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Business rates on the rise but resist the tide of calls for training cuts


APRIL saw a number of policy changes by government come into being which will have impact on businesses of all sizes in Milton Keynes and the wider region.

One change that will no doubt bring great concern to the many small and medium-sized enterprises in our community will be the rise in business rates.

For those not in the know, these rates require firms to pay tax calculated on the rateable value of a property based on its annual market rent value.

According to Simply Business, Milton Keynes will see rates rise by up to 60%, making it the second hardest hit area in the country, behind only Reading at 70%.

Headlines such as these will no doubt alarm business owners and their management teams who may immediately hit the panic button and look to save costs in order to continue balancing the books.

In that scenario, my experience tells me there are usually two business areas that see their spending reduced first; training and marketing.

When training budgets come under pressure, the onus is then on businesses and their HR teams to think creatively about how to spread their available resources further.

This is where apprenticeships provide a wealth of opportunities, especially given the much-publicised recent introduction of the apprenticeship levy.

Although the levy only applies to businesses with a wage bill above £3 million, the opportunities created by apprenticeships apply to businesses of all sizes.

In particular, this is where SMEs can hold back the tide of reduced training expenditure by looking to achieve their development targets through work-based learning – especially when you consider the level of support from government, which will cover up to 90% of the associated costs of delivering apprenticeships.

With regards to marketing expenditure, while this can often be seen as a good place to cut costs, this can have adverse effects by stunting growth, leaving businesses to scramble for market share and quality people after the tough times pass.

This leads back to apprenticeships. Employing a digital marketing apprentice is a great way of developing a member of staff and providing them with the latest knowledge and understanding of practices in online marketing.

Alternatively, apprehensive owners of SMEs could benefit hugely from receiving training on digital marketing, opening up a world of targeted, measurable and relatively low-cost promotions that take the guessing out of raising your company’s profile.

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