Chancellor George Osborne today used the Budget to announce a raft of sharing economy initiatives that are designed to help the UK become a global leader in the fast-emerging sector.
Measures to support the sharing economy include the launch of two pilot 'Sharing Cities' in Leeds City Region and Greater Manchester in 2015-16.
The two cities, which will share £700,000 of public money between them, will be encouraged to trial local sharing initiatives in the areas of shared transport, shared public space, and health and social care.
The government also said it plans to introduce legislation that will make it easier for individuals to sub-let a room and for non-residential properties to rent out their existing parking spaces.
Further, there will be guidance to JobCentre Plus staff to signpost job-seekers to sharing economy opportunities. JobCentre Plus staff will also promote the use of task-sharing sites to assist in starting a business, by working with the Start Up Loans Company.
Meanwhile, civil servants on business will be permitted to use sharing economy platforms to book accommodation and transport, providing it represents value for money.
Business minister Matthew Hancock said: “The government is getting behind new online businesses that put money in people’s pockets by helping them get the most from the things they own.
“We want to build a nation of everyday entrepreneurs and I am thrilled to see the northern powerhouses of Leeds and Manchester chosen as the sharing cities pilots. They can become leading international lights in this exciting new sector, which could be worth up to £9 billion to the UK by 2025.”
The new measures are being introduced after government asked Debbie Wosskow, founder and CEO of LoveHomeSwap and Chair of the newly formed Sharing Economy UK trade body, to conduct a report into the sharing economy in a bid to better understand the economic potential and social issues that are generated when people share products and services over the internet.
Many of the measures revealed alongside today’s Budget are being introduced off the back of the 30 recommendations made in Wosskow’s report.
Wosskow told Techworld via Twitter that today is a “good day” for the sharing economy in the UK.
She added: "I'm delighted that the government has taken the Sharing Economy Report I issued last November so seriously - and that they have really listened, and taken real action on the back of the recommendations I made, particularly around changes to make it easier to share rooms and parking spaces.
"The sharing economy is a key area of growth for the UK, and we are leading the way regarding how to handle and manage this exciting sector. I look forward to the implementation of these promises, and to continuing to work closely with the government."
One company that signed up as a founding member of Wosskow's Sharing Economy UK trade body was Airbnb.
Airbnb's head of public policy in EMEA, Patrick Robinson, wrote in a blog: "We thank the government for supporting the sharing economy. These are thoughtful, forward-thinking policies that set an example to the rest of the world. We look forward to working with the government on putting their commitments into action."
Minister of the digital economy Ed Vaizey refused to reveal what he liked and disliked in Wosskow’s report at the FT Sharing Economy Summit yesterday, possibly because he didn’t want to steal any of Osborne’s thunder today.
Techworld is still yet to hear anything that suggests government disagrees with any of the points put forward in Wosskow's report even though there are some potentially complex recommendations it made around digital skills and tax.