Welsh private business output continues to expand

The headline NatWest Wales Business Activity Index – a seasonally adjusted index that measures the month-on-month change in the combined output of the region’s manufacturing and service sectors – registered 56.2 in April, down from 58.0 in March, to signal a sharp upturn in business activity. Although the slowest for three months, output growth was linked to greater client demand and a further uptick in new business. The rate of growth was steeper than the series average but slower than that seen across the UK as a whole.

A reading above 50 indicates an overall increase compared to the previous month, and below 50 an overall decrease. The indices are then seasonally adjusted.

The report comments: “Soaring costs are a key challenge for businesses, a growing number of which are resorting to hiking their own prices to protect profit margins. Almost every region saw a record rise in average price charges for goods and services, which will ultimately put even greater pressure on household budgets in the coming months.

“Higher employment remained a bright spot for most regions in April, however, rates of job creation generally slowed in April, with business confidence having been hit in recent months by the events in Ukraine and soaring prices.”

See: NatWest UK regional PMI Report for April 2022 | NatWest Business

First Wales Wildlife and Rural Crime Strategy to be Launched

The first made-in-Wales strategy to tackle wildlife and rural crime was launched at the Royal Welsh Showground recently. Wildlife and rural crime can come in many forms such as the theft of agricultural equipment, devastating livestock offences, and the destruction of wildlife and their habitats. Rural theft alone was valued to cost £1.3m in 2021.

The joint strategy, between the Welsh Government and Wales’ four police forces, will be key in the fight against such offences.

A co-ordinated and strategic approach will be central to the success of the strategy which is being launched.

See: First Wales Wildlife and Rural Crime Strategy to be Launched (businessnewswales.com)

Community Representatives and Local Leaders Join in Celebrating Anglesey Freeport Success

Representatives of community groups and local businesses across Anglesey joined with councillors and education providers earlier this month to celebrate the Welsh and UK Governments’ recent decision to grant Anglesey freeport status.

Governing partners of Anglesey Freeport – Stena Line and Isle of Anglesey County Council (IACC) – welcomed local representatives to Holyhead Port in order to thank community leaders for their unwavering support for the freeport. More than 1,500 people across Anglesey pledged their support for the region’s freeport, which was formally announced during a visit by Rishi Sunak and Mark Drakeford in March.

The Freeport will help to generate greater economic development across the North Wales region, providing local people with new, high skilled employment prospects. The governing partners are also focused on protecting the environmental and cultural heritage of Anglesey, bolstering the Welsh language.

Anglesey Freeport will now set out a full business plan to the Welsh and UK Governments. Stena Line and IACC have been working with local education providers to ensure local residents gain the training and skills needed to take advantage of opportunities the Freeport will create, and they will set out these plans shortly.

See: Community Representatives and Local Leaders Join in Celebrating Anglesey Freeport Success (businessnewswales.com)

Consultation on non-domestic rates improvement relief in Wales

Rebecca Evans MS, Minister for Finance and Local Government has launched a consultation on proposals for a non-domestic rates (NDR) improvement relief.

The Welsh Government is pursuing a range of reforms during the current Senedd term which will make essential and positive changes to NDR in Wales. They recognise that many businesses see the NDR system as a disincentive to investing in property improvements, as an increase in a property’s rateable value may lead to a higher bill.

The proposals for an improvement relief are intended to help address this potential barrier to investment and growth in the tax-base, by ensuring ratepayers will begin to realise the benefits to their business of their property improvements before they are reflected in their NDR liability. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the Welsh Government proposes to provide the relief from 1 April 2024.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks, and responses are requested by 8 August 2023.

See: Improvement rates relief | GOV.WALES

Do you have a growth strategy?

A company might have a great product or service but without a business growth strategy to help it define, articulate, and communicate where it is going, it may not grow at all!

A growth strategy starts with identifying and accessing opportunities within your market. The strategy addresses how your company is going to evolve to meet the challenges of today and in the future. A growth strategy gives your company purpose, and it answers questions about your long-term plans.

Having a growth strategy is important because it keeps your company working towards goals that go beyond what is happening in the market today. It will keep both owners and employees focused and aligned and will allow you to think long-term.

The first step is to look at five important areas that will help you develop a growth strategy:

  1. Think long term – invest time in understanding where the market is going and what this means for your customers. Short term decisions do not help grow a business.
  2. Having a good value proposition is essential – this states the relevance of your product or service, what it does, and why customers need it. What is yours?
  3. Expanding your reach – who is your target customer and what do you need to do to let them know you exist and that your product or service is relevant to them?
  4. Growth means new people, systems, and (maybe) different ways of doing things. Grow at a pace you can manage.
  5. How will your marketing get your value proposition to relevant customers?

