Self-employed are vital to our nation’s economy

Written prior to the Chancellor’s decision not to go ahead with planned changes to National Insurance (class 4 NI contributions).

LAST week the Budget contained some excellent initiatives that will help local people, including ‘T levels’ which will support all the work that I have been doing locally to remove the stigma and place technical routes on a par with traditional academic ones.

Michelle Donelan MP’s weekly column in the Gazette & Herald [16 March 2017]

Our NHS is under constant strain and the other week I visited Bath RUH which stressed its biggest challenge – that the ageing population means our adult social care system does not have the resources to cope and we have continual ‘bed blocking’ in hospitals.

I have been pushing the government to invest more into this area and am delighted that the budget committed additional grant funding of £2 billion to social care in England over the next three years. Alongside that a further £100 million was made available immediately for up to 100 new triage projects at A&Es in English hospitals in time for next winter. There is a long way to go but these important steps will make a real difference.

The Budget also announced changes to NI payments for the self-employed. I have campaigned in Parliament to stress the voice of the self-employed and their role in our economy.

The changes will only mean that the average self-employed person pays 60p more a week but I am not convinced by the change.

Originally the self-employed paid less NI because they received lower state pensions. This has now changed and was a key reason to change NI.

However, there is still not parity in pensions because the self-employed are not eligible for auto enrolment (something I have campaigned for over the last two years) and thus must still seek to take out a private pension.

I met the Chancellor to stress this because we need to either address this or keep NI lower for the self-employed so that they can take extra pension provisions.

The second argument used is that the self-employed can claim more against their tax. Yes, but they do not get sick pay, holiday pay and they do not have any security of income.

I have expressed my concerns direct to the Chancellor and I welcome the Paper that will be published and the opportunity to debate this in the autumn.

We do need to recoup more money to pay for things like the adult social care bill but I think the answer lies with the international tax-avoiding corporations rather than the self-employed. I stressed this in my meeting with the Chancellor because so far we have done a great deal to clamp down on large international companies who have avoided paying tax in the UK but we need to go further so they pay their full fair share. I will continue to be a strong voice for the hardworking local people of my constituency and that includes the self-employed.

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This column is also published on the Gazette & Herald website.