required to realise a greener future. For the heat pump market alone, we estimate around 17,000 new installers will be required to meet anticipated demand within the next 10 years.

“The boost for apprenticeships cannot come soon enough. However, training at all levels, from apprenticeships through to experienced tradespeople, is needed if people are to acquire the skills they desperately need to develop a career in the green sector.

“At Daikin we’re working with those already in the industry to ensure they get the training they need to upskill and protect their future through initiatives such as our Sustainable Home Network. We also have an established apprenticeship programme and are always looking for ambitious and talented individuals who are keen to kickstart a successful career in heating.”

Kevin Wellman, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) said: “The Chancellor’s budget has business in mind and the continuation of the furlough scheme indicates that minimising unemployment remains critical. We are encouraged to see further support for the self-employed and SMEs, especially for the 600,000 newly self-employed who missed out on support over the last 12-months.

“As unemployment has risen, it is encouraging that incentives to employ older apprentices are now on a level playing field with their younger counterparts. The £3,000 payment is a step in the right direction, but as ever we would urge government to push further to help SMEs in developing the next generation of the workforce. This is needed with urgency in the plumbing and heating industry as it focuses on its contribution to the Government’s net-zero commitments. Detail on how green bonds can further support this will be welcomed.”

“Overall, the budget looks good for the industry, with the announced super deduction on investment in plant and machinery assets particularly attractive for manufacturing and even more so in an industry undergoing significant change. The stamp duty holiday extension should release funds for homeowners to work on their property, giving a welcome boost of demand for the industry.”

However, Mr Wellman said: “We would have liked to have seen further, dedicated support for the fuel and water poor. The impact of isolation and its relationship with public services has rarely been brought into sharper focus than in 2020 so it is hoped that an announcement is still to come about their protection. Equally, the freeze on national insurance, income tax and VAT is tempered by the same on the personal allowance. While the rise in corporation tax is not unexpected, the overall picture is one of wider future tax rises. While the budget is aimed at economic recovery, it’s very clear we’ll be paying for the pandemic for years to come. Now must be about ensuring the country is best placed to respond and to support its citizens when the next crisis emerges.”

OFTEC chief executive Paul Rose drew attention to the absence of any new green announcements. He said: “The Chancellor didn’t hold back in outlining the financial toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the UK economy, so it’s perhaps not surprising there were very few new green announcements, other than re-commitments to existing policies.

“We mustn’t let this pandemic halt progress on creating a greener economy but, with little cash in the Government’s pot and consumers tightening their belts, it’s clear more than ever that the route to a low carbon future needs to be driven by affordable and cost-effective solutions and not unrealistic spending expectations.

“OFTEC wants to play our part in the off-grid sector which is why we are securing support to transition oil heated homes onto a renewable liquid fuel which provides an almost drop-in replacement for Kerosene. This can deliver substantial carbon savings of almost 90% compared kerosene and, more importantly, at a fraction of the cost of other low carbon options to both the government and consumers.

“With all the damage COVID-19 has done, let’s not let it put our decarbonisation goals at risk as well.”

Gavin Graveson, executive vice president Veolia UK and Ireland said: “Now is the time for a defined narrative and clear pathway towards net zero. As offices and businesses are preparing to reopen, it is essential that we take a new, more sustainable approach.

“One of the most impactful environmental changes we can make is through our energy choices. Decarbonising heat needs to be at the top of all of our agendas. While this year has seen some progress towards greener heat supply, we need clearer financial drivers to allow an overhaul, and drive the systemic shift towards low carbon and renewable energy for homes and businesses.”

4 March 2021

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