Tim Ridgway: Budget fails the self-employed

Tim Ridgway
Tim Ridgway

Forget the 48 per cent, how about the 14 per cent? That is the number of people in our city who are self-employed.

Most do so because it fits in with their desire to have a better work-life balance: more time to spend on the beach, more time sitting in coffee shops, more time baking cakes - and all while ‘working’.

On paper it looks great. But when you break it down, it’s a life of chasing up invoices issued four months ago, constant cash-flow worries and, most of the time, scrambling to find enough dough to buy even the most basic of baking products.

The fact is those who are self-employed actually have it worse off than most.

No job security, no sick or holiday pay and no pension contributions - all while taking home on average £19,000 a year.

The only incentive they have from the government is a small tax break which makes it, on the whole, something that works for me and 2.48 million others across the UK - at least for now.

That was until budget day, when Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to increase National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for the self-employed.

Estate agent Phil argues that the current nine per cent tax on self-employed earnings is not fair, as those in ‘proper jobs’ pay 12 per cent. But this impression of “No more Mr NIC Guy” does himself and his party no credit.

The Conservatives have repeatedly claimed to be the party of working people in recent months. But in this age of the gig economy, where big firms already have workers by the short and curlies, the individual needs all the help they can get. Instead, the Treasury is hell bent on grabbing as much cash as it can to shore up the country’s finances ahead of the Brexit divorce battle - even if it sours things for the JAMs (just-about-managings) who keep the British economy ticking along.

When the Tories are 18 points clear in the polls who can blame them? But what those in Conservative HQ may not have calculated is the impact this will have on their core vote - with Brighton Kemptown MP and treasury minister Simon Kirby one of those at risk from the fallout.

This is nothing more than a half-baked idea, more half-baked than the pasty tax which Mr Hammond’s predecessor George Osborne proposed then swiftly dropped.

Rather than support workers, all this hike has done has shown that the Conservative government want to have their cake and eat it, while squeezing the very people they claim to represent.

Tim Ridgway is a freelance journalist.