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The UK Equine industry is worth £4 billion a year. It employs 270,000 people full-time

Have a look at our feature archive for in depth stories about the equine business and the people behind themFeaturesArchive.html

Capital funding opportunity for equestrianism

Need a new roof on your stables, specialist riding equipment or outdoor lighting for the menage?

Businesses looking to improve or upgrade their riding establishments to encourage more participation in equestrianism, can now apply for Capital Funding opportunities for investment in facilities or equipment (not horses) from the British Equestrian Federation, provided by Sport England. This is a £1/£1 match funding opportunity, for all equestrian schools or riding centres, groups and organisations throughout the country.

Bids submitted should be for no less than £1,000 and no more than £25,000 and Grants will be awarded to those projects that can clearly deliver significant engagement opportunities for equestrianism and have positive and sustainable impact in their local community. Projects requesting funding will need to be complete and claimed for no later than 31st March 2012.

 The BEF will also run a similar capital funding investment programme between 2012 and 2013 offering a further opportunity to apply for support for a project that is not quite ready now.

 Further information and the application form are available by clicking on the following link .To be considered, all applications for grants must be received by BEF on Wednesday 31st August.

 In addition to the BEF funding, Sport England has launched a £50million programme known as 'Inspired Facilities', part of the legacy programme bringing the magic of the Olympics and Paralympic Games into communities across the country.

 Further details available from www.sportengland.org/inspiredfacilities

Private sector is the sole source of wealth creation in our society, says BCC

Commenting on the Office for Budget Responsibility's (OBR) new fiscal sustainability report, and the Treasury's publication of new public sector balance sheet information, David Kern, above, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

"The publication of more comprehensive public sector accounts, and the OBR's fiscal sustainability report, is an important contribution to the transparency of our public finances, and provides a meaningful basis for debating long-term policy issues.

"The OBR's projections show that our public finances will come under growing long-term pressure mainly as a result of the ageing population. The conclusion, that in the absence of offsetting tax increases or spending cuts, Britain's public sector net debt will become unsustainable, makes for grim reading. Public sector net debt could reach 110% of GDP by 2061, and could climb even higher. The very large liabilities associated with public sector pension claimants are estimated at £1133bn, 78.7% of GDP, at the end of March 2010.

"The OBR's report suggests that, even if the government's tough austerity plan is implemented successfully, we will not be able to return to the levels of public spending seen before the downturn. We have to accept the need to adapt our economic and social ambitions to our more limited resources. That means acknowledging that the private sector is the sole source of wealth creation in our society. Only greater productivity and higher growth in the private sector can pay for public sector services and public sector pensions in the future. Businesses must be able to create jobs, invest and export, and the government has to make good on its promises to free up the private sector to grow."

£40,000 awards for entrepreneurs with eco-friendly business ideas

The competition, which awards no-strings grants of up to £40,000 for compelling business concepts tackling climate change, has been running since 2005 and has awarded more than £2m to 53 small businesses since then

Run by Shell UK, the awards assess applicants' business ideas based on their ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as taking into account the commercial viability and originality of the concept.

Previous winners include Cella Energy, which was awarded £40,000 last year for its invention of a hydrogen fuel capture system, and Ashwoods Automotive Ltd, which won a 2010 award after devising a new way to extend the lifespan of car batteries.

As well as the cash prize, winning the award offers small businesses the chance to raise their profile and attract new investment. Since winning its grant Cella has grown its business tenfold and has begun to expand globally, and Ashwoods' award has stimulated £700,000 of new investment.

Speaking at the opening of the awards programme for this year's ceremony, CEO of Cella Energy Steven Voller said: "Winning the Shell Springboard award was a huge boost to our business. It was an excellent platform to showcase our technology and helped us secure global investment. I encourage anyone with a good idea for tackling the climate challenge to enter the awards."

Chairman of Shell UK Graham Van't Hoff said of the award: "Small businesses are currently developing an abundance of low-carbon technologies. Shell Springboard offers no-strings financial awards to these businesses to progress their ideas and help these technologies come to fruition."

