The dust continues to settle following the outcome of the General Election, which defied the pollsters and resulted in the resignation of no less than three party leaders. We may never see another 24 hours quite like it.
Amid the new government being formed and policy priorities being agreed, it is clear that the result will be welcomed by businesses generally across Lincolnshire and beyond. The prospect of financial stability and continued progress with policies that are already in place, achieving new jobs and solid growth, will give businesses renewed confidence to invest and innovate.
With the General Election result comes the promise by the Conservatives of a referendum on EU membership by 2017. Political commentators suggest it will happen sooner rather than later. This will be an interesting time for all businesses as they come to terms with the revised treaty which the Prime Minister David Cameron will seek to negotiate with the EU prior to the referendum. ‘In’ or ‘Out’ will be the question and I suspect that most commercial interests will see the advantages of continued participation and the economic benefits of EU membership.
There will be considerable relief among the residential property investor market and its allied businesses as they will not face the three-year rent freeze which was proposed by Labour. Our evidence here at Langleys suggests that investors had been holding back pending the result of the election.
On a bleaker note, the new fee structures for litigation claims introduced by the last coalition government are here to stay. They have been widely criticised as being so high as to be punitive and therefore a hindrance to access to justice. Litigants and lawyers will need to work with the government to forge a fairer and more accessible way forward.
Businesses can expect a number of changes to employment legislation from the Conservative incumbents at 10 Downing Street. These changes will include laws designed to minimise industrial action such as a minimum turnout threshold in ballots. This would only allow strikes to occur on the basis of recent ballots and removes the ban on hiring agency staff to cover industrial action.
Much was made by all the major parties in the run-up to the election of zero hours contracts and the Conservatives’ plan to ban the use of exclusive zero hours contracts. The government is expected to increase the minimum wage to £6.70 by the end of the year and £8 by the end of the next parliament with obvious implications for businesses and especially for smaller employers.
The biggest changes though will happen to businesses with more than 250 employees. These companies will be required to publish the difference in the average pay for male and female staff in a move designed to address the gender imbalance on pay. They must also grant all employees an additional three days of paid annual leave if the employee wishes to undertake volunteering activities.
Away from business, it is good news all round for homeowners. The spectre of the mansion tax has disappeared and all will hope that the government will stick to its promise to increase the inheritance tax threshold to allow the tax free transfer of most family homes to the next generation.
All in all, there is plenty for business to contemplate in the weeks and months ahead as the new Conservative majority government gets into its stride to secure, as it says, the country’s long-term economic recovery.