Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Search is Underway for UK's First Small Business Commissioner

Applications are open to become the UK’s first Small Business Commissioner – a high profile role supporting small businesses in payment disputes with their larger customers, which will sit within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The successful candidate will provide general advice and information, handle complaints about payment issues and direct small businesses to existing dispute resolution services. Recent findings from the payment processor Bacs report that nearly half of the UK’s small-to-medium sized businesses experience late payment, with £26.3 billion owed to them in total.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for candidates who have credibility with both small and large businesses; can advise parties in resolving disputes; and who have an appetite to become a national spokesperson for small businesses affected by payment issues.
The final appointment decision will be made by the Secretary of State, supported by a panel which will include Mike Cherry, the National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses.
Small Business Minister Margot James said “We all rely on the UK’s 5.5 million small and medium sized businesses for jobs, goods and services, and an unfair payment culture that hurts these firms has no place in an economy that works for all. This is why we are looking for an exceptional individual to help smaller firms resolve payment disputes and champion a culture change in how businesses work together.
Addressing the barriers businesses face when scaling up and growing is an important part of a modern Industrial Strategy, and this appointment will play an integral role in ensuring small businesses have the support they need to thrive and grow.”
Commenting on the move to recruit a Small Business Commissioner, Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said “FSB research shows that poor payment practice is on the rise, causing 50,000 business deaths each year.
Small firms need a Commissioner who will make a meaningful difference to the £26bn currently stuck in bank accounts as payments outstanding to SMEs. He or she must be given the powers and resources to tackle this, to step in to save small firms whose livelihoods are under threat, and to promote a prompt payment culture right across the economy”.

The Small Business Commissioner, expected to be based in Birmingham, is just one part of a package of measures designed to tackle late payment and to drive change in the UK’s business payment culture. From April 2017 big businesses will be required to publically report on the time taken to pay their suppliers, a move that the government hopes will help businesses make informed decisions about who they do business with.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

University of East Anglia Improves its Approach to Dealing with Course Changes

Students will receive a fairer deal at the University of East Anglia (UEA) after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) secured changes to the university’s contract terms.

The CMA stepped in after the UEA made significant changes to the content of a course – by introducing compulsory modules thus limiting students’ choice of optional modules – and not adequately informing prospective students who had received course offers about the changes.

UEA regarded the changes as ‘minor’ – in line with its contract terms at the time – and therefore did not consult existing students or inform offer holders immediately, as they would have done if they had considered the changes to be ‘substantial’. The CMA welcomes UEA’s undertaking which ensures that, in future, it will treat the addition of a compulsory module to a course as a ‘substantial change’.

UEA has also confirmed that it will make timely updates to its website of any substantial changes. This will ensure that anyone thinking about applying has access to up-to-date and accurate information.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said “For most students, going to university is an expensive, once-in-a-lifetime event and they should enjoy the best possible experience. So it’s important that prospective students have accurate and up-to-date information when choosing their course and existing students are given timely information about any substantial changes that are made to their course. And any contract terms which deal with variation, for example to course content, must be fair.”

The CMA published advice for higher education providers on how to comply with consumer protection law in March 2015, as well as guidance on consumer rights for students.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Hastings GP Surgery Remains in Special Measures

The CQC has again rated a Hastings GP surgery as Inadequate and recommended the surgery stay in special measures following its latest inspection.

The practice was inspected in July 2016 by a team which included a CQC lead inspector, a GP specialist adviser, a CQC pharmacy inspector and a practice manager specialist adviser.

While the Care Quality Commission found staff caring, treating patients with compassion and dignity, inspectors identified a number of areas for improvement, including:
  • Not all nursing staff were trained to the appropriate level of child safeguarding.
  • While improvements had been made in relation to appropriate recruitment checks on staff, there were still gaps apparent in relation to recruitment records. 
  • Improvements had been made in relation to medicines management however there continued to be some issues relating to this. For example, in relation to the adoption of patient group directions, the availability of emergency medicines, the management of medicine incidents and the use of patients own dressings within the practice.
  • There were ongoing maintenance issues identified at the branch surgery and these had not been adequately addressed.
  • Staff were clear about reporting incidents, near misses and concerns however there was little evidence of robust investigation processes, learning and communication with staff.
  • Complaints were not adequately addressed and associated records of investigations and actions were not kept.
Ruth Rankine, Deputy Chief Inspector of General Practice (South) said: "It is clear that Dr Ankur Chopra has not made enough improvements since our previous inspection, in March 2016, where we again identified serious concerns relating to the safe delivery of services and leadership of the practice.

“We are aware it takes hard work and commitment from all practice staff to deliver the improved services which will result in higher standards of care for patients. We rated caring in the service as being good because there are examples of staff interacting with patients and treating them with dignity and respect. But, there is still a tremendous amount work to do and this needs to move at a pace. If we still feel the service is inadequate at our next inspection, then we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers to protect patients using the service even if this means removing the registration of the practice.”

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Employment Tribunals Hit a Record High

More than 92,000 people bought forward workplace disputes last year - the highest number since employment tribunal fees were introduced.

Since fees were introduced in 2013, a record number of people have sought to resolve disputes either through tribunals or conciliation, dramatically changed how workplace disputes are resolved.

