CDM Regulations – what next?

A major  overhaul of the CDM regulations is anticipated in  2014, but it is unlikely that it will come into force before April 2015, says health and safety compliance expert Altius Vendor Assessment. 

The HSE are planning to hold a three month industry consultation period in 2014, with the following changes expected to be included.

  • – Removal of the CDM Co-ordinator role and bringing the functions into the designer’s remit through a Principal Designer.
  • – Removal of the Approved Code of Practice (L144) and replacing it with a suite of guidance notes.
  • – Removal of the explicit compliance requirements — currently in Appendix 4 of the ACoP.
  • – Removal of the domestic client exemption: a default position would be created whereby duties that would fall onto a domestic client would instead fall to the designer or contractor.

The changes are aimed at simplifying the supporting guidance to make the CDM Regulations easier to understand and easier to comply with.  The intention is to improve standards of worker protection, while improving accessibility for small sites.

The Altius CDM Comply online assessment, priced at £110 for all sizes of company, provides contractors, principal contractors, designers and CDM Coordinators with a CDM 2007 Core Criteria Stage 1 assessment that is SSIP approved.

Combined heat & power – no longer energy ‘cinderella’

The latest UK energy statistics show that combined heat and power (CHP),  which is sometimes overlooked as the ‘Cinderella’ of UK energy generation, is rightfully taking its place at the energy generation ‘ball’.

The Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES)  released by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC)  reveal that between 2011 and 2012
CHP capacity grew by almost 3% to 6.1GW, meeting 6.4% of the UK’s total
electricity needs. The proportion of renewable CHP increased almost 20% in 12
months, now accounting for over 8% of total fuel used in the CHP sector.

CHP efficiency benefits led to over 15 million tonnes of CO2 savings, equivalent to removing 5 million cars from the road and representing an increase of 2 million tonnes over the previous year.

“It’s good to see increasing CHP capacity, said Ian Hopkins, Sales Director for ENER-G Combined Power Ltd. “Combined heat and power is around twice as efficient as conventional power generation and delivers the cost and carbon savings businesses are desperately seeking. It also provides off-grid resilience in the event of power failure, yet is sometimes overlooked in favour of more glamorous technology newcomers.

“The UK needs a balanced mix of energy generation, but the enormous benefits of cogeneration are still under exploited. Every day, organisations bemoan
spiralling energy costs and carbon taxes and CHP can provide the simple and
affordable answer to these problems.” 

CHP provides the simultaneous generation of electricity and useful heat and is typically 85% efficient  for on-site energy consumption. It achieves cost savings of up to 40% over electricity sourced from the grid and heat generated by on-site boilers. Systems powered by natural gas or other fossil fuels will  reduce carbon emissions by approximately 20%, while the carbon reduction benefits are even better for those systems primed by renewable fuels.

Cogeneration  can be implemented in new building, when redeveloping an existing site or when replacing ageing boiler plant. It is particularly suitable for customers with sufficient heat or cooling demand, particularly if that demand is for extended periods. As such, it can pay dividends in leisure, manufacturing, hospital, education, retail and many other environments.

There are many legislative advantages to installing cogeneration, which helps with Part L compliance and can mitigate carbon taxation under the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and Climate Change Levy. It is also eligible for Enhanced Capital Allowances.

Typical payback on CHP  is between 3 and 5 years, with most systems
having a . product lifecycle of 10-15 years. Additionally, some suppliers offer
energy performance contracts, such as ENER-G’s Discount Energy Purchase Scheme, which means
businesses can benefit from an instant payback with no capital outlay. As such,
clients benefit from an immediate reduction in their energy costs and carbon footprint. The CHP system is then paid for via a metered energy charge that is guaranteed to be lower than previous electricity purchase costs. The plentiful supply of heating/cooling is supplied free.

Commenting on the energy statistics, Dr Tim Rotheray, Director of the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) said: “It is astonishing that in the UK, power stations waste more energy from their cooling towers than the total demand for gas for heating in the UK. Each new CHP site represents less energy waste, better UK competitiveness and reduced demand for imported fuels. With a Government commitment to a new gas CHP policy, the CHP
sector is poised for even more substantial growth, making the UK energy system less wasteful and more cost effective.”

ENER-G are Europe’s leading provider of packaged cogeneration and trigeneration systems. The UK company designs, manufactures, finances, operates and maintains CHP units across Europe. Its systems are available from 4kWe to 10 MWe in size and can be deployed across the commercial, industrial and public sectors.

