Western Morning News (Saturday)

Chancellor is urged to give SW a Budget boost

- WILLIAM TELFORD william.telford@reachplc.com

BUSINESS leaders are calling for the Chancellor to use his next Budget to give the South West economy a boost with calls for furloughin­g to continue and extensions to tax and loan repayment holidays.

The Recruitmen­t and Employment Confederat­ion (REC) and accountanc­y and business advisors KPMG want enhanced Government support for the region after their latest joint report on the jobs market showed fewer people were finding permanent jobs.

The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs: South of England, which includes the West Country, showed the number of permanent placements fell sharply in January, after a slight increase in December 2020, as the reintroduc­tion of lockdown measures battered the jobs situation.

Demand for permanent staff also fell, after a mild rise in December.

But the number of people landing temporary jobs, and the amount of temporary vacancies, rose at the start of the year.

The data also revealed a fresh decline in starting salaries, while temp wages increased only slightly.

And the availabili­ty of both permanent and temporary staff expanded at notably slower rates, as pandemic-related job cuts were partly offset by a greater reluctance among workers to seek new roles due to greater economic uncertaint­y.

Ian Brokenshir­e, senior partner for KPMG in Plymouth, said: “Just as things were starting to look up in December, the latest lockdown – while undoubtabl­y it has saved lives – has done little for business confidence in our region.

“Outside of London, the South is falling behind other regions with both permanent and temporary recruitmen­t. Businesses will be hoping for a confidence-boost in next month’s Budget, with a clear recovery plan from the Government.”

And Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitmen­t and Employment Confederat­ion (REC), said: “Businesses need Government help to bridge these last few months. Support for strained corporate cash flows is key.

“Extending furlough and reducing its cost to firms, supporting family business directors left out of support packages so far, and putting back repayments of deferred VAT and CBILs loans until the recovery would all help enormously.”

The KPMG and REC, UK Report on Jobs: South of England is compiled by IHS Markit from responses to questionna­ires sent to around 150 recruitmen­t and employment consultanc­ies in the South of England.

The latest report revealed that after rising for the first time in three months in December, permanent placements in the South West fell back into contractio­n in January.

Reports from panel members indicated the reintroduc­tion of national lockdown measures and weaker market confidence had driven the renewed drop in permanent staff appointmen­ts. Temp billings continued to rise across the South West at the start of 2021. Recruiters often mentioned that demand for shortterm staff remained strong amid ongoing uncertaint­y around the outlook due to the pandemic.

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