Railfreight – Where are we going next?

Railfreight – Where are we going next?

Railfreight – Where are we going next?

April saw the publication of Network Rail’s Freight Network Study which looked at the current state of the sector, the value of railfreight to the wider economy and identified key priorities for the future.

The study recognised both the 70% increase in railfreight volumes in the 20 year period to 2014/15, and the recent dip in volumes caused primarily by the fall in coal traffic to power stations.

Intermodal traffic has now emerged as the largest single commodity sector conveyed by rail, and this is seen as key to an anticipated 3% annual growth rate in railfreight volumes over the next 25 years.

This shift in traffic type, and the geographical pattern changes in freight flow has created capacity constraints on a network that is already experiencing stress from increasing passenger numbers.

As a result, the study calls for measures to increase the future capacity of the network, (via building more split level junctions, and laying additional running lines in key locations) and to make better use of capacity by enabling faster, longer trains to be run through enhanced gauge clearance and improved signalling.

Such calls for further investment to deliver Network Rail’s proposals sound like great news for Freight Operating Companies and those supplying the rail network alike.

But Network Rail’s study may not reveal the whole picture.

Whilst Intermodal and aggregates traffic are rising, they are not rising quickly enough to offset the decline in coal traffic. Both are also more closely linked to the underlying economic conditions than the raw material for energy production would have been.

Infrastructure prospects can take a long period of time to materialise and require substantial funds to realise. With a General Election on the very near horizon, Government spending plans come under more scrutiny by the public at large, and delivery of these projects may not be at the top of the typical voter’s shopping list.

Other matters influenced by Government policy also seem to be going against FOCs such as the regular rises in track access charges and the proposed cut in the level of the Mode Shift Revenue Support (MSRS) grant.

While Network Rail’s study makes many valid observations and sets out worthwhile proposals, they need to be linked in with wider policy decisions in order to encourage more freight to travel long-distances by rail in order for the wider economic and environmental benefits to be realised.

At Hawsons, we assist businesses across the logistics sector with their business planning, audit, accounts, tax and grant monitoring requirements. We combine industry knowledge with technical experience to provide a bespoke service for our clients.

For a free initial meeting, please click on the button located to the right of this article, or click here.

Paul Wormald is a partner at Hawsons, working in the Doncaster office. He worked previously with two national firms of Chartered Accountants prior to joining Hawsons in 2001. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Paul on [email protected] or 01302 367 262.[/author_info]

What your law firm can do in the event of a cyber attack

What your law firm can do in the event of a cyber attack

How should law firms deal with a cyber attack?

One of the biggest threats to a law firm is undoubtedly a cyber attack. Not only can it disrupt your systems and prevent you from carrying out chargeable work, it is also a reputation killer. If you mention the words “cyber attack” to any law firm, its enough to induce fear and this fear is justified, especially with cyber crime on the rise.

According to Natwest’s Legal Benchmarking survey, as many as one in four law firms have experienced a cyber attack. This is an alarming number.

So why law firms? Well, law firms hold valuable data about clients and individuals as well as large sums of client money – bringing it all together it makes them an ideal target. From May next year, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation will come into force and businesses that handle EU citizens’ personal data will have just 72 hours to inform data subjects of a breach.

This means that we are likely to see a greater number of cyber attacks being made public.

A lot of money these days is invested into technology to prevent a cyber attack from occurring in the first place, but IF it does end up happening to your law firm, what steps should you take to protect your reputation?

The first step is to make sure there is a detailed plan for communication in the wake of a cyber attack. A recent Solicitors Journal article sets out that the plan should include the following:

  • Internal communication with trusted spokespeople
  • External communication with trusted spokespeople
  • A chain of command for escalating enquiries
  • Scripts for reception staff so they know what to say to clients and media

You should also plan out possible scenarios that may happen during a cyber attack and how it affects you, so if an attack does occur, you know how to deal with it. It is also worth investing time into a Q&A document that rehearses possible questions people may ask you.

If the need should arise, it is worth preparing reactive media and client statements ready to distribute. When writing reactive statements, you should always be honest about the situation that has occurred, don’t deny the situation and always put a positive spin in the closing statement.

Finally, it is wise to run through all of these measures as regularly as possible. A cyber attack can happen to anyone at any moment so it is important to be prepared. However, it is worth noting that all the planning in the world may not stop an attack from happening, as criminals are getting ever more sophisticated. That being said, it is better to have protocols in place if it does happen for damage limitation.

To find out more about Hawsons Cyber Security, please click here.

Charles Kavazy

Charles Kavazy

Charles Kavazy heads up the firm’s IT services providing independent IT advice helping businesses with data security. He also helps businesses purchase, implement and get the most out of their software and hardware. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Charles on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Simon Bladen Partner

Simon Bladen is the partner responsible for looking after the firm’s legal clients and has worked at Hawsons throughout his career. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Simon on [email protected] or 0114 226 7141.[/author_info]

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Leisure & Hospitality 2017 Budget review and analysis

Leisure & Hospitality 2017 Budget review and analysis

How will the 2017 Budget affect the leisure and hospitality sector?