Following publication of the latest figures ministers have published proposals to expand the ‘Help with Fees’ scheme which waives fees for the lowest paid. Proposals would see the monthly threshold for full fee remission increase from £1,085 to £1,250 - broadly the equivalent of someone earning the National Living Wage. There are additional allowances for people living as couples and those with children.

Justice Minister Sir Oliver Heald said: “It is right that those who can afford to should contribute to the cost of Employment Tribunals. Under our reforms, record numbers are bringing forward disputes in tribunals or through the ACAS conciliation service.

Costs should not prevent anyone bringing claims, so we are extending our Help with Fees Scheme and will introduce a Green Paper on further legal support measures.

The Prison and Courts Bill will also bring more people online, making it even simpler and easier to access justice.

Under the extended Help with Fees scheme, more people would not pay a fee and others would contribute less than under current arrangements. The extended scheme would benefit the disabled, women, BAME individuals, and the young, who all feature disproportionately among low income groups.

We have also decided to exempt from fees a small number of proceedings related to payments made from the National Insurance Fund, as in most cases the applicant is unable to conciliate or recover fees.”

Ministers will bring forward further plans to improve legal support in a Green Paper by early 2018, while the Prison and Courts Bill, due to be published shortly, will make it simpler to access justice and enable thousands more people to bring cases online.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Pronoun Sets New Self-Publishing Author Royalty Rate

Macmillan’s self-publishing platform, Pronoun, has announced new author royalty rates for e-books sold in the U.S. and Canada and they are better than Amazon’s!

Authors publishing books via Pronoun now earn 70% of the list price as a royalty on books sold in the U.S. and Canada, priced at $9.99 or less, and can earn 65% of the list price for a book priced above $9.99. Previously, Pronoun authors selling books for less than $2.99 received a 35% royalty, similar to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program.

Pronoun president Josh Brody said: “We’ve spent the past year listening closely to authors and are proud to announce better royalties as part of our continued pursuit of publishing success for authors.”

Pronoun also offers authors distribution to one or more of the major e-book retailers, among them Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and Google Play.

Pronoun also offers writers free Author Pages. Customizable web pages that allow authors to post photos, author biographies, and links to social media accounts as well as published titles.

Speaking to Publishers Weekly Josh Brody said “We’re taking a longterm view of the self-publishing market in an effort to attract authors to our platform," Brody said. "We think developing a vibrant user base will provide better opportunities both for us and for our authors."

You can find out more about Pronoun at

CQC Highlights Improvements at Luton GP Practice

England’s Chief Inspector of General Practice has welcomed improvements in the quality of services provided by Stopsley Village Practice in Stopsley, Luton in Bedfordshire.
In December 2015, inspectors identified concerns with regard to the leadership and safety of the practice. As a result the practice was given an overall rating of Inadequate and placed into special measures.
The latest inspection concluded that the practice had addressed all areas of concern. It has now been awarded an overall rating of Good.
Inspectors found that since the original inspection the practice had taken significant steps to improve leadership, with a focus on improving the quality and safety of its services to patients.
Key findings:
·         The providers have significantly strengthened their leadership and management and have taken a proactive team approach towards making and sustaining improvements in quality.
·         Patients said they found it easy to make an appointment with a named GP and there was continuity of care, with urgent appointments available the same day.
·         Risks to patients are now being assessed and well managed, and identified actions from risk assessments had been completed.
·         There was is an open and transparent approach to safety and an effective system in place for reporting and recording significant events.
·         There is a clear leadership structure and staff feel supported by management. The practice proactively seeks feedback from staff and patients, and acts on it.
·         Patients said they were treated with compassion, dignity and respect and they were involved in their care and decisions about their treatment.
·         Staff were supported by appraisals and had personal development plans in place.
Professor Steve Field, Chief Inspector of General Practice, said:
“It was disappointing that our inspection in December 2015 highlighted concerns, particularly in relation to whether it was safe and well-led.
“I am very pleased to see that since then, the practice has made significant progress, which has led to a much better service.”
“The practice had a clear vision and strategy to deliver high-quality care and promote good outcomes for patients. Staff were clear about the vision and their responsibilities in relation to it.
“It is clear that the practice took our findings seriously, seeking external advice to help it improve and working hard to implement the necessary changes. All of the staff should be extremely proud of what they have achieved and I applaud the dedication and commitment they have shown to improving the care of their patients.”

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Ex-Military Being Supported to Create More New Businesses

X-Forces, a social enterprise helping those leaving military to start their own businesses, has renewed support to the Armed Forces Covenant alongside Chief of Defence People, Lieutenant General Richard Nugee, in the House of Lords.
Having helped to boost 750 businesses from the Armed Forces community since originally signing the Covenant in 2013, X-Forces scaled up their pledges today to go ‘beyond business as usual’ having found that, as well as offering loans and helping with business plans, they can offer support, opportunities and guidance to the Forces community.
Chief of Defence People Lieutenant General Richard Nugee said “this is just one example of the Armed Forces Covenant in action. X-Forces have gone above and beyond – as well as offering start-up loans and mentoring, they are supporting military charities and are encouraging large corporate organisations to do the same.”The government enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law as a promise from the nation to ensure that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, are treated fairly.
X-Forces has helped the Armed Forces community set up businesses ranging from craft beers to sugar-free jam and theatre companies!
You can find out more at