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Industry reacts to emergency Budget

Senior figures and organisations give their thoughts on George Osborne’s Summer Budget 2015 speech.

Extension to Sunday trading hours

George Osborne announced that local authorities and mayors will be allowed to vary Sunday trading laws.

Hammerson chief executive David Atkins welcomed the announcement.

He said: “With nearly 2,000 stores across Hammerson’s regional portfolio of UK shopping centres and retail parks, we believe that the relaxation of opening hours will offer retailers more flexibility and give consumers greater power to choose where and when they shop.

“The reforms will also bring Britain into line with other international retail markets and address the imbalance between physical and online retailing.”

CF Commercial director of retail consultancy Craig Fisher said: “The restrictions have long been out of step with consumer habits, with most shopping activity occurring on the weekend.

“The value to retailers meanwhile was proven during the Olympics, when their suspension saw sales up.

“But a more pressing concern, especially for London retailers, is following through with the radical reform of business rates, which are the second greatest cost to businesses after rent.

“Come 2017, there is a real threat to small independents in the capital, which are the life and soul of the city.”

British Property Federation chief executive Melanie Leech said: “The way we shop has changed beyond all recognition in recent years and government has struck the right balance between being alive to that and ensuring any further liberalisation of shopping hours is well managed.

“Longer hours will not suit all places, but equally should not hold other places back.

“Devolving the decision to a local level and those who know what will be best for their area, in this instance, therefore makes perfect sense.”

Apprenticeship Levy and skills

The chancellor announced an “apprenticeship levy” on all major firms.

Companies will get money back if they have apprenticeships. Mr Osborne said it could create 3 million apprentices.

WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff UK COO and MD for transportation, infrastructure and property Mark Naysmith said: “It’s great to see more attention for tackling the skills shortage, so that industry and the supply chain have the capacity to deliver on projects.

“On the other hand we still lack a coherent vision for how we are going to build our way out of a housing crisis. The stakes are high.

“The nation’s need for new housing and infrastructure remains urgent and we should already be looking beyond where Crossrail 2 and HS3 might go, and how this will drive associated developments.”

Seddon director of business services Nicola Hodkinson said: “It is time for the larger contractors to step up to the plate and provide apprenticeships, rather than relying on smaller subcontractors to bear the burden of funding and delivering vital training.

“We welcome the steps outlined in George Osborne’s Budget to ensure that companies are encouraged and remunerated to take on apprentices.

“There is no shortage of will from young people; however, there is a shortage of employers willing to give them the chance – many of whom cite the financial burden.”

New roads fund

The chancellor has created a new roads fund, which will be funded through the reform of vehicle excise duty. He said this would “ensure sustained investment” in the strategic road network.

RICS Head of Policy Jeremy Blackburn said: “Fixing our infrastructure with a new £3bn roads fund will drive locational investment and fuel government’s commitment to devolving powers and funding across Britain.”

Social housing rent cut

Rents paid in social housing sector will be reduced by 1 per cent a year for the next for years.

BNP Paribas Real Estate senior director Dr Anthony Lee said: “The government’s plans to reduce rents paid by tenants will have an adverse impact on both housing associations and developers.

“Social housing rents have – until now – increased annually by RPI plus 0.5 per cent per annum, underpinning housing associations’ business plans and making social housing an attractive investment proposition.”

While, JLL head of residential Adam Challis said the move was “damaging”.

“A reduced social rent trajectory will be damaging for Registered Providers and their ability to build new affordable homes.

“This will impose a larger requirement for RPs to engage in capital markets and to build new homes in the private market that will cross-subsidise affordable housing needs.

“Ultimately, the social housing sector will be worse off as a result.”

Trowers & Hamlins real estate partner Ian Graham said the move was a “significant shift from the previously stated policy of rent increases of CPI plus 1 per cent per annum”.

“The last government made much of its 10-year rent settlement for the sector.  

“It was hailed as providing the certainty required to allow confident forward planning. 

“This reduction in rents will reduce bodies’ capacity to develop.  

“The OBR suggest that it will mean 14,000 fewer affordable homes. 

“Aside from that, what impact will it have on the confidence of investors into the sector?”

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