Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Mr Hammond said, ‘We are committed as a Government to delivering three million apprenticeship starts by 2020 with the support of business through the apprenticeship levy.
‘We recognise the challenges the new system presents to some small business looking to employ an apprentice. I can therefore announce today that the education secretary will release up to £80 million of funding to support small businesses in engaging apprentices.’
The Treasury later confirmed that this was not new funding but would be taken from the existing Department for Education apprenticeship budget. There was no new funding announced in the spring statement.
The £80m was already in the £650m non-levy pot to last between January 2018 and end-March 2019. There has just been a growth bidding round for contracted colleges and providers and the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said that the £80m is likely to be the money that will be earmarked for that.
AELP chief executive Mark Dawe said, ‘Our early understanding is that this is growth money within the £650m funding already promised. While any growth funding is very welcome, until the Government remove the 10 per cent employer contribution for under 24 apprentices and commit to an annual non-levy budget of £1bn, the apprenticeship starts are not even going to reach the level they were before the levy was introduced - let alone exceed them.’
Mr Hammond also said that there would be £500m for T-levels and £50m to help employers provide placements for T-level students.
On the subject of business rates, Mr Hammond said that the next business rates reevaluation has been brought forward from 2022 to 2021.
In response, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘Nurseries – and parents – need a better deal from business rates now, recognising their particular social and economic role in the community, as NDNA has been campaigning for. It will keep the cost of childcare down. There’s no guarantee that a revaluation in several years’ time will achieve that.
‘We need a rates abolition rather than a revaluation. Westminster should follow in the footsteps of governments in Scotland and Wales who have are already reformed business rates for nurseries.'
‘However, NDNA supports the proposal to release £80m to help small firms take on apprentices. We are interested to understand how they will use this money after the clear recruitment crisis that NDNA presented in light of our workforce survey.’