UK SMEs concerned about securing funding in run-up to Brexit, survey suggests

A survey conducted by insurer Hiscox has suggested that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are concerned about their ability to secure funding in the run-up to Brexit.

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Hiscox surveyed 500 small businesses and discovered that 38% of respondents utilise EU funding in order to help grow their business.

However, the insurer warned that firms face an ‘uncertain financial future’ as the UK re-evaluates its economic strategy ahead of Brexit.

36% of business owners cited a lack of funding options as being the biggest obstacle they face when looking for funding. 28% of firms surveyed stated that they are ineligible for funding, which has prevented them from growing their business.

Meanwhile, 25% said that market competition is their key challenge in securing funding.

Hiscox also found that economic uncertainty has adversely affected business confidence: 31% of those surveyed reported that such uncertainty has hampered their growth opportunities over the last five years.

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Government introduces new Parental Bereavement Bill

The government has introduced a new Parental Bereavement Bill in order to supply bereaved parents in employment with statutory paid leave.

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Currently, no legal requirement exists to provide employees with statutory paid leave following the loss of a child.

Under the Employment Rights Act, workers have the right to opt to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off work.

The government revealed that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will be working with employees, employers and campaigners to better understand the requirements of bereaved parents.

The Bill is expected to have its second reading in the autumn, the government said.

Business Minister, Margot James, commented: ‘The loss of a child is a traumatic experience for any parent. For parents holding down a job at the same time as dealing with their grief, it can be doubly stressful.

‘We want parents to get the support they need at this deeply upsetting time, that is why government is supporting this Private Members’ Bill which will introduce statutory paid bereavement leave for employed parents.’

Rise in personal debt a ‘danger to UK economy’, Bank of England warns

The Bank of England (BoE) has warned that a significant rise in personal debt could ‘pose a danger to the UK economy’.

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The Bank revealed that car loans, credit card balance transfers and personal loans have increased by 10% over the past year, whereas household incomes have risen by just 1.5%.

High street banks are at risk of entering a ‘spiral of complacency’ during a period of good economic performance and low loan issues, the BoE also suggested.

It warned that as the spiral continues, borrowers risk accumulating ‘more and more’ debt.

The BoE stated that it may urge banks to implement further safeguards against the risk of bad debts.

Commenting on the rise in personal debt, Alex Brazier, Financial Stability Director at the BoE, said: ‘Household debt – like most things that are good in moderation – can be dangerous in excess. Dangerous to borrowers, lenders and, most importantly from our perspective, everyone else in the economy.’

IMF downgrades UK growth forecast for 2017

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has downgraded the UK’s growth forecast for 2017 from 2% to 1.7%.

It attributed the downgrade to the UK’s weaker-than-expected economic performance in the first three months of this year.

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However, growth forecasts for France, Germany, Italy and Spain have been revised upwards.

The latest IMF forecast is just below the Bank of England’s: the Bank predicts that the UK economy will grow by 1.9% this year.

Meanwhile, UK growth forecasts for 2018 remain unchanged at 1.5%, the IMF revealed. Global economic predictions for next year also remain the same, with the IMF anticipating global growth of 3.6%.

Commenting on the downgrade, a Treasury spokesperson said: ‘This forecast underscores exactly why our plans to increase productivity and ensure we get the very best deal with the EU are vitally important.

‘We will continue to deliver greater prosperity and higher living standards for hard working people across the country.’

Report suggests summer childcare costs have risen significantly

A report published by the Family and Childcare Trust has revealed that summer childcare costs in England have risen by 5% since last year.

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Working parents now pay an average of £125 for one week of holiday childcare, the report found.

The research also suggested that parents pay an average of £748 per child for six weeks of holiday childcare.

Holiday childcare costs in Wales, however, have fallen by 5%, to £117. Holiday childcare costs in Scotland are on par with those in England.

The Family and Childcare Trust is calling on the government to create a strategy to ensure that ‘every parent is better off working after they have paid for childcare’, and to provide enough childcare for working parents throughout the year.

Ellen Broomé, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said: ‘Once again, rising holiday childcare costs and increasing shortages will leave parents struggling to keep their heads above water.

‘Many working parents who cannot call on family and friends to provide informal childcare may struggle to make work pay or remain in work at all this summer.’

Government brings forward rise in state pension age

The government has announced that the rise in the state pension age from 67 to 68 will be phased in between 2037 and 2039, rather than between 2044 and 2046, as was previously planned.

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The change could potentially save £74 billion by 2045/46, the government said.

Individuals born between 6 April 1970 and 5 April 1978 will be affected. The government stated that no one born on or before 5 April 1970 will see a change to their proposed state pension age.

David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, commented: ‘Since 1948, the state pension has been an important part of society, providing financial security to all in later life.

‘As life expectancy continues to rise and the number of people in receipt of state pension increases, we need to ensure that we have a fair and sustainable system that is reflective of modern life and protected for future generations.’

However, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has warned that the state pension age is now higher than many individuals’ life expectancy.

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, stated: ‘A decent retirement is a right for us all, not a privilege for the few.

‘Rather than hiking the pension age, the government must do more for older workers who want to keep working and paying taxes. Workplaces and working patterns need to adapt to their needs.’