Business news 22 April 2024

Confidence among SMEs hits three-year low but SMEs had strong first quarter, says NatWest. Small businesses save £450 on energy bills. Retail sales flatline, inflation, interest rates, financial education, the sicknote culture, national insurance & more business news that we thought would interest our members.

James Salmon, Operations Director.

Confidence among SMEs hits three-year low

Confidence among small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) has fallen to its lowest level in three years, with only 30% predicting growth this year. The uncertain economic and political outlook, along with higher prices, are to blame for the decline in confidence. The North East saw the biggest drop in confidence, followed by the East Midlands and Wales. Confidence levels also dropped across various sectors, including manufacturing, media, IT and telecoms, and agriculture. Jo Morris, Novuna’s head of business insight, expressed concern over the sharp falls in some sectors.

SMEs had strong first quarter, says NatWest

The first quarter of 2024 has seen SMEs in Britain experience strong trading, with a rise in new business and the highest rate of output growth since last year. A survey compiled by NatWest found services companies have performed particularly well, attributing the increase to new projects. The survey reveals optimism among business owners, but also highlights cautiousness in hiring decisions, with some businesses concerned about the upcoming election and potential government changes.

Small businesses save £450 on energy bills with cost-cutting measures

Energy-conscious small businesses have managed to save £450 on their energy bills over the last 12 months by implementing cost-cutting measures. A study of 500 SMEs found that 78% have taken steps to reduce their energy usage, with 24% introducing at least six new practices. Common measures include switching to LED lighting, going paper-free, and reducing heating time. Many businesses have found these steps to be effective, with 35% agreeing that they have made a significant difference. British Gas Business, which commissioned the research, is encouraging SMEs to continue finding ways to be more energy efficient.

UK retail sales flatline in March

Retail sales unexpectedly stalled in March as consumers cut back on spending due to the cost of living, according to the Office for National Statistics. The figures showed no growth in retail sales, with a contraction in food sales and department stores offsetting higher sales elsewhere. The gloomy figures highlight the dilemma for the Bank of England in deciding when to cut interest rates, as it faces weak growth and higher than expected inflation. Lisa Hooker, the PwC leader of industry for consumer markets, said: “What is clear is that the first quarter of the year has been disappointing for many retailers. Lower inflation and the first 2% cut to national insurance, which was felt in January’s pay packets, have yet to translate into a sustained recovery in spending.”

The rise of zero-based budgeting

Growing social media interest in zero-based budgeting has prompted banks to introduce new features to support this budgeting method. Zero-based budgeting involves meticulously tracking spending and saving, ensuring that income minus expenses equals zero. It has gained popularity on platforms like TikTok, with individuals sharing their success stories. Personal finance experts like Dave Ramsey have also endorsed this method. To capitalise on the trend, firms and individuals are selling zero-based budgeting-related merchandise. Banks like Starling Bank, Chase, and Monzo have introduced features like “Spaces” and virtual cards to help customers track expenses, set budgets, and pay expenses from allocated budgets. While zero-based budgeting has its benefits, some argue that it can be time-consuming and challenging to predict future expenses. However, research suggests that even tracking one category of spending can reduce overall spending.

Teachers say just 1% of pupils understand money

Britain is raising a generation that lacks basic financial skills, according to a survey. Only 1% of primary teachers believe that pupils have adequate financial literacy. The research suggests that the decision to incorporate financial education into the curriculum has not produced the desired results. Instead of being taught as a standalone subject, money matters have been integrated into other subjects. The survey, commissioned by the Social Market Foundation, also found that 42% of primary schoolteachers reported that none of their pupils possessed adequate financial skills. The Social Market Foundation has called for a “whole school approach” to financial education arguing that financial literacy has documented links to better physical and mental health, supports accumulation of wealth, and may also reduce the likelihood of people falling victim to fraud and being in debt.

Ramsden ‘more confident’ inflation pressures receding

The deputy governor of the Bank of England, Dave Ramsden, said on Friday that UK inflation could hold around the Bank of England’s 2% target for the next three years, rather than rise higher later this year as the central bank forecast in February. This would leave the UK “as less of an outlier and more of a laggard in terms of recent inflation performance,” Ramsden said. “I was one of eight members who voted to hold Bank Rate at 5.25%,” he told an audience in Washington. “Over the last few months, I have become more confident in the evidence that risks to persistence in domestic inflation pressures are receding.”

