Posted December 8, 2013
Just six months since its transition from OFT-approval, the Service and Repair Code has passed an inaugural Trading Standards Institute (TSI) audit, giving Motor Codes a strong, public endorsement.
The audit is part of the monitoring and support regime implemented by TSI through the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) – the government’s mechanism of approving and promoting consumer codes to the public.
During the intensive audit, all operational aspects of the Service and Repair Code from subscription process to code compliance monitoring were scrutinised, along with customer touch-points, such as Motor Codes’ consumer advisory operation and online garage comparison service.
Underlining the relevance of Motor Codes and confirming its credibility to industry and car owners alike, TSI’s published audit highlights a number of examples of best practice. The simplicity of Motor Codes’ comprehensive online directory and reviews system, clear and concise consumer complaints structure and in-house advice and conciliation service all received special praise.
For Chris Mason, managing director, the result of the audit sends a resounding message:
“2013 has seen big changes as far as consumer protection is concerned. The switch from OFT to TSI has brought a new set of checks and balances. This audit stands Motor Codes up as the effective force of self-regulation within the car servicing sector, providing revenue and protecting reputation for committed businesses, as well as visibly creating customer confidence.”
TSI chief executive Leon Livermore said:
“One way we can protect consumers is by directing them towards reputable businesses. The audit carried out by TSI ensures that businesses participating in Motor Codes adhere to high industry standards, thereby protecting consumers and building a degree of trust between businesses and consumers.”
The full TSI audit can be read here.
Posted December 8, 2013
It was reported last week that the nation’s “oldest old” has increased by nearly a quarter in the last decade.
The Independent reports:
Residents in England and Wales over the age of 85 has risen from just over 1 million in 2001 to 1.25 million in 2011, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.
In 2011, the number of women outnumbered men in this age group by two to one, the ONS said.
But while women are living longer they are more likely to be living alone.
For every 100 women aged 85 or over, 77 were widowed, 13 were married and 10 were either single, separated or divorced. Meanwhile almost half of men aged 85 and over were still married, 43% were widowed and 9% were single.
The ONS said: “Recent gains in life expectancy mean that more people are living to the age of 85 and beyond.
“In the future more of the population, who are now just entering old age, will live to be 85 or older.
“The oldest old are among the most vulnerable in our society, but are also among the most resilient.
“For some, but by no means all, their advancing years affects their physical and mental health, increases their level of dependency on others and the amount of support that they require from family, private and public institutions.”
The latest report, compiled from the 2011 Census, found that one in 10 men and one in five women lived in a “communal establishment”, such as a care home, with the remaining people living in a private household.
Posted December 8, 2013
The following article was written by the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development Lynne Featherstone and published on Friday (6 th December) on the DfID Blog.
Of all the things that have gone viral this year, there is 1 in particular that stood out for me. A Swedish professor, Hans Rosling, produced a survey that tests our assumptions about the progress of the developing world. It was reported on by the BBC a few weeks back, and Rosling’s TED talk has been viewed more than 6 million times.
Many people I spoke to said how surprised they were by some of the answers – like the fact that the number of children in the world will be the same in 2100 as in 2000, or that average life expectancy globally has reached 70.
I’ve been an international development minister for a little over a year now, but some facts and figures still teach me something new.
If you asked me a week ago about the biggest causes of death in the world, I would certainly have thought of malaria, as well as diarrhoea and malnutrition. Globally, heart disease, stroke and cancer are surely up there.
But what I hadn’t realised was the deadliness of smoke inhalation from cooking and heating in homes around the world. At least 2 million people die prematurely due to household air pollution every year, while a recent estimate has put the figure as high as 4 million. Even the lower figure is around 3 times the number of people who die from malaria. And 44% of these deaths are among children.
I learnt just how important this issue is during a visit to New York last week to represent the UK on the advisory board of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative, chaired by the UN Secretary General and World Bank President.
SE4ALL gathers the UN, governments, the multilateral development banks, the private sector and non-governmental organisations to try and make progress towards universal access to cleaner and more efficient energy by 2030.
This is a huge task, but an essential one. Without access to energy, medicines cannot be safely stored, children cannot study after dark, and businesses cannot prosper.
