UK businesses ‘targeting international trade’ as part of growth plans, survey suggests

A survey carried out by distribution group CitySprint has suggested that UK firms are considering trading internationally in order to grow and expand their business.

The survey, which polled over 1,000 business owners and directors, revealed that around 1.3 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are focusing on international trade in their plans to expand their business.

78% of those seeking to trade overseas indicated that they would like to do business in Europe, CitySprint found.

A further 55% are considering trading in North America, whilst an additional 36% expressed an interest in trading in Asia.

Businesses in the retail, manufacturing, arts, IT and utilities industries are most likely to consider trading internationally, CitySprint suggested.

Meanwhile, the survey also revealed that 52% of firms have plans to expand their business within the UK.

Commenting on the findings, Patrick Gallagher, Group CEO at CitySprint, said: ‘The UK’s smaller enterprises show no shortage of ambition when it comes to exploring new markets.

‘Whether it’s going global or taking trade nationwide for the first time, scaling up is a huge milestone in any organisation’s history. It needs to be done thoughtfully and with care – but it doesn’t have to be done in isolation. SMEs must work together to realise their goals.’


Abolition of stamp duty for first-time homebuyers ‘benefits 69,000 households’

The abolition of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for first-time homebuyers of properties worth under £300,000 has ‘benefitted 69,000 households’, government data has suggested.

During the 2017 Autumn Budget on 22 November 2017, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the abolition of SDLT, with immediate effect. From this time, most first-time buyers paying £300,000 or less for a residential property are no longer required to pay SDLT.

Official figures for the period to 31 March 2018 show 69,000 first-time homebuyers have ‘benefitted from the SDLT abolition’, saving an average of £2,300 each. The government stated that this is in line with its aim of ‘helping over one million people to get onto the housing ladder’ over the next five years.

Other initiatives introduced to help individuals to get onto the housing ladder have also seen a significant uptake, with more than 387,000 people using the government’s Help to Buy scheme, and over 1.1 million Help to Buy ISA accounts having been opened.

Commenting on the data, Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘I’m proud that the cut to stamp duty for first-time buyers is helping to realise the dream of home ownership for a new generation, alongside building more homes in the right areas, and generous schemes such as the Lifetime ISA and Help to Buy.’

However, estate agent regulatory body NAEA Propertymark warned that the cost of purchasing a home for first-time buyers is ‘still very high’, with many individuals finding it ‘difficult to save for a deposit’.

‘Time running out’ for SMEs to prepare for introduction of GDPR, says FSB

With less than one month until the introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that time is running out for them to prepare.

The business group stated that small businesses face an ‘uphill challenge’ in ensuring that they are compliant by 25 May 2018 – the date from which the new regulation takes effect.

Under the new rules, organisations which collect, store and process individuals’ personal data will be subject to new obligations, with an increased emphasis on accountability and transparency.

The financial penalties for failing to comply are severe, with fines costing up to €20 million or up to 4% of total annual worldwide revenue, whichever is the greater.

The FSB has called on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the regulatory body that will monitor firms’ compliance, to adopt an ‘understanding approach’ to GDPR enforcement.

‘As the GDPR deadline swiftly approaches, there is a real danger that many small businesses are yet to have adequately prepared for the changes,’ said Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB.

‘Fortunately for these businesses, there is still time on the clock to start, or finish, their preparations.

‘The GDPR is the largest shake-up of data protection laws for years, and whether you are a personal trainer or a consultant, most businesses will have to implement changes to their current practices to make sure they are complying with the new rules.’

Further information on the GDPR can be found on the ICO website.

Report finds identity fraud ‘on the rise’ in the UK

A new report published by fraud prevention service Cifas has revealed that 2017 had the ‘highest number of identity fraud cases ever recorded’.

Cifas polled 306 organisations and found that, during 2017, the number of identify fraud cases rose to 174,523 – representing an ‘all-time high’, and an increase of 125% when compared to ten years ago.

