Council Budget Consultation Webinar
Thursday 21st January at 10:00 am - 11:00 am

Join Councillor Shantanu Rajawat (Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services) to find more about the Local Authority’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and Council’s future financial plans. We are facing tough times and this is your opportunity as a business to have your say. This is one webinar you should not miss.

Cllr Rajawat will be joined by Soraya Lavery from CPG, business support advisor, and Ash Sanjenbam of Kingfisher Sec and also Woodnet Lifestyles Ltd, which was set up during the pandemic, supplying sanitiser stations and won Ash, Best Business of the Year 2019/20 at our recent Business Awards and Alan Rides, MD of Hounslow Chamber of Commerce and West London Local Chambers.
Covid-19: Health & Safety - Back to Basics Webinar
Monday 25th January at 11:00 am – 12:00 noon

Hounslow is now the sixth worst London borough for Covid-19, one in 30 of us Londoners has the disease. This second national lockdown has a very different feel to the first. We need to get back to the basics. Please come along to learn more about the mass vaccination programme in the borough, the asymptomatic testing initiative and to put your concerns to the panel, made up of:

  • Mel Bruneau - Health & Safety Director at Hounslow Chamber
  • Graham Bellamy - Senior Health & Safety officer at Hounslow Council
  • Representative from West Middlesex University Hospital
COVID Community campaign to tackle hunger

Hounslow Council has joined forces with other Councils across London to launch the COVID Community Campaign as the pandemic drives more families into food poverty.

Reliance on Hounslow Community FoodBox has increased by 300% during the pandemic and the number of people in the borough of Hounslow on Universal Credit has almost doubled since the start of last year.

To get involved visit www.covidcommunitycampaign.co.uk to find out how you can lend your support.

More rapid test sites opening next week

More rapid test sites are opening next week at Wellington Day Centre and Isleworth Library.

Approximately 1 in 3 people with COVID-19 have no symptoms, but can still pass the virus to others without knowing.

Rapid testing is now available for anyone over the age of 18 who does not have coronavirus symptoms and who still needs to go out for work – key workers, carers, tradespeople and essential retail workers – who need a quick result and regular testing.

‘Rapid tests’, or ‘lateral flow tests’, help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

You can choose where you would like to have your test:
  • Hounslow House
  • Heston Library
  • Wellington Day Centre (from Monday 18 January onwards)
  • Isleworth Library (from Tuesday 19 January onwards)

The sites are dedicated to rapid COVID-19 tests and therefore in line with Government guidelines the libraries are not currently open or operating any services.

Sites will be open for pre-booked appointments only from 8am-4pm, seven days a week, for approximately six weeks.

Book your rapid test online www.hounslow.gov.uk/rapidtest or by calling 0207 084 9697.

Who needs to file a self-assessment tax return?
Most UK taxpayers have their taxes deducted automatically from their wages, pensions or savings, and won't need to file a tax return. But tax returns are due from individuals or businesses who haven't had tax automatically deducted, or who have earned extra untaxed income.
You'll need to submit a tax return if any of the following applied to you in the 2019/20 tax year:
  • You were self-employed and your income was more than £1,000.
  • Your income was more than £50,000, and you or your partner claimed child benefit.
  • You earned more than £2,500 from renting out property, or from other untaxed income such as tips or commission.
  • You earned more than £100,000 in taxable income.
  • You earned £10,000 or more before tax from savings, investments, shares or dividends.
  • You earned income from abroad, or lived abroad and had a UK income.
  • You need to pay capital gains tax.
  • You received income from a trust.
  • Your state pension was more than your personal allowance and was your only source of income (unless you started getting your pension on or after 6 April 2016).
  • HMRC has told you that you didn't pay enough tax last year (and you haven't already paid up through your tax code or voluntary payments).
  • You filed a self-assessment tax return last year (even if you didn't owe any tax). You'll need to do this unless HMRC has already written to you to say you don't need to file one


What if I've signed up to a repayment plan?
Those who owe tax of less than £30,000 (and more than £32) in January 2021 (so that'd be the deferred July payment and January 2021's 'on account' payment) have been able to use HMRC's 'Enhanced Time to Pay' mechanism to agree a repayment plan to spread that tax bill and repay it by direct debit over up to 12 months – even if that goes beyond the 31 January 2021 deadline.
To use this service, you need to have filed your 2019/20 tax return by the 31 January 2021 deadline and set up the repayment plan no later than 60 days after the due date of a debt. In addition, you need to have no outstanding tax returns, other tax debts or other payment plans set up. You can set up a Time to Pay plan online through your tax account, or you can call HMRC on 0300 200 3822 (open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm).