Further information: www.energ.co.uk/chp

Has ‘death knell’ sounded for punitive business energy contracts?

Mark Alston, General Manager of Warwickshire-based energy purchasing consultancy ENER-G Procurement welcomes the decision by
British Gas to stop business energy contract ‘rollovers’, which result in
companies paying more.

“Rollover” contracts have become a source of excess profits for suppliers over the years and  as such there is no place for them in our mature energy supply market. The term ‘rollover’ implies a soft landing, yet the reality is that organisations which fail to meet deadlines to renew or switch energy contracts are automatically ‘rolled over’  into uncompetitive auto-renewal prices or even to extortionate ‘out of contract’ rates. This is often made worse by a lack of transparency and short timescales involved in the termination process.

“ENER-G has been campaigning for this automatic renewal process on
business energy contracts to be removed. We believe customers should be free to choose whether to enter into a term agreement, or simply pay a variable tariff
which is reflective of the actual costs of supply incurred, plus a fair margin
for the supplier.  We are hopeful that other suppliers will follow the leadership of British Gas and put an end to ‘rollovers’, but we also urge energy regulator Ofgem to properly scrutinise the alternative rates that suppliers will put in place for out-of-contract meters.

“As a practical step in ensuring businesses don’t fall victim to out of contract
default rates, ENER-G has  introduced a free Renewal Reminder Service to alert companies  to the need to renew well in advance of their contract end date. Those using the service are automatically notified in advance of their contract renewal deadline, providing ample time to renew with their incumbent supplier,
or give notice, research the market, compare deals and find the most
competitive new contract.

“ENER-G is also working to achieve greater transparency among suppliers for their third party charges. These can amount to up to 50% of an energy bill, yet are not always firm within many suppliers’  “fixed price” offerings. As such, customers can be unaware that up to 50% of their budgeted cost is liable to increase.  The company is pressing suppliers to categorise their offers for greater transparency and to produce 100% genuine fixed offerings for
clients’ peace of mind.”

ENER-G Procurement is a major broker of gas and electricity contracts to the full
range of business users, delivers energy services to Chambers of Commerce
members across England under the Chamber Utilities™ brand, and is the preferred supplier of energy purchasing and consultancy services to EEF, the UK manufacturers’ organisation.

The energy purchasing consultancy is a founding member of the Utilities
Intermediaries Association (UIA), which was established to improve standards
and enhance the reputation of third party intermediaries in the energy sector.
ENER-G Procurement is also represented on the Ofgem Third Party Intermediary (TPI) working group.  This has been set up to address key concerns raised in the recent Ofgem Retail Market Review (and to work towards recommending an industry-wide Code of Practice for TPIs.

Further information: www.energ.co.uk/procurement

New Employment Legislations May Prevent Job Growth

1STOctober 2013 will see the increase in minimum wage for all hourly workers in the UK. As a result of the devastating impact of the recession, unemployment hit an all time high in 2011 andcontinues to maintain those figures to this day.  A glimmer of hope to many is seen through the government’s decision to increase the hourly rate, yet with SME’s still recovering from the blow of the current financial climate, businesses are worried as to how this decision will affect their companies on a daily basis.

 An increase in employer’s wages ultimately means a sacrifice elsewhere. SME’s can only sit and wait to see how this new regime will affect the stability of their companies. Adjustments will have to be implemented which could result in a cut-back in employee work hours. The irony is evident; as an employee, how do you reap the benefits in an increase in wages, when there are no hours to work? Not only could there be a huge reduction in hours, but some businesses could retract new staffing altogether, adding to the unemployment figures further.

Additional adjustments would have to be applied to avoid financial insecurity within companies. In order to balance the financial output, they would have to gain more through their income; therefore businesses would have no other choice but to reduce employee benefits and charge higher prices to restore the equilibrium.

 Jason Connon, Managing Director form Cushillo Personnel commented “ Our own industry has seen a raft of new legislations introduced over recent months, from the introduction of AWR regulations, RTI payroll, pension reforms and now the pending increase in the cost of employing staff.

All these add additional costs to business and could have a potential impact on our UK flexible temporary labour market. The recruitment industry currently generates a turnover in excess of £19.7 billion and places 1 million people into temporary jobs each week in every sector of the labour market, as well as a significant number of permanent placements.

