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Barnsley Business Awards

Fastlinksolutions, as managing agents of the Barnsley Enterprise Agency, recently sponsored the Business Innovation Award

The Innovation award is presented to recognise the quality of the idea (creativity, originality), relevance of the idea (market factors, supply and demand), implementation, success and business impact.

Highly Commended: GB Truck Services Ltd and Pennine Lavendar

Winner: Wharncliffe Business Systems Ltd

Pictured : BBC Look North's Christa Ackroyd and Fastlinks' John Saxon present the award

BUDGET LEAK ALERT...!

Chancellor Gordon Brown's budget could produce some good news for cash-strapped smaller businesses, suggests the Financial Mail on Sunday, which claims that the scheme is to allow 100 per cent tax relief on IT equipment purchased by small firms - that was to have ended on March 31 - is likely to be extended. There is also likely to be another 100 per cent allowance for the capital costs incurred by small businesses in meeting the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.

CONGESTION CHARGE CHALLENGES

At least 1,000 drivers a day are challenging fines for non-payment of London's congestion charges because of allegations of widespread administrative errors, reports the Daily Telegraph. Transport for London (TfL) admits that about 25 per cent of GBP80 penalty notices that were issued are being disputed - which is five times more than the fines issued for parking or speeding. About 6,000 penalty notices are issued each day and, apart from repeat errors, many enquiries involved "data entry problems" probably because staff have been making errors with the registration details that are keyed in. TfL is concerned by the number of vehicles that have been caught by the cameras, but have been nowhere near London, which suggests that the illegal cloning of number plates is increasing.

**** THERE is such a massive level of challenges to the number of penalty notices that the AA Motoring Trust has predicted that a backlog threatens to slow the enforcement system to a virtual halt.

PINNING DOWN TAX SECURITY

Accountancy Age reveals that the government is considering introducing a system of PIN numbers to help the Inland Revenue to deal more securely with documentation submitted by accountants and tax agents. The proposals follow complaints from accountants that some tax offices refuse to accept faxed copies of the 64-8 forms.

Accountancy Age claims to have seen a letter from the paymaster general Dawn Primarolo explaining that such a scheme could be introduced because of "callers phoning Inland Revenue offices falsely claiming to be the newly-appointed agents acting for tax-payers and requesting details about their affairs..."

**** CHAS ROY-CHOWDHURY, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, admits that the idea could work in principle, but warns: "It could add to bureaucracy. For example, Revenue authorities could be unwilling to work with tax agents that didn't have PIN numbers even if they were legitimate. If it created another tier of red tape, then we wouldn't be happy with it." www.accountancyage.com.

CENTRAL LOCKING FOR BUILDINGS

Central locking systems are widely used for vehicle security, but the Tyneside firm Cedardell has devised a highly-innovative central locking system for homes, offices and other business premises. It uses a low-power radio communications network which connects to electronic controls on door and window locks, and can be applied to many applications ranging from monitoring and alarm functions, to building control and management. The locking action is triggered by pushing upwards against an external door handle, but in cases of fire breaking out on the premises smoke detectors will trigger release systems on every lock. For more information about this system, visit www.cedardell.com.

FAIR PLAY FOR FAIR PAY

Younger workers who are under 18 years of age are not currently protected by the national minimum wage, claims the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and some are paid as little as GBP2 per hour. TUC research shows that an agreed national minimum wage of GBP3 per hour would benefit as many as 65,000 youngsters, while boosting the rate to GBP3.60p per hour would give a 45 per cent pay rise for at least 290,000.

**** BRENDAN BARBER, TUC general secretary elect, points out: "A government report from two years ago said that the days of employers paying workers GBP1 or GBP2 per hour are gone. But there are still reports of 16 and 17 year-olds being exploited in this way and without an enforceable minimum wage they have nowhere to turn." For more information, go to www.tuc.org.uk.

PATERNITY RIGHTS ALERT...!

Business owners have less than one month to prepare to deal with several far-reaching changes to employees' rights, warns the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). These changes come into force on April 6 and include:

* New fathers will be entitled to claim two weeks' paid paternity leave within eight weeks of the birth of children.

* Standard maternity pay will go up to GBP100 per week.

* Working parents with children under the age of six - or under 18 where disabled children are involved - will have the legal right to ask employers to vary their working conditions. This might include requests to work from home, or for fixed-shifts to allow them to be with their children at set times every day.

* Every worker who has been employed by the same firm for 26 weeks continuously is eligible for the new right, providing that worker is the mother, father, adopter, guardian, or foster parent of the spouse, or partner of a person who meets one of these criteria.

* There are no limits to the changes individual workers can propose.

**** JOHN DAVIES, head of business law with ACCA, explains: "Businesses should note, however, that the right is only to ask: the employer can turn the request down provided there is a valid reason on business-related grounds, such as an inability to re-organise work among existing staff. It will not, however, be sufficient to refuse the request by simply insisting that the terms of the employee's existing contract must be respected..." For further details, go to www.acca.org.uk.

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