Reform party unveils policy platform of sweeping tax cuts as it woos disgruntled Conservative voters

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Nigel Farage would abolish IR35 rules, scrap net zero targets and limit immigration only to “essential skills” such as healthcare if his Reform party wins power on 4 July.

Announcing a “contract” with voters this afternoon in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, Farage unveiled a series of hardline policies aiming to win over disenchanted Tory voters.

The slim 28-page manifesto proposes sweeping tax cuts including raising the threshold for stamp duty on properties from £250,000 to £750,000, cutting corporation tax from 25% to 15% and raising the VAT threshold for businesses from £90,000 to £120,000.

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Nigel Farage took over the leadership of the Reform party earlier this month

The IR35 off-payroll tax rules would be scrapped, reversing current chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision to cancel former prime minister Liz Truss’ plans to scrap the rules in 2022, and anyone earning less than £20,000 would pay no income tax.

Reform is currently ranked third place in the BBC’s poll tracker with an estimated vote share of 15%, ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 11% and behind the Conservatives on 21% and Labour’s 42%.

The tax cuts would be partly paid by raising national insurance paid by businesses to 20% for foreign workers from the current 13.8%, except for those working in healthcare and care workers and for businesses which employ five people or less.

Reform said this could raise £20bn over five years, which would be used to pay for apprenticeships and training for British people.

The party also claims it could find £50bn a year by cutting government waste, save £6bn by more than halving the foreign aid budget and raise £35bn by stopping interest payments on some Bank of England bonds.

But the biggest revenue raiser would be the abolition of net zero targets and green energy subsidies, which the party said would save £30bn a year and save households £500 in annual bills.

The proposals were strongly criticised by UK Green Building Council head of policy Louise Hutchins, who said “scrapping climate action isn’t a cost saver”.

At-a-glance: Reform manifesto

  • scrap off-payroll IR35 rules
  • fast-track new housing on brownfield sites and infrastructure projects to boost businesses, especially in coastal regeneration areas, Wales, the North, and the Midlands
  • abolish net zero targets and green subsidies to save £30bn a year
  • raise VAT threshold from £90,000 to £120,000
  • raise national insurance paid by businesses to 20% for foreign workers from the current 13.8%
  •  limit immigration only to “essential skills” such as healthcare

“It would pull the rug out from communities and businesses across the country for whom this is their best hope for an injection of investment to revive their hollowed out high streets, public buildings and public spaces and to protect them from the misery of flooding,” she said.

Hutchins argued that cutting net zero targets would “keep us hooked on sky-high gas prices”, adding that Reform “offers no hope to the millions stuck in cold damp homes in desperate need of insulation - which is a sure-fire method to bring down bills”.

But the party’s proposal to scrap IR35 was welcomed by Dave Chaplin, chief executive of Contractor Calculator, who said Reform’s policies “make a refreshing change”.

>>See also: Who’s who in Labour’s would-be cabinet

>>See also: Labour criticised over omission of 40% affordable housing target from manifesto

>>See also: Industry reacts to Conservative Party’s ‘unbalanced’ and ‘frustrating’ manifesto

“Over the years Parliament has increasingly attracted career politicians resulting in Government suffering from a dearth of experienced business people who truly understand what is happening on the ground,” Chaplin said. 

“The lack of firsthand experience may go some way to explaining why the Conservatives enacted the most damaging policies to small business and the self-employed in a decade in the shape of the off-payroll working rules - simply because they were out of touch.” 

The document also includes policies shared with the other main parties, including prioritising development on brownfield land and fast-tracking nuclear projects such as small modular reactors.

Election focus 

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With the general election fast approaching, the UK is facing some serious problems.

Low growth, flatlining productivity, question marks over net zero funding and capability, skills shortages and a worsening housing crisis all amount to a daunting in-tray for the next government.

This election therefore comes with very high stakes for the built environment and the economy as a whole. Building’s coverage aims to help the industry understand the issues and amplify construction’s voice so that the parties hear it loud and clear.