It was Budget day in the Commons last week and the Chancellor Philip Hammond got himself in hot water by increasing national insurance contributions on the self-employed despite promising in his election manifesto, just two years ago, that he wouldn’t do it.
Denting people’s faith in politics isn’t the only problem with this change.
Although unemployment has been rising slightly in Chester over the past few months, it is too soon to see if that rise is a blip or a trend.
One thing is certain though, the number of people working in self-employed jobs, or worse still in what I call under-employment, is rising.
People wanting to strike out on their own, set up their own business, take risk, work hard. They deserve our admiration and our gratitude for growing the economy.
But often, companies will force their employees to work for them on bogus self-employed terms. That means that all the risk is carried by the employee, and they have fewer rights at work to defend themselves from being exploited.
An example of this was the story last week, where delivery drivers at DPD Distribution have to find someone to replace them if they need to take a day off sick. If they don’t, they get charged £150 by DPD. The result? People work while sick and get even sicker.
Temporary, agency, short-term and part time jobs, zero hour contracts and bogus self-employment are becoming the norm in many sectors. It means people have no job security and have no idea how much money they will take home each week. You can’t get a mortgage or buy a car with that lack of security. Families live from week to week with no long-term security.
And this means there is less money in the rest of the economy, with less spent in local shops and local businesses in Chester.
There are some brilliant, prestigious employers around our city whom we should be proud to have in Chester and who make a real contribution to society.
But I am really worried that the so-called gig economy is growing in our city, leaving no financial security and no chance to build a long term career. No wonder wages are barely higher now than they were ten years ago. If we want a fair and prosperous society, we need to reward hard work and not exploit it. Bashing the self-employed with a tax rise, rather than tackling on bad employers, really won’t help.