IOG chief urges members to "push our case" in face of further public spending cuts trailed in Wednesday's budget

Institute of Groundsmanship chief executive Geoff Webb has urged members to be "innovative, professional and push our case" in the face of further public spending cuts outlined in Wednesday's budget.

"Given the importance of local authority funding to local facilities, this cut comes as bad news and it’s difficult to see any way of avoiding further erosion of support for local sport and recreation as a result," said Webb.

"The overall picture is one of reduced spending, though not as much of a reduction as might have happened, and the challenge, as ever, is for sport and recreation to compete and demonstrate its considerable worth"

The Chancellor was challenged on his as yet unspecified cuts over the next Parliament should the Conservative Party win the election, on Thursday's Today programme. Today's Evan Davis said cuts for unprotected Government departments would be "30 per cent in real terms".

Osborne did not deny the figure, saying: "I think we've demonstrated through a number of different spending rounds in this Parliament that we can make these decisions sensibly, prioritise the things the public want. The big picture is we've got a long-term economic plan that is working."

Webb said the budget of the Department for Communities and Local Government, despite being very sharply reduced already, "offers attractive options for a government absolutely committed to spending less money" because of the overal size of its budget.

"For our membership and for groundsmanship in general, it is definitely challenging. We have to show what we can do in austere times, be innovative, be professional and push our case."

BALI chief executive Wayne Grills said measures including the changes to the Annual Investment Allowance, taking under 21-year-olds out of employee National Insurance, the £140m pledged on flood defences and the £7bn package to cut energy bills were "in the main positive images".

"Overall this was an okay budget. To have achieved this in light of the need for continued austerity and not to have succumbed to the temptations of a pre-election give away are to be recognised."

But he added. "It is even more critical to realise that much of the real austerity pain remains to be felt. The government made the decision to close the deficit through both tax rises, 20 per cent of the deficit reduction, and through spending cuts – 80 per cent.

"The former have been enacted, the latter are only now taking effect, with the plan being that many spending reductions will be taking place over the course of the next parliament."

Grills said that the extension of the grants to small businesses to support apprenticeships will be welcomed by employers.

"Many businesses report problems in finding staff with the right skills, and apprenticeships can be an excellent way for young people to develop in those areas and set themselves up for a successful career.

"The additional concessions and support for house builders can be seen as a good thing overall for that section of our industry, whilst the freeze on fuel duty will be a relief to all in landscaping although it is disappointing that it is only frozen and not reduced as this will be a high cost for all businesses."

HTA chief executive Carol Paris was more upbeat overall.

She said: "It’s a positive budget, the growth forecast has been increased. It’s positive around things like the additional funding of apprenticeships and young people. We’re always trying to get young people into horticulture and anything that makes the money go further is good. There’s a lot of success around retailers and growers taking on apprentices and if there ‘s more funding for that that’s really positive."

Paris said the HTA was in talks with Pershore College to help HTA and APL members find and recruit suitable apprentices. It also helps with paperwork, something which will help members take advantage of the funding announced by the Chancellor yesterday to support 100,000 extra apprenticeships.

She also welcomed the decision not to raise fuel duty and to help horticultural businesses with energy costs.

Both trade body chiefs called for a business rate reform and Paris said the HTA was working on the issue with the British Retail Consortium.  She said: "The current system disadvantages many of the smaller businesses."

Garden Centre Association chairman Will Armitage said: "The increase in the amount you can earn before tax, the freedom for pensioners to move their investments to achieve a better return as well as the concessions for working parents will all go to help our core demographic.  I would have liked to have seen something on reducing business rates for smaller businesses but otherwise I think it is indirectly a reasonably good budget for us."

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