The manifestos are in, so what do AAT members think?

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Accountants across the UK assess the party manifesto pledges, highlighting the promises that excite and disappoint them.

With just over a week to go until polling day, election manifestos from every political UK party have finally been launched and subjected to debate, analysis and criticism from just about every media outlet across the country, not to mention across social media platforms.

It’s perhaps fair to say that while some manifestos have appeared cautious or lacking in detail, others have been seemingly full of bold promises. It’s not necessarily a fair comparison, though: parties who are likely to do well in the general election need to be realistic about their manifestos whereas smaller parties have the freedom to make bold promises without ever having to fulfil them.

Here are the three main parties’ main pledges:


  • Abolition of NI for self-employed.
  • Increase personal tax-free allowance for pensioners.
  • An end to ‘low quality’ university degrees.
  • Lowering immigration.
  • Return of help-to-buy scheme.


  • Freeze VAT, NI and income tax rates.
  • Cut NHS waiting times with 40,000 more appointments a week by paying staff overtime.
  • Recruit 6,500 more teachers and 13,000 more police and community support officers.
  • Create Border Security Command with counter-terror style powers to crack down on people trafficking and gangs.
  • Create a publicly owned clean energy provider, Great British Energy.

Liberal Democrats

  • Introduce free personal social care in the community.
  • Create more GP appointments.
  • Ban sewage discharge into rivers and seas.
  • Introduce electoral reform (proportional voting system).
  • Repair UK-EU relationship.
  • Invest in renewable power and home insulation.

A few weeks ago, we asked accountants what they wanted to see from the next government. There was a general feeling that support for small businesses and SMEs should be prioritised, as well as tackling tax fraud and overseeing complete overhauls of both Companies House and HMRC.

This time, we asked AAT members across the UK to comment on the newly published manifestos, identifying any pledges they felt were particularly encouraging or sensible when it came to business growth and the economy, and highlighting areas they were disappointed by.

Here’s what they said.

Political parties seem to have forgotten rural communities

Samantha Perkin FMAAT, Director, Zamu and Lecturer at Cornwall Business School at Falmouth University

Region: South-West England

Rural affairs is one of the biggest issues for local businesses and communities in Cornwall, where I’m based.

A review of the UK-wide political parties focussing on rural affairs and key topics recommended by Country Land and Business Association (CLA) reveals that:


  • Promise to ‘back’ farmers and fisheries to improve food security and support the rural way of life.
  • Promise to increase UK-wide farming budget by £1bn, ensuring it rises above inflation.
  • Retain commitment to protect green belt while also pledging to make planning permission simpler.


  • Promise to support British farmers and champion British farming while protecting the environment.
  • Set targets for half of all food purchased across public sector to be locally produced or certified to higher environmental standards. 
  • Pledge to preserve greenbelt sites.

Liberal Democrats

  • Will ensure that gigabit broadband is available to every home and business in rural and remote communities.
  • Accelerate the rollout of the new Environmental Land Management schemes, with an extra £1bn/year to support profitable, environmental and sustainable farming.
  • Encourage the use of rural exception sites to expand rural housing.
  • Will ‘make planning work’ for natural environment and ensuring developers ‘pay their fair share’.

Reform UK

  • Revitalise British agriculture and guarantee food security to take advantage of Brexit.
  • Promise to increase the farming budget to £3bn.
  • Encourage younger people into farming.
  • Fast-track new housing on brownfield sites and infrastructure projects especially in coastal regeneration areas.

Green Party

  • Pledge to encourage farmers to use sustainable, environmentally friendly farming methods to ensure cleaner rivers and healthy soil.

Agriculture budget: farmers are now transitioning to payment for public goods model but there needs to be secure budget for the transition period and beyond. The CLA say this should be £4bn in England and £1bn in Wales. But according to the Commons Library, the 2022/23 spend on farming support was £2.3bn. By analysing manifestos, no party will hit the CLA target.

Planning permission: this is a complex area as all parties want more houses but do not want to affect the countryside. In order to appeal to most voters, they only talk about brownfield and urban regeneration.

The political parties seem to have forgotten the importance of rural communities. The strategic need for homes is just focussed on towns and cities while ignoring rural housing. It’s disappointing that again the countryside is a tourist destination, not a place people live and work. Farmers need support to produce good quality food to ensure the growth of the UK economy as everyone wants. Rural businesses are the heartbeat of the countryside and without fair support they will die and our environment with them.

Verdict: Political parties seem to have forgotten rural communities.

There’s a distinct lack of concrete policies across all three main party manifestos

Stephen Leonard FCCA ACA MAAT, Partner, Winders Chartered Accountants

Region: North West England

Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats manifestos say income taxes and VAT rates will not increase which will give some certainty to both employees and the self-employed. Sadly, there’s no mention in any of the three main manifestos of increasing the personal allowances or income tax band thresholds which are leading to more people paying tax at higher levels due to ‘fiscal drag’. I would have liked to have seen some bold moves in this area – it would have had an immediate impact on the net income of everyone including pensioners.

Conservatives have however pledged to abolish Class 4 NICs for the self-employed which would be a significant saving for sole traders and partners. No other party is matching this.

No party has mentioned tax on dividends which is how many small business owners get remunerated via limited companies. This is disappointing as many were left out of the COVID support packages.

