Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Autumn Budget Highlights for SMEs and the Self Employed

If you missed the budget yesterday here are the highlights for small businesses and the self-employed...

Threshold For VAT Registration

The Chancellor has frozen the point at which you have to be VAT registered at £85,000 until 2022.

Help For Apprenticeships 

The number of companies offering apprenticeships fell dramatically following the introduction of burdensome co-investment costs for small firms who want to bring young people into the workplace. The Chancellor announced they will be dropping the proportion of apprenticeship training costs footed by small firms from 10 per cent to 5.  

Employment Allowance

The Employment Allowance is a vital incentive that’s helped more than a million small firms create jobs, increase pay and invest over the last year alone. The Government has decided to keep the allowance in place, directing it towards the small employers where it has the most impact. 

Training for the Self Employed

The Chancellor has responded to calls for greater funding for training within the self-employed community and announced the development of a £10 million self-employment training pilot scheme in Manchester. 

New Enterprise Allowance

The New Enterprise Allowance programme will be continued. The initiative has helped more than 100,000 unemployed people start firms. 

Start-Up Loans Company

The Government is extending funding for this crucial part of the British Business Bank. 

Small Business Rate Relief

Small businesses on our high streets that cannot get Small Business Rate Relief will be delighted with the significant discount for the next two years, which on average will help these businesses to the tune of almost £2,000 each, but potentially up to around £16,000 off small businesses facing the biggest bills.

Fuel Duty Freeze

The fuel duty freeze will also provide welcome relief for small firms who rely on road transport, particularly as the cost of petrol has surged over the last year.

Improvements to the Road Network

Nine in ten small businesses say a properly funded road network is important to their success. The £420 million of new funding dedicated to tackling the scourge of potholes is an important intervention. 

Talking about the budget, Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman, said “This is the most small-business-friendly budget that this Chancellor has delivered. He has listened to our requests across many areas of tax and public policy, putting him firmly on the side of Britain’s small businesses.

“On the tax front, small firms up and down the country will be pleased to see the VAT threshold frozen for two years. FSB was credited in the speech for our campaign on this, stopping an over-reach which would have created a mountain of bureaucracy and a tax-hike for more than a million businesses. I look forward to seeing further innovative changes to VAT post-Brexit.

“Small businesses on our high streets that cannot get Small Business Rate Relief will be delighted with the significant discount for the next 2 years, which on average will help these businesses to the tune of almost £2,000 each, but potentially up to around £16,000 off small businesses facing the biggest bills.

The decision to protect and refocus the Employment Allowance means that small firms will use the £3,000 of help to increase staff hours, improve pay and meet the rising costs of the National Living Wage, boosting jobs and productivity.”

Thursday, 25 October 2018

No System for Continuous Improvement Contributes to CQC Placing GP Practice into Special Measures

A Croydon GP practice has been rated as Inadequate overall and placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission.

Denmark Road Surgery, which looks after 6,200 patients, was rated Inadequate for being safe, effective and well-led. It was rated Requires Improvement for being caring and responsive, following the inspection in August 2018.

Key Concerns

  • There was no effective system to ensure learning and improvement after things went wrong. 
  • There was no effective system to ensure that all staff received the training and support requires for their roles.
  • Patients found it difficult to get through to the practice by telephone. 
  • There was little or no evidence of improvement following complaints. 
  • There was insufficient leadership in some areas of practice governance, particularly related to safety and the management of staff.
To keep practising the surgery must now improve systems to ensure care and treatment is provided in a safe way to patients and must establish effective ways to establish good governance in accordance with the fundamental standards of care.

The practice has also been advised to improve the recording of patients with caring responsibilities, improve arrangements for managing confidentiality around the reception and improve the uptake of cancer screening.

Professor Ursula Gallagher, Deputy Chief Inspector, Primary Medical Services, said: “I am concerned that the Denmark Road Surgery is rated Inadequate overall and must be placed in special measures, which will give it access to support that should help it to improve.

