Budget announcement a mixed bag for landscapers, says trade body BALI

Landscape businesses will be bracing themselves for an increased cost burden over the next five years thanks to George Osborne's budget, according to the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI).

Image: MorgueFile
Image: MorgueFile

A statement released by the association said the budget was aimed at "working people" - meaning it will "inevitably impact on the country's wealth creators, i.e. business owners".

Plans to create a new National Living Wage for employees over 25 to a target £9/hour by 2020 "will undoubtedly affect our members", BALI said.

"The landscape industry is dogged by client perception – which is also fact – that pay in this sector is low. We continue to fight for recognition by clients that this is an industry of skilled employees who should be paid at a rate commensurate with the work undertaken and that those rates be reflected in tender pricing."

Also announced were plans to cut the Annual Investment Allowance for spend on plant and machinery from the current £500,000 p/a to a fixed £200,000 p/a from 1 January 2016, which will also affect the industry, BALI said.

"Members are beginning to see some realistic medium term growth and the increased AIA had undoubtedly helped. The new, greatly reduced, allowance could affect their investment decisions going forward, albeit it is now a permanent figure."

The association was also concerned about the budget's lack of clarity around job creation and apprenticeships. The Office for Budget Responsiblity has predicted 1m jobs will be created over the next five years, and Osborne plans to create an additional 2m jobs. But there was no mention in the budget of where the jobs will be created or whether there will be incentives for employers.

BALI commented: "The intention to place an apprenticeship levy on large firms is concerning but there is little information on this at the moment and we will have to see how this impacts on larger BALI member employers. Their loss, however, could be to the benefit of smaller companies who will apparently benefit financially from taking on new apprentices.

"We also doubt that the replacement of maintenance grants with student loans will do anything to encourage young people from poorer backgrounds to study and enter a low paid industry such as horticulture and landscaping."

Cuts to corporate tax and National Insurance contributions were welcome, as was the freeze on fuel duty, BALI said. The increase in the Annual Employment Allowance to £3000 was also welcome - but removing it from one-person companies would hit a number of BALI members including some designers, the association said.

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