The Chancellor Philip Hammond presented the last Spring Budget on Wednesday 8 March 2017. In his speech the Chancellor was keen to point out that he wanted the tax system to be fair, particularly in relation to the distinction between employed and self-employed individuals. In this article, we look at how the Chancellor’s Spring Budget impacts the leisure and hospitality sector.

In the Budget speech the Chancellor announced that he has requested a report to be delivered in the summer on the wider implications of different employment practices. Also, the Budget included changes to NICs and the Dividend Allowance.

In December and January the government issued a number of clauses, in draft, of Finance Bill 2017 together with updates on consultations.

The Budget updates some of these previous announcements and also proposes further measures. Some of these changes apply from April 2017 and some take effect at a later date.

Our summary focuses on the issues likely to affect you and your business.

 

Main Budget tax proposals

Our summary concentrates on the tax measures which include:

  • increases to the Class 4 National Insurance rates – Update 15/03/17 – Chancellor withdraws plans to increase NI.
  • a reduction in the Dividend Allowance from £5,000 to £2,000
  • changes to the timing of Making Tax Digital for smaller businesses.

Previously announced measures include:

  • increases to the personal allowance and basic rate band (a decreased band for Scottish residents)
  • the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy
  • changes to corporation tax loss relief
  • the introduction of an additional inheritance tax residence nil rate band
  • changes for non-UK domiciled individuals.

Main Budget announcements (leisure & hospitality specific)

  • Small businesses under VAT threshold have extra year (until 2019) to prepare for Making Tax Digital (MTD)
  • Increase in National Insurance Contributions (NICs) – Update 15/03/17 – Chancellor withdraws plans to increase NI.
  • Tax-free dividend allowance for individuals of limited companies to reduce from £5,000 to £2,000 from April 2018.
  • £435m to support businesses affected by the increase to business rates from April 2017
  • No business losing business rate relief will see their bill increase by more than £50 a month next year
  • Pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 will get a £1,000 discount on their business rates bill
  • £300m funding allocated to local councils to help the harder-hit businesses
  • Beer and cider tax will rise at the rate of inflation – currently at 3.9%
  • Sugar levy to go ahead as planned

2017 Budget impact


Mixed reaction to this years Budget

The biggest headline for the sector without a doubt has to be the rise in businesses rates. Many businesses in the sector are going to hard-hit by the increase, but it seems the Chancellor has responded to the backlash and announced measures for those who are most affected. The delay to the Making Tax Digital (MTD) project until 2019 is also welcome news. Understandably, many small businesses were and still are, quite anxious about the introduction of Making Tax Digital.

Business rates

Local councils will be given £300m funding to help those businesses who are hardest hit by the increase. Therefore, any small business coming out of business rates relief will not pay any more than £600 more in business rates this year, than they did in the previous year. No business losing business rate relief will see their bill increase by more than £50 a month next year.

Alcohol tax

Both beer and cider tax is no longer frozen and will rise alongside inflation which currently stands at 3.9% from 12 March. Therefore, the price of a pint is set to increase by 2p which is the first rise in five years since the abolition of the Beer Duty Escalator.

National Insurance Contributions (NICs) increase

Now for the not so good news; the increase to National Insurance Contributions. Class 2 NICs are currently paid on profits of £5,965 or more and Class 4 NICs at 9% are paid on profits between £8,060 and £43,000. Class 2 NICs are to be abolished from 2018, but Class 4 NICs are going to increase by 1% to 10% in April 2018, and then by a further 1% in April 2019. Only the self-employed will be affected by the new rates, which apply if you have profits above £16,250.

Update 15/03/17 – The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has withdrawn plans for the proposed National Insurance increases which will come as very welcome news to the self-employed.

Scott Sanderson, Partner at Hawsons, had this to say: “It’s been a mixed bag one for the sector this year. While the delay to MTD is certainly a positive, as is the £435m to support the businesses with the business rates increase, the increase to the alcohol tax is certainly disappointing.”

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

10 ways Brexit may affect tourism

10 ways Brexit may affect tourism

Brexit’s affect on tourism

Wednesday 29 March was the date when Article 50 was officially triggered, and with that marks the two-year process in which the UK leaves the EU. However, the implications for British travellers are yet to be resolved. In this article, we look at 10 things that could have an impact on British travellers.

Mobile phone roaming charges

Using your phone abroad used to cost a significant amount, but after pressure from the EU, costs plunged dramatically. Currently, under EU rules, roaming charges are set to be abolished completely in June 2017. Therefore, when the UK does eventually leave the EU, it is anyone’s guess as to whether these laws will still affect British travellers.

Increase in airfares

Low-Cost Carriers (LCCs) have helped in significantly reducing the cost of travelling and the opening of new routes was enabled by the EU’s removal of old bi-lateral restrictions on air service agreements and the introduction of more open competition on routes between Union countries. However, with Britain leaving the EU, new agreements and arrangements will need to be made in order for LCCs like easyJet to continue to operate within EU countries and for Irish airlines like Ryanair to continue to fly into the UK without any restrictions.

