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In My View…The Cost of Childcare

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, October 25, 2018

I was interested to read some new research commissioned by Yoopies on the impact that the Government’s 30 hours of free childcare is having on working parents. I was, however, particularly struck by the impact this is having in Chichester… As a working mother to two young children, this is a topic very close to my heart (and wallet). I went back to work when my children were very young and the nature of my job meant that the only feasible option was to employ a full time nanny. Whilst this is a decision that I have never regretted, it is a decision that has had a significant financial impact. Whilst I do support the move to provide greater access to free childcare, the Government scheme has had a number of unintended consequences. The first is the financial pressure it has put on nurseries. I have seen this first hand as I am responsible for managing a chain of childcare nurseries including a large site in Chichester – First Steps. Analysis by the National Day Nurseries Association showed that over the last year there has been a 66% increase in nursery closures. This reflects the significant financial pressures of delivering quality childcare on an hourly funding rate that is often less than £5 per child and often results in providers having to supplement the funded hours across non-funded hours in order to cover costs. This has had a further consequence in driving up the demand for alternative care including the cost nannies - over the last year, hourly costs have risen by 4.1%. The research also analysed hourly home childcare costs across the UK, highlighting significant regional disparity. The most expensive place in the UK isn’t London but, you’ve guessed it… Chichester.  According to the report “The upmarket cathedral city in West Sussex, now tops the childcare ‘rich list’ with in-home carers demanding an average of £10.74 per hour, £2.24 above the UK average.” If you are a working parent this presents a major issue and is often a barrier to parents returning to work. The solution isn’t easy but, in my opinion change is needed – adapting the scheme so that funding could be used as a subsidy against any childcare costs would be a good start.

Julie Kapsalis, Chair of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Chichester College Group

In My View: Are your employees switched on?

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, September 20, 2018

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UK’s Working Time Regulations which include the rules on how many hours people can work, the number and length of rest breaks, and paid annual holiday. But how relevant is this in today’s digital world?

Although emails and texts were around 20 years ago, most people kept their personal and working communications separate and Wi-Fi connectivity was in its infancy.  Since then, technology and social media have transformed the way we work and keep in touch.  So much so, that many people are ‘connected’ to their work 24/7.  We shift from a work email to a personal WhatsApp to an Instagram picture to a professional text, all on the same device and at any time of the day.

Smartphones and tablets have made it easier for people to work while they travel, but this can increase the pressure on them to get work done on their journey to and from work.  Increasingly, people are asking whether time spent working while we travel, should be classed as working time? It probably won’t be long before a legal claim is made in this respect.

However, I think the real danger is digital burnout.  For many employees, compulsively checking and sending work emails outside office hours has become the norm. This blurs the boundaries between work and leisure and it becomes difficult to switch off

In my view, employers should make it clear to their staff when, where and how they expect them to be connected.  This may include setting clear boundaries and will vary in different industries and businesses.  It’s important to remember that being less available doesn’t necessarily equate to being less efficient.  In fact, people are more productive when they have more down-time.  Some firms have recognised that switching off from work is essential and have banned out-of-hours emails.

Even during the working day, people need quality time to focus on their work without being distracted by emails and other digital communications.  We need to get out of the habit of reading and answering them immediately, after all most don’t require an immediate response.  In my experience employees need clear space to think, be creative and contribute to business growth. Employers may need to give their people ‘permission’ to be less available.

CCCI members’ meetings and events give businesses the chance to talk about issues that are important to them.  Meeting other business people and getting to know them in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere provides members with their own informal support network – as well as the opportunity to develop good business relationships.

Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub

In my view: Making Tax Digital (MTD) update

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, August 23, 2018

HMRC's pilot of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax has been extended and is now able to accept quarterly updates from individual landlords with simple tax affairs. Agents can also sign up clients to pilot. The latest extension means that certain taxpayers will be able to opt out of the current self-assessment regime and use software to report their income tax if at least one of the following applies:

  • the taxpayer is a sole trader with income from one business; or
  • they rent out only UK property but not as furnished holiday lettings.

Those who do not qualify must continue to report their income to HMRC via a self-assessment return in the usual way.

Taxpayers who sign up to report digitally will send updated information directly to HMRC every three months during the course of the year and will be able to view up-to-date 'best estimates' of their tax liability as they go along. A final report will be submitted to confirm income and expenses at the end of the accounting year. If the taxpayer needs to claim allowances and reliefs, he or she can do this within that final report. The taxpayer will then be able to see a full tax calculation for the year.

