Update – sacked Small Business Commissioner speaks out

The now-ex Small Business Commissioner, Paul Uppal, has accused the Government of thwarting attempts to help SMEs tackle the late payment scourge.

Mr Uppal has reportedly blamed Whitehall for pushing him out of a role which, he says, is under-resourced and ignored by government.

He said that his office was met with “radio silence” from civil servants and ministers over his approach to the job and that his budget was too small to tackle the “huge task” of getting big companies to pay small businesses on time.

He also revealed a little more detail about the reason for his sacking, which was “a disagreement over an alleged conflict of interest related to an unpaid, interim advisory role in another government-backed small business scheme”.

The Times, is the only national broadsheet to cover the story, although it has been picked up by the online publication smallbusiness.co.uk.

It seems that The Times is becoming the champion of SMEs, carrying...

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Cars v Public Transport

Environmentalists advocate the use of public transport instead of cars as this will reduce carbon emissions and help combat climate change.

Achieving this is not only about changing people’s attitudes but will involve a significant shift in government strategy and investment to make public transport as convenient as cars.

This is an issue for urban and rural locations outside London, which has a relatively high usage of public transport and arguably offers an excellent network buses, tubes and trains that make it very convenient for the public.

Arguably, efforts to reduce car use in London have been helped by the introduction of the congestion charge and both the Low Emission and Ultra Low Emission Zones (LEZ). Indeed, other cities, such as Bristol, are said to be considering similar restrictions.

It is certainly the case that New Car Registrations have been falling drastically in the last two years.

According to figures published by Autoexpress, the UK’s new-car market...

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Do High Street banks care about their customers?

sme smes Nov 28, 2019

High Street banks rely on providing a service to customers yet too often it seems that customers are the last thing banks care about.

Of course, banking is also a business and therefore subject to the pressures and responsibilities of any business to remain compliant and profitable.

However, I would argue that their existence is entirely down to the loyalty of their customers. Yet, customer loyalty is being stretched by the seemingly endless IT problems and closure of branches and ATMs that inconvenience customers, particularly SMEs in rural areas.

Most recently, TSB, encountered yet another IT failure, just a year after the mammoth meltdown which cost it an estimated £366m. To compound the distress for customers, it has just announced that it intends to close another 86 branches, cutting up to 400 jobs over the course of next year.

IT failures have not been confined to TSB, however, and in 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said the number of incidents...

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Fair treatment of employees is a cornerstone for improving productivity

Improving productivity is a concern for all businesses but it is harder to achieve if employees do not believe they are receiving fair treatment.

As I have said in many previous blogs, a motivated workforce is more likely to go the extra mile if they feel valued as people, this means managers treating them with respect, listening to them, showing consideration to them, recognising their contribution, rewarding their contribution and protecting them from inappropriate behaviour by others at work. In summary treating them with respect and showing them that their effort is valued.

Recognition can simply be saying “thank you” for a job well done, it is not just about money.

However, money can become an issue when there is a clear disparity in pay. While discrimination is illegal and applies to any disparity of remuneration on grounds of gender, race, religion or ethnicity, this is not about legislating for staff motivation.

To be motivated staff need to feel they are treated...

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After several high profile business failures – Is corporate governance robust enough?

Research by a provider of audit, tax and consulting services has found that only 21% of board members think corporate governance is critical for a business to achieve success.

The findings by RSM also revealed that 96 per cent of company Board members it surveyed expected to see an increase in the number of criminal prosecutions of those senior executives and organisations implicated for poor risk management.

The issue of corporate governance has been under review by the FRC (Financial Reporting Council) for some time following high-profile collapses of businesses like BHS, Patisserie Valerie, Carillion and most recently Thomas Cook.

In its most recent annual report, the FRC found that that “audit quality is still not consistently reaching the necessary high standards expected”.

More than a year ago, a review of the FRC itself led by Sir John Kingman proposed the establishment of a new regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, but this was not acted upon...

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Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal sacked – is this down to his success in holding large companies to account?