Interest rate cut delays will subdue growth

The British economy is expected to remain subdued this year due to the Bank of England delaying interest rate cuts in the face of stubborn inflation. However, the EY Item Club predicts that growth will improve significantly in 2025. The forecast projects a 0.7% increase in GDP this year, downgraded from the previous 0.9% expansion forecast. Interest rates are expected to stay tight for longer than anticipated – the EY Item Club’s expectations for rate cuts have been reduced from five to three. Inflation is predicted to reach the official 2% target in the second half of this year. Despite the subdued performance this year, the EY Item Club forecasts a 2% leap in output in 2025, suggesting delayed growth. House prices are expected to rise by 1.3% this year and 2% next year, while consumer spending is projected to grow by 0.7%. Business investment is also expected to increase by 0.6% this year. “High inflation, energy prices, and interest rates have mired the UK in economic stagnation in recent years but all three obstacles to growth have now either fallen away already or are expected to diminish in 2024,” said Peter Arnold, EY UK chief economist.

Jeremy Hunt targets further 2p cut in national insurance

A pre-election September mini-Budget could see the Chancellor cut National Insurance Contributions by a further two percentage points, the Chancellor told the FT over the weekend. News of the plan comes despite warnings from the International Monetary Fund that pre-election tax cuts might damage the public finances. The organisation will be conducting an in-depth look at the UK economy next month.

PM announces benefit curbs to tackle ‘sicknote culture’

The Prime Minister has unveiled a new five-point plan to tighten the welfare system including removing benefits for unemployed people who refuse to take a job after 12 months. Rishi Sunak said recent rises in spending on sickness benefits were unsustainable, insisting that welfare should not be a “lifestyle choice” or the system exploited. Mr Sunak said mild depression or anxiety were not barriers to work, explaining that the number claiming for these conditions had tripled in the past decade. “This is about making sure that the welfare system doesn’t over-medicalise what are the everyday challenges and anxieties of life.” He rejected the argument that his approach amounted to not being caring enough to people with mental health concerns, explaining: “This is about recognising how central and important work is to people’s lives. It gives you purpose. It gives you hope. It gives you belonging and identity.”

Thoughtless ‘compassion’ is leading us to our demise

Matthew Syed comments in the Times on Rishi Sunak’s clampdown on Britain’s so-called “sick note culture”. After a brief philosophical dive into the nature of compassion, Syed proceeds to outline the idea that unsustainable benefit bills are merely one symptom of a wider problem that often afflicts civilisations towards the end of a wave of affluence, namely, that social entitlements have a tendency to become uncoupled from the material conditions required to finance them. Affluence has provided the conditions for compassion to be expanded without consideration of the cost to society – judgements on net zero and provisions for illegal immigrants are given as examples. With much of the western world in the same boat – burdened by high debt in a low growth environment, Syed says we need a “moral recalibration” and to rethink compassion, what essential services are, and whether we should be giving foreign aid to countries with space programmes. “We need to rethink human rights and, perhaps even more importantly, individual responsibilities.”

Delay to auto-enrolment shake-up brings disappointment

Industry experts have hit out at plans to delay a consultation on increasing contributions to the auto-enrolment scheme for workplace pensions would not take place until after 2025. Pensions Minister Paul Maynard told the Pensions Age Spring Conference: “I know there’s great eagerness that we get on with this, but we have to do it in the right way at the right time. We are committed to doing so during the mid to later part of this decade.” The delay could result in millions of employees missing out on higher pension contributions and facing poorer retirement income outcomes. Kate Smith, Head of Pensions at Aegon, expressed deep disappointment with the delay: “This is bad news for pension savers, particularly low earners, who are disproportionately women.”

‘Magnetic’ pensions could simplify pension savings

Pensions that follow employees from job to job could simplify retirement saving for workers with small pots, experts have said. By “magnetically attaching” each pot to the worker they could be combined each time they change to a different workplace pension, consultancy LCP suggests. Laura Myers, of LCP, said: “We urgently need a solution to the problem of small pots. But the Government’s plans are complex and expensive and will take years to implement.” Jamie Jenkins, of Royal London, agreed: “This is an eminently sensible proposal which would be easily understood.”

Zuber Issa to sell off Asda stake

Zuber Issa is reportedly close to agreeing a deal to offload his 22.5% share in Asda to TDR Capital, increasing their holding in the retailer by about two-thirds. The potential changes at Asda come as Mohsin Issa embarks on a new phase in his personal life. Earlier this year Mohsin confirmed that he is in a romantic relationship with Victoria Price, a former partner at EY, which was Asda’s auditor until it quit in July last year.

