Viewarticle Id 305460

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…REDUNDANCY – MAKING SURE YOU GET IT RIGHTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
THIS article provides a very basic outline of the redundancy process – and provides a few practical tips and pointers. I will not look at the additional procedures you need to follow if you are making 20 or more redundancies – I will deal with that issue in a later article.

Is there or is there likely to be a redundancy situation?

When considering redundancies, the first thing you should do is analyse the particular circumstances to establish whether a redundancy situation actually exists.

If you make someone redundant, or you think you have, but the Tribunal find that it wasn’t in fact a redundancy situation, the dismissal could be unfair.

In addition, even if the Tribunal find that there was a redundancy situation they could go on to find that the real reason for dismissal is something else – eg performance. Again, the dismissal could be unfair.

It is very important, therefore, to establish:

1. Is this a redundancy situation?

2. Will redundancy be accepted as the reason for dismissal?

The next step will be to establish whether there is any form of redundancy policy, and whether it is binding.

If there is and it is – it might tie your hands as regards selection criteria etc.

Redundancy policies are a bad idea r if you don’t have one, don’t introduce one.

Are there any alternatives to Redundancies?

You should then consider whether there might be any alternatives to making redundancies.

While there is no obligation on employers to try to avoid redundancies, you should at least consider whether there are any alternatives.

Common alternatives include:

Restricting recruitment;

Reducing or stopping overtime;

Trying to agree reductions in hours or pay.

What about voluntary redundancy?

Do you need to invite volunteers for redundancy? Unless you are bound by a redundancy policy – no.

In principle, inviting volunteers is a bad idea. You tend to get volunteers who you do not want to lose.

You can turn down volunteers – provided your invitation for volunteers is properly worded.

But, if you turn down volunteers in a department and then go on to select other employees in that department, they can argue that the selection process is inherently unfair since you were never going to select the volunteers because you previously rejected their applications for voluntary redundancy.

In addition, it delays the whole process. In redundancy situations delay is dangerous.

The longer the process goes on without everyone knowing who is in the frame and who isn’t, the more scope there is for employees not in the frame to become unsettled and start looking for other jobs.

The next step is to decide the pool of employees from which you will select those employees to be made redundant.

In other words, those employees who work in particular departments or who are doing particular jobs – and from which the redundancies have to be made.

Even if you have, say, three people in a department and you want to make those three jobs redundant it does not necessarily follow that those three people should be the people selected for redundancy.

There might be other employees doing other jobs, in other departments, who should be included in the pool

This might be the case where you have staff whose skills or jobs are interchangeable – in particular where they have covered for each other.

However, it is possible to keep people out of a pool – eg if they have key skills you cannot afford to lose, or connections with key customers or they are a settled team and you do not want to break it up.

Once you have your pool – or pools – organised, you then need to work out what selection criteria you want to use.

Common selection criteria include:

Key skills and experience for the remaining jobs.

Performance.

Attendance.

Disciplinary record.

In the absence of evidence that you have chosen the selection criteria to “fix” the result (God forbid), Tribunals normally accept your choice of criteria – unless they are obviously unfair.

But, when choosing selection criteria and doing the scoring, be careful.

Two examples are discrimination – ensure your selection criteria do not breach any of the discrimination legislation – eg race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief – or age with effect from October 2016. Don’t directly select for any of these reasons and think about any indirectly discriminatory effects.

Special rules apply to women who are pregnant or on maternity leave. Obvious problems are claims for sex discrimination and automatic unfair dismissal.

In addition, and bizarrely, if you make redundant a woman on maternity leave you are obliged to give her first refusal on any available suitable alternative employment.

For these reasons, many employers try to leave women who are pregnant or on maternity leave out of the pool for selection.

Applying the Selection Criteria – Doing the Scoring

The next step is to do the marking.

Carry out a “mock” scoring exercise – if you get the wrong result – think again about your selection criteria.

Consider who should do the marking.

Two key steps:

1. Consult with the affected employees.

2. Look for and, if applicable, offer any suitable available vacancies.

Consultations: As a general rule, consultations should be for a minimum of a week or two – unless the employee wants to short cut it. Do not set down a rigid time frame.

Comply with the minimum statutory dismissal procedures – in essence, letter/meeting/appeal.

Contrary to popular belief there is no need to consult with everyone in the pool, just those selected.

