The spring budget had welcome news of an additional £2bn towards adult social care over the next three years, and very welcome news of an upgrade to UK economic growth, higher than previously forecast. Public services have to be financed from taxation from the productive side of the economy, on the businesses and employees that are part of UK plc. The money doesn’t fall out of the air or get produced on a magic printing press.
The surprise was of course the increase in Class 4 National Insurance rates payable by the self-employed, increasing by 1 percentage point to 10% from April 2018 and by a further 1% from April 2019. I recognise more than most that self-employed are the entrepreneurs that generate growth, willing to take the risk of going into business but without the benefits of sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave, auto-enrolment pensions or redundancy packages.
Whilst I will not even attempt to defend this increase, the issue must be considered in the round of significant increases in the tax-free personal allowance, to be £11,500 from April of this year, rising to £12,500 by the end of this Parliament. This means tax savings.
Class 2 National Insurance, also payable by the self-employed, is being abolished and will save the self-employed trader £140 per year.
The new single state pension will mean an improved state pension for many self-employed as well. Whilst there is an intellectual argument to be made for changes to the National Insurance system, this is not, in my mind the way to do it and is contrary to our manifesto commitment to no increases to VAT, tax or NIC, and for the small amounts involved, simply not worth it.
Regular, valuable meetings of Kent MPs continue as we work together to make the case to government across many areas relevant to Kent. We held a useful meeting with the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner and relevant members of the various health boards to discuss mental health provision, all very encouraging. East Kent MPs met with local council leaders in East Kent to discuss further the pros and cons of an East Kent district authority.
On more purely local issues, I made the case in Parliament at the European Scrutiny Committee for a new fishing policy post-Brexit which must mean taking control of our seas in accordance with international maritime law, hugely relevant to our under 10m fishing fleet in Ramsgate. I met with Vattenfall, the wind farm operator with local headquarters to discuss their proposals for an extension of the existing wind-farm. I aired my concerns at the inshore encroachment which would affect other local marine businesses. I attended and spoke at the launch of the two new Community Alcohol Partnerships for Broadstairs and Ramsgate at East Kent College last week. These CAPs are taking root across the country and aim to educate youngsters about the dangers of alcohol abuse, and where in place have helped to reduce injuries and anti-social behaviour. We have poor statistics in this regard, the second worst in Kent after Canterbury.
Finally, my surveys on aspects of Thanet District Council’s local plan are still open at www.craigmackinlay.com. I have received close to 2,000 replies. These confirm what I hear from the community that the vast majority want Manston to remain as an airport, in contradiction to TDCs plans for housing and mixed use. How many times does this need to be confirmed?