News in brief: flooding, broadband, interest rates, stress

News in brief
News in brief

BIS announces £6m cash fund to help storm-hit businesses

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced there will be a £6m cash pot available for the estimated 2,500 firms on either side of the Pennines left flooded by the Boxing Day deluge in the north of England.

The package adds to the £5m already announced by the government to help businesses in Lancashire and Cumbria affected by Storm Desmond earlier in December.

Small Business Minister Anna Soubry said: “It’s been a devastating Christmas for many business owners in the north of England who now face the challenge of repairing the damage and reopening their doors.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of towns and cities right across the country and it is vital that we help them start trading again as soon as possible.

“This £6 million is being made available immediately by the government and is part of a wider package of support designed to get people, communities and businesses back on their feet.”

The money forms part of a wider £50 million relief package announced by Communities Secretary Greg Clark on Tuesday, to support households, businesses, communities and local authorities. It is available to businesses caught up in the flooding caused by Storm Eva.

Local growth hubs have more information and should be contacted on how to access the business support.

Welsh businesses benefit from superfast broadband rollout

More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Wales have been helped by the Government’s rollout of superfast broadband, according to the latest figures.

Almost nine out of ten UK homes and businesses now have access to superfast speeds. The rollout is currently expected to pass the four million milestone in Spring 2016.

Almost 3,000 businesses in Wales have had their broadband speed boosted via the connection voucher scheme.

Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “Our rollout of superfast broadband is one of the biggest and most challenging infrastructure projects undertaken by Government in recent times. We need to keep the UK moving with the demands of the digital age, and our tremendous progress throughout 2015 has equipped businesses with the tools they need to grow, and homes with the technology to be part of our online global community.”

Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns said: “This Government was not prepared to let Wales get left behind in the digital age. These figures show just how far we’ve come in bringing faster, more reliable broadband to communities across the country.

“From our rural heartlands, to our urban city centres, this Government’s investment is helping to put Wales at the centre of the digital stage, competing for jobs and inward investment.”

Campaigners call for more transparent interest rates for small businesses

Members of the UK200Group of independent accountancy and law firms have commented on recent news that small companies taking out loans are being charged interest rates as high as 90%, according to campaigners calling for legislation changes to make costs more transparent.

Pressure groups are hoping that their calls will be considered as part of a review of lending to small companies that was launched last weekend by Parliament’s Select Committee on Business, Innovation and Skills. Banks and other lenders are already required by law to publish the annual percentage rate that they charge for loans, credit cards and mortgages, but they are not bound by the same rules when making loans to businesses.

Whittingham Riddell tax partner Duncan Montgomery said: “The assumption is often that a small business is financially astute and can distinguish between different loans and packages easily. The truth is that many entrepreneurs are very knowledgeable about their products and services but lack a little in dealing with complex financial agreements, just like everyone else. Some limit on interest rate would certainly be beneficial, but whenever someone is in doubt over borrowing, just ask your accountant for help; that is what they are there for.”

Employees lose eight and a half work days a year due to poor sleep quality

One in three people in the UK experiences sleep problems, which results in each full-time employee losing an average of eight and a half work days every year, according to digital medicine company Big Health’s World Sleep Survey.

British respondents said that poor sleep negatively impacted many different parts of their everyday living, with many respondents claiming dipped concentration levels at work (46%), the inability to complete work (38%) and struggling to stay awake during the day (27%).

“As we enter the winter months, it’s important that we recognize the widespread effects poor sleep has on our lives,” said co-founder of Big Health and professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford Colin Espie. “Sleep affects us on various levels – mentally, emotionally and physically – so when we have had no or insufficient sleep, we feel the consequences. Physically we will feel lethargic and sleepy, mentally we become slowed down with poorer concentration and memory, and emotionally we may become irritable and rather down, with bursts of hyperactivity.”

Mid-sized businesses believe devolved powers will rebalance the UK economy

Mid-sized businesses in the North of England believe that local devolution will help re-balance the economy and encourage economic growth, while eight in ten firms plan to put pay high on the agenda for 2016, according to new research from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

The research was conducted at 14 Lloyds Bank regional ‘Gameplan’ events around the UK, which brought together the region’s business leaders, policymakers and professionals to discuss the issues that will shape the future of businesses both across the region and the country.

More than 680 respondents answered the survey, which found a geographical split over the economic advantages of local devolution in England and Wales. Almost seven in ten companies (69%) in the North said that devolution would help re-balance the economy and encourage economic growth compared with just four in ten (42%) in the South.

At one end of the scale, seven in ten firms (72%) in Sheffield believed that giving greater power to regional authorities would benefit their region while only two in ten (20%) said the same in Kent.

Around 52% of Owner Managed Businesses (OMBs) say increasing property values and rents are having a significant negative impact on small businesses, according to the latest OMB Barometer from Bank of Cyprus UK.