Chancellor promises £60m to boost workers’ skills

In his first budget speech, chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling has promised £60m over three years to provide new opportunities for workers to gain new skills, including additional apprenticeships.

Darling added that a capital fund of £12.5m would go towards encouraging more women entrepreneurs.

Also mentioned in the speech, from April 2010 all recipients of long-term incapacity benefits will attend work capability assessments.

Darling announced growth forecasts for the UK economy this year of 1.75-2.25% amid the current global financial climate.

However, he said economic growth for 2009 will range between 2.25% and 2.75%.

The CIPD welcomed the chancellor’s low-key budget, saying it contrasts with the wealth of government initiatives affecting employers in recent years.

CIPD chief economist Dr John Philpott said: “The Budget is broadly neutral – mildly expansionary in 2008-9 with a tiny give away clawed back in the following two financial years.

“Mr Darling is offering what amounts to small change to business – though the business community in general will be happier with the Chancellor this time around than they were with his pre-Budget report.”

Employers will welcome breathing space, and additional resources for skills, the CIPD added.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), called the budget a missed opportunity to reach out to civil and public servants as the government stood by its policy to cap public sector pay to below inflation.

The government’s 2% pay cap resulting in pay cuts in real terms has prompted a number of pay disputes across the civil service, including strike threats from the police, prison guards, and coastguards.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “The Chancellor billed this budget as one built on fairness, yet continues to hide behind the discredited argument that public sector pay is fuelling inflation as an excuse to drive down the wages of the people who keep this country running.

The budget was a missed opportunity by the government to reach out to civil and public servants in recognising that they are the victims of inflation and deserve fair pay.”

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