Government urged to increase scrutiny of banks lending to small businesses

Business owners struggling to access finance from major lenders are sceptical about support from the Government, despite its commitment to scrutinise the behaviour of banks via its Small Business Lending Monitoring Panel. The panel, which comprises officials from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the Bank of England and HM Treasury, has met on just five occasions since it was set up in November 2008.

2009 Budget must support small businesses hit by declining confidence

Small firms fear a tax rise is heading their way in next month’s budget – to pay for the government’s emergency economic programme, according to the latest survey from the Forum of Private Business.

In its latest quarterly Referendum survey, 82% of members of the FPB said they feared the tax rises and slammed the government’s response so far to the recession as ‘ineffective’ by 66% of, and ‘harmful’ by 13%.

Enter this year’s Small Business Excellence Awards

Dell and the British Chambers of Commerce are looking for entries for their global 2009 Dell Small Business Excellence Awards. It’s only the second year that the UK has been an entrant, but in the first year UK business Wiggly Wigglers went on to win the global prize of £25,000 worth of IT equipment.

The UK winner will also receive a business class notebook and some personal tips on surviving the recession from Michael Dell, the entrepreneur who built Dell from his university dorm room into the global business Dell is today.

Peer1 offers £1,000 ‘Foxtrot-Oscar’ bonus to new recruits

Peer1, the multi-million dollar global managed hosting company is aggressively hiring to staff its new European HQ based in Southampton, UK, but the company is only interested in the very best technical, sales and customer service talent – and is prepared to pay off new recruits who don’t make the grade.

The £1,000 ‘Foxtrot Oscar’ bonus is designed to ensure that Peer1 only employs people who are fully committed to delivering outstanding customer service. The bonus will be paid to any successful new employees who want to give up their job within the first two weeks.

Even The Apprentice is feeling the recession

BBC’s hit business reality show The Apprentice has not escaped the recession – its budget has been hit, the overseas episode axed and contestants will instead undertake several “buy British” challenges, Sir Alan Sugar announced at the recent launch for the new series.

The traditional mention of Sugar’s wealth has also been omitted from the opening credits of the fifth series, which begins next week, although the winning apprentice will still secure a six-figure salary.

Celebrations for 350th anniversary of the cheque marred by plans to kill off the payment method

As one banking organisation celebrates the 350th anniversary of the cheque, another is deciding when to kill it off as a method of payment.

On Monday, London based business leaders attended a function at the Bank of England Museum, 350 years to the day since the first cheque was signed. The reception was organised by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company, which has commemorated the occasion in a report charting the life and times of the preferred method of payment for small businesses. However amid the celebrations, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning that the Payments Council is preparing a ‘roadmap’ that is likely to decide when the cheque will be abolished.

Businesses counting cost of snow

Disruption caused by the heavy snowfall could cost UK businesses more than £1.2bn, business groups have estimated. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that 20% of the UK’s working population, or 6.4 million people, would not make it to work. South-east England has the worst snow it has seen for 18 years, causing all London buses to be pulled from service and the closure of Heathrow runways. Trading on the London Stock Exchange was thinner than normal.

Equality experts: ‘focus on outcomes not process’

Businesses striving towards equal opportunities should focus more on outcomes than processes, according to a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) Think Tank event.

Speakers at “Quality and Equality – Standards for A Modern Society” concluded that progress on equality will only be made if companies and regulators alike focussed more on what they needed to achieve rather than methodology. There was consensus that accreditation is a good way to drive behaviour, whilst regulation should only be used to prevent harm.

Mandelson’s billion pound business support package is not enough say key business leaders

Leading business organisations have given a guarded response to the government’s £11bn loan guarantee package with many voicing the opinion that it ‘did not go far enough’ to help businesses starved of credit.

The employers’ organisation, the CBI, said certain important companies needed to refinance £100bn of credit facilities this year. "The scale of the problem goes well beyond what the government has announced today. The sense of living on borrowed time is palpable," the CBI’s director-general, Richard Lambert, said.

More pressure on banks to lend to small businesses

A third of small businesses surveyed in the Forum of Private Business’s (FPB’s) latest Referendum poll of members actively sought finance during the last quarter of 2008. However, despite the Government’s high-profile bail-out and pressure on banks from the FPB, almost half were either partially or completely rejected by UK lenders.