This year marks the final budget of the incumbent government before May’s election, bringing an end to five years of a parliament in which employment has been an ever-present cause for concern. Following extensive coverage from the BBC, what does 2015’s budget have in store for the UK’s workers?
Chancellor George Osborne was keen to highlight an increase in the rate of employment over the past year – at 73%, it is currently the highest since records began in 1971 – and this year’s announcements provide some useful insights to where the UK economy and industry are headed in the year to come.
First of all, good news for the technology sector – plenty of funding for tech initiatives was announced, suggesting continued growth and opportunity in these areas. In particular, £40 million for business incubators to support startups working on the internet of things, including smart technology for health and social care. £600 million will also be invested in providing ultra-fast wireless broadband to improve mobile data capacity and coverage, and an additional £7.4 million for library Wi-Fi access.
The UK’s video game industry will also receive £8 million to encourage emerging development talent, in a hope to build upon the estimated £1 billion that gaming already brings to the GDP. Video game design and development, currently a niche and highly competitive industry, may be about to broaden its scope, offering opportunities for savvy tech experts.
There was plenty of good news for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which employ as much as 48% of the UKs workforce and are consistently looking to expand in 2015. Increases in UK Trade and Investment resources to improve international exports were welcomed by businesses owners, as was a review into business rates. It would appear that SMEs are the best placed to be going on recruitment drives in the years to come, implying that jobseekers and those looking to change their careers should be considering smaller firms over big businesses.
Scrapping the annual tax return and getting rid of class two national insurance contributions will simplify things for the self-employed and will assist with removing the red tape that creates a barrier to startups. And, of course, the rise of the national minimum wage to £6.70 will be a welcome change to many in work.
A push towards devolution will also continue, with plans for a “northern powerhouse” of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, with an £11 million investment into creating entrepreneur hubs. While it is unlikely that there will ever be a complete shift away from the capital as a centre of industry and innovation, this is surely a step in the right direction to creating jobs around the UK.
With an election looming so closely, it is hard to put too much store in the changes pledged within this year’s budget – it is impossible to know how things will develop over the next year. But for workers and businesses owners, things are currently looking optimistic, with greater investments to growing industries, and increased opportunities around the UK.
Image copyright: alexstand – Photodune.com