The array of routes coupled with low fares that us Brits currently enjoy could be a thing of the past if no arrangements can be made during the negotiation process.

Health benefits abroad

Currently, UK citizens can have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), this card entitles UK nationals to free or reduced healthcare services when travelling abroad. This is by no means the same as travel insurance, but does allow many travel insurance policies to waive the excess payment you make on a claim. However, this agreement will now have to be renegotiated and it is assumed that any deal will depend on the UK allowing EU citizens access to our own healthcare services.

Delayed flights

Only one good thing comes from a delayed flight – the high levels of compensation you receive as a result of EU directive. However, this could all change with British airlines most likely lobbying for this to be reduced after we have left the EU. Regardless of this, flights in and out of Europe will still be governed by the directive, but claiming compensation may prove more difficult, and you might even have to go to court in another country.

The strength of the pound

It’s no secret that the pounds value has dropped significantly since the EU referendum and as a result of this, holidays have become more expensive. Many predictions about the pound have been floating around and before the referendum, it was predicted that it could fall as much as 20%. However, while it has fallen, it hasn’t quite fallen that much. The pound is expected to fluctuate between now and when the UK officially leaves the EU.

Borderless travel

It is currently expected that once the UK leaves the EU, British citizens will not need visas to travel and will still have to pass through passport control just like we do now. One thing that will change is that we won’t be stood in the EU citizens queue so we may have to wait longer to be seen. Under the Schengen arrangement, most controls for border-crossing have been removed but if the Union collapses as a result of Brexit (and that is a possibility – albeit a small one) these controls could be back in place and border checks could be reintroduced.

Holiday protection

Under EU law (established in 1992), financial protection arrangements for package holidays was introduced to help holiday makers not get stranded in the event of a holiday company collapses. It is unlikely that the UK Government will look to water down these rules, but they will now be free to do so if they wish. In 2018, the EU’s new Package Travel Directive was set to be implemented, so it is unlikely British travellers will see the benefits of this new scheme.

Duty free

In 1999, Britain lost the right to buy duty free when travelling to or from another EU country. However, we won the right to bring back an unlimited amount of duty free goods from EU member states. Therefore, if you were to bring wine home from France, you will have only paid 23p per 750ml whereas here in the UK, it’s £2.08. With the UK leaving the EU, we will presumably have to revert back to the same arrangements that apply to all other countries.

Working in the EU

If you want to fund a trip around Europe by taking casual jobs, or if you want to work in holiday resorts, you can do so due to our EU membership. Now we’re leaving the EU, there looks to be a big rethink on these rules and the mood seems to be around Government that they want restrictions on freedom of work and movement. British citizens will also presumably face similar restrictions when we want to work in the EU.

Beach pollution

Under EU law, it is a requirement for member states to have high standards of water bathing quality and those who didn’t, were shamed until they improved this element. Britain has seen a big improvement in the reduction of raw sewage polluting our beaches in the last 25 years. While this is a dramatic improvement, more still needs to be done. The question is; is that likely to happen now we’re leaving the EU?

If Brexit is a worry for you, and you would like to speak to one of our advisors, please click here to book a free meeting to discuss your business needs.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Study finds two in five GPs set to quit in next five years

Study finds two in five GPs set to quit in next five years

Study finds two in five GPs set to quit in next five years 

40% of GPs in South West England have stated they would quit in the next five years, GP leaders have warned. It has also been found that 70% of GPs in the region intend to reduce their patient contact time.

In the findings, it was found that low morale was a common factor in more than half of the GPs surveyed, with that particular group stating they would leave the profession. These findings highlight the GP shortage that the country is currently facing.

GP leaders have said that there needs to be an end to “sticking plaster solutions” and an action plan from the Government in order to tackle the forthcoming potential crisis within the sector.

The findings clearly state that there are issues facing the sector, and these issues stem from a range of factors, including staff shortages, rising demand and budgets becoming stagnant. Full time GPs in the country are becoming harder to find as more and more are either leaving the profession completely or retiring earlier.

Brexit could make the problem worse, if Britain don’t leave the EU with a good deal for GPs, it could result in more overseas doctors leaving the NHS, putting more strain on a system that is already struggling.

However, the Government has hit back and stated that this research was undertaken before the Government’s plan to improve conditions in general practice – by investing £2.4bn into primary care, extra payments to GPs and cutting red tape whilst also increasing flexible working.

It has also been stated by the Government that they are training a record amount of GPs since records began.

Scott Sanderson, Healthcare specialist at Hawsons, had this to say: “It is clear from the findings that GPs are under strain and much more needs to be done to help ease the pressure on our general practices in England. The statement from the Government regarding extra funding is welcome and will help, but I do feel it is just papering over the cracks – more certainly needs to be done.”

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]