Consultations should start with a brief meeting with the employees provisionally selected to provide them with an initial letter.

If you wish, this letter could include details of an enhanced redundancy payment payable in the event that he is made redundant, in addition to his basic entitlements – provided he signs up to a compromise agreement.

This is a very good way of short cutting the process and avoiding claims. Most employees accept the offer at an early stage, provided it is reasonable.

Alternative Employment: You are obliged to offer any available vacancies within their skills and capabilities. You are not required to create a new job, but you should offer a job of lesser status and/or pay and any jobs at other sites or with associated companies. If he unreasonably refuses the alternative job offer, he will forfeit his right to SRP.

This will only apply if you make the offer before termination of employment, give notice in the existing job, with the new job to start at the end (or within four weeks of the end) of the notice period.

Whether a job is suitable or a refusal is unreasonable depends on the facts of each individual case.

Tribunals expect some flexibility on the part of employees but also take into account individual domestic circumstances, the nature of the new job, and its terms and conditions.

Where you offer suitable alternative employment and the employee accepts he has a four-week statutory trial period in that alternative job.

Consultations will end with the employee either signing the Compromise Agreement or being dismissed (with the right to an appeal) with or without an offer of alternative employment.

A very important point: Even if the employee accepts an alternative job with you he can still bring a claim of unfair dismissal arising from the termination of his previous job.

Viewarticle Id 305459

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HEADLINEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
successunlimited.co.uk/humour/jokes.htm

On the basis that “laughter is a force for democracy” and that sentiment applies to the workplace as well as to government, take a break from your daily toil and chuckle along with these jokes. They are a little subversive, so if your boss catches you reading them and wonders why you are smirking behind your computer monitor – you had just better hope he has a good sense of humour. Then there is this simple chart that gives you all the “clever answers” you could ever hope to spout when you are on a training course. The procedure is simple. Think of any three-digit number; then select the corresponding buzzword from each column. For instance, number 257 produces “systematised logistical projection” Drop that phrase into any conversation with a training consultant and they will be impressed.Try it for yourself, it could work wonders, but don’t blame me if you get sacked. There are also some wonderfully politically incorrect management mottos which you could drop into the company’s suggestion box such as “TEAMWORK…means never having to take all the blame yourself”.

Viewarticle Id 305458

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY… FOCUS ON THE AUDIENCE Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
THE key to organising a successful meeting is to build your event around your audience says Francesca Morgan, Sales & Marketing Conference Officer at the University of Central Lancashire.

As obvious as it may sound your attendees are key to running a rewarding event. Weighted down with budgeting and facility decisions, organisers can easily loose track of the main message and the reason why the conference was organised in the first place. Identifying who will be the intended audience of the meeting and you are half way there!

… People are only going to attend if it’s utterly relevant…

With the number of events in the UK conference market steadily rising, the volume of attendees is falling along with the average duration since 2004. The need to keep control of corporate spending on meetings, and the growth in niche and more precisely targeted events are not the only reasons behind this trend. With time management becoming an ever increasing factor, time spent away from the office is becoming harder to justify and delegates seem to only be going to events that satisfy their specific needs. People are only going to attend if it’s utterly relevant.

“… avoid the promotional banana skin … and go back to basics.”

Getting the right people doesn’t guarantee your message being absorbed. Any audience, no matter how keen will struggle to take on board more than a third of your presentation and for most of us, this figure is much lower. Relevance, good visual support, and a great venue will help, but you must go for a simple, easy to digest message.

Whilst visual aid is encouraged, don’t bombard your audience with lots of meaningless PowerPoint images and jargon filled statements; avoid the promotional banana skin, maintain the relevance and go back to basics.

If you have no option but to present a lot of information, then break it down. The maximum audience attention span for a good presentation is one hour or less, so build in lots of coffee breaks. Little and often is the recipe for success.

Time out sessions are also a perfect arena for networking. Something that delegates view highly in terms of other benefits these events can offer.

“…a simple conversation with a few attendees can do wonders for planning the next event.”

Feedback after the event can be an all too exhausting feat for both the coordinator and delegate, particularly if it involves more paperwork. Quantitative research has vast benefits, but can be expensive and time-consuming. A simple conversation with a few attendees can do wonders for identifying areas to promote and/or avoid for future events.