In my opinion, it is critical The UK must maintain a flexible workforce and the advantages it creates for businesses, individuals and the wider economy.  Imposing overly burdensome regulations on businesses remains a real concern for our clients and how they will cope with the new responsibilities in the current climate of fragile economic recovery.

Whilst all good recruiters want to see workers paid fairly for the importantcontribution they make. The increased administration and tracking required by the recent AWR and Pension regulations presentsthe most significant challenge our industry has ever faced.

This is another challenging area of regulations which will create new costs for recruiters and employers, especially since for the purposes of these reforms; recruiters are considered ‘employers’.

This swathe of regulation and the complexities it creates with regards to workers who change roles frequently must not be underestimated. The pressure on margins and the administration of enrolling and then un-enrolling workers, will be another significant cost to employing temporary staff.

It is important we foster modern work place practices and offer valuable flexibility to workers, ultimately, the UK workforce can only develop if businesses have the freedom to grow and create jobs, and so the impact of any new regulations must be carefully weighed up.

While the pressures of inflation are affecting many people, including the lowest-paid, the scale of recent legislation and pay rises, adds significantly to business costs, most of all by contributing to overall employment costs for employers.

The fear is, it will make some employers less inclined to hire additional members of staff. Put simply, it could lead to more people out of work, as employers will have no choice but to take on fewer staff to do the same work.

Going green helps keep finances in the black

Austerity is good for business at energy management and clean technology business  ENER-G

At a time when businesses are hanging onto the pennies and reluctant to borrow, ENER-G is providing cash strapped organisations with free energy saving technologies – paid for via tomorrow’s energy savings.

 This is a win-win business model says Derek Duffill, Group Managing Director of ENER-G group. He explains: “We fund energy saving technologies, such as combined heat and power, energy saving controls, lighting and biogas generation equipment, off our own balance sheet. In return, our customers refund the investment through the money they save over an agreed contract period.”

This innovative funding model has enabled ENER-G to  grow into a £120 million multi-national business, which designs and manufactures combined heat and power (CHP) systems, building energy management systems  and biogas generators – for anaerobic digestion and landfill gas generation.

Duffill continued: “We recently launched our E-MAGINE building energy management system, which reduces energy consumption in buildings by up to 30% and are quickly building sales by free-issuing the equipment . We’re really ‘putting our money where our mouth is’ as we  meet all the equipment, installation and commissioning costs and then guarantee the savings. On this basis, if we fail to deliver on the proposed savings we make up the shortfall.  Needless to say, it’s a risk free business transaction that customers like.  It’s of particular benefit to fellow manufacturers who can gain better control of energy consumption across warehouses, production facilities and offices.”

ENER-G pioneered its pay-as-you-save Discount Energy Purchase scheme on its cost and carbon saving CHP systems in the 1990s and since the recent economic downturn more than 50% of its CHP equipment is purchased using this cash saving financial model.

With no capital outlay for equipment or installation, customers can benefit from an immediate reduction in their energy costs and carbon footprint. The CHP system is then paid for via a metered energy charge that is guaranteed to be lower than previous electricity purchase costs. The plentiful supply of heating is supplied free.

Sales Director Ian Hopkins said: “The Discount Energy Purchase concept is very simple and places virtually no risk on our clients. We select and install a CHP system that converts primary fuel into electricity and heat/cooling. Because the system is more efficient, we are able to charge less for electrical output than energy supply companies, provide free heating and cooling and still recoup adequate funds to cover the investment cost and ongoing maintenance of the system. Our clients can use their capital to fund core projects and sit back and enjoy bottom line savings.”

Hopkins added: “we have clients that have enjoyed the benefits of Discount Energy Purchase for 15 years and are now replacing their equipment under the same simple contract structure. DEP is a very effective way for companies to regain some control over their energy costs while electricity rates continue to rise. It also gives them independence from the National Grid, so that if there is
power failure they can keep the lights on and maintain business continuity.”

 ENER-G operates in 17 countries and recently announced that it had taken a  75% holding in US based CHP business Rudox  to accelerate expansion in the growing American combined heat and power market.

Further information: www.energ.co.uk

CHP – the wise energy choice for smart buildings

For buildings with high heating or cooling demand, it is difficult to match the cost effectiveness and carbon reduction benefits of combined heat and power (CHP) technology.

