On the whole, this year’s was a business friendly Autumn Statement. It should help us to tentatively tiptoe to recovery.

The BWF asked for cancellation of the fuel duty increase and for business rates to be reviewed, and to an extent this is what we got. While the announcements may not have been as far-reaching as we would have liked, they were steps in the right direction.

We would have also liked a commitment to cut VAT on building work to stimulate broader recovery, and we’ll keep pressing this point. But in the meantime, measures that free up council investment in new social housing are good news. This investment is crucial to sustained recovery from both a social and economic perspective, although obviously the proposed sale of ‘expensive’ social housing to build an investment pot should not be a fire-sale – property should be released onto the market at the appropriate price point.

But one issue does concern us still, and it goes to the heart of our future success. Encouraging younger workers into our sector is critical. National Insurance measures and wider support for apprenticeships are both positive initiatives on this front.

The move to directly pay employers via HMRC for apprenticeships is, on the surface, a good idea. It gives employers the power to invest their money in training providers that work for them. However, the very dangerous reality is that this method could stifle supply of training, particularly in our industry where demand is lower than for other courses and more expensive to resource.

For micro and small businesses like many BWF member firms, they may have to pay up-front for apprenticeship training, creating another barrier to take on young people, not forgetting the additional paperwork to claim the funding that used to be dealt with by training providers. Far from stimulating more apprenticeships, this could have a very serious effect on employer demand.

This is just one of the red tape burdens and other issues that we will tackle in our lobbying next year, so that tentative tiptoes can become more stately strides.

? TTJ Industry Updates are a forum for trade bodies to address key issues.