Levy could hit training plans

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry has warned that an apprenticeship levy on companies could undermine devolved policies on apprenticeships.

Amid growing concerns over the development and retenion of skills across the UK, Dr Farry joined his counterparts from Scotland and Wales in Westminster in calling for greater clarity around the introduction of the apprenticeship levy from April 2017.

The levy will be set at 0.5% of a large employer’s pay bill, and is expected to raise £3 billion to fund three million apprenticeships.

“Along with my ministerial colleagues from Scotland and Wales I am concerned that the imposition of the apprenticeship levy could have unintended consequences for the devolved administrations,” said Dr Farry.

“This levy will be a further tax burden on large businesses and this could impact negatively on the UK’s and Northern Ireland’s ability to compete globally and to attract new business.”

CBI director in Northern Ireland, Nigel Smyth, said businesses shared the ministers’ concerns as to how a UK-wide tax could “genuinely incentivise high-quality apprenticeships in all four nations, each with their own skills policies and priorities.”

“Business stands ready to help ensure the levy is as successful as it can be, but urgently requires clarity on how the system will work, as companies are making investment decisions now in the face of a substantial new tax.”

“Ensuring revenue raised by the levy is ring-fenced by each of the governments for employer training is something the CBI has called for since the policy’s announcement.”