What changes would contractors like to see under the new Conservative government?
The official State Opening of Parliament took place on Wednesday 27th May, with the Queen’s Speech outlining the new Tory government’s agenda and proposed legislation for the upcoming parliamentary session.
Just over a month into their new five-year term in government, all eyes in the contracting community are focused firmly on what pre-election promises Cameron’s Conservatives are likely to come good on. In this blog, we’re going to look at some of the most important aspects of working life in the UK that will make a contractor’s life easier, more secure, and more profitable.
The issue of late payment
We think it’s fair to say that late and non-payment by clients is the scourge of modern-day contracting. Jeopardizing reputation and saddling small businesses and the self-employed with debts, there is yet to be any truly effective legislation passed that helps independent professionals successfully enforce repayment in full.
However, this issue appears to be something that the Tory party is starting to take more seriously, hopefully a sign of a general attitude shift toward the freelance community. As we explored in our blog last week, the appointment of Sajid Javid, an outspoken critic of late payment culture, could prove to be an influential one in this case.
Javid has been instrumental in the drafting of the new Enterprise Bill. With the Bill comes the promise of the formation of the Small Business Conciliation Service. Set up with the intention of resolving late payment disputes, it is hoped that the service will protect smaller businesses and the self-employed by protecting their interests.
When we talk about improved infrastructure, we’re really talking about two things: digital infrastructure and physical infrastructure connecting strategic locations across the country.
Before the election, the Conservative’s manifesto made quite the statement regarding strengthening the UK’s broadband capability, promising to provide the fastest and cheapest broadband service in Europe. In an increasingly digital world, this is certain to be a boon to any businesses that wish to expand their digital offering. However, we are yet to see any real, substantial movement on this topic. Instead, expect this to take shape as incremental change.
In terms of connecting the major cities of the UK, and hopefully going some way to bridging the North-South divide, the High-Speed Rail Bill will give phase one of the planned HS2 the go-ahead. This first phase will see work on the London – West Midlands branch of the high-speed rail infrastructure commence sometime in 2017.
This move has been warmly received by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), who commented that higher quality links between London and the rest of the country will serve to balance the economy and aid in the advancement of the Midlands and North of England.
Greater clarity on Europe
Europe has long been a thorn in the Conservative’s side, with much talk of renegotiating the UK’s terms of membership and referendums being speculated about for some years. This, however, is all set to change with the EU Referendum Bill, announced during the Queen’s Speech. The Bill is thought to pave the way for a full, in/out referendum over the UK’s EU membership, with some speculating that this could come as early as 2016.
There appears to be very little by way of active support for the UK to fully leave the EU, apart from the usual suspects of Euro-sceptic Tory backbenchers and the chronically Europhobic UKIP. However, there is favorable talk of a Britain still firmly within the EU but with a considerably renegotiated membership.
The main sticking point for small businesses and single-person limited companies is the amount of regulation that often prevents smaller companies from doing business in the single European market.
A survey conducted by IPSE in February this year found that 49% of independent professionals polled thought that Britain fully leaving the EU would be a bad decision for their business. So it seems that from most corners of the business community, EU membership is still a very valuable thing, with a focus on readjustment rather than removal.
It would appear that the early indication is that this is the first government that is genuinely working to make the lives of contractors easier. This is a positive indication for a party that is the self-proclaimed “party of small businesses” but has systematically ignored the need for legislation to support their interests.
This could be a time when the tides change for contractors and freelancers in the UK.