Chancellor promises £190m for paid time off and training

Skills
and training are at the heart of Gordon Brown’s pre-budget report, with the
chancellor committing £190m in the coming year for paid time off and skills
training.

Brown
also pledged to help mothers and fathers struggling to balance work and family
responsibilities by offering employers tax exemptions on up to £50 a week spent
on registered or approved childcare.

Unions
have reacted positively to the announcement. "We are particularly pleased
to see the increase in help with childcare costs, and the big boost in
investment in skills. This is a real agenda for the workplace," said the
TUC.

Under
the new plans for skills, the chancellor said the Government would embark on
the next stage of the New Deal; helping people move from low-skilled work to
higher-skilled work.

To
facilitate this, Brown announced that the windfall tax reserve – previously for
job creation – will be reallocated to a new deal for skills.

To
extend employer training pilots to a third of the country – from 14,000 up to
80,000 employees, most of whom have left school early and without qualifications
– the Government has pledged to provide £190m in the coming year for paid time
off and skills training.

CBI
director-general Digby Jones said that training pilots were working well
because the training was high quality and tailored to companies’ needs.

"But
employers want reassurance that the Government is not considering a statutory
right to paid time off, which would do more harm than good," Jones warned.

To
further this new deal for skills, everyone on jobseeker’s allowance will be
assessed for their skills and – starting with pilots for the long-term
unemployed – attend a mandatory skills course.

Kevin
Curran, general secretary of the GMB, said: "The chancellor has focused on
issues at the heart of working communities, in particular skills and childcare.
Investment in these areas will make the UK stronger and healthier for the long
term."

Under
the new plans for childcare, employers will be able – as long as the offer is
made to every employee – to provide £50 a week for approved childcare, free of
both employee national insurance and income tax, and free of employer national
insurance.

The
chancellor said that new levels of public services investment and reform would
lead to the employment of 25,000 more doctors, 20,000 more teachers, 80,000 more
nurses and 90,000 classroom assistants.

By Michael Millar

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