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A Statement from the Treasury… the EEUK one!

Last week the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond MP, outlined a budget which included the now famous increase in Class 4 National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed.

Was this a ‘rookie error’ as one newspaper described it? Was it a breach of an election manifesto pledge? Will it result in fewer people considering self-employment? Will it even happen or will it get ‘repositioned’ amidst a deluge of political manoeuvering during the imminent Article 50 excitement? Whatever your thoughts, it seems to have come as a surprise to Mr. Hammond’s backbench colleagues and, probably for different reasons, it has come as a surprise to me…

I was surprised because it was the first big budget announcement I can remember that appeared to weaken government support for entrepreneurs. Over the last couple of decades, successive governments have done nothing but highlight their support for self-employment, introducing all kinds of initiatives to stimulate and sustain more of it, including the scheme that gave rise to EEUK itself! Perhaps this government thinks enough has been done to support the self-employed given that record levels of people now work for themselves. So is that it now? Do we and the people we support now have everything we need to get the job done? Can we put our feet up and watch as our students and graduates (unhindered by personal debt, illness, family or the need to buy a house or have a holiday) revolutionise industry, create jobs and solve societal problems?

Like Phil, I am relatively new to the Treasury. However when I found myself needing to rapidly understand the EEUK finances ahead of the annual statement of accounts, I had the benefit of help and advice from my colleagues in EEUK. This is the real power of EEUK…its membership. When you realise that EEUK represents over 100 universities and colleges, each with growing numbers of staff engaged in educating, advising and supporting increasingly enterprising and entrepreneurial students and graduates, I think anyone would agree that between us we can muster an incredibly powerful insight into the future of innovation, new venture creation and business growth in the UK.

Many of Mr. Hammond’s colleagues in government and beyond recognise this which is why EEUK is introducing a new policy role. The needs, impact and opinions of our members are now so often sought that the workload of responding is such that we have created this exciting opportunity to help. Top of their list right now would be analysing what you think of the Government's industrial strategy green paper and whether the success and future of entrepreneurship support is appropriately represented. They would also be considering, with your help, whether the proposals for a new Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey (#NewDLHE) go far enough to accurately capture those graduates working for themselves or starting a business. And they would no doubt be rummaging through your case studies as the QAA considers how its 2012 guidance on enterprise and entrepreneurship education might usefully be updated.

Your practice and experience informs these and many other surveys, ideas and spending decisions. It is a great time to be an enterprise educator and a busy one. It’s not always easy or convenient to share an insight or complete a survey, but the potential impact we can have is well worth the effort if we want better policy and an increasingly supportive environment for our students and graduates. Please do share what you can and maybe someone can tell Mr. Hammond about EEUK before his next turn at the despatch box! If he gets one!

Gareth Trainer

@GHTrainer

EEUK Director and Treasurer, and Assistant Director (Enterprise and Entrepreneurship) at Newcastle University.

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