Once you have taken some time to write out your growth strategy and where you want your business to be in (say) 2 years, the next step is to work out your marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a business document outlining your marketing strategy and tactics. It is often focused on a specific period of time (e.g., over the next 12 months) and covers a variety of marketing-related details, such as costs, goals, and action steps. But like your business plan, a marketing plan is not a static document. It should outline:

  1. How you are going to keep existing customers happy and returning to buy more often;
  2. Your goals for getting new customers; and
  3. The marketing methods you are going to use to achieve 1 and 2.

Please talk to us about helping you formulate your expansion plans; we have considerable experience in helping our clients grow their businesses.

Making Tax Digital for Income Tax update

Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax will require businesses to keep digital accounting records and submit quarterly returns to HMRC. These changes will apply to businesses, self-employed individuals and landlords with turnover over £50,000 from 6 April 2026. Those with turnover above £30,000 will be mandated to comply from 6 April 2027 and other businesses and landlords may be mandated at a later date.

Since MTD was announced, we have been working with many of our clients to help them streamline the way they keep their books and help them prepare for digital bookkeeping ahead of the law change. If you haven’t moved your bookkeeping onto a digital package then please talk to us.

Just suppose you:

  • Took a photo on your phone of a purchase invoice and it was posted automatically;
  • Had a system where your bank fed your data directly into your accounts on a DAILY basis; and
  • Could see your results, who owes you money, who you owe, and your business bank balance 24/7, 365 from your smart phone.

We can help you put in a cloud accounting package and get you:

  1. A clear picture of your current financial position, in real time;
  2. Put your books 100% online, so there’s no software to install and everything is backed up automatically; and
  3. Eliminating upfront accounting software costs – upgrades, maintenance, system, and administration costs are no longer an issue.          

Please talk to us about the advantages of a cloud accounting package, you will be amazed what a difference knowing your results in real time makes to your business!

Creating value through innovation

Innovation has generally been recognised as essential for value creation, both for individual companies and for the UK economy as a whole. The development of new ideas, processes, and technologies and their flow across different sectors is a significant driver of economic growth and productivity. Recently, innovation has also been identified as crucial to the transition of the economy away from fossil fuels and carbon-intensive business activities.

There are many factors that affect whether and how businesses innovate, for example the availability of skills, capital, and government policy measures such as tax incentives.

However, none are more important that the company’s own culture, capabilities, and internal systems – all of which are aspects of its governance. Unless companies are governed in a way that is conducive to innovation, they are unlikely to be in a position to take advantage of new opportunities.

Our most innovative clients share some key characteristics:

  • They invest in activities with uncertain outcomes for which the likely commercial return is difficult to quantify and the risk of failure is higher than normal;
  • They benefit from the availability of company specific skills, which may be highly specialised;
  • They have a culture which encourages flexibility, experimentation and a high level of individual decision making; and
  • They require a longer-term time investment horizon than many other kinds of business activity.

Research and Development (R & D) is the process of taking an idea and transforming it into a fully-fledged product or procedure. R & D tax credits are a government incentive designed to encourage innovation across multiple industries. This is an opportunity for you to reduce your corporation tax bill or receive a refund from HMRC based upon the number of working hours and relevant costs your business dedicates to Research & Development.

If you are looking for long term finance to support innovation then you will need to ensure your management accounts are up to date, you make available current detailed lists of debtors and creditors, and you might need up to date projections before an expert will consider your application.

Please talk to us about R & D tax credits and long term finance; our independent experts have many years of experience and success in advising business across a wide range of sectors.

Latest HMRC Employer webinars

Listed below are a number of live HMRC webinars that will help employers with payroll. The webinars are free and last around an hour:

Expenses and benefits for your employees – phones, internet, and homeworking
Tue 27 Jun at 11:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – if your employees have more than one workplace
Fri 16 Jun at 11:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – travel
Fri 23 Jun at 9:45am

Company directors – payroll and you
Mon 5 Jun at 9:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – company cars, vans, and fuel
Thu 15 Jun at 11:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – social functions and parties
Fri 9 Jun at 9:45am

Expenses and benefits for your employees – trivial benefits
Thu 8 Jun at 9:45am

Statutory Maternity and Paternity Pay
Wed 7 Jun at 11:45am

Statutory Sick Pay
Tue 6 Jun at 9:45am

See: HMRC email updates, videos and webinars for employing people – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Is your business Cyber secure?

Cyber Essentials is a Government backed scheme that will help you to protect your organisation, whatever its size, against a whole range of the most common cyber-attacks.

Cyber-attacks come in many shapes and sizes, but the vast majority are very basic in nature, carried out by relatively unskilled individuals. They’re the digital equivalent of a thief trying your front door to see if it’s unlocked. Our advice is designed to prevent these attacks.