And if you are a woman or a girl, it is even more essential to have access to clean, affordable energy. Currently, women in Africa can spend 4 hours per day collecting firewood, time that could be better spent learning or working. Over 90% of rapes of women in transitional settlements occur while women are collecting firewood. And women make up 60% of adult deaths from indoor air pollution.
Right now, 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity – around one sixth of the world’s population. This can be because they live in remote areas, because there is no national grid, or simply because they cannot afford it. Burkina Faso, for example, has the most expensive electricity in the world – yet it is 183rd out of 187 in the Human Development Index.
So that is why, last week, I represented the UK government on the SE4ALL advisory board. And that is why I launched a personal campaign focused on improving the lives of girls and women through access to clean energy. You can see my speech to launch the campaign here (at 36:30).
As part of this campaign, I have joined the leadership council of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an extraordinary organisation with the objective of ensuring 100 million clean cookstoves are in use amongst the poor by 2020. You can hear more about the work of the Alliance from its chair, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here.
To kick off the campaign I also announced UK support of £7 million to learn more about how to achieve universal access to clean cooking by 2030, and £4.5 million for research through the Gender and Sustainable Energy Network – ENERGIA – to better understand how we can improve women’s skills, economic opportunities, health and safety through access to energy.
With the leadership of such a powerful range of people – from the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, to politicians such as Hillary Clinton, from business leaders such as Bloomberg New Energy Finance CEO Michael Liebreich to celebrities such as Julia Roberts – we have a chance to change the world. We can make it cleaner, brighter and safer.
We need to make clean energy access the next thing to go viral. And together, perhaps, we can remove one of those facts and figures that still have the power to shock and surprise.
Posted December 7, 2013
A landmark global trade deal, which will boost the UK economy by more than £1bn a year was heralded by Prime Minister David Cameron today.
The historic deal – the first of its kind in 20 years – was announced at the close of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) conference in Bali.
The UK has been a key proponent of this deal, with Lord Green, UK Minister for Trade and Investment, as a vice-chair of the WTO conference in Bali.
This deal will make it faster and easier to trade between countries – bringing benefits to businesses across all sectors, and in particular small and medium enterprises (SMEs), who are hit the hardest by administrative costs of exporting. Currently up to seven per cent of the value of global trade is swallowed up by needless red tape.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Trade is a vital part of our long-term economic plan and was one of my G8 priorities this year. So I am delighted that we have secured an impressive global deal worth over £1bn a year to British businesses and £70bn globally.
“This deal will help boost our exports, meaning that UK companies can grow and employ more people. If just 100,000 small businesses either start exporting or spread to new markets over the next five years, this would generate an extra £30 billion for the UK economy and create 100,000 new jobs.
“By slashing barriers to trade, this deal will also provide a lifeline to the world’s poorest people. Helping developing countries to grow is not only the right thing to do, but it also increases potential markets for us all. So this really is win-win and the World Trade Organisation is to be commended for this historic deal.”
“Today’s agreement marks an important milestone in opening up global free trade and the UK has worked hard in securing this ambitious deal. Cutting red tape and breaking down barriers at borders will create new opportunities, especially for small businesses to export.
“Trade plays a key role in creating jobs and supporting a stronger UK economy. It will also bring growth around the world, which is not only good for developing countries, but will create new markets for British businesses to invest in.
“The road to securing a trade package in Bali was hard work. I would like to congratulate all the countries that have come together to reach this significant agreement.”
Lord Green, Minister for UK Trade and Investment and Vice-Chair of the WTO Bali Conference representing developed nations, said:
“This is a great day for the global trading system. We’ve demonstrated that the WTO can deliver significant multilateral trade deals. The deal we have agreed here today is good for the UK and even better for developing countries. It will bring real benefits to businesses in every country, in particular to small firms which are hardest hit by the costs of trading across inefficient borders.”
Posted December 7, 2013
Earlier this afternoon while I was out delivering my latest leaflet in the East Marsh Ward, I received the following email from the Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg – I do hope you will read his email below:
A very sad week. I never met Nelson Mandela but, like many of you, I’ve also never known the world without him in it. This weekend it feels like an emptier place.
