Work experience – between a rock and a hard place

employment Aug 15, 2019

Earlier this year the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called for compulsory work experience to be reintroduced for all children aged 14 to 16.

The Government ended schools’ obligation to provide compulsory work experience in 2012.

Since then, although many schools do still try to arrange some work experience, the responsibility for finding placements has rested largely on parents and pupils themselves.  In fact, according to the organisation Changing Education “Ofsted has identified that 75% of schools are failing to provide adequate work experience programmes”.

In 2015 the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) questioned the wisdom of the 2012 decision, following a study of members that found that “most firms and education leaders believe secondary schools should offer work experience for under 16-year-olds”.

John Longworth, who was then the director general of the BCC, said: “Business and school leaders are clear – we won’t...

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The current state of the commercial property sector

brexit economy Aug 13, 2019

With economic uncertainty prevailing both globally and in the UK it would be no surprise if the commercial property sector was facing some difficulties.

The commercial property sector covers Community, Education, Hotel, Healthcare, Office, Retail and Industrial and it is clear from some of the statistics that the woes of retail have been acting as a drag on the sector as a whole.

Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) provides information on property and investment opportunities and in its most recent analysis on new construction starts it revealed that they fell in the first quarter of 2019 for the first time since Q2 2017.

It reports that the ongoing uncertainty “dampened UK commercial real estate transactional activity in Q2, with investment volumes slowing to £8.9bn. This represented a 22% decline on the first half of and was the slowest first half of the year since 2013.

However, it reports, Alistair Meadows, Head of UK Capital Markets, believes that...

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Dream Big – Summer is time for considering a start-up

entrepreneur Aug 08, 2019

As many as half of all workers seriously consider setting up their own business during the summer holiday according to research.

Emma Jones, founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation, said: “The combination of sun, sand, sea and downtime means we’re more relaxed and have time to contemplate what we want.”

Relaxing on a beach with time for reflection can make us aware of any dissatisfactions with our current status or job.  It is also an opportunity to think what else you might do if stuck in a rut and you want to “take back control” of your life.

But what is involved when starting up a new business?

The key is to identify a clear purpose and define the product/market mix for your business, essentially to be able to answer “why” questions. This may require research but you cannot start planning until you have a clear purpose. Turning dreams into reality is more than simply having a good idea!

To help you find your...

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The unpredictable relationship between currency values and stock markets

economy Aug 06, 2019

Too often the assumption is made that when a country’s currency value drops its stock markets will rise as its exports become more competitive.

The current economic situation in the UK and elsewhere is an illustration of why this may be an over-simplistic assumption.

Last week ended with £Sterling at its lowest value against the US dollar for two years at $1.2162 and against the Euro at €1.0948 while at the same time the FTSE100 closed down minus 2.34% at 7407.06.

This suggests that the previous so-called assumptions are no longer valid.

In commenting on this it should be noted that the European, US, Japanese and Hong Kong stock markets also plunged.

What is causing currency values and stock market turbulence?

The signs that both the global and UK economies are volatile and have been for some time. Evidence for this can be deduced from the monetary stimulus by Central Banks.

In May the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) revised...

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Q2 insolvencies offer no sign of economic storms easing

There are no signs of the pressures on businesses easing off as insolvencies in the second quarter of 2019 (April to June) continued to climb, according to the latest figures released by the Insolvency Service.

While the number of compulsory insolvencies fell, there was a significant increase in the number of CVLs (Company Voluntary Liquidations), which showed a 6.9% increase, an increase of 2.6% in the total numbers of insolvencies compared to the first quarter of the year.

Compared to the same quarter in 2018 the numbers of insolvencies have risen by 11.9%, the highest underlying rate of insolvencies since 2014 according to the Insolvency Service.

It reports that those businesses that have fared worst in the second quarter have been “the accommodation and food service industry with 74 extra cases compared to the 12 months ending Q1 2019 (an increase of 3.4%) and the construction industry with 37 additional insolvencies (a 1.2% increase)”.