CHP or cogeneration is a reliable and proven ‘work horse’ – providing the simultaneous generation of electricity and heat/cooling. It is typically 85% efficient  and is around twice as efficient as conventional power generation where the generated heat is wasted and further losses of approximately 7% occur in transporting the electricity from remote power stations to customers.

CHP can achieve cost saving of up to 40% over electricity sourced from the grid and heat generated by on-site boilers.  As a carbon-cutting technology with a formidable track record, CHP is a cost effective tool for improving cost and environmental performance, while improving long-term energy security.

Systems powered by natural gas or other fossil fuels will  reduce carbon emissions by approximately 20%, while the carbon reduction benefits are even better for those systems primed by biofuels or biogas.

Cogeneration also provides the energy security businesses are seeking since it will ensure companies can continue to operate processes and keep the lights on in the event of power failure. It is a dependable source of emergency power – perfect for critical situations such as data centres, hospitals and manufacturing operations.

Payback can vary depending on the size and the scale of the project, as well as the rates that the business is paying for gas and electricity, but typical payback is between 3 and 5 years.

The fusion of CHP with other technologies can work effectively. Biomass boilers combined with gas CHP are a key example..

Where there is sufficient load at the site and at the appropriate temperatures to support the installation of a CHP system and ground source heat pumps, then there is the possibility of delivering an ultra-low carbon solution through the application of the combination of these two innovative technologies.  Although ground source heat pumps can deliver extremely high coefficients of performance, grid supplied electricity is required to power the refrigeration compressor. 

With the presence of a CHP system at the same site, the electricity generated by the CHP unit can be utilised to power the heat pump.  The CHP system is effectively decarbonising the operation of the heat pump and, in so doing, improving the carbon reduction credentials of an already renewable solution.

Efficient lighting schemes, especially refurbishments and retrofits are an effective combination with CHP. These can provide further cost, carbon and energy savings. It is ideal to work out the benefits of a new lighting scheme before sizing a CHP system as this can affect the level of demand, so linking these technologies has multiple benefits.

Additionally, adding a Building Energy Management System (BEMS) to a project can provide additional savings and allow you to control all your technologies, including a CHP from one place. This can allow you to optimise your energy usage and provide further savings. 

ENER-G’s CHP systems are installed in hospitals, museums, horticulture, hotels, district heating schemes, leisure centres, supermarkets, factories, and even in the Royal Palaces of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

ENER-G are Europe’s leading provider of packaged CHP systems from 4kWe to over 5MWe in size. The company project manages and finances integrated energy solutions – combining CHP with solar, lighting, building controls and other energy saving technologies and services to provide cost and carbon reductions for businesses.

Further information: www.energ.co.uk/chp

White off – the HS2 debate goes on

As the white snow miraculously disappears here in the Chilterns, local minds turn once more to the (other white) issue of the moment in the Tory heartlands: HS2. Is this the White Elephant that all the householders make out here in Wendover and the surrounding areas? This protest will now extend to further Tory seats in Cheshire, where similar action groups will spring up as the next phase of the line is announced today. But how should it move forward?

Investment needed

I think the improvement of our rail links and travel across the country is essential. Too many trains are cramped, overcrowded, run late and the infrastructure is simply not up to the demands of the 21st century. The train operating franchises have improved the levels of service yes, but without more investment the scope for improvement is limited.

Economic nonsense

On the economic debate, I believe we need to cautiously invest in growth programmes – providing we have cut our cloth in the remainder of our public services to afford it. But I don’t think the current HS2 plan is the answer. Why? Because if you take a logical and considered approach to the issues, a high speed rail link to the north and Scotland is not the answer. The UK is not a huge rural expanse like some of Europe. The economics just don’t add up and instead of taking business to the north, it could just as easily make it simpler to commute south, where the much of the work is anyway. HS2 is indeed a White Elephant.

Common sense

So let’s use some common sense and invest in an infrastructure programme that is required for the future. Don’t cancel it or mark it as a write off  – just get it right. As any experienced cabinet maker will tell you when you have a fine piece of timber on the work bench – measure three times, cut once. Similarly, a good programme manager will tell you to invest at least 10% in the resource needed to design and plan something like this. – otherwise you will have prohibitive rework costs – HS2 works the same.

