The Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his “recovery” budget this week, commiting to ambitious stimulus spending. While the budget fails to deliver on what could have been a green industrial revolution ahead of COP26, there are some welcome announcements.
While the chancellor spoke of the need for ‘a real commitment to green growth’, his latest budget broke little ground on on green issues; though he did say the Bank of England’s monetary policy remit would now ‘reflect the importance of environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero’.
What green measures were announced fall largely into two categories: ways to finance green infrastructure; and funding for new and existing technologies. The budget is disappointing in terms of investment in green infrastructure, natural solutions, and a national retrofit strategy.
- The UK Infrastructure Bank, to be based in Leeds, will fund the ‘green industrial revolution’ across the UK, with an initial capitalisation of £12bn, supporting at least £40bn of infrastructure investment.
- The government will issue the first sovereign green bond (also known as a green gilt) this summer, with a further issuance to follow later in 2021. The green gilt framework will be published in June.
Education and skills
The government has committed to retrain, upskill, and employ the nation’s workforce, particularly young people. Increasing access to learning, apprenticeships, and work experience is vital to addressing the landscape profession’s ongoing skills deficit.
- The government will provide £126m of new funding in England for work placements and training for people aged 16-24 in the 2021-22 academic year.
- The government will extend and increase the payments made to employers in England who hire new apprentices between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021. Companies will receive £3,000 per new hire, compared with £1,500 per new apprentice hire (or £2,000 for those aged 24 and under) under the previous scheme.
- Employers will be invited to bring forward proposals here; in particular the Creative Industries Council, in recognition of the potential benefits for the creative sector of this new approach.
- The government will introduce a points-based visa system by March 2022. This system will include a ‘scaleup’ stream, enabling workers with a job offer from a recognised UK scaleup company to qualify for a fast-track visa. Landscape architects remain on the shortage occupation list and qualify for fast-track applications under the proposed system.
- The government will launch the new Global Business Mobility visa by spring 2022 for overseas businesses to establish a presence in, or transfer staff to, the UK.
- The government will provide practical support to small firms that are using the visa system for the first time.
- The government will modernise the immigration sponsorship system to make it easier to use. A delivery roadmap will be published in the summer.
Transport and infrastructure
The confirmation of the National Infrastructure Bank announced in the November Spending Review is welcome. But it must invest in projects that are not only shovel-ready, but shovel-worthy. The Bank will play a key role in the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda by encouraging infrastructure projects and attracting investment, and will provide funding that could previously have been secured through the European Investment Bank.
- The government will authorise a new National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) study on towns and regeneration.
- The government will invest £18.8m in local cultural infrastructure projects in Carlisle, Hartlepool, Wakefield and Yeovil.
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