To enter, visit: www.shellspringboard.org.

Local government finance review must not be a revenue raising exercise for councils

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the Government's review looking at the way local authorities in England are financed, but warns that the new powers must not be used to raise revenue at the expense of business. It is also imperative that the funding local councils receive from central government is safeguarded so that all parts of the country can benefit from the new system.

The FSB is supportive of moves to create a system which incentivises councils to prioritise business growth, through being able to keep more of the business rates from firms in the region. If approached correctly this system would help to create better and stronger relationships between councils and local businesses, particularly if local authorities recognise that they will only succeed in stimulating growth with the help of businesses.

However, any changes must encourage councils to stimulate growth in a way which is sustainable; making small business growth the bedrock of the local economy, not just as a way to quickly raise revenues.

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:"Many businesses think that the rates they pay go straight to their local authority when in fact they go into a central pot and are then redistributed. While this consultation aims to make the process fairer and more transparent - in that a local authority will be able to keep more of the rates it collects - it must not be allowed to be used as a revenue raising exercise for councils at the expense of business. It is therefore imperative that business rates continue to be set centrally. "Central government must also ensure that different types of relief - such as Small Business Rate Relief - remain fully funded, so that there is still a strong incentive to promote them locally. Councils that increase the number of small businesses in their area and improve the take up of relief must not end up worse off as a result."

Government call for late-payers

to be named and shamed

The government has joined calls for late payers to be named and shamed - and has targeted its own contractors

Cabinet minister Francis Maude said the government will monitor the performance of Whitehall's suppliers - including giants Serco, Capita and G4S - to ensure they pay subcontractors "well within" a 30-day limit.

Furthermore Maude invited small firms to anonymously identify clients who delay payment and promised to publish the results on the cabinet office website.

Maude's call to action follows last month's launch of a 'Late Payment Hall of Shame' by the Forum of Private Business (FPB), giving small companies the opportunity to nominate tardy clients. In May, research from Bacs showed that Britain's small firms are owed over £24bn in overdue invoices.

Maude said: "It is inexcusable not to pay up quickly. We will be keeping a close eye on the big suppliers and we won't shy away from naming and shaming those that have failed to pay promptly."

Last year Maude forced Serco to apologise, after it tried to avoid an initiative under which large government contractors were due to offer a 2.5% cash rebate to subcontractors on work already completed - delivering savings of £800m to the small business sector. Serco is currently introducing 30-day terms for all its sub-contractors.

Meanwhile, the Government has committed to paying its own invoices to small firms within 10 days.

A spokesperson from the Cabinet Office said: "We've already shown that the Government doesn't shy away from condemning bad behaviour by suppliers."

 

Fast track for small business planning applications will be a key driver for growth 

Small firms must be able to fast-track their planning applications so they can grow their business and benefit the economy, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said in a new report

The FSB believes that unless small firms are able to cut through the bureaucracy as part of the overhaul of the planning system, it will just be yet another barrier in the way of the country's economic growth. 

Small firms might only want to make minor changes to their business, but with banks still not lending and contracts still being paid late, it all adds up and prevents small businesses from growing and so too the country.

New statistics from the FSB ‘Voice of Small Business' survey panel show that more than half of small businesses of the 1,700 small firms responding to survey find planning applications overly complex and two fifths find the process far too costly.

Just over half (53%) of small firms that have applied for planning permission over the past two years said that the rules and process were overly complex, and 38 per cent said that the process had higher costs than they had anticipated. 

The FSB is concerned that small businesses are put off from investing time and money into expanding because of the concern about having to go through a drawn-out, complicated planning application. 

Small firms tend to submit applications for minor changes, yet still have to go through a long and costly process. In a new report, ‘Small business and infrastructure: Planning', the FSB is calling on the Government to ensure there is a fast track for small business planning applications to enable small firms to grow and expand, which is needed to really grow the economy. 

The survey showed that small businesses that have applied for planning permission are more likely to apply for a change of property use (30%), a new build (26%), extension (24%) or minor improvement (14%). Only one per cent of applications submitted by small firms are for large developments.