Get it right

The politicians seem adamant to go ahead with this project, so use the opportunity to get it right. My plea to PM Cameron and Chancellor Osborne is as follows:

– Make sure it is affordable
– Understand why you are doing this, what are the challenges and issues you are trying to overcome?
– Do a proper requirements capture (i.e. understands the needs of the consumer).
– Design something that then meets the needs of the consumer

Do it once, do it right

It is simple systems engineering. But the rhetoric about growth strategies and economic problems will not be overcome by a White Elephant. Let’s sort out the overcrowded trains; the lack of links between Heathrow and our other cities and our transport hubs and think about the existing infrastructure that is creaking at the seams and lacks the upgrades and infrastructure needed. A one hour improvement to Leeds to an out of city station that will take time to get to is not the answer. The fares will also be prohibitive. As a case in point: this week I booked a flight to Poland to visit a shared service centre we are working on – the flights costs £17 each way!

Come on. Let’s do something with our transport infrastructure, but do it once and do it right. Then we will all applaud this project wholeheartedly and not be seen to be Nimbys – because the business case really adds up.

Nigel Peters, MD at Alium Partners: www.aliumpartners.com

Brand Britain

At the recent MHA (*) roundtable event which gathered together SME manufacturers together from across the country the managing and finance directors of those companies discussed four key themes based on “how can Government really help manufacturers?”

The four key themes, each developed and chaired by an expert in that field, were bank and grant funding, taxation, skills and education and government strategy. A report has been produced and sent to Dr Vince Cable at the Department for Business but I have focused on one of recommendations below. The perceived need to develop the “Made in Britain” brand. It was believed that so few people understand that Britain remains a major manufacturer and this needs to be addressed.

The up and coming middle classes of China and India demand and pay a premium for something made in Britain because of the quality associated with the name, but “Made in Britain” is not a positive message in this country. The evidence for this is the dearth of talent which is seen entering many British based manufacturers from the education establishments. Manufacturing is not seen as the industry to be in, it is not “cool” and can be seen as place for those who may be considered to struggle in the professions. Without a concerted attempt to stop the British doing what we are really good at, “undervaluing ourselves” then this will continue.

We need to get to a situation where the brightest and best of our youngsters consider and choose manufacturing as a career and positive messages, from both media and government are vital to this. A further consideration to this was better engagement with schools, but in order to enable that work had to be completed first with the careers departments to “improve” the perceived face of manufacturing. (*) MHA is an association of progressive Chartered Accountants across the UK of which Bloomer Heaven are a member.

Brand personality and a bit about airlines

I Love the recent news story, and classic sun headline ‘Willie Wager’, about Richard Branson’s bet with British Airways. It reflects the personality of the two brands oh so well.

On one hand we have the traditional corporate figure of Willie Walsh, with his serious pinstripe suit to go with his serious predictions for the downfall of Virgin, cue evil laugh. And on the other we have the smiley Mr Branson in his laid back linen number, on his Caribbean Island, basically saying ‘bring it on Willie, let’s have some fun with this.’ Virgin v British Airways – The Big Bet The bet from the Caribbean, that BA pay £1 million to Virgin staff, if Virgin is still around in 5 years or vice a versa, comes following Mr Walsh’s claims that, if Virgin goes ahead with the Delta airlines joint venture, the Virgin name will be ditched.

Richard Branson’s put your money where your mouth is way of completely dismissing the predictions is in itself a great bit of marketing. And is the kind of response we have come to expect from the, less conventional, business magnate. Of course should Mr Walsh reply with the light heartedness, typical of the Virgin brand, it would immediately seem at odds with the stiff upper lip and bowler hat personality of BA. That isn’t to say that one is right and the other is wrong, just that they both have a very definite voice which we, as consumers, associate with each airline and which must be reflected in all communications.

Know your business personality

The individual personality of each corporation can be seen right from the visual branding through to all communications and staff behaviour. Visually British Airways is classic and refined and, I have to admit, when you look at a row of BA planes you do get a certain feeling of patriotism. The Virgin brand on the other hand is a lot more vibrant, loose and fun.

Fly on a BA plane and, in my opinion, you really don’t get much in the way of personality; it’s all very just so. With Virgin, however, you even get little jokes in the flight and safety briefing and the vibrancy is carried through to the way you are looked after on board and the way all Virgin crew communicate. Having said that it would seem wrong if BA were to start cracking jokes during their safety briefing, just as it would if Virgin were to suddenly take a far more serious approach. Don’t surprise us As consumers we like to know what to expect, we don’t generally like surprises. So what a business promises with its brand visuals and communications, we expect to receive. And when we don’t we fall out of love with them and go elsewhere.

