News in brief: skills, Brexit, National Living Wage, Crossrail

News in brief
News in brief

Negotiation is a key skill for SMEs

Bartering for the best deal from suppliers saved 45% of Britain’s SMEs up to £10,000 in the past year, resulting in a potential overall savings of £511million across the sector in the past 12 months.

However, the research commissioned by npower Business and conducted by YouGov, also found that despite the financial benefits three quarters of SMEs say they do not negotiate with their suppliers. In addition, 70% do not negotiate with their energy supplier before agreeing to a contract.

In a bid to encourage SMEs to harness the power of negotiation, npower Business is launching a new campaign, led by the winner of the first series of BBC's The Apprentice, Tim Campbell, to remind companies to negotiate their energy contracts and wider business costs to get the deals they deserve.

Businessman and Apprentice winner Tim Campbell, who is fronting the campaign said: “Throughout my business career, I have always believed in the power of negotiation. It’s a vital skill that can make a huge difference to your business costs and importantly your profits. I am thrilled to be fronting this campaign to get across the message that polite, well-researched negotiation can help you get the perfect deal. Therefore, I’d recommend to pick up the phone today, and start negotiating.”

Widening skills gap threatens UK economy

In 2015, the number of individuals who were under qualified for their job was at its highest level since 2012, meaning that employers are often being forced to hire employees without the skills they need.

This is according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Hybrid workforce solutions firm Gibbs S3 founder and CEO Farida Gibbs says that these figures point to a serious skills issue for the UK economy.

She said: “Prolonged skills shortages are causing serious problems for businesses looking for staff in certain sectors, particularly in IT: in fact, the number of positions left vacant because employers are unable to find workers with the skills or knowledge to fill them has risen by a staggering 130% since 2011.”

Companies who are tied to traditional workforce structures are often unable to implement business critical projects due to a lack of technical knowledge and staff, explains Gibbs. SMEs should consider a more flexible project-based hiring arrangement to adapt to these challenges.

Entrepreneurs still undecided about Brexit

Entrepreneurs and early stage investors are still split on the issue of whether the UK should leave the European Union.

While half of investors (51%) and entrepreneurs (48%) would vote to stay in the EU, 47% of investors and 43% of entrepreneurs would vote to leave, according to new research from Seedrs. Nearly one in 10 entrepreneurs (9%) said that they had no preference either way, compared to just 2% of investors.

In a separate poll, Seedrs asked respondents what impact Britain leaving the EU would have on the UK start-up environment. Almost two thirds (63%) said it would have a negative effect, while 16% said it would be positive. More than one in five (21%) said they were unsure what impact it would have.

Seedrs CEO Jeff Lynn said: “The very even split between the in and out vote shows what a complicated issue this is. It’s clear that this has become a debate lacking real information and that we are instead hearing soundbites from both sides. There is a need to present people with real information to help them make an informed decision in June.”

Businesses in Farringdon & Clerkenwell given a voice to shape the area

Over 67% of the businesses, hotels, restaurants, architects and creative companies located in Farringdon & Clerkenwell, at the heart of the Crossrail project, have voted ‘yes’ to a new business improvement programme. The Business Improvement District (BID) will maximise new opportunities coming to the area as it becomes one of the capital’s best-connected hubs.

With support from Islington Council, the Greater London Authority and Transport for London, the BID is set to give 100-plus businesses a direct voice in shaping the future of an area where footfall will treble in the next two years due to the £42 billion in economic benefits that Crossrail is set to bring to London and the UK.

The BID proposals for Farringdon and Clerkenwell’s businesses include: building competitive advantage for businesses in light of new opportunities, managing the area to minimise the disruption of development, working in partnership with public sector agencies on transport and security improvements and speaking with one voice on key London policies.

Scottish businesses urged to implement National Living Wage

Two weeks before the new UK National Living Wage comes into force, Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop has urged Scotland’s top business influencers to help spread the word among the Scottish business community.

Hundreds of thousands of Scottish workers are set to benefit from the increase on 1 April, which will see the current minimum hourly rate increase to £7.20 from £6.70 for workers aged 25 and over. Many full time workers will see their pay rise by around £900 a year.

Since the beginning of the year, the UK Government has been running an information campaign in Scotland to raise awareness of the changes with both employers and employees. That has included billboards, television and radio advertisements across the country. But there may still be businesses which are unaware of the new legal requirement.

Scotland Office Minister Andrew Dunlop said: “It is crucial that employers in Scotland are aware of the change and understand what they need to do. We are running an information campaign across the country, but are also calling on the business community to help spread the word.”