News in brief: new laws, Northern Powerhouse, EU, productivity

New Act to help SMEs stand up to the bigger guys
New Act to help SMEs stand up to the bigger guys

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act is here

The much anticipated Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act has arrived, containing a number of measures which together represent significant change for companies and Companies House customers.

The Act intends to provide a boost to the economy, making it easier for businesses to find the valuable information they need. It should also ensure the UK is seen as a trusted and fair place to do business.

All companies will be affected in some way, as the measures change legal requirements on companies, including what they file with Companies House. This will impact a company’s systems and processes.

Changes may still happen as secondary legislation passes through Parliament. We will keep you updated and release more information as this becomes available.

Measures under the Act will help small businesses by:

  • improving access to finance through increasing the availability and sources of investment for small businesses
  • opening up access to small business credit data, levelling the playing field between providers and making it easier for a small business to seek a loan from a lender other than their bank
  • requiring banks to pass on details of small and mid-sized businesses they decline for a loan, with the firm’s permission, to online platforms which can help match them with alternative finance providers
  • increasing transparency on payment practices and policies through a tough new reporting requirement on the UK’s largest companies
  • cutting down on red-tape by ensuring that regulations affecting business are reviewed frequently and remain effective
  • appointing an independent Small Business Appeals Champion for non-economic regulators to ensure that the needs of business – particularly small firms – are taken into account with an understandable and effective appeals and complaints process
  • introducing a Pubs Code and Adjudicator to govern the relationship between large pub-owning companies and their tied tenants, bringing fairness to the sole traders and small businesses that run thousands of tied pubs across England and Wales
  • assisting small business expansion overseas, increasing the support available from UK Export Finance
  • streamlining public procurement to remove barriers so that small businesses can gain better, more direct access to public sector contracts.

MP looks to strengthen the Northern Powerhouse

In order to identify investment opportunities which could boost the economy across the Northern Powerhouse, MP James Wharton met with leaders from the business community this week.

Wharton met with chief executives and chairs of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) - bodies made up of council and local business leaders - across the North, during which he underlined how they had a crucial role to play in the government’s efforts to rebalance the economy.

Speaking after the event, James Wharton said: “So far we have secured a host of devolution deals, and invested in transport, science and the arts across the region. Yet if the Northern Powerhouse were to grow at the same projected rate as the rest of the UK, it would add an extra £37 billion to our national economy by the end of the next decade.

“That is why we are bringing together local leaders to discuss further investment projects to realise our potential. The Northern Powerhouse has massive potential to drive the UK’s economy, and its prospects make it a lucrative place to invest and live.”

The minister is keen to highlight the potential of the Northern Powerhouse, which if it were a country it would have the 10th largest economy in the whole of Europe.

In addition, recent findings from research by the London Stock Exchange group that highlighted that almost 80% of the fastest growing stock listed companies in the UK were headquartered outside of London, with Manchester and Leeds among those cities leading the way.

European Union’s Single Market is London’s greatest advantage

Access to the European Union’s Single Market is the single greatest strength of the United Kingdom’s capital, according to 95% of over 200 of the city’s business leaders.

The latest CBI/CBRE London Business Survey found that three quarters of businesses (74%) have customers, and nearly two thirds (63%) have suppliers, in EU countries, providing London with a significant advantage over other global cities.

Around 93% of firms rate the capital as a good, or very good, place to do business, and 83% deem London’s status as an international hub – and the reach that that provides – as being above average when compared with cities like New York, Hong Kong, Paris and Tokyo.

CBI London Director Lucy Haynes said: “Access to the European Single Market of 500 million consumers is obviously a major boon to London’s firms, and this survey shows the strong desire of the capital’s firms to remain in a reformed European Union.”

Employees are more productive than they get credit for

Managers consistently underestimate their employees’ productivity levels, suggesting a divided culture between management staff and their subordinates in the workplace, and pointing to a lack of engagement and trust among managers.

This is according to a new survey on workplace habits from document productivity company Nitro, which partnered with Qualtrics to survey more than 1000 employees working in a typical office environment. Respondents in non-managerial roles were asked how they typically spend their time in the office, while managers were asked about how they think their employees spend their time in the office.

  • Personal admin tasks - Managers overestimate the time their employees spend doing personal admin tasks while at work, with almost half (46%) predicting this takes up 15-30 minutes of an average worker’s day. In fact, the majority of workers (59%) claim they wouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes catching up on personal admin in the office
  • Social media distractions – Managers overestimate the amount of time their staff spend browsing social media sites each day. 36% claim their workers spend 15-30 minutes on social media when in fact the majority (59%) admitted to less than 15 minutes a day
  • Phone checking - According to the employees themselves, half (48%) said they only check their phone once every few hours, yet 75% of managers estimated that it happens at least once an hour, with a third (31%) claiming it happens up to five times an hour (only 10% of workers admitted to this)

Businesses in Rugeley invited to discuss flood prevention proposals

The Environment Agency is inviting local residents and businesses to attend a drop-in event to discuss proposals for the Rugeley flood risk management scheme. The drop-in will be held from 3.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday 25 February at Rugeley Leisure Centre Burnthill Lane Rugeley WS15 2HZ.

The Environment Agency and local council will be on hand to provide the latest information about the scheme.

The town centre is at risk of flooding from Rising Brook. The proposed scheme will help to reduce the risk to over 114 residential properties and 157 commercial properties and also forms an integral part of the local council’s plans to regenerate parts of the town centre.

The proposal includes constructing an embankment on Hagley playing fields to hold water from Rising Brook during a flood.

Environment Agency project officer, Will Groves said: “As well as helping to reduce the risk of flooding for residents and businesses, the scheme also involves improving the local playing fields and reinstating the bridge. This drop in event is another chance for residents and businesses to see these proposals and ask any questions.”