Self-employed ignored again in Budget – Jayne Dowle

I’M looking at the Budget and wondering what’s in it for me. For all Rishi Sunak’s largesse, he seems to have forgotten some key demographics. Such as those of us who work for ourselves and have older children, often a combination which works out best for family life.

Did Rishi Sunak's Budget do enough to help the self-employed? Columnist Jayne Dowle thinks not.

I know I’m not alone in feeling disappointed and disillusioned. We make up a growing demographic which should be embraced, not ignored or even demonised; accountants, IT specialists, driving instructors, supply teachers, locum doctors… you’d be surprised at the professions increasingly cut adrift from the perks of being an employee.

In addition, self-employment is also a choice often imposed on individuals by companies and/or government policy. Workers being forced to go self-employed, with no holiday pay, sickness benefit or other forms of support, is one of the reasons why there will be a shortage of delivery drivers this Christmas.

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Whilst it is laudable that the Chancellor will lift the 
pay freeze imposed on public service employees, including nurses, teachers and members 
of the armed forces, I can’t 
help but feel a little cynical and almost patronised on their behalf.

Did Rishi Sunak's Budget do enough to help the self-employed? Columnist Jayne Dowle thinks not.

Offering cash rewards to public service employees is an easy win for a populist Conservative government. Yes, it’s absolutely right that nurses are paid properly for doing the hardest of jobs during a pandemic, especially as the Prime Minister completely bungled his promised pay rise last year.

And I do know that from next April the rise in National Insurance contributions by 1.25p in the pound to fund the new Health and Social Care tax will embrace all workers, employees, employers and the self-employed.

It’s not as if those of us in 
the latter category are being targeted directly, it just feels 
that way with the increase in
fuel prices too and heating 
costs.

And, as my friends who run independent town centre businesses here in Barnsley lament, their companies could play a much bigger economic part in ‘levelling-up’ if the Government would play fair over business rates, which remain disproportionate.

Did Rishi Sunak's Budget do enough to help the self-employed? Columnist Jayne Dowle thinks not.

The only way that those of us who work for ourselves or run our own business can mitigate this NI increase – which will mean an extra £255 a year in contributions for those on £30,000 a year say – is to work even harder or put up our prices. In a crowded marketplace, this can so easily backfire.

Also, chucking cash at the NHS without addressing the structural problems – lack of GPs for example – is reckless in the extreme. It’s another headline-winner, but any health expert will tell Mr Sunak that there are preventative measures which could cut down on hospital admissions.

Keeping warm and well-fed in a house that’s safe is a start. Parents hate to break this to you, but we’re on our own. For those of us with older children, the big thing is student tuition fees hanging over our heads. Given the backdrop I’ve just drawn, this prospect sounds like a luxury, but it shouldn’t be.

My 19-year-old son is still weighing up whether to apply to university to study broadcast journalism; if he does, he has already decided he will continue to live at home to reduce his eventual debt and carry on working part-time to fund his studies. Whilst this is laudable, I feel sad that it will limit his options for personal growth and life experience.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street before delivering his Budget.

I guess that feelings and idealism have little place in today’s market economy, where university vice-chancellors continue to earn way more than the Prime Minister and lecturers are struggling to even get a contract of work to deliver virtual teaching.

If this Government is really 
for the people, it would create ways to encourage small businesses and not punish those who choose independent ways to work, or indeed, have it forced upon them.

It would also invest in future generations and open up aspirations for all young people, regardless of background or parental income.

Favouring the state when it suits the political agenda is invidious and obviously, it also hobbles Labour, leaving the centre-left with nowhere to go. Or perhaps not.

For, if Sir Keir Starmer really wishes to put up a fight, he could start to entangle the curiously unbalanced attitude towards self-employment, start-ups and entrepreneurship that this Budget has entrenched still further.

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