I don’t normally encourage you to tune into parliament, but on Monday MPs will fill the Common’s benches to pay our respects and show solidarity with the people of South Africa. I’ll be working on my statement over the weekend and I’ll make it clear, from all of us, that the Liberal Democrats will continue to strive for peace, equality and dignity around the world.
These are the values Nelson Mandela gave everything for. Fighting for them is how we keep his memory alive.
Posted December 7, 2013
As part of the government’s long term economic plan, and following the Autumn Statement, Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock is today (7 December 2013) setting out the government’s offer to make it easier for small businesses to grow and create jobs.
Small Business: GREAT Ambition is a commitment to go-getting firms. It sets out how government can make it easier for small businesses to grow as the country gets behind local traders on Small Business Saturday.
These new measures will remove some of the barriers small businesses face, improve the business environment and make it easier for them to fulfil their potential.
Today’s announcements and commitments include:
- brand new broadband vouchers – 22 cities across the UK will benefit from up to £100 million of broadband vouchers worth up to £3,000 each to help more small firms boost their business by accessing faster and better broadband connectivity
- a fairer deal on energy – an agreement from the major energy firms to end auto-rollovers for business customers, limit back billing, increase transparency of contract terms and make switching easier
- access to £230 billion of public sector contracts – implementing Lord Young’s recommendations, which were accepted by the Prime Minister in May 2013, to make it easier and simpler for small firms to win public sector business
- tackling late payment of small firms – we will ensure that from now on all small businesses who supply the public sector in a supply chain will be paid at the same time as we pay our big contractors. And we will consult on new measures to tackle late payment in the private sector
This follows a substantive package of support in this week’s Autumn Statement for small businesses, which included an extension of the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief to March 2015, a business rates discount of up to £1,000 for retail premises with a rateable value up to £50,000 and making it cheaper to employ staff aged under 21.
Small businesses will also benefit from an additional £250 million being made available to the British Business Bank to improve access to finance, announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Secretary Vince Cable earlier this week. Also a further £160 million will allow the successful Start Up Loans scheme to be extended to more entrepreneurs.
“Small and medium sized companies up and down the country often raise the issue of late payment with me. Cashflow is critical to the good functioning of daily business. If bills are not paid on time this can threaten the survival of otherwise healthy businesses. We are enforcing prompt payment throughout the public sector and asking what more we can also do to get credit flowing in the private sector.
“The government is also investing an extra £250 million in the British Business Bank which I established last year to help SMEs access finance through challenger banks or alternative funding providers, such as angel investors or crowd funding.”
Enterprise and Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said:
“I’m delighted that on the national day for small businesses, Small Business Saturday, we can demonstrate our commitment to making it easier for small businesses to grow.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the British economy and responsible for nearly half the job creation in the UK. That’s why we are removing barriers to growth and supporting them, so that they can create jobs and compete in the global race.”
Small Business: GREAT Ambition sets out how BIS will be the champion of small business across government, making it easier for small businesses to:
- finance business growth by creating the right banking and investment environment and the most supportive tax regime in the world
- hire people by making employment processes more straightforward and promoting a more skilled workforce
- develop new ideas and products by helping businesses get access to the expertise, equipment and funding they need to turn great ideas into reality
- break into new markets by removing barriers to certain sectors and providing advice and support for businesses trying to export
- get the right support at the right time by making business support schemes easier to find and more relevant
- get on with doing business by making sure regulation and the way it is enforced is proportionate and pro-growth
This includes our commitment to making business support easier to access. We are rationalising the number of different support schemes and joining them up so that businesses can go to 1 place to get the help they need. Business support at local level will also be brought together through Growth Hubs, providing a single place on their doorstep where businesses can go to get help.
This sits alongside our new Business is GREAT campaign, which points businesses to sources of advice and support that can help them grow, and celebrates small businesses that have grown with the help of government support.
Small Business: GREAT Ambition also states that Lord Young will conduct an Enterprise Education Review and make recommendations on how to inspire more people with the entrepreneurial spirit needed to succeed in employment or enterprise. He will report back in summer 2014 on his findings.