“People who use the service should be reassured that the service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action. Where necessary, another inspection will be conducted within six months, and if there is not enough improvement we will move to close the service by adopting our proposal to remove this location or cancel the provider’s registration.”

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Government Crackdown on University Grade Inflation

Student grades will be one of the key criteria universities will be measured against for the new national university rating system. This has led to concerns within the government that universities may be tempted to be generous when grading papers.

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) will rate universities with gold, silver or bronze scores based on a number of criteria including their overall provision, student experience, teaching quality and whether courses are sufficiently stretching enough – the government is also piloting a subject-specific version of it.

Announcing a second year of pilots to move subject-level TEF a step closer, Sam Gyimah, Minister of State (Universities and Science), has confirmed the new pilots will also look at grade inflation, with TEF panellists reviewing evidence to see whether universities are taking a responsible approach to degree grading and not awarding excessive numbers of firsts and 2:1s. It means a university’s provider-level rating of gold, silver or bronze will take their approach to tackling grade inflation into account.

Grade inflation will be an important feature of the criteria considered alongside how a university is stretching its students through course design and assessment, and through their ability to develop independence, knowledge and skills that reflect their full potential. 

This is one of the first measures taken by the government to tackle grade inflation, with the plans confirmed in the government’s response to the subject-level TEF consultation.

In the last five years alone, figures from the Higher Education Stats Authority show the proportion of graduates who gained a first-class degree has increased from 18% in 2012/13 to 26% in 2016/17.

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah said "When you look at what makes our universities so prestigious, it comes down to the value of our degrees – they open up a huge range of opportunities and the chance to step into a rewarding and highly-skilled career.

The value of those degrees is threatened by grade inflation and that is a problem for students, employers and the universities themselves. These new measures will look at how we can protect our globally recognised higher education system by discouraging universities from undermining the reverence a degree qualification from the UK commands."

Friday, 19 October 2018

MPs Call For a Costed 10 Year Plan For Social Care

MPs sitting on the Public Accounts Committee have called for a costed 10-year plan for social care to developed to sit along side the government's 10-year plan for the NHS.

There is widespread consensus that integration and joint working is the right way forward for the health and social care system to deliver the best and most effective outcomes for people and their families.

Financial pressures and an ageing population have both increased the need for joined-up working, with local authorities reducing real-terms spending on adult social care by 5.3% between 2010-11 and 2016-17, while the number of people in England aged 85 and over rose by 28% between 2006 and 2016.

The committee recognised that there are examples across England where integrated working has been successfully applied. But it is a long way from being in place everywhere, with a range of longstanding legal, structural and cultural barriers hindering the pace and scale at which change can happen.

There has been a lot of talk within government over how to support and accelerate the integration of health and social care. In the past 20 years alone, there have been 12 white papers, green papers and consultations, and five independent reviews and consultations.

However, the Government still lacks an effective overall strategy or plan to achieve its long-held aim to integrate these two sectors.

In their latest report the committee concluded "The renaming of a Government department is a sign of intent but with local authorities squeezed there is no realistic prospect of progress.  Without this, people risk not getting joined-up, co-ordinated care that they need and risk getting poorer outcomes."

Public Accounts Committee Chair Meg Hillier MP said "The time for warm words and wishful thinking is over. If Government is serious about delivering the benefits of integrated health and social care, it must act to make it happen.

Without this action, the array of outputs over the past two decades – consultations, reviews, Government papers – will never be matched by improved outcomes for service users.

For this reason we urge Government to set out a costed 10-year plan for social care to go alongside its proposed 10-year plan for the NHS.

Social care has suffered long-term underfunding and it is unacceptable that councils, under considerable financial pressure and facing growing demand for care services, must wait until 2020 for clarity.

Government must also step up efforts to break down barriers to integration across the country.

Its departments and agencies need to work together more effectively to support the roll-out of best practice, as well as the leadership necessary to drive change at local level.