Government has listened to the FSB and small firms on the role of businesses in neighbourhood planning – agreeing on the importance of small businesses being represented on neighbourhood forums - but urges the Government to go further still to ensure that small businesses are encouraged to submit their planning applications needed to grow their business. 

The FSB welcomes the proposed ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development' - which will run through the NPPF and aims to create a planning regime that will encourage growth - but urges the Government to ensure that the presumption promotes a system that is free of unnecessary delay, and does not favour big business at the expense of smaller firms. The FSB would also like to see safeguards in the NPPF to protect existing trading centres, such as the high street.

The FSB is calling the Government to:

  1. Make the planning system clearer, easier and cheaper for small firms, and change the process of planning applications for minor building works to ensure that small firms are encouraged to submit planning applications to grow or diversify their business

  2. Work closely with small businesses to ensure that the measures introduced as part of the new planning reforms properly address the barriers small businesses face

  3. Adopt a robust ‘town centre first' policy in the new National Planning Policy Framework

  4. Ensure that the new ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development' is streamlined and doesn't favour big businesses at the expense of small firms, and is has a clear definition of sustainable development 

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:
"Costly and complicated planning systems aren't a new problem for small businesses, but these figures show that the application process is still far too costly and complex for them. Small firms tend to want to make minor changes that require time consuming and expensive planning applications, when these small alterations can enable them to expand and diversify and so stimulate much needed growth in the economy. 

"It is small businesses that have the potential to drive the economy, but only if their environment is conducive to growth. Providing a fast track for small business planning applications, that make it cheaper and easier, would provide the incentives they need to grow their businesses. The Government is going through huge changes with planning at the moment, so it is vital the small business voice is heard."  

 

Business failures on the increase

According to the latest Business Failures figures from leading business information provider, Equifax, the continuing difficult economic climate appears to be hitting all companies harder.

The Equifax Quarter 2 Business Failures Report shows the first Year on Year and Quarter on Quarter increase in companies failing for more than 12 months.

The latest report from Equifax mirrors a British Chambers of Commerce report released earlier this week suggesting that the UK economy is recovering too slowly, with the BCC saying that more support is needed for private sector firms.  Coming a few weeks after a number of high profile failures, including Jane Norman, Moben Kitchens, Dolphin Bathrooms and T J Hughes, it also reinforces that whatever the size of an organisation, focus on credit management is an absolutely crucial component for survival.

The report shows:

3.4% increase in businesses failing in Quarter 2 2011 compared to the same period in 2010

2.2% increase in failures for Quarter 2 2011 compared to Quarter 1 2011

The North East sees the biggest year on year increase in companies failing

Quarter on Quarter, the South East shows the biggest rise in failures

The Retail sector records a 15.9% increase in failures Year on Year, although the Transport & Communications sector has highest Year on Year increase

“This new Report is disappointing given that the trend for more than a year has been a reduction in companies failing”, said Neil Munroe, External Affairs Director, Equifax.  “But I think it does reflect the fact that some businesses have just found it impossible to continue to keep their heads above water as the economy fails to pick-up to any great extent. The failures in the Retail sector in particular would indicate the lack of consumer confidence that has been reported recently.

“However, it is also important to realise that we are now comparing figures to a steady fall in failures for the last 12-18 months, and the actual numbers of failures are still not as heavy as they were in early 2009.”

Refusals for time to pay requests increasing


There has been an increase in the number of  "Time to Pay" arrangements that have been rejected by HMRC.

Figures released by HMRC show that 3,390 requests were refused in the first three months of 2011, in comparison to 2,440 in the same period in 2009 and 2,360 in 2010.

The number of requests agreed have dropped dramatically, with 32,900 agreed in the first quarter of this year, compared with 82,000 in 2009 and 57,800 in 2010.

Insolvency practitioners have claimed that the Revenue is taking a harder line.

Tony Murphy, partner at Bridge Business Recovery, commented: "HMRC is kicking some requests in to touch, and needlessly so.

"Even with secure guarantees, it is turning them down."

He added that deals are being restricted to payments within three months.