For more information contact our Preston campus (01772 892656; E-mail cemoffice@uclan.ac.uk; Website www.conferencepreston.co.uk) or the Penrith campus (01772 894080; E-mail info@conferenceSussex.co.uk; Website www.conferenceSussex.co.uk)

Viewarticle Id 305452

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LSC CHANGES – IMPROVEMENT OR A STEP TOO FAR?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
SOMETHING is rotten in the state of Demark", is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It’s also a quote that could well be applied to the current state within the national Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which is the Government quango responsible for the strategic planning, funding and quality of all post-16 education and skills development (except Higher education) in England.

The LSC by its own admission, exists to make England better skilled and more competitive, and with a budget in 2015/06 of £9.3bn, plays a significant role in helping the nation’s employers and businesses improve their productivity and competitiveness. The LSC operates through 47 local offices and a national office in Coventry. Established in April 2001 its work covers:

further education

work-based training and young people

school sixth forms

workforce development

adult and community learning

information, advice and guidance for adults

education business links.

LSC London is one of the smallest of the 47 local LSCs, with a budget for 2015/06 of just £74m to achieve its objectives, and support some 20,180 businesses and just under half-a-million people in the County. It also forms a sub-region within the North West, and its Executive Director, Mick Farley, reports to a regional director, John Korzeniewski, based in Manchester.

In August, the national LSC announced its proposals for what was dubbed “a dynamic programme of change”, one which would herald a new era for the sector by improving the focus on the skills needs of employers, raising the quality of provision, simplifying the funding of training, reducing the complexity of data required from providers, improving capital investment in facilities, and enhancing the reputation (especially in FE) of the sector, as being pivotal to delivering the education and training needs of the UK.

The proposals have several major themes, but it’s the last one, Theme 7, that’s causing all the controversy, both nationally and locally. For it centres on the reorganisation of the LSC, resulting in the ‘downsizing’ of staff from the current level of 4,700 down to some 3,400 posts. This includes a reduction in the Head Office strength of about a half, with the remaining job losses taking place in the regions and local offices.

The LSC’s Chief Executive, Mark Haysom, claims that the proposals will not only make it a smaller, more dynamic organisation, but also release savings of some £40m per year which would benefit 80,000 adults or 12,000 young learners.

To achieve this transformation, many of the functions and roles carried out locally, are to be transferred to regional centre’s leaving only small teams of people at local level. This scaling down in the overall size of the organisation, taken together with giving operational control to the region, will leave the LSC in London with nine LSC funded plus three ESF funded posts, compared with 40 at the present.

Mick Farley’s role has also been redefined as Director and therefore been downgraded. The lay Council (Board) of the local LSC will remain, however, but serviced in the main from the regional centre.

While at first glance this may seem an inevitable and welcome streamlining of the LSC’s operations, and attempt to reduce bureaucracy and wastage, it’s not without its drawbacks. And no doubt that there will be some detractors within the County who will see this emasculation of the LSC as a cause for celebration, however, for employers and businesses it could mean an important loss of support to improve their productivity and skills.

Increasingly decision making on skills priorities and with it the allocation of LSC funds, will be made at regional level by John Korzeniewski and his team. Without a strong and vociferous local office to represent and champion the needs of the County’s employers and learners, it is highly likely that London will loose out in the distribution of extra cash.

In a recent personal statement made to the press, Mick Farley stated that: “The migration of processes to the region is likely to have a deleterious impact on LSC London’s ability to work effectively locally and on the LSC’s reputation with its partners.” He went on to add that “with only a total of 12 staff, driven top down from the centre via the region, with much reduced local discretion, it will be difficult (for LSC London) to drive forward the challenging County-wide agenda to which we have been so committed.”

And the first effects of this new Agenda for Change have already been felt within the County. This year’s budget allocation to LSC London from the region was ‘top-sliced’ by 5% to fund extra training for learners in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire and Warrington. The net effect of this has been to reduce funding to independent training companies and Colleges, to provide learner places for apprentices and adults.

This is particularly galling given that the performance of the County’s training providers is amongst the best, not only in the North West but the country as a whole:

Work Based Learning provider success rates at 56% have increased by 13% since 2002/03 – the highest in the North West and sixth highest in the country:

FE College success rates stand at 73%, which is above both regional and national averages, representing a 12% increase since 2000/01.