There remains a wide gap in pay and career structure between people who work in the NHS and those in social care, whose workforce suffers from low pay and low esteem.

As I have said previously, social care is skilled work that transforms people’s lives. It could and should be a source of national pride.

It is vital that the Government’s workforce plan addresses these concerns as a positive step towards achieving its aim of integrating health and social care.”

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

A Tale of a Paramilitary Sexual Predator Wins 50th Man Booker Prize for Fiction

Last night Anna Burns won the 50th Man Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel, Milkman.

Anna is the first Northern Irish author to win and the 17th woman since the prize began in 1969.

Burns, 56, who was born in Belfast and lives in East Sussex, drew on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to write Milkman. Her first acclaimed novel, No Bones, was also set in this period. She saw off competition from two British writers, two American writers and one Canadian writer.

Talking about the award Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, said "None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life."

Set in an unnamed city, Milkman focuses on middle sister as she navigates her way through rumour, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community. Burns shows the dangerous and complex outcome that can happen to a woman coming of age in a city at war.

The Telegraph described the novel as ‘viciously funny’, praising Burns for her ability ‘to paint a colourful social scene’. Meanwhile, the Irish Times wrote that Burns has created a novel that is ‘an impressive, wordy, often funny book and confirms Anna Burns as one of our rising literary stars’.

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber, making it the fourth consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher. Faber & Faber has the second highest number of winning titles of any publisher, with six winners that include: Something to Answer For (1969), Rites of Passage (1980), Oscar and Lucinda (1988), The Remains of the Day (1989), True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), Vernon God Little (2003).
Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide for six days from 17 October. It will read ‘Congratulations to Anna Burns, winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize’.

On winning the Man Booker Prize, an author can expect international recognition, plus a dramatic increase in book sales. In the week following the 2017 winner announcement, sales of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders increased by 1227%. Bloomsbury has to date sold just under ¼ million copies globally across all formats, 70% of those sales coming after the win.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Plans for a New Masters Degree in Immersive Storytelling Announced

£10 million Industrial Strategy funding has been awarded to a new creative industries centre, which will build UK skills in immersive tech.

The Centre for Immersive Storytelling will be based at Royal Holloway University's Surrey campus. Its aim is to ensure that the UK’s creative workforce has world-leading skills in the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies.

It is being funded by UK Research and Innovation through its £33 million audience of the future programme, which forms part of government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The centre will be run by the National Film and Television School (NFTS) and Royal Holloway University.  The bid was supported by high-profile people from the creative industry, including Sir Lenny Henry, Asif Kapadia, Georgina Campbell, Sarah Gavron, Steven Moffat, Sue Vertue and Alex Garland.

The centre will offer creative training and research programmes in immersive storytelling, initially to screen professionals.  They will be able to take part in experimental labs, workshops, placements and courses through the centre, which will also support and co-fund real immersive productions.

In the longer term, the centre will offer master’s degrees across a range of immersive specialisms.

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James said "From watching live theatre productions in the cinema to apps which allow you to scan and identify artworks on gallery visits, immersive tech is opening up a huge range of exciting new possibilities.

We are determined to be the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business, and by backing this new centre we will help our world-class creative talent captivate the audiences of the future."
The centre will commission 60 productions that will develop the UK’s immersive sector. Organisations across the UK will be selected to lead the projects.

Jon Wardle, Director of the NFTS, said "It is our aim to make immersive another success story for UK plc’s world-leading screen industries, by enabling our storytellers of film, TV, games and theatre to exploit this new medium.

We intend to place diversity at the heart of our endeavours, ensuring that the future of immersive storytelling is one that reflects the full breadth of the UK’s creative talent."

Friday, 5 October 2018

Proactive and Inclusive Approach to Risk Management Leads to Outstanding CQC Rating

A Westminster surgery has been rated Outstanding overall - for a second time - by the Care Quality Commission.