In order to join the pilot, the taxpayer must be able to keep digital records of their business transactions and commit to sending income tax updates to HMRC at least on a quarterly basis using MTD-compliant software.

MTD for VAT is currently expected to commence from 1 April 2019 for VAT registered organisations with an annual turnover in excess of £85,000 a year. No date has yet been set for when the MTD scheme may be formally introduced on a mandatory basis for income tax purposes, but it will not be before 2020, and probably later than that due to HMRC's current focus on Brexit preparations.

Rizwan Khan FCCA ACA, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry

In my view: We can all be a great support to one another!

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, July 19, 2018

We at CCCI held a very interesting and interactive lunch earlier in the year with our MP Gillian Keegan.  One of the discussion points was over the lack of support for people in the first year of business or at the start-up stage of a business.  Although it was acknowledged that there is some support out there with the National Helpline and here in Chichester with our own Enterprise Centre, it was felt that more needed to be done to encourage and connect start-up businesses in their crucial first steps.  This is something that we at CCCI are taking on board and have subsequently started up a working group to help tackle the situation within our own organisation.

That same week I was asked to attend an event at one of our most valued and engaging members “Q Hair & Beauty”. Managing Director Dawn Lawrence has spotted a gap within another part of society, that of loneliness.  Dawn has set up a weekly “Coffee Club” at their hair salon in North Street Chichester, to bring people together who are lonely for whatever reason and would like to chat to likeminded people over a free cup of coffee and croissant.

Our own “Drop in for Drinks” is proving successful too.  We recognise that Chichester can be somewhat quiet on leaving work and we thought it would be good to get everyone together, members and non-members, to have an informal chat and get-together over an afterwork drink.

The message I am receiving is that people want to interact more face to face.  All too often we are stuck behind a computer or involved in social media updates.  We see people with eyes down, looking at their mobiles, not aware of others around them.  Let’s connect with all these groups and ideas and interact with people eye to eye.  In my view, we can all be a great support to one another with our experience, thoughts and often can provide solutions to problems.

Julie Harrison, CEO (Shared Role) of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry


In My View: GDPR panic over?

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, June 21, 2018

No doubt you breathed a sigh of relief when you got things done in time.  If you didn’t, don’t panic as it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be pursued by the Information Commissioner if you can show that you’re actively engaging with the new regime.  Many businesses are taking the approach that GDPR is ‘work in progress’ which was always going to extend beyond the deadline.

The lead up to GDPR has been hectic and we all had to prioritise on what to tackle first.  Most of us tailored our GDPR planning to the key areas of risk we face, where enforcement action is more likely in the event of a data breach. 

As a result, HR and employee data has been low priority for many businesses but it’s important to recognise that as with customer data, the way we collect and process employee information will change.

We need to think about how we use personal and sensitive staff data and, probably, tighten up our data security procedures.

In recruitment, if we use automatic profiling to filter CVs, we need to notify candidates and, if they object, use an alternative method with some human intervention. 

Consent clauses in employment contracts will be invalid so we need to establish another legal basis for processing data which may vary for different categories and the reasons for processing it.

It’s essential that we know how to deal with requests for information from employees or ex-employees, how to identify a formal Subject Access Request, and what to do with it.  Timescales and information requirements have changed along with the abolition of SAR fees.  Coupled with the abolition of employment tribunal fees, we could see an increase in SARs as they’re often used by aggrieved individuals to gather information prior to litigation. 

There are still grey areas in the GDPR which will, over time, be interpreted by the Courts when legal challenges are made.  It’s likely that as our understanding of the legislation evolves, so too will our processes.

In my view, if we take a sensible, systematic approach to data protection across all parts of our business, involving our employees and ensure new systems become part of the way we do things, then we can’t go far wrong.

CCCI members’ meetings and events give businesses the chance to talk about issues that are important to them.  Meeting other business people and getting to know them in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere provides members with their own informal support network – as well as the opportunity to develop good business relationships.

Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub

'In My View'... How to get the best from your digital agency

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, May 24, 2018

Having worked in digital now for nearly 20 years, here are some key lessons I’ve learned about getting the best from your digital agency.

Is it all about results?

At the end of the day, yes. An agency is commissioned to deliver a set of results that the business on its own cannot do.

Having a set of clearly defined results at the start can really help focus what the agency is doing. They may and should change as you both learn what is and isn’t working, but having some clear objectives defined should be your starting point.

