Summary

Access to the appropriate infrastructure is imperative to the success of any economy, and the self-employed economy is no different.
Issues around tax and regulation are commonly cited as the key obstacles to working independently, but the self-employed simply will not be able to exist and prosper as businesses without access to efficient infrastructure, including collaborative working space, superfast broadband and effective mobile coverage.
IPSE believes that there needs to be more workhubs, better  broadband and much better mobile coverage in order to support independent professionals

What are the issues?

  • Lack of collaborative working space:
    • Out of an estimated 109 workhubs , 30% of these are in London
    • Drastic lack of appropriate facilities across large swatches of the UK – especially rural areas
  • Workhubs too expensive:
    • Even where workhubs do exist, the cost of using them is often prohibitive
    • 1/3 of 18-39 year olds identify cost as a major reason why they do not use workhubs
    • Small businesses with premises are exempt from paying business rates, yet those using workhubs are effectively forced to pay them indirectly
  • Poor Broadband:
    • Ofcom found that 42% of UK microbusinesses don’t have superfast broadband – 85% in rural areas
    • Without superfast broadband, businesses or individuals can only work to a certain degree of speed and efficiency
  • Lack of 4G Coverage:
    •  4G mobile broadband coverage s essential for independent professions, who often have to work on the move. We support the introduction of “Mast sharing” (also known as “onshore roaming” where 4G coverage is limited or unavailable.

What are the effects?

  • Productivity:
    • Many workhubs provide a collaborative community for self-employed workers, leading to the exchange of ideas and innovation
    • Self-employed people fall behind small businesses that have their own working space
  • Connectivity:
    • Poor broadband coverage and mobile reception hampers the ability of freelancers to contribute completely to economic growth
    • 1/5 self-employed people in Scotland and Wales have stated they have struggled to work to their full potential due to broadband issues

IPSE’s policy on infrastructure

  • Make better use of workhubs:
    • Cut business rates for workhubs – businesses with a rentable value up to £10,000 are eligible for 100% business rates relief
    • Support for rural workhubs – back rollout of Rural Enterprise Hubs
    • Incentivise the use of empty properties as workhubs
  • Improve internet access and mobile coverage:
    • Commit to 100% access to broadband by 2020 – extend the Broadband Connection Vouchers scheme
    • Accelerate the rollout of 4G Coverage
    • Ensure rail franchising agreements include a commitment to enabling WiFi across their networks