The Doctor Hickey Surgery has been rated Outstanding for being caring, responsive and well-led. It was rated Good for being safe and effective, following an inspection in March 2018.

The surgery looks after approximately 2,300 homeless people in Westminster. Clinicians provide a wide range of medical services including the management of substance misuse, alcohol abuse and mental illness. It has been providing services to homeless people for 30 years.

Inspectors were impressed with the service's culture, embedding risk management into every role:
  • The practice had clear systems to manage risk so that safety incidents were less likely to happen. When incidents did happen, the practice learned from them and improved their processes. 
  • A proactive approach to anticipating and managing risks to people who use their services was embedded and was recognised as the responsibility of all staff.
  • The practice routinely reviewed the effectiveness and appropriateness of the care it provided. It ensured that care and treatment was delivered according to evidence-based guidelines.
  • The continuing development of the staff’s skills, competence and knowledge was recognised as being integral to ensuring high-quality care. Staff were proactively supported and encouraged to acquire new skills and share best practice.
  • The practice had a clear vision which had quality and safety as the top priorities. High standards were promoted and owned by all practice staff with evidence of team working across all roles.
  • There was a strong focus on continuous learning and improvement at all levels of the organisation. 
  • There was a fully embedded and systematic approach to improvement. 
  • Improvement was seen as the way to deal with performance and for the organisation to learn.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Government Announces New Measures to Help SMEs

The Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced a series of new measures to back businesses and entrepreneurs, support workers and ensure every part of the country benefits from the government’s modern Industrial Strategy.

More Protection for Small Businesses

The government will strengthen the Prompt Payment Code with a new tough and transparent compliance regime.

A call for evidence will be published later this week which will consider the best way to ensure company boards put in place responsible payment practices throughout their supply chain, including whether all company boards should give one of their non-executive directors specific responsibilities for the company’s prompt payment performance.

The Small Business Commissioner will join the Prompt Payment Code’s Compliance Board to support his role in tackling late payment.

Reacting to the plans the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry said “Late payment is the biggest challenge affecting small businesses and it is good to see the Government getting serious about this issue.

“The voluntary Prompt Payment Code is not working when it allows signatories like Carillion to pay on terms of over 120 days, so we want to see a new tough and transparent compliance regime being proposed. Involving the Small Business Commissioner Paul Uppal with the Code is also right as that shows a more joined-up approach to this difficult issue.

“Further, it is a positive step that central government will set an example – paying 90% of undisputed invoices from small and medium-sized businesses within five days.”


The government has announced plans to ensure that tips left for workers will go to them in full.

While most employers act in good faith, in some sectors evidence points towards poor tipping practices, including excessive deductions being made from tips left by customers.

New legislation, to be introduced at the earliest opportunity, will set out that tips must go to the workers providing the service.

This legislation will ensure workers get the tips they deserve and give consumers reassurance that the money they leave in good faith to reward good service is going to the staff, as they intended – ensuring that hard work is rewarded.

Proposals to Help Parents and Carers in the Workforce

While many companies are increasingly embracing flexible working and the benefits it brings, some employees face barriers in raising this issue with their employers.

The government will consider creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, and make that clear when advertising.

Greater Transparency on Parental Pay

The government will consult on requiring employers with more than 250 staff to publish their parental leave and pay policies, so job applicants can make informed decisions about whether they can combine the role with caring for their family.

While many employers go further than the legal minimum for parental leave and pay, very few publish their policies openly. Applicants must ask prospective employers what the position is which many are reluctant to do for fear of discrimination.

Progress Towards a Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands

In consultation with regional partners, the local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands will harness its distinctive strengths to unlock greater growth and earning power across the region’s cities and places. 

The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy will provide a long-term plan for alignment of local and national decision making to increase productivity and deliver an economy that works for all. This will include how the automotive and wider transport cluster, the life science cluster, and their associated supply chains and infrastructure, will drive the UK’s response to the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge and the AI and Data Grand Challenge.