Fraud victims call for better protection from regulators

The Sunday Times reported on how former footballers have joined a campaign demanding better financial regulation to protect victims of investment scams and tax avoidance schemes. Many former footballers invested in complex projects after relying on the advice of professional accountants and advisers, but they were later found to be tax avoidance schemes, resulting in huge fines. The Transparency Task Force organised a demonstration in London, calling for improved protection for investors and criticising the Financial Conduct Authority, HMRC, and Action Fraud for failing victims. The Yorkshire Post also covers the campaign, focussing on the victims of the collapsed Philips Trust Corporation. The FCA was warned it was a Ponzi scheme 18 months before its collapse. The Transparency Task Force’s Mark Bishop calls on MPs to back legal changes that would allow people to sue the FCA and change its complaints scheme.

House prices

The Rightmove House Price Index revealed the average asking price of property coming to the market in April rose by 1.1% or £4,207 month-on-month, to £372,324. This left prices just £570 short of the record in May 2023 while the annual rate of price growth is now 1.7%, the highest level for 12 months. Rightmove said a key factor behind this growth is the largest and most expensive homes, which are seeing their strongest start to the year for price growth since 2014.

Dr Martens

Dr. Martens stock have advanced as much as 8.7%, after the Mail on Sunday reported that the shoemaker had attracted takeover interest


The door handles and window seals maker, agreed to be taken over by US-listed peer Quanex in a £788 million cash-and-stock deal.

Thames Water

Thames has increased an updated business plan showing they need to spend an extra £1.1 billion to £19.8 billion, to fix leaks and sewage spills. Where the cash will come from for the highly levered and practically insolvent company  is unclear although Thames still want to raise bills by 40% above inflation by the end of the decade. So from customers then! Right!

Latest Insolvencies

Appointment of Liquidators – H2SO LLP
Appointment of Liquidators – CHANTRY LODGE LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – GLOBESTAR HOLDINGS 2 LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – COLLIERS PBC LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BOND DAVIDSON LTD.
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – ERGON VEHICLE SERVICES LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – AYRSHIRE TAXI VANS LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – PROPER ORDER LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – CRAIGTON HOLDINGS LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – FACT SIX LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – WOODEND RESOURCES LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – FOWLERS BUILDERS MERCHANTS LTD
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – CROFTLAKE LIMITED
Petitions to wind up (Companies) – SAN LEON ELI LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BATES UROLOGY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – SHOREHAM AB MANAGEMENT LTD LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – CROWSTONE MANOR LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – DAVID ROGER BENNETT LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – TYDD HAULAGE LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – MCS DESIGN LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – TROUBLESHOOT LTD
Appointment of Liquidators – SANDBOX LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – APARTIA LTD

Appointment of Administrator – THIRLMERE DEACON LLP
Appointment of Liquidators – HALO PHOTONICS LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BROOKHOUSE (PETERBOROUGH) LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BROOKHOUSE SERVICES LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BROOKHOUSE (YSTALYFERA) LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ORL PUB LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ERITON ENERGY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – BROOKHOUSE LEASING LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – ANGEL BAR & GRILL LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – MELTON AIR CONDITIONING LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – TEATREE ADVISORY LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – 48-50 WESTERN ROAD RESIDENTIAL LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – APPAREO LIMITED
Appointment of Liquidators – COVAX PROPERTIES LTD
Appointment of Administrator – LOWTON MOTOR COMPANY LIMITED

Why should you become a CPA member!

The Credit Protection Association (CPA) has been assisting thousands of UK businesses to get paid, since 1914. We have seen many financial crises, this one will be particularly deadly for suppliers for some time to come.

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Just call Peter Uwins, CPA’s National Sales Manager, on 020 8846 0000 (business hours) or email today.

When you see your money come in, you will be so glad you used CPA.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections


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Just call  020 8846 0000 and ask for Godfrey Nelson or Cris Shirley (business hours) or email today.

The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.


Get compensated for previous late payments

Have you been paid late by business customers in the last six years?

Maybe you no longer work with them. Under legislation, you are entitled to  compensation you for those late payments you have suffered.

You put up with the PAIN – now claim the GAIN!

Claim late payment compensation (LPC) from former business customers who paid you late in the last six years!

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The Credit Protection Association – Prompting Punctual Payments – Ethical, Effective, Efficient, Economical collections.