Conservative manifesto – what's in it for contractors

The Conservatives have launched their manifesto for the May 7th general election.

The 84-page document is dividable into the following sections relevant to contractors.

The main pledges with the potential to directly affect contractors are emboldened.

Conservative party leader and PM David Cameron said:

  • “Britain is back on its feet, strong and growing stronger every day. This has not happened by accident. It is the result of difficult decisions and of patiently working through our long-term  economic plan.”
  • “This manifesto …is a plan for a better future – for you, for your family. It is a plan for every stage of your life.”   
  • The manifesto adds: “Government is the servant of the British people, not their master. That simple fact was forgotten when Labour was in power. Quangos grew in number, wasteful projects proliferated and the bureaucracy swelled – symptoms of a Government that believed it always knew best.”

Cameron’s message to business:

“With the Conservatives, Britain will be the best place in Europe to innovate, patent new ideas and set up and expand a business.

“We aim to be number one in Europe and in the top five worldwide in the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings by 2020 and to lead Europe in attracting foreign investment.”

With implications for business, SMEs, the workplace and employers, the Tories say they will:

  • Raise the target for SMEs’ share of central government procurement to one-third (up from one-quarter).
  • End the ability of EU jobseekers to claim any job-seeking benefits and if jobseekers have not found a job within six months, require them to leave.
  • Repeal restrictions banning employers from hiring agency staff to provide essential cover during strikes.
  • Improve support for investment into start-ups and roll-out our innovative Help to Grow scheme, which will plug a £1billion finance gap for firms that are looking to expand, invest and hire.
  • Treble the Start Up Loans programme during the next Parliament so that it can support up to 75,000 entrepreneurs.
  • Continue the Funding for Lending scheme into 2016.
  • Keep commuter rail fares frozen in real terms for the whole of the next Parliament.
  • Cut £10 billion of red tape.
  • Require employers regularly utilising the Shortage Occupation List, under which they can bring skilled foreign workers into the UK, to provide long-term plans for training British workers.
  • Cap the level of skilled economic migration from outside the EU at the current threshold of 20,700.
  • Introduce tougher labour market regulation to tackle illegal working and exploitation. For example, take further steps to eradicate abuses of workers, such as non-payment of the Minimum Wage, exclusivity in zero-hours contracts and exploitation of migrant workers.

With implications for broadband, mobile connectivity and digital, the Tories say they will:

  • Secure the delivery of superfast broadband in urban and rural areas to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017.
  • Release more spectrum from public sector use to allow greater private sector access.
  • Ensure the UK plays a key role in defining industry standards for 5G connectivity.
  • Hold the mobile operators to their new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.
  • Provide rural Britain with near universal superfast broadband by the end of the next Parliament and secure the future of 3,000 rural Post Offices.
  • Set an ambition that ultrafast broadband should be available to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable.
  • Ensure no one is left behind by subsidising the cost of installing superfast capable satellite services in the very hardest to reach areas.
  • Continue to invest in mobile infrastructure to deliver coverage for voice calls and text messages for the final 0.3 – 0.4 per cent of UK premises that do not currently have it.
  • Ensure that family doctor appointments and repeat prescriptions are routinely available online.
  • Help public libraries to support local communities by providing free Wi-Fi.

With implications for IT, Technologies, Science and Computing, the Tories say they will:

  • Introduce smart ticketing on trains.
  • Publish standards, performance data and a ranking system for the security of smartphones and tablets, as well as online financial and retail services.
  • Improve the response to cyber-crime with reforms to police training and an expansion in the number of volunteer ‘Cyber Specials.’
  • Ensure greater use of mobile phone-blocking technology in prisons, and deploy new technology to monitor offenders in the community.
  • Create more R&D hubs, and create new institutions such as Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and the National Centre for Ageing Science and Innovation.
  • Direct further resources towards the Eight Great Technologies – among them robotics and nanotechnology.
  • Inject £6.9 billion in the UK’s research infrastructure up to 2021.
  • Back the Midlands’ strength in advanced manufacturing, engineering and science with projects such as the Energy Research Accelerator.  

On Tax, the Tories say they will:

  • Increase the 40p Income Tax threshold to £50,000.
  • Raise the effective Inheritance Tax threshold for married couples and civil partners to £1 million.
  • Introduce a Tax-Free Minimum Wage.  
  • Cut the tax relief on pension contributions for people earning more than £150,000.

On Tax Avoidance, the Tories say they will:

  • Raise at least £5bn with a crackdown on tax evasion and “aggressive” tax avoidance.
  • Increase the annual tax charges paid by people with ‘non-dom’ status.
  • Push for all countries to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative; review the implementation of the new international country-by-country tax reporting rules and consider the case for making this information publicly available on a multilateral basis.
  • Ensure developing countries have full access to global automatic tax information exchange systems and continue to build the capacity of tax authorities in developing countries.
  • Criminalise companies if they fail to put in place measures to stop economic crime, such as tax evasion, in their organisations, and make sure that the penalties are large enough to punish and deter.

‘After-work’ pledges in the Tory manifesto include:

  • Give families where all parents are working an entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare for their three and four year-olds
  • Continue to increase the Basic State Pension by at least 2.5 per cent.
  • Cap the cost of residential care.
  • Make reforms to IHT and pensions tax relief (see previous section).
  • Help new and existing challenger banks to inject fresh competition into the market for personal current accounts, mortgages and business loans, including through the British Business Bank.

‘Pre-work’ pledges in the Tory manifesto include:

  • Ensure there is a University Technical College “within reach” of every city.
  • Devolve further powers over skills spending and planning to the Mayor of London.
  • Deliver three million more apprentices.
  • Replace the Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year-olds with a Youth Allowance that will be time-limited to six months, after which young people will have to take an apprenticeship, a traineeship or do daily community work for their benefits.
  • Train an extra 17,500 maths and physics teachers over the next five years.

With implications for the public sector and government, the Tories say they will:  

  • Move more government services online, while tackling digital exclusion.
  • Find £13bn in government departmental savings, and plan a further £10bn annual savings by 2017-18 and £15-20bn in 2019-20. Such departmental spending reductions have already gone towards “improving contracting.”
  • Roll out cross-government technology platforms to cut costs and improve productivity.
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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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