Business rates are a huge burden to many businesses and all parties mention this but offer different solutions. Labour says it will abolish Business Rates and replace them with ‘something fairer’, Conservatives are pledging a £4.3bn support package for small businesses and the Liberal Democrats say they will scrap business rates and bring in a Commercial Landowner Levy.

In truth, all are disappointing as none seem to give any details of how they will replace rates and the significant revenue it raises.

Overall, there is a distinct lack of concrete policies or ideas across all manifestos and I’m underwhelmed by all the main party offerings, especially as small business and self-employed are the lifeblood of the economy.

Verdict: I’m underwhelmed by the manifestos as there is a distinct lack of concrete policies and offerings.

The main thing is what isn’t included in manifestos

Ben Rose MAAT, Partner, Martin Seitler & Co

Region: North West England

Tax-wise, I think there’s a distinct lack of excitement in most party manifestos other than the Reform UK manifesto.

At a time when people are feeling the squeeze, I’d have expected all the main parties to offer a policy which would put more money into people’s pockets.

Reform UK offers a personal allowance increase as well as an increase in the higher rate threshold to £70k which essentially means far few people will be higher-rate taxpayers. They also pledge to increase the VAT registration threshold to £120k which is a welcome move.

I am by no means a Reform UK supporter, but based solely on the tax/economy aspects of their manifesto I wouldn’t vote for anyone else!

The Conservatives meanwhile are offering to reduce NI, with the long-term plan to abolish it completely.

Labour appears to be alienating the more wealthy: a 20% VAT on private school fees will have a massive consequence for many communities.

Overall, I think the main thing to note is what isn’t included in the three main party manifestos: there’s no major tax reform and no major wow factor.

Verdict: There’s no wow factor from the three main parties, but Reform UK offer significant tax cuts.

Labour’s pledge to address workplace inequalities is welcome

Lucy Cohen MAAT, Co-Founder and CEO, Mazuma Accountants

Region: Wales

Labour is placing equality at the core of their mission, saying they are aiming to ensure fair compensation and better conditions for women in the workforce. Their goal is to ‘make work pay’ by addressing wage disparities and improving workplace standards.

Strengthening rights to equal pay and addressing menopause issues is a welcome move. After all, menopause will essentially affect half of the population during their lives including it in workplace planning is vital!

Pledging to fix corporation tax for the entire term of parliament is also a great shout: businesses love certainty and knowing the tax rate won’t sneak up is certainly helpful for small businesses.

The Conservatives however, have the hardest job for women here: after 14 years of leadership, female wellbeing in the UK is falling faster than in the EU, and less than 2% of VC funding is going to female-led UK businesses.

They claim they’re focused on supporting female entrepreneurship through initiatives like the Invest in Women Task Force and the Lilac Review along with aiming to secure £250m Invest In Women Fund.  But let’s face it: it’s a relatively small amount, especially in a manifesto which pledges over £8bn in potholes.

There are also questions about their approach to closing the gender pay gap, which doesn’t seem to be covered.

The Lib Dems pledge to make Statutory Sick Pay available to more than one million low-income workers, most of whom are women. This move aims to provide greater financial security for women in the workforce – certainly a welcome shift in my eyes to see a party focussing their efforts on policies that disproportionately affect women.

Verdict: Labour’s pledge to fix gender pay disparities and workplace inequalities is a welcome addition.

Scottish Lib Dems were only party to look at SSP

Pamela Dillon FMAAT, Owner, Dillon Bookkeeping

Region: Scotland

Scottish Labour’s proposal to increase access for young people to apprenticeships could be an improvement if they reinstate funding in Scotland for AAT apprenticeships – it was withdrawn last year.

Their move to ‘take action’ on late payments for small businesses is welcome, although there are no details on how they would do this.

Scottish Conservatives meanwhile say they’ll fund another 100,000 apprenticeships by curbing low-quality degrees, but there is no mention of how they decide which degrees are ‘low quality’.

They propose alleviating the pinch points on the main road from Gretna to Stranraer road which will help with goods transport between Scotland and Ireland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats however have detailed promises for zero-hour contracts such as 20% higher minimum wage when there’s normal demand to compensate for instability and the right to request a fixed-hour contract after 12 months. They also pledge to make shared parental leave a day-one right.

They also pledge to fix the Statutory Sickness Pay (SSP). However, if they plan to extend it to all workers/part-timers from day 1 of absence, they need to look at reimbursing small employers as they don’t benefit from the full £5k employment allowance. Smaller employers like myself cannot afford to pay out up to 26 weeks SSP with no reimbursement.

I wish the other parties would look at the SSP system as it is a worry for small employers.

Scottish National Party (SNP) want to scrap zero-hour contracts and fire/rehire policies as well as improve maternity pay and increase shared parental leave from 52 to 64 weeks. They pledge to set maternity pay at 100% for 12 weeks.

SNP also pledged tax cuts for retrofit building work and want to see lower VAT rates for hospitality while encouraging cleaner vehicle usage.

Verdict: Scottish Lib Dems were the only party to look at Statutory Sickness Pay scheme which is a worry for many small employers.

Would you like to contribute to future articles like this one? If so, please get in touch with Annie Makoff-Clark at [email protected].

Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.

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