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Get independent advice before embarking on costly business litigation

conflict dispute litigation Jul 30, 2019

It is a sad fact that disagreements can arise in the best-run businesses and if they cannot be settled amicably they can result in costly business litigation.

It is also a sad fact that legal fees are often far greater than the damages awarded and. Worse, if you lose and have to pay those of the other side.

While most litigation involves a financial settlement, the underlying dispute can be for a myriad of reasons. Many disputes relate to the non-payment for goods or services that one party believes were provided while the other believes were defective or the terms were not observed. Others may be down to parties falling out or wanting to terminate contracts. Whatever the cause taking issues to court can be extremely expensive if the facts are in dispute.

Often when each side feels that it has much to lose emotions will run high and judgement may be less than impartial.

Very often, when the parties involved realise the length of time that may be involved and the escalation of costs...

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Can fashion retail ever be made sustainable?

governance retail women Jul 25, 2019

It is no secret that High Street retail has been in dire straits for some time, and clothing and fashion retail have particularly suffered.

The most recent, and perhaps most high-profile example has been the struggles of Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, comprising the clothing chains Topshop, Topman, Evans, Wallis, Miss Selfridge, Burton and Dorothy Perkins, to use CVAs as a way of restructuring.

But it is not only physical fashion retail stores that are struggling. ASOS has recently issued its second profit warning in seven months, albeit blaming IT chaos in its overseas warehouses despite overall sales being up 12% in the four months to 30th June.

Obviously, cheap prices and turning around lines quickly, have been the two main things on which fashion retail has been relying. As a consequence, clothes are often made by low-paid workers in appalling conditions, in factories located in countries like Bangladesh.

However, for some years there have been demands from...

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Long term corporate survival can only be achieved by having the right values

There are signs that the Gordon Gekko culture of “greed is good” is dying and that corporate survival will depend on not only giving customers what they want but also being seen to have and act on a wide range of ethical values and behaviours.

In an environment of high employment and significant skill shortages in many sectors, the bargaining power of millennials and Generation X will only strengthen as the older generation of employees retires.

Equally, the power of consumers and customers choosing who to buy from is having a greater impact on corporates’ processes and practices.

In this context, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) policies will no longer be enough. Too many of them have been unmasked as marketing and PR exercises among the larger corporations and of little practical substance. SMEs often fare better, however, being closer to their localities and customer base, where their greater visibility puts them under pressure to be more accountable.

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What are the prospects for UK manufacturing?

economy growth productivity Jul 18, 2019

UK manufacturing output growth held steady in the three months to May, according to the Confederation for British Industry’s (CBI) monthly industrial trends survey.

In July, the CBI reported that in the three months to June UK factory output had turned in its slowest quarterly growth since April 2016.

Furthermore, the CBI reported that ten out of sixteen sub-sectors experienced growth with chemicals, food, drink and tobacco being resilient, while car manufacturing struggled.

Confusingly the CBI also reported that order books deteriorated in the quarter.

By comparison the monthly snapshot from IHS Markit and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply showed that activity levels in the UK manufacturing sector in June had dropped to the lowest level since February 2013.

IHS Markit/Cips found that high stock levels, ongoing Brexit uncertainty, a deteriorating economic backdrop and rising competition contributed to the drop in output. Weak export demand amid a...

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Proposed HMRC preferential status a blow to financing and restructuring

The Government last week published its new draft Finance Bill, which includes the proposal to restore HMRC preferential status as a creditor for distribution in insolvency. This was originally granted in the Insolvency Act 1986 but removed by the Enterprise Act 2002.

In summary, HMRC is currently an unsecured creditor ranking equally with suppliers as trade creditors and unsecured lenders for any pay-out to creditors from an insolvent company. The preference would mean they get paid ahead of unsecured creditors leaving less or nothing for most creditors whose support is necessary when restructuring a company.

There had already been considerable consternation expressed by insolvency practitioners and investors after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the proposal in the Spring, but it seems the Government has decided to press on making only a light amendment to the effect that preferential status will not apply to insolvency proceedings commenced before 6 April 2020.

The...

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