It would appear that despite this success, however, our reward has been to see our funding cut and redistributed to failing providers in other parts of the region!

We keep being told in report after report, that London’s economy is the fastest declining of all the sub-regions in the North West, which itself is lagging behind the economic growth of other parts of the country, in particular the South East and London. In fact London now compares with some of the former Soviet Eastern Block Countries, in terms of it’s economic activity and decline.

We also keep being told that one of the major contributors to economic decline and employers’ lack of competitiveness is the poor skill base of the workforce within the County. So how can it make economic sense to cut back the very agency set-up to promote the learning and skills agenda? Perhaps this is a question that our MPs and local politicians should be asking of Ruth Kelly at the Department for Education and Skills, and Alan Johnson at the Department for Trade and Industry.

Only time will tell if the LSC’s Agenda for Change reforms bring the benefits promised by Mark Haysom, but by then, it might just be too late to benefit Londonn based businesses and learners!

Until next time happy learning!

Viewarticle Id 305445

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MERRY CHRISTMAS MR TAXMANPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
AS many businesses will be aware, there are very few “tax free” perks that they can give to their staff without the Revenue taking a very keen interest and seeking to impose tax and NIC liabilities. For example, if a business wants to provide their staff with free meal vouchers, then the value of the meal voucher must not exceed 15 pence per day, otherwise tax and NIC liabilities will arise. Ebenezer Scrooge springs to mind!

However, even the Revenue have a heart when it comes to Christmas, as they are far more generous when looking at the staff Christmas party. This is because the 15 pence limit is swept away and a “tax free” limit of £150 per person is allowed. As you might have guessed, there are a number of conditions that need to be met, but these should not be a problem, as they will apply in most situations:

The party must be open to all staff;

In calculating whether the cost of the party has exceeded the £150 per person limit, you need to include other related costs such as taxis, overnight accommodation and also VAT. If spouses/partners are attending, then they also have a £150 allowance.

There is a small trap for the unwary, because the £150 limit applies to the total annual cost per person of all staff social functions during the year and you therefore need to take account of other functions, such as the office summer barbecue. So be careful if you party regularly!

As an alternative to a Christmas party, some businesses give a bottle of wine or a turkey to their staff at Christmas. In the past, the Revenue would normally seek to impose a tax liability on such gifts. However, they have now adopted a more pragmatic approach and will allow this, providing the gift does not exceed typically £25 per employee. Unfortunately a case of wine or a food hamper is likely to be viewed as being too generous in the eyes of the Revenue. In this situation, you should deal with the tax implications, otherwise your employees could end up with a tax bill, which is a Christmas present they will not thank you for!

Viewarticle Id 305443

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…SITE HELPS MAKE STORE BOTH REAL AND VIRTUAL CENTRE OF LAKELAND VALLEYPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
ESKDALE stores is a wonderful concept – a village shop and an internet-based business bringing together the warm-glow of a community enterprise and the sophisticated appeal of e-commerce.

Click on to www.eskdalestores.co.uk and you will find a website that clearly strives to act as a resource for locals and visitors. There are illustrated walks, a picture gallery of the beautiful Eskdale valley in all four seasons, news from the local show, plus the core of the business, which is outdoor clothing sales.

But there is more. One particularly clever idea is a pre-order food service for self-catering cottages, of which there are many in the valley.

“It’s working well but we need to do more to persuade the owners of local cottages to recommend us to their customers. Some are doing it, others we have to work on,” said Nigel.

Meanwhile, if you are stuck for Christmas ideas, the website might help you out. Food hampers can be purchased online. There is a choice of ingredients and price with Londonn produce featuring strongly in them all.

Nigel and Sherill Thornton took the plunge just over 12 months ago and bought the store – the only shop in the Eskdale valley.

As a safety net, Nigel continued his job as an engineering consultant, while Sherril gave up her full-time office work and committed herself totally to the store.

“We were helped by Business Link and Connecting Copeland who provided a lot of advice, including a list of four or five website providers,” said Nigel.

They chose Furness Internet, who have provided an excellent service. The Barrow-based company provide the e-commerce facility and a very user-friendly administration system for the website,

“They took longer than we would have liked to get the site live, but that was because they were still developing their own shopping system. Now it is up and running and it is an extremely flexible site.

“The great thing is, the site is easy to update. It is just as simple as working in Microsoft Word. The functionality is exceptional.