Additionally though, maintaining a good relationship with your agency is very important to get the most from them. Any agency worth its salt will have people who are deeply invested in their clients’ brand and objectives. Rather than treating the agency as just another supplier, the best results go hand-in-hand with the agency-client relationship, and the agency team gaining a deep understanding about the business, its peculiarities and personalities.

Know your budgets

Knowing what the business has to spend early on really helps the agency focus on what will bring the most value to the business.

Roles

Projects and relationships can hit the rocks because people don’t understand their role, or over-reach on what they’re meant to be doing and step on someone else’s toes. It is important that people on both the agency- and client-side know what their role is.

Let the agency do their job

Once the deliverables are agreed with your agency, let them do what they’re good at, whilst the business focusses on what it’s good at.  Don’t over-direct them: it can be frustrating for the agency and can often result in a poor outcome. 

Expect a project plan

A project plan will simply lay out who is doing what, by whom and by when. They can be very simple or more complex depending on what’s being delivered. A project plan can also show the impact of making a change part-way through and how that affects the delivery dates.

If your agency has not produced a project plan for a deliverable, you should insist on one: it will lead to a better outcome.

Expect regular catch ups

Weekly status calls keep things moving at pace during a delivery, so expect one: covering what’s been achieved, what needs to be done in the week to come, and any changes in scope or issues with the project.  Expect at least monthly catch ups for ongoing campaign work.

Be cautious of agencies who don’t offer regular catch ups by phone or in-person.  It might mean they have too much on or are not giving your business the attention it deserves.

Jason Miller, Director Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and SteadyGo Digital

'In My View'... Spring Clean your Business

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, April 26, 2018

There’s been some sad news over the last few months with the demise of a few larger businesses nationally, such as Carillion and Toys R Us, due to changing market conditions and buying habits.  Of course, it’s not just the main businesses themselves that go under, it’s also thousands of businesses within their supply chain.  So, what went wrong?  Sometimes businesses can’t keep up with constantly adapting to suit their customers.  That is why it is critical to reflect on how your business operates to ensure it is fresh, current and healthy and that all your eggs aren’t in one basket!

We’re well into Spring now, so perhaps it’s time to Spring Clean your business.    There are a lot of areas to consider revisiting to prepare for the financial year ahead.  It might be worth taking a long look at your existing policies and procedures to ensure that you are ready to be compliant with the new GDPR legislation that comes into force in May, which is just around the corner.  This affects every business, whether you are a sole Trader or a large corporation.  Our training to inform members about this important subject was extremely well attended and the feedback was excellent.

Another hot topic right now is Cyber Security, again applicable to all businesses and we were fortunate to have one of our valued members give an insightful talk on this subject at a recent Big Breakfast a monthly event that is held in partnership between Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chichester College Group.  If you’re looking to network and enjoy a full English Breakfast, this might be the event for you.

On the development side of things, have you considered whether your staff hold the right skills to drive your business forward?  There’s plenty of training, support and business advice available locally and right now it’s free, so why not take advantage of the opportunities on offer?

What about marketing and brand, does this need an overhaul, are you getting your presence known and ‘out there’?

Do you make the time to go and meet new businesses and network, or attend Business Expos?  There are 2 of these coming up, in May and July, so go along and make new contacts!  Personally, I’ve always felt that it is important to make time for these, to forge bonds and relationships with your local business community as ‘People buy People’ – it’s not always about price, it’s about trust and reputation.  Why not make a Spring Resolution to find out more?

As your local thriving and vibrant Chamber, we can help you with all these points, we have a fantastic and diverse membership base who are always willing to help and point you in the right direction. 

If you’d like to meet informally, we hold regular ‘Drop in for Drinks’ evenings – come and join us and say hello!

All the information is on our website.

Sue Garman, CEO (Shared role), Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry

'In My View'... Are small businesses putting themselves at risk?

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, March 29, 2018

I recently read an article reporting that in 2016 there were 5.5 million small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) in the UK, employing 15.7 million people and generating an annual turnover of more than £1.8 trillion.

This is a huge sector and you would think it would keep business advisors fully employed to the point of demand exceeding supply.  But this isn’t the case.  When I talk to business owners, many say they do most things themselves even when they know someone else far more qualified and experienced who could do it better.  So, it appears there are a lot of businesses running their own books, doing their own accounts, dealing with staff contracts and employment issues while, at the same time, ensuring they meet their legal obligations and hoping they don’t fall foul of the law.

