Brown delivers Budget

Gordon Brown has delivered his 10th Budget and there was plenty to interest employers.

The chancellor announced that public pay would on average rise 2.25% in the next year, showing “financial discipline”.

He promised new help for working women, including doubling training for women with low skills and addressing pay discrimination. In addition, child care vouchers will increase by £5 a week to £55.

The first £6bn in government efficiency savings in line with the Gershon review have now been made, with cuts in civil service posts, said Brown.

There were a number of announcements on education, including a comprehensive programme for recruiting and retaining staff, with a particular focus on science.

Education secretary Ruth Kelly will sign up 3,000 science teachers and provide funding for after-school science clubs in 250 schools, Brown said.

Further education would be free of charge for the first time up to the age of 25, with adult learning grants to help with the cost of living, he revealed.

Each college would get a “step change” in the involvement of employers and resources would be redirected from “failing courses” to the best courses which employers wanted to see

Although the output of UK workers still pales into comparison with the US, France and Germany, Brown said that UK productivity was growing 2.3% – higher than at any time since the 1960s.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “The chancellor’s announcements on childcare, and on better training for low-skilled women, are a welcome step in the right direction, but we need more investment in better careers information and advice when young people make job choices. Government itself needs to encourage better access to flexible and part-time working at senior levels.”

Finance experts expressed surprise that the chancellor scrapped the tax breaks for private computers purchased under the government’s Home Computing Initiative (HCI).

Gary Hull, director of the employment solutions practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “The removal of the exemption for private use of home computers comes as a real surprise, particularly in view of the importance the chancellor has placed on education and the development of a skilled workforce in his Budget.”

David Hewison, associate tax director at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and financial advisory group, warned that there would be no transitional period for employers on the HCI programme.

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