In a worrying development the Government has sacked Paul Uppal, the Small Business Commissioner, over what it called a “conflict of interest”.

Even more worryingly, the only news outlet to report on the development was The Times, on October 12.

It reports that “the business department felt his involvement in establishing a bank redress scheme was a conflict of interest”.

So far, apart from the report in The Times, there has been a deafening silence on this development.

Mr Uppal’s role as a mediator of payment disputes between small and large companies was established in 2016.

His dismissal came just a few days after the Government had announced that Mr Uppal’s role was to be expanded to having a seat on the Compliance Board of the Prompt Payment Code, which it was intending also to strengthen.

The Government said: “Fiona Dickie, the Deputy Pubs Code Adjudicator, will provide oversight in the Small Business Commissioner role until early...

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Withdrawal of credit insurance exposes suppliers to greater risks

cash flow retail sme smes Nov 14, 2019

While it is true that running a business is always challenging the withdrawal of credit insurance is adding to the cash flow pressure on supply chains and in particular on retailers.

Trade credit insurance protects suppliers by minimising the financial impact if a customer fails to pay for goods and services.

The withdrawal of credit insurance is normally based on a company’s credit rating that in turn is adjusted based on disclosed accounts, county court claims, statements by directors and adherence to payment terms as information that is increasingly being provided by suppliers.

For more than a year, the retail sector has been in the spotlight due to the high profile restructuring of several large chains and there would seem to be little sign of this abating, according to recent reports highlighting the latest move, by Paris-based insurer Euler Hermes, which reduced the credit cover it provides to Iceland’s suppliers over the summer.

Euler Hermes is not the only...

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Post-Christmas apocalypse for the retail sector?

brexit economy retail Nov 12, 2019

As we head for its most crucial shopping period in the wake of Mothercare and Mamas & Papas collapsing into administration, I make no apologies for revisiting the UK’s retail sector.

Following last month’s Brexit Halloween deadline and with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas ahead of us retailers have reportedly stockpiled seasonal products earlier than usual but the consumer uncertainty remaining no one knows how much stock will remain unsold in the new year.

The Confederation of British Industry, the country’s leading business lobby group, said retailers’ stock levels compared with the volume of expected sales had risen to the highest point in October since it began compiling retail sales estimates in 1983.

This is against a backdrop of dramatically narrowing profit margins, falling consumer confidence and repeated demands for comprehensive reform of business rates falling on seemingly deaf Government ears.

A new report by the global professional...

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Diversity of thought is about more than challenging stereotypes and ticking a box

Too often the word diversity as applied to directors of companies is seen as demonstrating representation by gender, ethnicity, religion, and possibly of age. But it should actually be about more than that, it should also be about diversity of thought and ideas.

The challenges facing businesses in the 21st Century are becoming more complex and happening at a faster pace so it makes sense to have people at board level who think differently and can communicate their ideas.

In a recent survey carried out by Social Mobility Pledge as reported by The Times newspaper, the researchers found that by and large “who you know” was still the most important factor when promoting staff.

Sadly, the inference from this is that recruitment tends to favour like-minded people, which is hardly helpful to businesses wanting to avoid being stuck in a rut.

The ability to challenge the status quo at all levels and in particular a board level was a topic discussed in a recent vimeo by Kenneth...

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No respite for the global economy as conditions get worse

brexit economy growth Nov 05, 2019

As we head towards the end of the year it is a good time to look at the current state of the global economy.

Trade wars and the threats of tariffs being imposed by the US on China have become a wearyingly familiar story as US President Donald Trump continues his policy of ‘putting the American economy first’ at all times. It is not just China in the firing line, the rhetoric has escalated with his threat made in October to introduce a series of 25% tariffs on a range of exports worth an estimated £5.8bn from the EU.

But this is not the only trade dispute in the global economy as Japan and South Korea’s disagreements threaten the production of smartphones, computers and other electronics, while yet another Brexit delay, and now a UK general election, all add to the uncertain economic outlook in both the EU and the UK.

Growth has been slowing in India, particularly in its automotive sector, and to an extent in China also.

At the same time there seems to have...

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