While some people do this very well, others say they just don’t get around to it, some even say they don’t know what they should be doing.

Some of this is down to cost, especially with start-ups, and I accept that businesses won’t want to spend on advice they feel they don’t need.  However, when it comes to some activities (or inactivity) the cost of getting it wrong can be far greater (just look at the current last-minute scramble to get compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations due to be in force in May).

As an HR specialist, I’m increasingly surprised at how many businesses don’t have any real HR provision in place – even if just to help with the basics.  I’m also surprised by how many employees appear to accept what really comes down to unacceptable behaviour, often amounting to inadvertent law-breaking, from their employers.

The argument, I suppose, is that external support is a costly luxury to small businesses – but this isn’t always the case.  There are many ways to engage in affordable expertise and advice before you face the financial consequences of leaving it too late.

CCCI members’ meetings and events give businesses the chance to talk about issues that are important to them.  Meeting other business people and getting to know them in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere provides members with their own informal support network – as well as the opportunity to develop good business relationships and learn about various funding initiatives.

Dianne Lambdin, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and The Sussex HR Hub

'In My View'... Connectivity is the key to successful businesses

Office Chichester Chamber - Thursday, March 01, 2018

As the country delves more deeply into the messy business of divorce from the European Union, the importance of building our economy through organic growth is even more vital.  Those of us living in more rural areas appreciate the significance of the small business.  In Chichester, of the 7,300 businesses, 85.7% employ less than 10 people according to West Sussex Life 2017-19.

Good knowledgeable people are essential to successful businesses, as is their ability to build relationships and network effectively.  The Chichester Chamber of Commerce exists to support businesses to prosper and it does this through some really beneficial networking events

Once a month, on the second Monday, the Chamber runs a business meeting.  It moves round to different business and charity venues each time and this gives the host the opportunity to say something about what they do.  It also includes a chance to hear a short talk on a business pertinent subject.  Recently it was the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and was delivered by a lawyer and a practitioner owner of an IT support company.  Together with Chichester College, the Chamber also runs a business breakfast once a month which includes time to network and then a delicious breakfast cooked by College students.  A keynote speech is incorporated and recent speakers have included the Bank of England Agent and the Chief Executive of Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Of course network events are only an effective tool if those attending plan what they want to achieve.  In her excellent short article on six keys to effective networking, Susan Rittscher describes using the ‘hostess principle’, imagining yourself as the hostess, greeting all the guests and ensuring they are comfortable.  This allows you to feel more relaxed and able to deal with the inevitable nervousness in a room of strangers

Chichester Chamber also provides a range of business support activities and training and some fun events too.  If you are not geographically close to Chichester, find your nearest Chamber.  If we are to build a successful local economy, the connectivity of businesses is one of the vital ingredients.  We are more effective as a group than we are as individual companies and together we can work to remove some of the barriers to business growth.

Shelagh Legrave, Vice-Chair of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Chief Executive,  Chichester College Group

In My View… Fit For Business

Office Chichester Chamber - Friday, January 26, 2018

I have been in the fitness industry for quite some time now and love racing and competing in long distance events. But I also have a passion for business and how fitness relates to business performance.  One thing I have learnt from studying for my business degree and other fitness related courses is that to be mentally fit you also have to be physically fit.  I have always lived my life living and breathing health and fitness and since running my own Personal Training business I ensure that my clients are conveyed this message.  

My client Peter Wild, a Wealth Manager, has had an ‘increase in new business of 25% year on year’ as well as increase in fitness and a positive mental approach to business and training.  So much so that he travelled to Nepal to build a school!  He has managed to achieve his business goals with the time out for his training sessions, his family commitments as well as his own goals.

Physical activity helps protect you from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you to better manage stress.  It is very easy to be ‘busy’ all the time when it comes to business, achieving goals and family but it is important to take care of your health and well-being too as after all, you are your business. Your business does not succeed unless you are at the top of your game both physically and mentally. 

Being an Ironman athlete it is very easy for me to preach about how much exercise everyone should be doing but it should suit your personality and personal schedule.

Putting time into improving yourself physically is vital because the bottom line is, that all you have is your health.  All other positive energy will flow over into all other aspects of your life as well as your business.  It takes determination, perseverance, motivation and the desire to succeed and this is what physical training and business is all about.  Above all find something that is fun!

Leanne Levitt, Director of Chichester Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Owner LLPT 


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