2017 General Election Manifesto Highlights for SMEs - 3/3: Liberal Democrats

As the UK heads to the polls today, we’ve spent the last few days reviewing what the main parties’ manifestos could mean for SMEs and their employees. Today it’s the turn of the Liberal Democrats.

While seen as a ‘left-leaning’ party, the Liberal Democrats have in recent years plied a mix of neoliberal economic policy, and progressive social policy. It’s appropriate, then, that their 2017 manifesto once again pits them in-between Labour’s more socially-focussed policies, and the Conservative party’s business-favouring, low-taxation approach.

Like Labour, a Liberal Democrat government would increase Corporation Tax - but only by 1%, to 20%. They would also introduce a ‘start-up allowance’, helping those establishing small businesses by providing £100 a week towards living costs for the first six months of the business’ existence.

There would also be income tax increases under the Liberal Democrats, with all income tax bands seeing a 1 penny-on-the-pound rise, to provide additional funding for the NHS.

An independent review would be established in order to set a Living Wage in line with regional living costs - so the impact on employers should, in theory, be mitigated by regional weighting. The Liberal Democrats would also implement the review’s findings across all central government agencies.

A ‘Good Employer’ kite mark would be created, covering areas including the payment of a Living Wage and avoiding the use of unpaid internships. And rather than banning zero hours contracts, the Liberal Democrats would seek to “stamp out abuse” of these, by giving employees the formal right to request a fixed contract from their employer. Like Labour, the Liberal Democrats would scrap employment tribunal fees.

The Party would also aim to double the number of businesses who hire apprentices, including growth areas such as creative/digital industries. The stated goal is ensuring that this route into employment is “understood as a respected alternative to university education”. They would also develop national colleges to deliver high-level vocational skills for key sectors. The Liberal Democrats would also reinstate university maintenance grants for poor students.

In terms of taxation and employee rights, this is a tame manifesto by comparison to those offered by the Conservative and Labour parties. That’s perhaps unsurprising, given the party’s recent history. However, there is one policy point which arguably makes this the most radical offering: the Liberal Democrat’s pledge to hold a second referendum on the final Brexit deal - including an option to remain in the European Union.

The outcome of the negotiation process will define the UK’s place on the global stage for decades to come, and of the three main parties, only the Liberal Democrats are offering a route to remain in the EU.

That brings our 2017 General Election Series to a close, we hope you have found it useful.  We will be eagerly waiting to see the result and what is means with SMEs in the UK.