What if I miss the deadline?
You'll be charged a £100 penalty if you fail to submit your return by the deadline – even if there's no tax to pay.
Further penalties of £10 a day are applied after three months, up to a maximum of £900. After six months, you'll get a further penalty of 5% of the tax owed or £300 (whichever is greater), which is repeated at 12 months.
There are also extra penalties for paying the tax late – these will be charged at 5% of the unpaid tax after 30 days, six months and 12 months.
Smart Works is a UK wide charity that provides high quality interview clothing and coaching to unemployed women. The service is free and 60% of the women we support go on to get a job within a month.

We have re-opened for in-person dressing appointments but can offer our virtual dressing and coaching service to any unemployed woman regardless of geography.

We can support unemployed women with either of the following types of Smart Works appointment:

1.Interview Clothing and Coaching

Every woman referred will receive one-to-one interview coaching over the phone or via Zoom and either an in-person styling session where she will receive a complete outfit for her interview, or a parcel of workwear delivered to her door.

We can support any unemployed woman before her job interview, apprenticeship interview or Kickstart interview.
 
2.Career Coaching

We know that many are struggling to secure interviews in the current climate. This one-to-one, hour-long coaching session is delivered by one of our trained interview coaches and will focus on helping your client feel positive about her job search and next steps.

The session can include guidance on finding a job in the current climate, tips on developing skills from home, CV advice or an introduction to key interview skills.


Referrals can be made by calling 0207 288 1770

BCC Quarterly Economic Survey Q4 2020: Business conditions remain weak and show no signs of improvement for vast majority of firms 

The British Chambers of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) – the UK’s largest independent survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP growth – found that business conditions remained weak in the fourth quarter as the second lockdown squeezed activity.

The bellwether survey of 6,203 firms, whoemploy nearly a million people across the UK, revealed that there was no fundamental improvement in the key indicators in Q4 and they remain well below pre-crisis levels. 95% of respondents were SMEs.

Key findings:
  • Following the sharpest decline in the history of the QES in Q2 2020, all the key indicators in Q4 remained substantially worse than pre-pandemic levels
  •  79% of hotels and catering firms reporteda decrease in domestic sales in Q4, worsening from 66% in Q3
  • Cash flow, a key indicator of business health, continued to deteriorate for 43% of firms overall. For hotels and catering firms, 77% report a decrease.


Business conditions 

Overall, indicators remained weak in Q4, with only moderate improvement compared to Q3and still well below the pre-Covid 19 trend. 

  • Nearly half of firms (43%) reported decreases in domestic sales, broadly unchanged from 46% in Q3
  • 26% of firms reported an increase in domestic sales. 30% reported no change
  • 45% of firms reported a decrease in domestic orders, while 33% report no change, and 22% report an increase
  • 38% of firms reported decreases in export sales, down slightly from 45% in Q3 but still substantially worse than pre-pandemic levels, where only around 20% of firms reported a decrease
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) of firms reported increases in export sales, up from 16% in Q3

Business to consumer (B2C) firms saw the largest falls in domestic sales in the quarter. Over three quarters (79%) of respondents in the hospitality and catering sectors reported decreases, compared to 66%in Q3 and is moving back toward Q2 levels (94%), underlining the impact that lockdowns and forced closures have had on demand. 

However, the survey revealed that sectors which have continued their operations through the pandemic, and/or shifted their operating models to remote working, also have a higher proportion of firms reporting decreased sales. For instance,53% of transport and distribution firms, and 44% of marketing/media firms reported decreases in sales, well above pre-pandemic levels of 29% and 23% reporting decreases in Q1 2020, respectively. 

In the manufacturing sector, the balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales increased to -9% in Q4 2020, up from -15% in Q3 2020. The balance of firms reporting increased export sales increased to -8% from -26% in Q3

In the services sector generally, the balance of firms reporting increased domestic sales increased to -24% in Q4 2020, up from -25% in Q3. The balance of firms reporting increased export sales increased to -22% in Q4 from -31% in Q3

As a percentage balance, the manufacturing sector is seeing a faster rate of improvement in domestic and export sales, though both sectors’ indicators remain in ‘negative territory’, meaning that more firms have reported a decrease in sales than an increase. 


Cash flow 

Cash flow, a key indicator of business health, continued to deteriorate for more than four-in-tenfirms. In Q4, 21% of firms reported an improvement in cash flow, 36% reported no change and 43% reported a deterioration. Levels are broadly unchanged from Q3 which saw some improvement on historic lows in Q2.
In line with indicators from Q2 and Q3, micro firms were more likely to report worsening cash flow, with 51% of these firms reporting a deterioration, compared to 27% reporting a decrease in Q1 2020.

In the services sector the balance of firms reporting improved cashflow increased to -28% from -30% in Q3. After the lowest levels on record in Q2 and Q3, this balance is still lower than any other since Q4 2008.

