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Time to seize the opportunity and get back to work.

For all the anguish they cause, wars often accelerate progress. In the case of COVID-19 – the equivalent of WWIII caused by the invisible enemy – we have witnessed this for ourselves through the advances made in science, medicine, and technology. But anyone responsible for running a business of any kind should have been taking the opportunity during the past year to conduct an honest appraisal of what they do and how they do it.

As a useful by-product, we have also had the chance to learn who our friends really are, what our priorities should be and that washing our hands properly is more important than getting dressed up or going to the pub. Time for honesty.

Having presumably gone through a similar thought process, Rishi Sunak’s latest Budget sends us a clear and simple message: living on Government hand-outs, while appropriate during the past 12 months, must come to an end sometime and that debt, incurred by people, business, or Government, has to be repaid. What happens next will be crucial.

Leaving political debate to others, UK industry in general has been handed an opportunity by the Chancellor. Yes, Corporation Tax will be going up to 25% for our largest companies from 2023, but the amount payable can be dramatically reduced by a ‘super reduction’ scheme that encourages investment in new equipment. R & D tax reliefs are also under review and a suite of grants and loans has been put in place for those companies that need financial support to grow or simply get back on their feet. We have a golden opportunity to improve the UK’s much-derided productivity and let’s hope the right businesses can get their hands on the support they need.

As active supporters of apprenticeships, we’re delighted to see that the incentive to participating companies has been doubled and that a further £7m has been set aside to fund a new ‘flexi-job’ programme to enable apprentices to work with more than one employer. On top of that, £126m will pay for 40,000 more traineeships in England and a reform of the immigration system will allow UK companies to attract top talent from overseas.

The ambitious Green Agenda, which reflects our own corporate values, has also been given an added boost by the Chancellor with a range of identified and costed projects spread across the UK. In similar vein, eight new ‘freeports’ are being established in various parts of the country and even The Treasury is opening a new campus in Darlington.

The children go back to school on March 8 – time for action and getting the country back to work.

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