Monday, 30 November 2009

Intervallum Limited nominated for “Best New Business in the Midlands 2009”

I am pleased to report that at the recent Midlands Business Awards Ceremony & Dinner held at the Aston Villa Football Stadium, Intervallum Limited was short listed in the “Best New Business in the Midlands 2009” category.

On what proved to be a packed event, I had the honour of walking down the red carpet to join the other businesses short listed for an award on the evening. Although Intervallum didn’t eventually win the New Business award, it was a tremendous achievement to have been recognised as one of a handful of the most highly regarded business start-ups of the year.

A fabulous evening was had by all.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Digby Jones On Form at BBBC

The recent meeting of the Birmingham Business Breakfast Club, held at the Botanical Gardens, was packed to hear what Lord Jones had to say on how the recession had effected his beloved West Midlands (in fact so popular was this event, the BBBC had stopped taking bookings well ahead of the date). And if you know Digby then you will know that he always has plenty to say; sometimes controversial, often colourful, but always entertaining.

The last time I heard him speak was last year at the 100 year anniversary celebration of the Territorial Army, just after he had left government. He certainly let rip into the governing party (which they richly deserved) and once again gave us an insight, via a story or two, as to what it is like for a business person to have to work alongside the civil service (which didn’t sound like a pleasant experience).

In November 2009, Digby’s main concerns were predominantly based around the skills shortage in the West Midlands – once the home of UK manufacturing. He was concerned that if these skills continue to be lost to the area then there is every chance that soon they will be lost forever and the West Midlands may never fully recover.

To emphasise the skills issue he quoted the statistics that one in four of the adult population in some parts of Birmingham were unable to read and write to the level expected by an 11 year old within the National curriculum. He pointed to the fact that if, as an adult, you can’t read and write, then it is highly unlikely that you will have books in your home. The result of this will be very little hope for your children’s literacy, and so the cycle will continue and repeat itself again and again. We have to break this cycle now, or pay the price in the future.

Lord Jones was very critical of the government’s normal routine of handing out more and more benefits to immigrants who come and live in the West Midlands, citing the old Chinese proverb that if you give a man a fish he will be fed for the day, but if you give him a fishing rod and teach him how to fish then he will be fed for life (again, the focus being on skills development, innovation, motivation etc).

He also had a very interesting ambition for the political landscape in the UK – more independent (and accountable) MPs, the electorate voting for who they want to lead the country rather than a political party (i.e. more in a US Presidential style), and the new leader appointing a cabinet of experts in each discipline. After all, you wouldn’t want someone without the correct qualifications and experience operating on your brain just because they had been voted in to be the brain surgeon, so why would you want a Chancellor of the Exchequer who had no finance background, or a Minister for Business who had only ever worked in the Civil Service? And he has a very good point.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Higher Rate Tax in this Green and Pleasant Land

Is it fair that because you earn more money than other people that you should be expected to pay a higher rate of tax? Or is this just the age old way that governments squeeze the pips out of middle England to pay for the mistakes that they have made while in office?

Whilst I believe that Britain should have a solid social infrastructure of Police/Fire/Ambulance services, a free at point of use NHS and a good state school system etc. it always seems inequitable in who has to actually pay for it the most. The analogy that springs to mind is of two families having identical meals in a restaurant, but one family is asked to pay more for their meals because their annual income is higher than the other family’s. Surely the fact is that if you earn more than someone else, you are already paying more tax into the system even at the same rate of tax.

Although governments are always ready and waiting to tax you to the hilt once you become financially successful, where are they when you are struggling on a low salary whilst studying for professional qualifications or attempting to start-up your own business? Where is the support then, when you really need it?

The taxation system as it stands, is completely unfair to the creation and maintenance of innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation, because you’re unfairly penalised for success when, in reality, you are already contributing so much to the economy. And this more flexible and entrepreneurial sector of the business community is vital to economic growth - after all, recent research showed that 51% of UK GDP came from Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs).

The recent credit crunch was the first recession that made a large number of professional people, managers and white collar workers redundant. After the shock of being in full employment for so many years, and then being unexpectedly made redundant, an even greater shock was waiting for them on their first visit to the Job Centre Plus. Aside from the lack of jobs and any meaningful help, they had to cope with the realisation that the only short term assistance that they would get would be the Job Seekers Allowance of a little over £60 per week, the same amount that other people who had lost their jobs and who had paid much less tax (and probably tax in a lower band) into the system were receiving. This does not seem fair or equitable.

And how did our government deal with this crisis? By announcing a new, even higher, tax banding (50%) for all those earning more than £150,000 per annum (from April 2010). This band is far too low - these aren’t the super rich. A Premiership footballer, film star or television personality could earn this sum in a little over a week. It will, however, hit many business people who are working hard to help Britain escape out of recession and attempt to build a sustainable recovery for our economy. It is no coincidence that we must have a General Election in 2010 – hitting the perceived high earners is always going to be a vote winner for the masses, particularly the long term benefits claimants who perhaps don’t want to work…….after all, continued taxation (particularly at a higher rate) of those who contribute most to the economy is how they derive their income!!!