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Small companies recruitment problems cost economy billions

The Everline Small Business Tracker has revealed that the amount of time it takes small companies to recruit appropriate staff is costing the UK economy approximately £18 billion each year.  Each small business owner spends on average around 100 hours each year on recruitment and staff development, equating to almost £3,200 worth of their time. However, nearly one in six business owners trying to fill a vacancy in October 2014 were not able to find an adequate candidate. The number of vacancies in small companies in November 2014 (520,000) was the highest since 2004, and a substantial number of  small companies are planning to step up recruitment into 2015. Commenting on the findings, Charles Davis, Centre for Economic and Business Research (Cebr) Director stated: “As small businesses continue to create jobs and this reduces unemployment faster than expected, we are seeing skill shortages become an ever greater challenge.”
Read more about the Small Business Tracker figures at:

Skills shortage to hinder UK growth

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Proposed changes to business rates could benefit small companies.

Local authorities could have more flexibility to give business rate discounts to small local companies, in a proposal presented to the Chancellor by the Local Government Association (LGA) in November 2014. Business rates are currently set by central government, meaning local authorities’ ability to give local discounts is restricted. Under the LGA proposal, all responsibility for setting and collecting business rates would lie with local authorities, allowing more flexibility for local authorities to give reduced rates to local high street companies, new start ups and companies using local suppliers. If the proposal goes ahead, local authorities will also be able to link business rates to turnover, including that from e-commerce, to increase impartiality between high street and online retailers, and to encourage new start ups to trade on the high street.
For more details about the proposal, go to:
http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/media-releases/-/journal_content/56/10180/6705009/NEWS

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Funding for UK emerging technologies announced

Seven developing technology sectors are to benefit from £50 million of support pledged by Innovate UK as part of its ‘Emerging Technologies Strategy’. The funding was announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable at the  Innovate UK 2014 conference in London recently. Also, £17 million will  be allocated to fund approximately 210 industrial PhD placements. The  technologies supported will include the development of improved medicines to meet global needs, ‘free power’ for electronic devices, and 3D printing of human organs. A national Digital Catapult Centre will also be established, which will support up to 10,000 small UK technology companies with innovative digital ideas by 2018. Three local Digital Catapult Centres will be introduced in March 2015, in Sunderland, Brighton and Bradford.
Read more about the funding at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/67-million-to-support-british-innovators

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CMA confirms investigation into small business banking

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has confirmed that it will perform an intensive investigation into banking services for small and medium-sized businesses, after a consultation that suggested  various concerns. This included difficulty among businesses  in assessing and acting upon information about banking services available to them, resulting in low levels of differentiation and relatively few businesses switching between providers. A group of independent CMA members will be appointed  to take responsibility for the investigation. The group will produce an investigation timetable and consult on what the key focus of the investigation should be.
Read more about the forthcoming investigation at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/personal-current-account-
and-small-business-banking-face-full-competition-investigation

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New funding to help social ventures attract investment

The Cabinet Office  has announced that Social ventures dedicated to making an impact on society will be eligible to apply for funding to help them attract investment and win contracts. The Impact Readiness Fund, which will be managed by the Social Investment Business, will permit social ventures to apply for grants of £15,000 to £150,000 to assist them to build their infrastructure, improve their skills and demonstrate their social impact to investors. To be eligible to apply, companies must be focused on dealing with social problems, display commitment to securing investment or contracts, and be able to finish the work associated with the funding within three months. Application packs for the Impact Readiness Fund will be available from 17 November 2014, and funding can be accessed until the end of January 2015.
For more information about the Impact Readiness Fund, go to:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-15-million-grant-fund-to-help-social-ventures

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Lords vote in favour of health and safety exemptions for the self employed

The House of Lords has voted in favour of Clause 1 of the Government’s Deregulation Bill, which includes proposals to make certain types of the self-employed exempt from health and safety law. The suggested exemption will apply to the self-employed unless they are taking on ‘prescribed activities’, such as high risk work carried out in sectors which include agriculture and construction. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has claimed that the proposed clause could lead to confusion, a deterioration of safety standards and an increased risk of injury and illness at work. The Deregulation Bill has passed through the House of Commons and will continue to be debated in the House of Lords as it proceeds through parliament.
For more information about the Bill, go to:

Deregulation Bill: safety exemptions voted through

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Small companies urged to protect against cybercrime

A panel of cybercrime experts, comprising of  delegates from Microsoft, Sophos and the UK Cyber Security Forum, has recommended that small companies  protect themselves against online threats, as part of the ‘Cyber Streetwise’ online safety campaign. The panel of experts has suggested that  small companies should train staff to recognize online threats, install software updates promptly, use anti-virus software and select complex passwords. The experts have also suggested that improving cyber security could help companies to attract more customers. Research has shown that 59% of consumers are disinclined to shop with small companies online, but 82% would be more likely to buy if companies demonstrate cyber security. Companies can emphasize their security credentials by joining the Home Office’s Cyber Essentials scheme, which certifies companies operating at required standards.
Read more about the cyber security advice for small companies at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/small-firms-urged-to-take-steps-to-combat-cyber-crime

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Concerns raised about local authorities managing food safety

Local authorities could struggle to continue food safety services during ongoing budget cuts, according to Chief Policy Advisor for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Jenny Morris. Ms Morris stated that the number of environmental health officers (EHOs) had decreased by 20% between 1999 and 2009, with the majority lost being highly experienced EHO’s. According to a survey carried out recently  by the CIEH, half of local authority environmental health departments have seen a reduction in staff numbers, and nearly a quarter are proposing to reduce the number of staff in the future.
For more details about the survey results, go to:
http://www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/Food-Safety/Local-authority-funding-cuts-cause-concern

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Innovation voucher eligibility extended

Following the extension of eligibility for the Innovation Voucher Programme by Innovate UK, small and medium-sized companies, including new business start ups, will be able to apply for funding for consultancy support from 10th November 2014. Innovation vouchers contribute up to £5,000 towards the cost of specialist advice to stimulate business growth, and formerly were only accessible to companies in specific technology sectors. The vouchers are now available to any small company that requires  specialist support to meet a business challenge, as long as the company has not already had support from their chosen specialist adviser. The type of support that can be funded includes advice about making the most of intellectual property, guidance when developing innovative ideas, and help to learn about using design in business.
Read more about Innovation Vouchers at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/innovation-vouchers-for-all

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HMRC consulting on draft CASC (Community Amateur Sports Clubs) legislation

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has launched a consultation on draft legislation establishing new qualifying conditions for community amateur sports clubs (CASCs), after a previous consultation that showed some clubs find the existing rules confusing. If the draft regulations become law, a number of existing CASCs will need to alter their structure in order to keep CASC status. HMRC claims the new rules will provide more certainty for existing CASCs about their continuing eligibility, and may encourage more clubs to apply for CASC status. The consultation closes on 5th November 2014.
Read more about the consultation at:
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/hmrc-consults-rules-community-amateur-sports
-clubs/finance/article/1317104
The consultation documents are available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-legislation-community-amateur
-sports-clubs-technical-consultation

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