In the manufacturing sector, the balance of firms reporting improved cashflow increased to -15% from -18% in Q3.


Investment and confidence 

Over a third of firms (35%) continue to report decreased investment in plant, machinery and equipment, highlighting longer-term concerns for the economy as many businesses pause investment plans or revise them down. This isunchanged from Q3 and follows Q2, which had the largest proportion of firms revising down investment in the history of the QES dataset.

Nearly half (48%) expected no change in plant, machinery and equipment investment, up slightly from 46% in Q3. Just 17% of firms plan to invest, unchanged from Q3 and remaining historically low. 

40% of firms said they expected their turnover to increase over the next 12 months, while a third (34%) still expected it to decrease. Nearly a quarter (25%) expected that it would stay the same. 

In the services sector, the balance of firms looking to increase investment in training remains at -17% in Q4, unchanged on Q3. The balance of firms confident that turnover will improve over the next year decreased slightly to -3% from in+1% in Q3.

In the manufacturing sector, the balance of firms looking to increase investment in training increased to -10% in Q4 from -19% in Q3. The balance of firms confident that turnover will improve over the next year increased to +12% in Q4 up from +7% in Q3.


Ongoing uncertainty

Despite seeing some improvements in some indicators in the previous quarter, business conditions remain close to the historic lows of Q2.

The survey fieldwork took place during the second lockdowns in England and NorthernIreland, and amid tougher restrictions in Scotland and Wales. Continued uncertainty around further lockdowns and restrictions, as well as the many unanswered questions on Brexit, have caused businesses considerable distress, with some saying they are worried about the long-term viability of their business. 

Smaller firms and independent retailers report the most pessimistic sentiment, many stating that changes in restrictions, and the introduction of the second lockdown exacerbated cash-flow problems and left them with redundant stock.A wholesaler in Kent reported: ‘We were recovering well from the lockdown until this last month, which has been catastrophic as we had bought for Christmas sales, which were then halted, but the invoices still needed paying.’

Some businesses not forced to close by the lockdown and restrictions are also feeling the effects of the cash-flow crisis further up the supply chain, with marketing budgets slashed or diverted to Covid-related activity. One creative agency commented: ‘2020 has been a dire year for any marketing, creative agency. Clients have taken back budgets to cover Covid and PPE signage, other new clients had to close doors and reduce marketing spend. Only a few see the need to promote or market their business to consumers and attract new sales.’

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“These results indicate that economic activity was strikingly downbeat in the final quarter of 2020 as the re-introduction of tighter coronavirus restrictions weighed heavily on the key drivers of growth.

“The services sector endured a particularly difficult quarter, with consumer-facing businesses most severely exposed to the renewed restrictions. Although manufacturing firms had a moderately better end to 2020, this is more likely to reflect a temporary boost from Brexit stockpiling rather than evidence of a recovery in the sector. The persistent weakness in investment intentions is a particular concern, as it limits the UK’s productivity and growth potential. 

“Though the vaccine rollout provides real optimism, a new national lockdown means that a significant double-dip recession in the first quarter of this year is looking increasingly likely.”

Responding to the findings, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, Dr Adam Marshall, said:  

“Our findings demonstrate that businesses across the UK face a difficult and uncertain year ahead in 2021. The announcement of another major lockdown across all four nations of the UK will compound the gloom for many. As we start 2021, governments across the UK should be pulling out all the stops to ensure support for businesses is commensurate with the restrictions in place.Both the pandemic and government restrictions continue to hit firms hard, and many are grappling with a difficult period of adjustment to new trading conditions following the end of the Brexit transition period. The current drip-feed approach to business support measures is too short term and leaves businesses unable to plan. Ministers must set out, now, what additional steps they will take to underpin business cash flow and help viable firms preserve livelihoods until a full reopening of the economy is possible.They should be boosting confidence by extending tax holidays and key support schemes that are due to expire over the coming weeks. 

As we look to the future, our findings demonstrate that big investment incentives arealso needed. Prosperity and success depend on businesses, both domestic and international, having the confidence to invest here in the UK for the long term. For business, the pandemic doesn’t end simply because vaccines are starting to be delivered.Brexit isn’t ‘done’, either. The sooner the Prime Minister and his colleagues set out a coherent economic plan and longer-term support to help businesses to restart, rebuild, and renew, the better. 2021 cannot be a year where Britain dithers while others do.”
November issue of Let's Talk Business out now

West London Local Chambers & Hounslow Chamber of Commerce are the primary support, networking, and representation organisation in west London for SMEs.

We support the interests, the commercial aspirations and the investment from businesses in Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham - the Chamber is the voice for all businesses located in the borough