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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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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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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Is your business one of the many just hanging on?

The newly-published insolvency figures for Q3 (July to September) show a massive increase in the number of businesses entering Administrations.

A mid-October report by Begbies Traynor reported that the number of British businesses in significant financial distress has risen by 40% since the Brexit vote – with those in the property, construction, retail and the travel sectors the hardest hit and 489,000 companies in significant distress up by 22,000 on this time last year.

This was followed by KPMG’s recent analysis of London Gazette notices of companies entering into Administration and the picture became clearer with yesterday’s statistics from the Insolvency Service.

Administrations increased by 20% in the last quarter, compared to the previous quarter, to reach their highest level since Q1 2014. CVLs (Company Voluntary Liquidations) rose by only 2.3% compared to the previous quarter but were still at their highest quarterly level since Q1 2012.

The...

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The state of manufacturing in the UK and globally

brexit economy sme smes Oct 01, 2019

This month’s Key Indicator looks at the state of manufacturing in the UK and globally and by all indications, it is struggling everywhere.

While the proportion of manufacturing as a part of individual national economies varies all economies depend on trade with each other and in an interconnected world a slowdown in one place can have a significant impact on others.

China is currently the No 1 in the world in terms of manufacturing output valued at $2,010 billion representing 27% of national output. USA is second ($1,867, 12%); Japan third  ($1,063, 19%); followed by Germany ($700, 23%); South Korea ($372, 29%); India ($298, 16%); France ($274, 11%) and Italy ($264, 16%).  The UK trails these countries in ninth place with $244 billion manufacturing output representing 10% of national output.

Poland meanwhile has the highest percentage of its workforce employed in manufacturing, followed by Germany, Italy, Turkey, and South Korea.

In the UK, manufacturing makes up 11%...

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Can SMEs afford to wait any longer for a business rates review?

Retailers have been calling for months for a business rates review as the decimation of the UK’s High Street continues.

In early August more than 50 leading retailers wrote to the Chancellor urging him to change tax rules to boost the UK High Street and the business law firm RPC has reported that there has been a 65% increase in the number of businesses challenging their rates bill in the last quarter, with 4,000 challenges made in the first quarter of 2019, up from 2,430 challenges in Q4 2018.

RPC explains that the increase in challenges shows broadening dissatisfaction with business rates. Jeremy Drew, Co-Head of Retail at RPC, explains that the property tax is so complex that each new ratings review sees thousands of challenges lodged by businesses.

The retailers’ call was reinforced later in the month by the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), whose chief economist Rain Newton Smith said reform would be an enormous help to companies facing...

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What is AIM and is it beneficial to SMEs to apply for AIM listing?

small business sme smes Sep 24, 2019

It is coming up to 25 years since AIM (Alternative Investments Market), the London Stock Exchange’s junior stock market, was launched and it now lists around 3,600 businesses.

According to the accounting firm BDO, “AIM is the most successful growth market of its type in the world” and in the last five years AIM-listed businesses “have created an additional 76% jobs, now employing almost 390,000 people”.

The London Stock Exchange website explains that AIM is targeted at smaller, and growing, businesses and offers them “the benefits of a world-class public market within a regulatory environment designed specifically to meet their needs”.

It is a multilateral trading facility, operated and regulated by the London Stock Exchange under FCA rules.

Candidates for AIM listing do not have to have a trading track record, but they must abide by the rules. There are very clear guidelines on how to apply for AIM listing on the Stock...

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Late payments situation getting worse for some SMEs

According to the ICAEW (Independent Chartered Accountants of England and Wales) late payments to SMEs are a bigger problem than they were a year ago.

Of the nine SME industries analysed, it said, six had reported that the problem of late payments was worsening.

The FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) too, has said that while there have been some improvements thanks to the efforts of the Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal, late payments remain a major problem and research by Lloyds Bank Commercial released at the end of last month found that last year almost two thirds (62%) of SMEs that were being paid late “failed to chase up for fear of harming customer relationships” also cited time constraints as a significant factor.

The cost to small businesses has been considerable, according to research published by Hitachi Capital earlier this month. It estimates late payments have cost SMEs £51.5bn in the last year.

Its survey of 1000 businesses found...

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The cost to SMEs of IT failures

The pressure to do everything online is inexorable but what is the cost to businesses of IT failures?

Perhaps one of the most frequent and difficult issues facing SMEs is the seemingly frequent meltdowns of both banking systems and government websites.

This is without considering the issues of cyber-attacks on companies where the FSB has recently calculated UK small firms are subject to nearly 10,000 cyber-attacks a day, with over a million small firms hit by phishing, malware attacks and payment scams.

Obviously it is in businesses’ own interests to have robust IT systems in place including cyber security, but the frustrations of IT failures are a different issue and often not of their own making since the counter parties also need to have adequate IT systems and security at their end.

Since 2018 the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) has required banks to publish information about the number of major operational and security incidents they have experienced.

...

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