I've been freelancing as a software engineer for a couple of years using an umbrella company. At the time I started, the consensus was that it wasn't worth the effort setting up your own company.
In its latest budget, the UK government has announced a significant reduction in the national insurance paid on the first few employees for 'startups' outside of London and the south-east. I've previously registered companies for charity work, but haven't had to do the pay and tax stuff.
Does anyone have an idea as to whether it will be worth while starting my own company to take advantage of the £5000 reduction in NI - would I qualify as a single employee company, and is the cost of getting in an accountant or the complexity of handling the tax myself likely to be worth it?
Only you can answer that - are you going to be able to take on keeping the books up to date yourself, enough that you can hand them on to an accountant at the right price?
Basically, call up local accountants, and see what they will charge you. Actually incorporating is cheap (18 quid); whether you will need your accountant to provide company secretarial services is down to you. 5000 pounds is a lot to spend on basic accounting - it seems like it's at least worth you looking for some quotes.
Most of the admin can be made to go away by hiring a good accountant (I use SJD and they're very good - they cost about 1500 a year - they also set up my company). You do need to be careful about making sure you keep money back to pay your taxes - I've seen people get a tax bill of 30K and not have the money because they'd already spent it - so it's important to make a budget of what you're going to pay yourself and stick to it.