An upside-down Budget is what we need to create jobs
Straight-talking common sense from the front line of management
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