Cyber Essentials

This self-assessment option gives you protection against a wide variety of the most common cyber-attacks. This is important because vulnerability to basic attacks can mark you out as target for more in-depth unwanted attention from cyber criminals and others.

Certification gives you peace of mind that your defences will protect against the vast majority of common cyber-attacks simply because these attacks are looking for targets which do not have the Cyber Essentials technical controls in place.

Cyber Essentials shows you how to address those basics and prevent the most common attacks.

Cyber Essentials Plus

Cyber Essentials Plus still has the Cyber Essentials trademark simplicity of approach, and the protections you need to put in place are the same, but for Cyber Essentials Plus, a hands-on technical verification is carried out.

See: About Cyber Essentials – NCSC.GOV.UK

What if you put up your prices?

Or maybe increased the number of customers, reduced expenses or even decreased prices? Do you know the effect of these changes to your bottom line?

Successful businesses right now have one thing in common – they are prepared to make fast changes to their plans!   

With the cost of living and strikes weighing in on the economy, flexibility is the key attribute needed to survive and prosper in uncertain times.

Just suppose we could show you movements on profit when flexing key variables with a simple but effective tool called “Business Analyst”.    

Together we could enter your current figures such as turnover, direct costs such as materials and labour, and expenses, then analyse the effect of rising costs and inflation and their impact on your business. We could then examine key performance indicators and look at all the options such as the impact of a price rise or reduction, increasing sales or reducing expenses to help you maximise your profit, and set targets of where you want your business to be in twelve months. We can look at a range of “What if Scenarios” and set a strategy for success.

Talk to us about how we can work together on your business and stay ahead of the curve!

Innovation Loans Future Economy competition – round 9

Innovate UK (IUK) is offering up to £25 million in loans to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Loans are for highly innovative late-stage research and development (R&D) projects with the best potential for the future. There should be a clear route to commercialisation and economic impact.

Your project must lead to new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others currently available or propose an innovative use of existing products, processes, or services. It can also involve a new or innovative business model.

IUK are particularly interested in projects that focus on the future economy areas included in the Innovate UK plan for action.

You must be able to show that you:

  • need public funding;
  • can cover interest payments; and
  • will be able to repay the loan on time.

The funding available will be allocated across a series of competitions:

  • round 9 – currently open for applications;
  • round 10 – opens 13 July 2023;
  • round 11 – opens 14 September 2023; and
  • round 12 – opens 9 November 2023.

See: Competition overview – Innovation Loans Future Economy Competition: Round 9 – Innovation Funding Service (apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk)

If your business is interested in taking advantage of the government grant support available and would benefit from support and assistance from an IUK experienced organisation please get in touch with us.

Energy Bills Discount Scheme: non-standard cases

The Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS) is for non-domestic customers that use energy provided by licence-exempt suppliers, where prices paid are pegged to wholesale prices. This is energy taken from the public electricity or gas grid or received via wire or pipe. The scheme will provide support between 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024. Further information on how and when to apply for support under the EBDS will be published in due course.

Energy and Trade Intensive Industries (ETII)

If you’re eligible for the higher level of support to businesses and organisations, you will need to apply for this support. This is separate from the non-standard cases application process.

Non-standard customers who believe that they meet the criteria for ETII support and cannot see their energy provider listed when prompted in the application process, should contact us at support@ebds.beis.gov.uk.

Heat networks

If you’re eligible for the higher level of support for heat suppliers but receive your energy from a licence-exempt supplier, contact EBRS by emailing: ebrs.nonstandardcases@beis.gov.uk

Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS)

The scheme was expanded to include non-domestic customers who receive energy from license-exempt suppliers via private wire or pipe, where prices paid are pegged to wholesale energy prices. The support covered the period 1 October 2022 until 31 March 2023.

Find out how to apply retrospectively for this support.

See: Energy Bills Discount Scheme – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Introduction to Managing Health and Safety for employers

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated its guidance on managing health and safety for employers. Employers are responsible for managing health and safety in their business. This includes managing risks and taking practical steps to protect workers and others from harm.

Managing risk is just one part of health and safety management. You must also have arrangements in place to:

  • make the right plans;
  • implement those plans;
  • check they are working; and
  • act if they are not.

By doing this, you should be able to ensure:

  • your risks stay controlled; and
  • you provide a safe working environment for workers and others.

The measures you put in place should be part of your everyday processes for managing your business.

For most small, low-risk businesses you don’t need a formal management system. By following a simple Plan, Do, Check, Act approach you can effectively manage health and safety in your workplace.

HSE provides information on finding the right guidance for your business outlining that the approach you take for managing health and safety will depend on the size of your business, the type of work you do, and the level of risk in your workplace.

See: Introduction to managing health and safety: Find the right guidance for your business – HSE