New figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the number of self-employed people in the UK fell by more than 50,000 during the second quarter of the year compared to the same period in July.

The number of flexible workers has now dropped for six months in a row and industry experts have warned that numbers are likely to decrease further following the recent 2015 summer finance bill and budget announcements that proposed changes to travel and subsistence allowances and further tax liabilities.

There are still 4.5 million self-employed workers across the country, however, and these contractors and freelancers continue to contribute significantly to the UK economy. In the North East there are now 100,000 such workers, accounting for one-fifth of the total private sector employment.

Recent figures suggest that these workers generate £4.7bn for the economy, which is a higher figure than for businesses employing between 50 and 99 permanent staff; in addition, the self-employed are much more likely to become a contractor or freelancer to pursue an opportunity rather than take on a temporary role out of necessity.

IPSE chief executive Chris Bryce said: “To reach the goal of full employment we need a robust self-employed community and these measures will not help achieve this. If the government is serious in wanting to become Europe’s leading knowledge economy, then it needs the country to have a competitive edge. Maintaining a vibrant and strong flexible workforce is the only way for this to happen.”

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