- Small Business: GREAT Ambition sets out how the government will:
- increase support for innovation through a £50 million investment in popular Smart grants for small firms, 3 new ‘Launchpad’ competitions to spur on innovation clusters and new networks to showcase innovative small firms to investors
- firms wanting to export will be able to benefit from greater support from UK Export Finance. We are doubling the number of regional Export Finance Advisors, simplifying application forms and working with the banks to make them more aware of UKEF support and to provide clearer information that can be passed on to customers
- the government, the British Bankers Association and the major banks will work together to create a strengthened referral process by the end of 2014, so that business which may be declined finance can be signposted to an even wider range of other finance providers, brokers and advisors
- small businesses will also be given a stronger voice to challenge heavy-handed regulation, including a new independent Small Business Appeals Champion in every non-economic regulator. These Champions will have responsibility for making sure small businesses have a proper route of appeal and we will consult on the detail of these reforms in early 2014
- Autumn Statement measures announced this week to support small businesses included:
- business rates inflation increases are being capped at 2% for 2014-15; with the doubling of the small business rate relief (SBRR) continuing until March 2015
- a new £1,000 discount on business rates bills for small shops, pubs and restaurants with rateable values of less than £50,000
- from April 2014, if a business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief wants to expand, they will now retain the relief on their first property for twelve months
- if businesses move into a long-term empty retail premises, they will get a 50% discount on their business rates bill for 18 months – bringing businesses back to our high streets
- Employer National Insurance will be abolished for under 21 year olds on earnings under £813 per week (£42,285 per year) from April 2015, significantly reducing the cost of employing young people. This will make it over £500 cheaper to employ an under 21 year old earning £12,000 and over £1,000 cheaper to employ an under 21 year old earning £16,000
- government has also cancelled the planned September increase in fuel duty. Thanks to the government’s action on fuel duty, the average small business with a van will save £1,300 on petrol by 2015
The government also published alongside the Autumn Statement a guide to the services provided by HMRC to small businesses. For more information see Supporting Small Business: Making tax easier, quicker and simpler
Posted December 7, 2013
Huge jobs boost for young people announced in the Autumn Statement.
Liberal Democrats are scrapping employer National Insurance on 1.5 million workers under the age of 21.
Posted December 7, 2013
Liberal Democrat MP for Hazel Grove Andrew Stunell, has called for Stockport schools to get their pupils talking and learning about money, as part of a charity’s new campaign to help improve the financial capability of young people.
Every primary and secondary school in Stockport has been sent free Get Money Smart posters and teaching materials by national charity pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group), which wants to get children talking about money in the classroom.
Andrew Stunell said:
“Young people need money skills more than ever before. That’s why the Liberal Democrat schools minister has put financial education into the secondary school National Curriculum from September 2014. This new ‘Get Money Smart’ campaign goes one further, and starts with primary schools, which is great. Far too many people of all ages find managing their money a problem. It’s even been a challenge for Chancellors of the Exchequers in the past, so the sooner young people get the knack, the better.”
The charity’s Get Money Smart posters – for children aged up to seven, 11, 14 and 16 – are designed to encourage classroom discussions about things children can do to learn more about money and personal finance. Ideas for different ages include checking your change, estimating the cost of a weekly shop, comparing mobile phone tariffs and planning and budgeting for a trip.
Schools in Hazel Grove are being encouraged to hold discussions with their pupils over 4 things the posters suggest they can do to learn about money – with the 5th being left up to each class to decide. Ideas for the 5th activity can then be shared with other classes across the country on Twitter using the #5thingstodo hashtag.
Andrew Stunell has thrown his weight behind the effort as a way of helping young people in Stockport to gain the vital skills and knowledge they will need to manage their personal finances throughout their lives. The move follows news that after years of campaigning by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People, pfeg and MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis, financial education will be taught in secondary schools as part of the National Curriculum from September 2014.
Tracey Bleakley, chief executive of pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group), said:
“We are thrilled to have the support of Andrew Stunell MP for this free new scheme for primary and secondary schools in Hazel Grove. I hope all local schools will seize the opportunity to use their Get Money Smart posters to bring money to life in the classroom. This is a crucial topic that every young person should learn. Getting pupils talking about money and the financial decisions they will face in the future is a great way to start.”
