Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

FSB and FPB join calls for a business rates freeze

Lowering business costs should be a priority for the chancellor of the exchequer in next month’s Autumn Statement, according to both the FSB and the PFB.

The Federation of Small Businesses has written to George Osborne urging him to take action against energy and business rates and to press forward with tax simplification to strengthen economic recovery.

FSB research suggests business rates is an area which needs addressing as a priority. They are a significant cost for small firms and unrelated to their economic activity, with some paying more in business rates than in rent.  

More than a quarter of a million firms rely on 100 per cent rate relief to survive, but relief at this rate is due to expire next year. The impact of this would be equivalent to introducing a new tax on 293,000 small and micro businesses just as the economy is starting to recover, says the FSB.
 
With rates bills set to increase by 3.2 per cent in 2014 – as set by September's RPI inflation figure – the FSB wants to see the temporary doubling of small business rates relief made permanent, and a freeze in rates for firms in properties below £18,000.

Meanwhile utilities bills are one of the main causes of rising business costs. These are set to rise further as energy companies have announced above inflation price increases. To help offset these harmful effects, the FSB has called for reforms to make it far easier for the smallest of businesses to get a competitive energy deal.
 
Unlike household tariffs, business energy prices are not published so small firms have to get quotes from each supplier in order to get a good deal.

The FSB is calling for the energy companies to publish tariffs which are meaningfully comparable from one supplier to the next as a much needed first step to introducing transparency to the murky SME retail energy market.

And the call for a freeze in business rates - first proposed by the British Chambers of Commerce on Sunday - has been echoed by the Forum of Private Business.

With over 97 percent of its members believing that property taxation is too high, the Forum is asking for an extension of Small Business Rate Relief until the end of the current parliament and an independent study to look at the current system of business rates.

The Forum is also calling for continued commitment maintaining a freeze on fuel duty until 2015.

In its submission, the FPB has also called for a strengthening of the rules around the enforcement of the Prompt Payment Code, and for the chancellor to look at ways to make it easier for small businesses to access to alternative forms of finance, in particular peer-to-peer lending, by reviewing how current restrictions are making it difficult for small firms to obtain new finance to fund growth.

The Autumn Statement will be made on Thursday, December 5.

Hotel trade is picking up, but Swindon fails to measure up to tourism hotspots

Neil Dimes of BDOHotel trade in Swindon is picking up - but rooms yield is running slightly under the increase seen regionally and nationally.

According to the latest figures from business advisory firm BDO, hotels across the South West experienced steady growth in Q3 of 2013, with hoteliers in Bristol and Plymouth witnessing month on month increases in rooms yield and occupancy levels during the peak summer season.

The firm’s hotel survey found that most major cities in the South West outperformed regional UK, with rooms yield - the industry term for the amount of revenue generated by each available room - increasing by 6.8 percent in Plymouth and Bristol, 3.6 percent in Bath, and 3.2 percent in Swindon at the end of Q3.

Nationally, room yield was up 3.5 percent.

Occupancy levels also increased in Plymouth, Bristol and Swindon to 79 percent, 75.2 percent and 67.3 percent respectively during September.

Neil Dimes, of BDO, said: “The summer months have brought visitors to the region and punters through the doors, which is good news for the hotel and leisure industry.”

Experts to help business leaders make sense of Autumn Statement

Chancellor George OsborneExperts from Banks chartered accountants will be helping business leaders make sense of the Autumn Statement on the day of the announcements.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, will give present his Autumn Statement to Parliament on Thursday, December 5.

The statement provides an update on the government’s plans for the economy, based on the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Later, a panel of experts from Banks will be giving insights into the announcements, and explaining what they mean for Swindon businesses.

The review will be held at Banks’ offices at Vicarage Court, 160 Ermin Street, Swindon from 5.45pm, with the presentation taking place from 6pm until 7pm. The presentation will be followed by a light buffet. 

Bookings for the free event - for which places are strictly limited - are being taken now at http://banksca.co.uk/events

Seven reasons why you don’t need that team meeting

Nigel ScottDo you hold regular meetings with your team?

Many of us are busy and feel that a team meeting is too time-consuming when we should be getting on with our 'real work'.

