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National Insurance controversy spills into Mayoral campaign

National Insurance controversy spills into Mayoral campaign

🕔09.Mar 2017

Chancellor Philip Hammond gave an assured performance at the Despatch Box yesterday in presenting his first, and last, Spring Budget. There were half decent lines as he gently mocked the Labour Opposition, as well as his own ‘spreadsheet Phil’ reputation. Today, he’s not laughing as the controversy over planned increases to National Insurance contributions from self-employed workers is dominating Budget coverage. 

The argument is also getting in the way of the Government’s planned media focus on the launch of the Midlands Engine Strategy. On an early visit to Dudley to promote the new Strategy, media interviews with Mr Hammond were taken over by talk of broken manifesto promises and angry white van drivers.

The proposal has now spilled into the West Midlands Mayor election campaign, with Labour candidate Siôn Simon publishing an ‘open letter’ to his Conservative rival, Andy Street.

Dear Andy,

You will have seen the backlash against the government’s decision to increase National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for the self-employed announced in yesterday’s Budget. Indeed, you are one of the few people who will have had direct access to the Chancellor today, following a very controlled press conference in which, I am told, local journalists were not afforded the opportunity to put follow-up questions to the Chancellor.

Can I assume that you haven’t asked the Chancellor how many people in the West Midlands will be impacted by the rise, imposed by this Tory London government, of two percentage points to 11% of NICs for self-employed people earning between £8,060 and £43,000?

People will want to know, though, whether you will be joining me in opposing the government’s planned hike of National Insurance Contributions?

Because of your planned presence with the Chancellor today, you have given the strong impression that you support the Chancellor’s new tax on the self-employed.

Are you able to set the record straight?

Siôn Simon, The Labour Candidate for West Midlands Mayor

Mr Street has so far declined to comment on the NICs proposal or respond to Mr Simon’s letter.

Earlier, Andy Street tweeted his approval of the Midlands Engine Strategy, but called for more investment.

The Midlands Engine Strategy and associated investments from the Local Growth Fund include £10M for an extension Symphony Hall. Mr Street is Vice Chair of Performances Birmingham which runs the venue as well as the Town Hall.

Clashes over the Budget are a sign that the contest to be the first Mayor of the West Midlands is hotting up and that national and regional politics are likely to crossover on more occasions between now and polling on 4th May.

The next Public Debate, following this week’s first event featuring all five main candidates, will take place on 22nd March at Coventry Cathedral. Will the Chancellor have been forced into a NIC U-turn by his backbenchers before then?

Pic: Express & Star, Black Country Public Debate, Black Country Living Museum

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