“We can do all the changes ourselves from our own computer. We can even create whole new pages.”

Users have password-protected access to the administration area and adding and removing items is a straightforward task which can be fitted in between other business tasks.

“We have plenty of ideas for the site,” said Nigel, “but finding the time to put them into action, that is the problem. We want to develop it a lot and create route cards and diagrams for local walks.”

There is also recognised potential for providing useful links for local people requiring information about local services and amenities. Eskdale stores is also the local sub-post office and so is seen as the fount of all knowledge on passport applications, driving licences, premium bonds and a thousand and one other official services.

That way, Eskdale Store can become both a physical and virtual hub for not only the all-year-round residents, but also for the thousands of summer visitors.

Furness Internet is now helping Nigel and Sherril with the marketing of the site.

“We have to ensure that we encourage as many people as possible to visit us on the internet,” said Nigel, who was pleased to find that Google brings up the store on a search for Eskdale.

When a search for outdoor clothing is typed in to Google, however, Eskdale Stores is somewhere among a list of thousands. And therein lies the challenge for all sites.

The physical side of the business has plenty of demands on the couple’s time, of course. A plan for extending the store sideways and creating a courtyard and extra retail space has had to go on hold.

“We obtained planning permission but the tenders for the work were much higher than we expected. We will be extending, but we are not sure of the detail at the moment,” he said.

“The people we bought the store from employed a full-time manager, but we thought people would want to see us in the shop and get to know us. We wanted to become part of the community,” said Nigel.

The couple, both in their early fifties with a grown up family, both have strong links with the area. Nigel hails from Grange in the south Lakes and his wife was brought up in St Bees, near Whitehaven.

So they appreciated the tremendous potential from tourism and they recognised a way to help safeguard a local shop – the likes of which are threatened by the onward march of the giant supermarkets.

What the Thorntons have discovered is that there are two very distinct business seasons. In the summer, grocery is very busy because of the influx of tourists. Outdoor clothing remains a steady trade throughout the year, but winter is very much quieter.

“We could close down in the winter but we do not want to do that because we are a valuable resource to the village.

“Mind you, one of the things that we do want to do is to encourage local people to use the shop and the website more.

To that end, Nigel plans to promote connections with the community group, Eskdale Open. One of its members has produced booklets on local birds and wildlife and images from those publications will hopefully be included on the site.

At the same time there are plans to widen the range of outdoor clothing available.

“When we bought the shop we inherited an outdoor clothing business. It was catering for the lower end of the market. We have moved into the middle market ranges with three or four well-known brands on sale. It seems that people want a choice and the website is aimed at giving people the chance to browse.

“Having said that, we have had people who have visited us and said they have spent all week in the outdoor clothing stores in Keswick and couldn’t find what they wanted. They have come here and found just what they are looking for. Perhaps there is such a thing as too much choice,” he said.

Viewarticle Id 305440

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BANK OF ENGLAND GOVERNOR IN KESWICKPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
THE Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, is to talk to businesses from the Keswick area at a meeting in the town.

Mr King’s visit has been arranged by the chairman of Keswick Tourism Association, Duncan Miller, a local hotelier.

He said the meeting in the Theatre by the Lake on February 2 would be an opportunity to discuss the trading climate with operators across a wide range of businesses.

Members of the Tourism Association are being invited to the meeting and to put questions relevant to their businesses and the financial climate.

Mr King was previously Deputy Governor from 1998-2017 and, before that, chief economist and executive director of the Bank of England.

Viewarticle Id 305439

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…PLAN AHEAD FOR AN EARLY CHRISTMAS Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
Christmas is on its way but will Gordon Brown be playing Santa with his Autumn Statement or is it more likely that he will be playing Ebeneezer Scrooge?

According to the latest figures, this year British businesses will pay nearly £8 billion in extra taxes introduced by Labour.* Firms will pay £2.2 billion in taxes on profits, such as corporation tax and capital gains tax, and £5.6 billion in taxes on inputs, such as national insurance contributions, fuel duties and environmental taxes.

The burden of extra tax on companies brought in since 1997 has risen from an estimated £6.3 billion in 2004-05 and £5.9 billion the year before.