So to help you out I have come up with seven reasons why you don’t need to hold team meetings:

  • Your team are all psychic and know what you are thinking.   
  • They read every email you send and every message on the board. Immediately.
  • They take exactly the meaning you intended from every email and notice board.
  • They understand your priorities without you having to mention them.
  • They communicate perfectly with each other at all times.
  • They always do the right thing right first time and, frankly don’t need any help from you, thanks very much.
  • They all know exactly which customers are most important to you right now and how you want them treated.

If this is making you think that team meetings are maybe a good idea after all, contact me now and I will send you some guidance for good team meetings.

Nigel Scott offers business and executive coaching in Wiltshire and Swindon. Contact him on 01672 512001 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Retail - another disappointing drop in footfall

Helen Dickinson British Retail ConsortiumRetail footfall in the South West during October was 4.9 percent lower than a year ago – the worst figure in mainland Britain – according to the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium.

Only Northern Ireland - whose retailers reported a drop of 9.8 percent - was worse affected.

Nationally, high streets reported the greatest fall at 3.6 percent, followed by shopping centres at 2.9 percent - unchanged from September’s figure.

Footfall in out-of-town locations improved slightly, but was still 1.2 percent down year-on-year.

The town centre shop vacancy rate for the South West was 12.4 percent - higher than the national figure of 11.1 percent, and highest in the UK after Northern Ireland (18.5 percent), Wales (16.7 percent) and the West Midlands (13 percent).

Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium director general, said: “It’s disappointing to see shopper numbers falling again after September’s slowdown, with only one area of the UK [the East] showing growth. 

“Although recent months have hinted at economic recovery, many of us are still cautious and keen to manage budgets ahead of Christmas.
 
“High street and shopping centre footfall both took a hit in October, while out-of-town fared a little better. 

“This trend partially reflects our recent sales figures, which showed that furniture and homewares – often sited in retail parks – had a decent showing while other categories were more subdued, especially fashion.

“Despite the tentative optimism in the air, it’s clear that conditions remain challenging. 

“Retailers will be hoping that a festive boost to browsing and buying puts things back on a more even keel over the coming months.”

Auction will raise funds for typhoon victims

Gary Wilkinson of Marlborough Parade Antiques Centre

A ‘bring and buy’ charity auction is being thrown in Marlborough on Friday to help the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines.

The event is the brainchild of Gary Wilkinson, owner of the Marlborough Parade Antique Centre, who was moved to act after a recent storm caused a hole in the roof of his business premises.

“Shortly after that, the typhoon hit The Philippines,” said Gary. “I thought, if a hole in my roof is causing me this much hassle, how would I feel if I had lost everything?”

Gary will be conducting the charity auction at the Green Dragon public house in Marlborough High Street from 6pm on Friday, November 22, with some lots donated by his own business..

Wielding the gavel will be David Harrison of the Jubilee Auction Rooms in Pewsey.

Individuals or businesses who would like to donate an auction lot - antique or modern - should contact Gary on 07860 808061.

All proceeds will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Philippines Typhoon Appeal.

Chambers call on chancellor to freeze business rates

John Longworth director general of the British Chambers of CommerceBritish Chambers of Commerce has called on the government to freeze business rates, ahead of the autumn statement on Thursday, December 5.

The business group is urging the government to conduct an extensive review and completely reform the business rates system by 2015, with a new, more responsive and transparent system enacted early in the next parliament.

In its submission, which was published yesterday (Sunday), the BCC called for the chancellor to propose a two-year freeze, which would cost the treasury around £1.7bn, equivalent to 0.1 percent of total government spending.

Business rates are raised in line with September’s retail prices index, which means companies are likely to face a 3.2 percent increase next spring, costing them an extra £900m.

Last April’s 2.6 per cent rise followed a 5.6 per cent increase in 2012 and 4.6 per cent in 2011.

The BCC described the levy - the highest business rates bill in Europe - as “an iniquitous tax that aggravates already uncertain business cash flow and imposes hefty new costs. Business rates are fixed no matter the stage of the economic cycle, company performance or ability to pay.”

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “This is a tax that hits companies of all sizes long before they a make profit, and acts as a drag on business growth and investment.

“Firms across the UK have been crying out for relief from these burdensome taxes for years, but so far their pleas have been ignored.”

The BCC said that the cost to the treasury would be more than offset by the investment made by businesses into driving economic growth.

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