A great brand begins on the inside It is, therefore, essential to define what your brand is, what it stands for, where it sits in the market and who it is targeted at before you start any outward marketing. A good and very simple exercise we ask clients to do is to answer the question ‘If you were a supermarket what supermarket would you be, and why?’ You can also take this further and align yourself to a magazine, newspaper, brand of car etc. It helps you to develop a clear picture of the personality you want to portray. Are you fun and vibrant like Virgin or Classic and dependable like British Airways? Once you have decided all this you must now make sure that you communicate all this to the outside world in all your branding. Make sure your staff fully understands the personality of your brand and how to reflect this in their behaviour and communication with all your clients. Review your brand and respond to the market And it doesn’t stop there. You must constantly review your brand. Ask yourself how are we being received? Have we changed as an organisation? Does my branding and communication still reflect the business as it is today? Has the market changed and are we reacting to this? British Airways is a good example of a brand that was falling behind the competition in terms of brand perception.

A year ago, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex, it was positioned only 21st in a chart of 25 aviation brands. A year later, thanks to the ‘To fly, to serve’ campaign and the campaigns that supported the 2012 sponsorship it is now rated as 2nd only to Virgin. I guess the ‘wishful thinking’ that Mr Branson assigns to Walsh’s recent claims will hit a nerve! The BA adverts were not a complete move away from the brand as we all know it, but rather than focussing on destinations and aircraft, as many airlines continue to do, they focused instead on customer service.

Bringing it back to the customer, something Virgin do very well, has meant a far better buy in from consumers. Not that I am suggesting for one minute that you run out and place a load of adverts, but just as British Airways did, you do need to protect the future success of your brand. And when a change is needed you need to recognise it and respond. Willie or Won’t he? So as Willie wriggles his way out of accepting the bet laid down in front of him, who is your money on? For me it’s Mr Branson all the way, but you probably guessed that already! Thanks for reading, Sarah

Who is checking your financial information ?

Information is a powerful tool and the information super-highway, aka world wide web, is having to face up to a number of challenges as its usage grows.

There are issues surrounding social media use and abuse in particular. But it’s not just a matter of social etiquette and personal privacy. How accurate is the information provided? And who is checking? There is no doubt that the internet is an amazing source of information about all sorts of topics and, as such, has transformed most people’s lives. Within a moment or two of wondering what the facts are about a subject, we can ‘google’ it and, in a few clicks, have the knowledge.

The problem is that if anyone can publish anything, how can we trust what we are reading? With a source like Wikipedia people with different perspectives may challenge and amend what is there, but what of the business world?

Certainly speaking personally the new problem that is emerging in my area of work – access to loan finance for small businesses unable to fully meet their requirements from other sources – is summed up in a couple of questions: 1. Who is keeping the web information up to date? 2. Is it reliable and fully informed?

There used to be a number of mainly public-sector-supported national and local websites to point potential applicants and their advisers in the right direction. Nearly all are no more. New sites are either ‘under construction’ or a ‘work in progress’, but regrettably at the moment they are not truly ‘fit for purpose’. They will need considerably more input.

The Google approach on its own can also prove misleading, because I can see that many of the sources or articles on the first page and onwards are either well out of date or are dominated by paid-for results, which leaves Wonga and other high cost lenders well in front of the game. In our own case, as we develop and change our terms and conditions according to the funding we have available, I have become aware of how hard it is to keep a track of every online listing there is which mentions our previous terms and conditions.

A classic example of this issue which I recently came across is a scheme that finished three years ago still being promoted on a ‘sources of finance’ site! In order to help, people most frequently think of setting up new information ‘hubs’ rather than adding to, or signposting to, existing sites. The problem here is that it not only takes time and money to make businesses aware of new sites, the different options have the potential to offer conflicting or different information.

All this makes it harder for small businesses to access the information – and money – they really need. It seems we are reaching a situation in which information is actually getting in the way, rather than supporting, the matching of available funds to needy businesses.

The time is certainly ripe for some fresh thinking. Now that would be a constructive challenge for the British Bankers Association, which just happens to have launched www.businessfinanceforyou.co.uk. If they could get everyone offering support for the small business sector to input to and update their site that would truly be a deserving cause that would support small businesses and the UK’s economy.