On Thursday the UK goes to the polls in what will be its third national vote in as many years. The outcome will have big implications on a number of issues, not least the direction of Brexit. SM has taken a look at the parties’ positions on some of the key issues affecting buyers.
Prime minister Theresa May has made it clear that under a Conservative government no trade deal with the EU would be considered better than a bad deal. The Conservatives would seek a new free trade deal and customs deals with the EU, but would also seek stability by applying for new WTO tariff concessions after Brexit.
Conversely the Liberal Democrats are looking for a ‘softer’ Brexit, maintaining membership of the single market and customs union. Labour wants to “retain the benefits” of these two treaties and has said not having a deal is not a viable option for the UK.
Labour plans to increase corporation tax to 26% by 2020, up from its current rate of 19%, while keeping small businesses on a lower rate. Both the Conservatives and Lib Dems plan to lower corporation tax to 17%.
All three of the main parties have promised to reform business rates. The Lib Dems said they would use the rates system to prioritise the digital economy and take the pressure off smaller businesses, while the Conservatives said they would conduct more frequent re-evaluations to avoid a repeat of the shock many businesses faced when new rates were introduced in May. Labour has not provided any specifics.
The Tories are committed to the Heathrow expansion, while Labour gave vague promises on expansion somewhere in the South East and the Lib Dems oppose any expansion. Labour and Lib Dems have made general committments to nuclear energy, with Labour accepting nuclear power would be necessary, but only the Tories have said they will push on with the new Hinckley Point reactor. All three main parties support the completion of HS2.
The digital economy featured in all three of the main parties’ manifestos, and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats both went into detail about plans to connect more businesses to high-speed fibre internet with a focus on helping SMEs. Labour has promised universal “superfast” broadband by 2020.
The Conservatives and Labour both said they’d clamp down on late payers. The Conservatives pledge to “declare war” on offenders by blocking them from bidding for government contracts. Labour will introduce an arbitrator who could make binding decisions concerning repeat offenders.
While the Lib Dems pledge to use government spend to develop local communities with a “buy local” policy, Labour has said they would support UK steel, the defence industry and create local jobs through public procurement. The Tory manifesto reiterated a longstanding promise to channel a third of government spend to SMEs.
On train franchises, Labour has said it would look to re-nationalise the provision of rail services as franchises expire, while the Liberal Democrats announced plans to re-structure rail franchises, allowing mutual groups of employees and passengers to bid.
Health and social care
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have both said they would roll back the outsourcing of health and social care contracts to private firms. Labour’s health secretary has said the party would “sweep away” competition and outsourcing rules in the Health and Social Care Act.
Air quality has been on the agenda for a while now, highlighted by legal challenges to government policy. There are potentially big implications for fleet operators and hauliers. But of the big three, only the Lib Dems promise a diesel scrappage scheme of some sort. Labour didn’t go that far, but said they would retrofit thousands of buses to cut emissions. All three parties made pledges on low emission zones.
The Tories – who were recently forced to publish an air quality plan – said little on the subject save a commitment to low-emission buses and planting more trees.
What the other parties are saying
The Green Party has pledged to roll back the outsourcing of NHS service and cancel both the new Hinkley Point power plant and any airport expansion. The party also said it would introduce a diesel scrappage scheme and a one-off fine for car manufacturers caught cheating on emission tests.
The SNP said it would use public procurement to push contractors to pay higher wages and said it wanted to see the minimum wage increased to £10 per hour by the end of the next parliament. The party also wants to see the Scottish ban on companies bidding for government contracts, if they are caught blacklisting employees, extended across the UK.
UKIP would launch a review of public sector procurement with the view to increase the number of contracts going to SMEs and said Brexit offered an opportunity to do just that. It would also abolish the use of procurement cards in councils.
Plaid Cymru would take the opportunity of Brexit to overhaul local procurement to favour local suppliers.
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