In 95% of these cases, victims were impersonated by criminals, Cifas stated.

It revealed that criminals are increasingly targeting sectors such as telecoms, online retail and insurance to carry out fraudulent activities, as opposed to making fraudulent applications for bank accounts and credit cards.

The report also found that the number of individuals aged between 14 and 24 becoming ‘money mules’ rose by 27%. Cifas suggested that such individuals were targeted by fraudsters with the promise of ‘easy cash’.

In addition, Cifas stated that, using non-competitive data sharing, businesses successfully prevented over £1.3 billion in fraud losses in 2017.

Commenting on the report, Mike Haley, Deputy Chief Executive of Cifas, said: ‘The absolute volume of fraud is still frighteningly high and much more still needs to be done to reduce its prevalence, including greater collaboration and sharing of fraud risk data between industry, government and law enforcement.’

Cost of Brexit ‘divorce bill’ still unclear, says NAO

The National Audit Office (NAO) has stated that the final cost of the UK’s Brexit ‘divorce bill’ remains ‘uncertain’.

There are many factors that need to be considered when analysing the cost of leaving the EU, the NAO stated, and the estimate of between £35 billion and £39 billion put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May in December 2017 could rise.

The NAO said that an increase in inflation, alterations to the exchange rate or changes to the UK’s economic performance could cause the final figure to rise.

Commenting on the matter, Amyas Morse, Head of the NAO, said: ‘We have reviewed the Treasury’s estimate of how much the UK will pay the EU under the draft withdrawal agreement. The estimate reflects a number of moving parts, so the range of costs in it could have been wider than £35 billion to £39 billion.’

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019, and a transitional period is expected to last until 31 December 2020. The UK has agreed to continue to fulfil its current financial commitments following Brexit, while benefitting from most of the current trade arrangements.

Men ‘getting better state pension deal’ than women, research suggests

Research carried out by Which? has suggested that men get a ‘better state pension deal’ than women, with men receiving almost £29,000 more than women over the course of an average 20-year retirement.

The consumer group stated that ‘significant disparities persist’ in regard to the UK’s state pension gender gap, with the average man typically receiving £153.86 per week and the average woman receiving £125.98 a week.

However, the research also suggested that the state pension gender gap has narrowed slightly. In August of last year, the average state pension payment received by women equated to 81.9% of that received by men – a rise when compared to the figure of 79.7% recorded in August 2015.

Commenting on the research, Harry Rose, Money Editor at Which?, said: ‘Our evidence shows how variable people’s state pension payments still are. Many pensioners will be shocked by the differences in average payouts to men and women, and those qualifying under the old and new systems.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stated: ‘Around 650,000 women reaching state pension age in the first 10 years will receive an average of £8 per week (in 2015/16 earnings terms) more, due to the new state pension valuation of their national insurance record.’

Many businesses ‘not seeing improvements in UK mobile network’, states BCC

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has stated that a significant number of UK businesses are ‘not seeing improvements’ in the UK’s mobile network.

A BCC survey of more than 1,100 businesses revealed that only 53% of firms believe that there has been an improvement in the reliability of the UK’s mobile phone network.

The survey also found that 30% of firms believe that there has been no change in reliability, whilst 16% said that they believe the network has become ‘less reliable’. A further 21% of businesses don’t believe that the mobile phone network meets their needs in accessing customers, suppliers and employees.

Many businesses are experiencing mobile phone signal ‘not-spots’, the BCC found. It said that, in one month, 500 not-spots had been identified by business communities across the UK.

‘A reliable mobile signal is a basic everyday requirement for businesses,’ said Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC.

‘Despite big investments in the mobile network in recent years, nearly half of businesses say they haven’t seen improvements – so there’s clearly still work to do to translate upgrades into a better real-life experience for users.

‘Better mobile coverage is part of getting the basics right, so that business can drive growth across the UK.’