IPSE at the CBI Conference 2016
At such close proximity to the Autumn Statement, and with uncertainty from Brexit lingering, there were high expectations surrounding the CBI conference this year. At this annual gathering of British businesses, Government were provided the perfect platform to show support and ease fears post-Brexit. As a member of the CBI’s Trade Association Council, IPSE were delighted to attend such a professional event which gave invaluable insight into the future of business.
Despite moments of broad overview in the Prime Minister’s speech at the start of the day, the audience were presented with a series of interesting announcements.
One of the more prominent was a promise of “£2 billion a year by the end of this Parliament to help put post-Brexit Britain at the cutting edge of science and tech”. The importance of STEM subjects in schools, and support for the science and technology industries more broadly, was lauded by Theresa May MP. It was to the tune of the CBI conference as a whole, which praised innovation through these sectors from start to finish.
The Prime Minister also announced she will: “review our Small Business Research Initiative and look at how we can increase its impact”. This showed support for the true innovators in our economy - the self-employed. It was encouraging to hear, and will be led by Cambridge entrepreneur David Connell.
During the Q&A session that followed, a delegate highlighted the lack of investment in infrastructure in the "peripheral parts of the UK”. Investment in broadband access in rural areas in particular is a policy backed by IPSE, as we believe it would provide a huge boost to freelancers and contractors. If we are to have a truly digital economy, every part of the country must have fast reliable access to the internet.
Not much was revealed of the Autumn Statement itself, but May did hint it would be "ambitious" in order for Britain to be a "true global champion of free trade".
The hope at IPSE is that in the Autumn Statement Government will backtrack on a potentially disastrous plan to tax contractors in the public sector similarly to employees, but without any employment rights. According to IPSE research over half of contractors would leave the public sector if these plans went ahead, adding to a predicted public sector staffing crisis.
Later in the day, the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, also made a keynote speech. In it he appealed to businesses to take action on low wages and workers’ rights, and mentioned Labour’s “national investment bank” which would boost small to medium-sized businesses. The upcoming Taylor review into modern employment will hopefully shed some welcome light on how we can provide clarity on the grey areas of employment, easing tensions over workers’ rights.
Following yesterday’s event, it still isn’t entirely clear what lies up Theresa May’s sleeve for post-Brexit Britain. As she reiterated during the Q&A session, in a negotiation you never reveal the cards you’re holding.
In the meantime, IPSE will continue to make the case that independent professionals are essential to the success of our economy now and for years to come.
An interview with CBI Director General, Carolyn Fairbairn, will appear in the next edition of IPSE Magazine (out at the end of January).
Read more on what is needed from the self-employed in tomorrow’s Statement here.