An up­side-down Bud­get is what we need to cre­ate jobs

Straight-talk­ing com­mon sense from the front line of man­age­ment

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - SIR JOHN TIMPSON

QThe Gov­ern­ment talks about jobs, jobs, jobs, but where do you think they’ll come from in the fu­ture? What would you like to see the Chan­cel­lor do to sup­port the econ­omy and cre­ate more of them?

AThe pan­demic has taught many or­gan­i­sa­tions to be­come more flex­i­ble in the way they man­age their day-to-day op­er­a­tions. Gov­ern­ment needs to learn the same les­son. We suf­fer from min­is­ters and ad­min­is­tra­tors who mi­cro­man­age the coun­try, in­stead of pro­vid­ing trust and sup­port to the pop­u­la­tion as we ad­just to the mas­sive changes oc­cur­ring in 2020. We don’t need more of the nit-pick­ing lock­down rule-mak­ing that led to zoos re­main­ing shut while Ikea was open, and masks worn in our golf club’s pro­fes­sional shop, but not in the club­house. I hope the Gov­ern­ment has no­ticed that the pri­vate sec­tor has un­der­gone huge re­or­gan­i­sa­tion with­out need­ing statu­tory reg­u­la­tions to tell it what to do.

The jobs mar­ket will change dra­mat­i­cally over the next 12 months. Some sec­tors, such as home de­liv­ery, ecom­merce and IT in the home, are boom­ing, while most firms con­nected to travel are in the dol­drums.

Rishi Su­nak seems to have a sure­ness of touch in con­trast to Gavin Wil­liamson. The fur­lough scheme was a life­saver for many com­pa­nies and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a spec­tac­u­lar success. But Boris John­son’s call to get home work­ers back into the of­fice has fallen on deaf ears. The civil ser­vants who no longer com­mute still have a job, but by work­ing from home, they’re threat­en­ing the liveli­hood of the café com­mu­nity that was set up to serve them near their places of work.

Dry clean­ing, a ser­vice we pro­vide, may have been la­belled as es­sen­tial when lock­down started, but it has been one of the big losers: fewer suits go­ing to the of­fice, no dress­ing up for wed­dings and only a few din­ers spilling food on their clothes. It will take time for the hospi­tal­ity trade to get back to pre-Covid lev­els. Avi­a­tion will suf­fer even longer and many depart­ment stores may never re­cover.

So how can Su­nak pull an­other mas­ter stroke by pro­duc­ing a job cre­ation Bud­get? He has the op­por­tu­nity to give a mas­sive ex­am­ple to the rest of White­hall by pro­duc­ing a

Bud­get based on what I call “up­side­down gov­ern­ment”. In­stead of set­ting up a new job cre­ation scheme with more quan­gos, ap­pren­tice­ship grants and train­ing agen­cies, the Trea­sury should clear away ob­sta­cles that get in the way of do­ing business.

He needs to make it cheaper and eas­ier to em­ploy peo­ple. A bril­liant ex­am­ple would be to re­duce the cost of na­tional in­sur­ance. As an in­cen­tive for tak­ing on new re­cruits, there should be a 50pc re­duc­tion for the first year, with no charge for dif­fi­cult-toplace job­seek­ers (care leavers, ex-of­fend­ers and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, for ex­am­ple).

John­son will prob­a­bly en­cour­age a num­ber of in­fra­struc­ture projects to pro­vide a ma­jor source of job cre­ation, but he should also recog­nise that most jobs are cre­ated by small busi­nesses.

Many of th­ese com­pa­nies strug­gle to cope with red tape, but ev­ery at­tempt to re­duce the pa­per­work seems to have failed. The forms have now gone dig­i­tal, but bu­reau­cracy still gets in the way. Per­haps pol­i­cy­mak­ers who cre­ate new reg­u­la­tions should spend a week work­ing in com­merce to know what it’s like to run a small or medium-sized business and feel the frus­tra­tion when reg­u­la­tion gets in the way.

Since March we have been go­ing through the big­gest eco­nomic up­heaval for 300 years, but through ini­tia­tive, courage and in­ge­nu­ity, most busi­nesses have sur­vived.

We quite rightly praise the NHS work­ers who took on a to­tally new chal­lenge, set free from the usual “path­ways”. But we should also ap­plaud the pub­li­cans who, with four hours’ no­tice, were shut down for more than three months, but are very much back in business.

Chan­cel­lor, please set the tone by sup­port­ing business with an up­side-down Bud­get. Sir John Timpson is chair­man of the high-street ser­vices provider, Timpson. Send him a ques­tion at askjohn@ tele­graph.co.uk

The Chan­cel­lor, pic­tured here on a visit to Rothe­say on the Isle of Bute, Scot­land, has shown a sure­ness of touch in his han­dling of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, but still has vi­tal work to do in clear­ing ob­sta­cles to em­ploy­ment

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