2015 General Election Primer A briefing paper prepared by FleishmanHillard for ALMR April 2015 Overview Although the campaign for the 2015 General Election is already firmly underway, with the main political parties starting to show some leg on the shape and direction of their promises to voters, the formal party manifestos have yet to be released. Ahead of this, we look at what has been declared to date and the implications for licensed hospitality in the UK. We assess where the politicians have seen the light and adopted the ALMR’s manifesto and where we still have more to do. Unlocking growth and investment in our people and communities – via an extension of the NIC allowance to under 25s, alignment of PAYE and NICs and extension of direct funding through the tax regime for accredited training. The Conservative/Lib Dem Coalition Government has pledged to increase personal allowances to take more lower paid out of tax altogether and have scrapped NICs for under 21s. There have been some signals that NIC reform is next on the cards. The Conservatives have pledged to create 3m apprenticeships. To support this, they will scrap NICs for apprenticeships up to 25 years old and give employers more control of funding for the training of apprenticeships, possibly through the PAYE system. Labour has pledged to introduce an Education Bill within its first 100 days to reform the provision of vocational training and apprenticeships – no detail is available yet, but the party has said it wants to raise the ‘standard and quality of apprenticeships so they last a minimum of two years’. This could impose standards and costs that are not fit for purpose for licensed hospitality. It will also ensure an apprenticeship is offered to every school leaver. Labour have committed to increasing the National Minimum Wage to £8.00 per hour. Preelection, this was promised by 2020 (a rate which it would have reached through inflation increases in any case) and the Party has come under pressure to bring that forward. Labour have pledged to introduce ‘Make Work Pay’ contracts, giving a tax rebate to those companies that sign up to become living wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament. The Lib Dems have also pledged to hold an independent review on setting a fair living wage. Labour has also pledged to outlaw zero hours contracts, legislating to ban exclusivity clauses and to require anyone employed for more than 12 weeks to be offered a regular contract with guaranteed hours. Promoting a free, fair and flexible property market – by removing tax distortions in the business rate regime so bills are set fairly, transparently and proportionately Both the Conservative and Liberal Democrats have proposed a complete review of business rates post election. The ALMR is working closely with the Valuation Office and is engaged with the Treasury on the longer term review. The promise of root and branch reform as an election pledge is a key win. The Lib Dems have said the review should include the option of moving to a Site Value Rating within 5 years and in the longer term Land Value Taxation more broadly. Labour has promised to cut business rates in 2015 and then freeze them in 2016 for SMEs (RV less than £50k) – but not formally said so far that they too will review the process. However, given they have said they will let city and county regions keep all the additional business rates revenue ‘generated by growth’ some review appears inevitable. The business rate cut is to be paid for by a reversal of the planned 1% cut in headline corporation tax rates, resulting in higher corporation tax bills for larger companies. On planning costs, the coalition government has acknowledged that the current use classes in hospitality may act as a barrier to investment and Labour wants to reform the use class system to allow councils to block the spread of types of business they might not like (betting shops / fast food outlets) Reducing the costs of doing business responsibly – by implementing the hospitality red tape challenge in full so that we can chart clear progress on dealing with regulatory burdens Ahead of the General Election, the Government rejected plans to introduce locally set licensing fees – which would have significantly increased costs for all licensed hospitality businesses but particularly small independent outlets and late night venues. Fees will be returned to post election and cost recovery of some form remains likely. In addition, the Conservatives have promised to legislate to allow companies to nominate a day on which they will pay all their annual licensing fees, reducing red tape. Labour proposed Alcohol Strategy is likely to increase costs and regulation for licensed hospitality businesses. Labour remains in favour of minimum unit pricing and will regulate high strength low cost products through duty and product size. It will also seek to restrict the siting of alcohol in supermarkets and alcohol advertising and sponsorship. More significantly, Labour wants to introduce public health as a licensing objective and encourage closer data sharing between A&E, councils and public bodies on alcohol. This will inevitably lead to more objections and we have seen the first signs of this also hitting casual dining applications in Scotland and Wales where the policy is already in force. Labour also want to scrap the public health Responsibility Deal on Food and will regulate to set maximum levels of salt, sugar and fat in food ‘marketed substantially at children’ through regulation. This will also apply to the out of home market. In terms of improving oversight, Labour will create a Small Business Administration and the Liberal Democrats have also said they are looking at establishing a new regulatory advisory board to reduce uncertainty and remove unnecessary measures.
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