Summer statement 2020: Technology sector reacts to chancellor’s pandemic recovery plan

By Ellen Daniel

Today Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his summer statement, outlining the UK government’s strategy for economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Focusing on the hospitality sector, employment and the property sector, Sunak said that the plans were designed to “give everyone the opportunity of good and secure work” despite “hardship lying ahead”

The announcement included a ‘Job retention bonus’ of £1000 for each furloughed worker retained by employers, the reducing of VAT from 20% to 5%, the scrapping of stamp duty on the first £500,000 of all new homes, a discount scheme designed to encourage people to eat at restaurants, and support for younger workers.

The summer statement also included commitments to a “green recovery with concern for our environment at its heart” with a green homes grant.

16 to 24-year-olds on universal credit will also have access to a Kickstart scheme which funds six-month work placements.

“It’s time to think about tech as core to UK employment and prosperity”

However, in light of the announcement, some individuals from the UK tech sector have called for plans to have tech at the core to UK employment and prosperity.

Data from Tech Nation and Dealroom indicates that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK technology startups raised $5.3bn in venture capital funding between January and May 2020 – close to 2019 levels. This suggests that, although the tech sector has felt the effects of the pandemic, it has proved its resilience.

Andrew Duncan, partner & UK CEO at Infosys Consulting, believes that support for the hospitality sector should take into account the growing role of automation in the sector and many others:

“Going forward, the adoption of robotics and automation will likely be a critical driver of productivity growth in the post-Covid-19 economy across sectors. Rather than replacing jobs, these advancements will automate tasks, augment jobs and create new ones – just as the government hopes – but it will rely on equipping the workforce with the skills and the tools they need to cope with automation.

“This would be a perfect focus area for the chancellor’s traineeships scheme – it will demand close collaboration with industry, government and educational resources, and the government must also strongly encourage corporate investment in training in these areas”.

As of December 2019, one million people were employed in the UK IT industry. Stephen Kelly, chair of Tech Nation, believes that recovery plans should reflect the growing presence of digital industries in the UK economy:

“By 2030, predictions show that 50% of the UK economy will be digital, tech and creative industries. Pre-Covid-19, the tech industry was growing six times faster than the rest of the economy and accelerating high-value job creation across the UK. We anticipate that the digital economy will continue to grow as tech companies have proved themselves to be resilient and crucial to our economy during the national crisis.

“Figures show that the tech sector has continued to create jobs and attract investment, with London-based companies alone raising $4bn (£3.2bn) since the start of January. UK tech now employs more than 2.93 million people across the country and the sector is an engine room for creating high-value skilled jobs with salaries that are, on average, £10k higher than other sectors.

He added that the UK’s Digital Strategy “is a positive step forward in harnessing the power of technology to fuel job creation” and wants to see “more government measures like this that support a tech-enabled recovery from the crisis”.

Richard Baker, CEO, GeoSpock, said:

“We need joined-up thinking around adopting infrastructure and geospatial projects on a national level. For the UK to achieve its vision of a coherent national location data framework for 2025, guidance and funding for training is critical.

“A summer statement that addresses how we can rebalance the economy and re-equip the workforce with skills in science, engineering and digital technologies would be a big step forward. It is also essential to tackling the skills gap and addressing falling productivity levels.”

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