Covid-19 tiers announced after Rishi Sunak sets out £4.3bn Spending Review to get the UK back on its feet

The new three-tier regions have been announced a day after the Chancellor set out UK's spending plan to help sectors battered by the Covid pandemic

Covid-19 tiers announced after Rishi Sunak sets out £4.3bn Spending Review to get the UK back on its feet

The new three-tier regions have been announced a day after the Chancellor set out UK’s spending plan to help sectors battered by the Covid pandemic 

Businesses are trying to grapple with the after-effects of the nationwide lockdown as the pandemic continues to put businesses on hold. Now, the government has announced new measures placing different regions under a three-tier system in tough restrictions. This comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out UK’s spending plan for next year to help thousands of jobless get back to work, in hopes to pull the country out of ruins. 

Today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out England’s new coronavirus tier restrictions set to come into effect after the national lockdown ends on December 2. All gyms, close-contact beauty services and non-essential shops will be open under all tiers, but different restrictions for other venues will apply at each level. Mr Hancock told the Commons: “Hope is on the horizon but we still have further to go. So, we must all dig deep.” 

“We should see these restrictions not as a boundary to push but as a limit on what the public health advice says we can safely do in any area,” he added. Large parts of the Midlands, North East and North West, including Manchester and Kent, will be placed under tier three, the highest restrictions. This will mean pubs serving substantial meals and restaurants will be closed and only available for delivery and takeaway services. Meanwhile, indoor entertainment venues, hotels and other accommodation will also be shut. 

A majority of areas are placed on the second-highest level, tier, two, including London and Liverpool. Pubs and restaurants in tier two can open on the basis they serve “substantial meals”. The Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly – where there have been no recorded cases in the past week – will be the only areas of England in the lowest level of curbs, tier one. On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said advances in vaccines and testing should reduce the need for restrictions by the spring. The PM praised the developments, saying the “scientific cavalry is in sight”, adding to MPs: “We know in our hearts that next year we will succeed. 

London-based business leaders have breathed a sigh of relief with a sense of normality returning, however, we are not out of the woods just yet, as businesses are now forced to embark on a long and slow journey to recovery and getting back on their feet. We welcome today’s announcement that London will be placed in Tier 2 once the current national lockdown ends, Liam Griffin, CEO of Addison Lee, said. London’s businesses require a minimal level of economic activity and connectivity to survive. This is particularly necessary over Christmas and it’s critical that everything is done to support the capital’s economy as restrictions continue. 

 It is also vital that London’s political decision makers and business leaders work together to create a plan that shifts us into Tier 1 and longer-term economic recovery in the safest and most responsible way. This means recognising and rewarding businesses which have gone the extra mile to become Covid-secure, as a way to build back consumer confidence and keep Londoners safe. As an essential part of London’s transport network and the city’s most experienced PHV operator, Addison Lee is ready to play its part in supporting businesses and helping London get back on its feet. 

On Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the UK government’s spending plan on health, education, transport and other public services next year to help industries that have faced utter turmoil from the pandemic. The UK economy is expected to shrink by 11.3% this year, and unemployment is expected to reach 7.5% next spring, leaving 2.6 million people out of work. Mr Sunak is promising a £4.3 billion package, that would include £2.9 billion for a new Restart jobs scheme and a £1.4 billion to expand the Jobcentre Plus agency. 

Under the new spending plan, Rishi announced the National Living wage will rise by 2.2%, or a minimum of £345, to £8.91 an hour and more than two million workers earning less than £24,000 a year will get a minimum £250 increase. An estimated 1.3 million public sector workers will see their pay frozen in 2021 to 2020. Meanwhile, Most NHS workers and those earning less than £24,000 will also get a pay rise, including doctors and nurses. 23 and 24-year olds will qualify for a living wage for the first time. 

The chancellor pledged to make jobs a number one priority, allocating billions of pounds into helping Britain’s workforce. Under the Restart scheme, people who have been out of work for more than 12 months will be provided with regular intensive support tailored to their circumstances. The new £1.6 billion Kickstart work placement programme will create up to 250,000 state-subsidised jobs for young people. The scheme, first launched in August, offering employers £2,000 for every new worker they take on, is to be extended to the end of March.  

There will also be a £375 million skills package, and £138 million will be provided to Lifetime Skills Guarantee. The government will also allocate a £4 billion fund to finance local infrastructure projects, with a new UK infrastructure bank to be established in North of England. Business rates multiplier will be frozen in 2021-22. 

However, some businesses have urged the government to provide further support to firms, giving them the tools to train staff with new skills into existing roles to accommodate the rise in digital and technology-based services in a post-lockdown world.

This year has been devastating for countless businesses and individuals, so the announcement of new government help for those out of work, including a £375m skills package to open up access to training and reskilling opportunities, is very welcome, Becs Roycroft, senior director at technology training academy and talent provider mthree, commented. 

However, we also need to urgently look at what we can do to prevent unemployment and redundancies in the first place wherever possible. There will be many larger businesses that are in a strong position to support the work that the government is doing, by retraining their own employees and moving them from struggling departments into teams that are still flourishing. 

Tech jobs have been amongst the least affected by the pandemic, with demand for skilled employees still incredibly high.  However, due to the digital skills shortage, businesses find it notoriously difficult to recruit people for tech roles. 

Strategic reskilling programmes are a practical solution to this issue. By training existing employees and moving them into tech roles, businesses can tackle the growing skills shortage in a cost-effective way, while also preventing redundancies and protecting their workforce in the long run. 

Investing in reskilling programmes does not just provide a sustainable talent pipeline for businesses. It also minimises the time and expenses spent on external recruitment, removes the risks associated with making a bad hire, improves diversity across technology teams, and helps to create a loyal, motivated and engaged workforce. 

If the government is really serious about upskilling and training, it would be great to see it actively encouraging more businesses to consider this option, and offering help and support where needed to make it feasible for as many organisations as possible. 

Meanwhile, some business leaders commended the government for taking the opportunity to nurture young talent in Britain. ACCA welcomes the government’s focus on job creation and the extra money for mental health services, as the country battles the harsh effects of the global pandemic, Claire Bennison, head of ACCA UK, said. 

A focus on jobs requires an equal focus on skills. There is now a unique opportunity for a more ambitious lifelong skills plan that will nurture the modern, digital and technical skills for all people needing to retrain and upskill in resilient sectors, such as financial services. 

We would like to see public and private sector partnerships to deliver skills quickly to those in need. Having qualifications that are portable and recognised by professions and trades is now more important than ever.  

This is a pivotal moment for the government to reshape the post-Covid economy and boost careers training and skills development. Additional funding for SMEs to take on apprenticeships is welcome, but for many of them a one-off payment does not go far enough to incentivise new recruitment and they would like continued support against long-term costs, such as wages for new starters.”

Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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