Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a mini-budget on July 8, which involves a set of measures aimed at helping the country recover from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest chunk of the funding allocated is up to £9.4 billion earmarked for a job retention scheme — with £1,000 being made available as a bonus to employers for each employee they keep on who had previously been furloughed.
But there is also support for young people who are facing an uncertain future, and some modest climate-related proposals in the form of funds allocated to making homes and buildings more energy efficient.
The “kickstart scheme” includes £2 billion to encourage businesses emerging from lockdown to hire some of the 300,000 young adults currently on universal credit. Instead of the employer covering their wages entirely, the Treasury will pay the national minimum wage for 25 hours of work per week for six months to those 16 to 24-year- olds who have been hired.
Other elements of the scheme include £1,000 per trainee for employers who take on trainees aged 16 to 24 in England, and £2,000 for employers for every apprentice under the age of 25 they hire. Applications to these schemes will be open in August.
Sunak told MPs in parliament on Wednesday: “Our plan has a clear goal — to protect, support, and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire, to create jobs in every part of the country, to give young people a better start.”
A clear area of concern is the rate of youth unemployment that has been predicted as a result of COVID-19 — a study from the Resolution Foundation in April, for example, found that young people were much more likely to be working in a sector affected by lockdown.
Sunak told parliament: “We don’t want that generation left behind.”
Other areas of support for young adults include £101 million to go towards funding studies for 18 and 19-year-olds unable to find work, and £32 million to help launch a National Careers Service to provide advice about careers and work.
Some economic experts however have warned that the plans may not go far enough to protect jobs. Garry Young, a deputy director of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, told the Guardian the policy was “badly timed” and “the incentives offered to employers look too small to be effective.”
Other parts of the stimulus package come under the banner of “creating jobs” and that includes money to boost the construction industry and housing development.
Under this scheme, £1 billion worth of grants will be given to public sector bodies to improve energy efficiency in their buildings — so council buildings, hospitals, schools, and so on.
Meanwhile a new “green homes grant” will see the government offer vouchers up to £5,000 to homeowners who are paying for home improvements, like wall insulation and double glazing, that will help save energy. It’s estimated that these vouchers will cover two-thirds of the typical costs of these refurbishments.
Up to £10,000 in vouchers will be available to people on the lowest incomes who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford these home improvements.
And a further £50 million will go towards a pilot for the “decarbonisation of social housing” — which will mean investing in insulation and heat pumps for some social housing.
With the promise of this funding creating new “green jobs” and a positive step towards dealing with the UK’s energy inefficient housing, environmentalists are divided in their response to this news, the i paper reports. Some are cautiously welcoming the proposals but others say it is a missed opportunity to go further.
The environmental pressure group Plan B, has gone as far as to write to the Chancellor threatening legal action for breaking the Paris accords commitments to carbon reduction that the UK signed up to, the Guardian reported. The group argues that due to the billions going to airlines and car-makers in the overall recovery, the green homes boost is just a “fig leaf” for polluters.