The campaign has been made possible through a personal donation to pfeg from MoneySavingExpert.com’s Martin Lewis, which has enabled the charity to send free copies of the Get Money Smart posters and teaching resources to primary and secondary schools in the Stockport area and across the country.
Posted December 7, 2013
The old-fashioned assumption is that women will always be the parent that stays at home – many fathers want that option too. That is why from April 2015 the coalition government is introducing shared parental leave to allow couples to split the existing 52 weeks of maternity leave, making a joint decision that ensures all career options remain open to women after pregnancy.
Employers can gain from a system which allows them to keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff. This new system will also give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.
The changes, which were proposed in the 2010 Lib Dem manifesto, give women greater freedom in pursuing their goals and will hopefully reduce the feeling that they have to choose between having a successful career and having a baby. They should be supported by their employers, rather than being made to feel less employable or under pressure to take unchallenging jobs.
It is already illegal to sack a woman because she is pregnant or on maternity leave. This new ruling creates a fairer society that gives parents the flexibility to choose how they share care for their child in the first year after birth.
The proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working are included in the Children and Families Bill 2013 which is currently going through Parliament. The details will be set out in regulations.
Norman Baker said:
“I am pleased to see this big step towards parental equality. Allowing both parents to share the 52 weeks of leave stops the current situation in which businesses can lose a valued female employee for an entire year, now, at no extra costs to business, the time can be divided between the mother and father.
“As a father myself I really appreciate the time I had with my daughter in the first year of her life. I feel the early connection invites a stronger relationship between parents and their children and both mothers and fathers should be entitled to this.”
Posted December 7, 2013
Town centre tax breaks and parking reform at centre of high street package.
As part of the government’s long-term economic plan, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles yesterday (6 December 2013) set out a billion pound package of support for the UK’s high streets.
A central part of that plan is to create more jobs by backing British business. The measures outlined today will make it easier for all the shops on Britain’s high streets to grow, expand and take people on.
They include a new consultation to tackle aggressive parking policies, which harm high streets; and a review of double yellow lines, legislating to allow “grace periods” and stopping CCTV being used for enforcement. The government will also cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament, with immediate effect. These steps will make it cheaper and easier to park, encourage people to shop locally and help with the cost of living.
There is also help for business following the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement with the biggest package of business rates support in over 20 years announced to help the high street. Changes include:
- a £1,000 discount in 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 for retail premises with a rateable value of up to £50,000 – including shops, pubs, cafes, and restaurants
- capping the Retail Price Index (RPI) increase in bills to 2% in 2014 to 2015 – businesses were expecting a 3.2 % rise
- extending the doubling of the Small Business Rates Relief to April 2015
- a reoccupation relief for 18 months with a 50% discount for new occupants of retail premises empty for a year or more
- allowing businesses to pay their bills over 12 months (rather than 10), which will help every firm with their cashflow
The importance of online technology is also recognised with a new multi-million pound competition, run by the Technology Strategy Board, being announced to support business-led digital town centres. Additionally the government in partnership with business will fund £4.7 million of research on e-commerce and digital high streets innovations.
In planning, changes to permitted development rights will offer town centres the flexibility they need to adapt existing buildings. The government will consult on permitting change of use from retail to restaurants and retail to cinemas, gyms, skating rinks and swimming pools. They will also consult on allowing installation of mezzanine floors in retail premises where this would support the town centre.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said:
“The way we use our high streets is changing and the measures unveiled today give councils more power to reflect that in the way their high streets look and operate.
“New tax breaks for shops and sensible changes to over zealous parking rules will help make high streets more attractive to shoppers. And by providing excellent local services and offering communities a vibrant place to spend their leisure time and money, local authorities can secure the future of their high streets for many years to come.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said:
“Unfair parking fines blight the use of our high streets and force shoppers out of towns. We want to rein back aggressive rules by banning the use of CCTV for parking enforcement, reviewing the use of yellow lines, and giving shoppers a ‘grace period’ to get back to their car after their ticket has run out before they get fined.
“We will also update guidance to emphasise a less heavy-handed approach to parking enforcement and to reinforce that charges and fines cannot be used as a means to raise cash.”