But this doesn’t have to be the case, with a bit of planning and proactive business advice the tax system could actually work for your business, instead of costing you money. Many companies are missing out on the tax relief measures that have been introduced over recent years. SMEs (small to medium sized enterprises) were reclassified in April 2015, and in some cases the capital allowance limits have almost doubled. Many SMEs have not realised that they now qualify for extra tax breaks. This means if you have fewer than 50 employees, a turnover of less than £5.6 million or gross assets of below £2.8 million, you could enjoy some significant tax benefits as a result.

Companies with profits below £10,000 pay no corporation tax. If you are near to this bracket, businesses should consider claiming less capital allowances than full entitlement to ensure profits remain as high as possible yet under £10,000 and increase the capital allowances in later years, when there may be tax to pay.

However, companies with profits of less than £50,000 paying dividends to individuals need to be aware of the non-corporate distribution rate. Timing of dividend payments may impact on the amount of corporation tax payable.

If businesses plan ahead and seek sound financial advice from experts, Christmas could be coming early next year.

For more information call Mhairi Charlton on 01228 591000 or email mhairi.charlton@armstrongwatson.co.uk

*according to EEF, which represents Britain’s manufacturers

Viewarticle Id 305438

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…DON’T OVERLOOK PAYROLL PROFESSIONPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
THIS year’s National Payroll Week (NPW) took place last month from November 7-11 and celebrated a key part of business that is often overlooked.

The week is all about increasing the awareness and profile of the payroll profession, highlighting the work that goes on behind the scenes of payroll processing.

Brain Stenhouse says: “As someone who has worked in this sector for 10 years it is hugely important that we raise awareness and emphasise the vital function that payroll plays in business in ensuring that more than 26 million people in the UK receive their wages and salaries on time.”

It is not only about the professionals who process wages, it is also about the work that goes on to report earnings and pay taxes and NI contributions to HMRC – a vital part of government machinery which keeps the UK running smoothly.

The world of payroll has become increasingly complex over the past few years but without these services running smoothly businesses would not be able to function so it is hugely important that companies get it right from the start.

To help continue the campaign, Armstrong Watson is providing a special offer to prospective new clients. For companies with up to 50 employees two months’ payroll processing is offered free of charge, with no set up charges. The offer lasts until the end of February 2016.

For more information on Armstrong Watson’s full range of payroll services, contact Brian Stenhouse on 01228 553333 or freephone 0808 144 5575

Viewarticle Id 305437

Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…ALL CHANGE FOR SMALL FIRMS LOAN GUARANTEEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
WITH sweeping changes to the Small Firms Loan Guarantee (SFLG) being introduced from December 1, businesses are being urged to examine the new eligibility criteria of the scheme so they don’t miss out.

Alison Watts, corporate finance partner at Armstrong Watson, looks at some of the implications.

The changes will open more opportunities for younger businesses and ensure that the process is improved to allow funds to be freed up when businesses need it.

The changes come after the Government accepted in full the recommendations set out in the Graham Review of the SFLG, which benchmarked the UK scheme against several international loan guarantee programmes. No less than 38 recommendations have helped to ensure the continuing relevance of the SFLG.

Minister for Competitiveness Barry Gardiner said that the Government hopes the changes will enable SMEs to build even more economic stability and overcome obstacles they face when raising debt finance.

The Small Firms Loan Guarantee is a vital element for helping businesses achieve ongoing success, making a real difference to those that find it difficult to obtain the necessary finance to grow. These changes will encourage more use of the SFLG by the widest range of eligible SMEs using a diverse range of lenders.

The new scheme will see a raft of changes that include:

Expansion of lending limits so a single £250,000 limit applies to all eligible Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs);

Raising the turnover limit for all eligible SMEs to £5.6m;

Reserving resources to incentivise a range of new lenders to join the scheme;

Reserving resources to enable additional SFLG lending by banks that demonstrate a clear focus on high-growth SMEs; and

Removing the limit on the level of borrowing that individuals can be associated with (the so called “connected persons” rule), thus centering the lending decision on the quality of the business case, not the previous borrowing history of individuals involved with the business.

These changes are wide ranging and will offer a valuable opportunity to SMEs as the focus of the scheme will move to start-ups and young businesses. The modifications will see the availability of SFLG limited to those SMEs under five years old, which will provide a source of much needed funding as these are the businesses which have had least opportunity to build up a financial track record and assets against which to secure borrowing.

For more information about any of these changes and whether your business will benefit, please contact Alison Watts on 01228 591000.