Breakfast Frenzy

May 14, 2009

This week has been a bit of a time shift for me simply because I am one of the worst people I know for early starts. Monday was the usual wake up at half seven, wake up again at eight then rush about getting fed and making myself presentable before leaving at quarter to nine. Tuesday came with a six o’clock start, rolling out of bed half an hour later and struggling through the usual routine nearly ninety minutes too early for my brain to recognise where, who or what it was. It was the day of the Inside Business Magazine Open Forum breakfast at The Winter Gardens . That was a dry affair, from the breakfast bap with a couple of greasy slices of bacon to the debate which turned out to be a chance for the board to talk at the audience. The breakfast which preceded the sit down forum was little more than a large foyer with a table of bacon baps and danish pastries served by two members of staff and accompanied by a coffee or tea. This meant standing and talking whilst trying to juggle a paper plate and a china cup and hand out business cards all at once. Not a wise idea and I’d recommend perhaps seating as a minimum.

The forum wasn’t. It was billed as an open debate but realistically would have required a full day of debate rather than the hour or so that we had. The panel were all very educated in their fields but didn’t actually answer many of the questions the audience were asked to submit beforehand. The range of subjects that were covered was very limited, mainly due to time constraints. A much lengthier debate would have received greater plaudits.

After that, I returned to my day job as a mild mannered retail store manager, filled another day with paperwork, customers and fair trade coffee before going home to a hot meal and a night of bad tv and emails.

The following morning was another six o’clock start for my own Chamber breakfast. In conjunction with Michaela at The Alasia Restaurant, Weston Chamber, or rather just myself, had organised a breakfast to encourage more interaction between town centre businesses and to draw more members for the chamber itself. The publicity for the restaurant was an added advantage and the chance to link up with a new chamber member in Michaela made it all very satisfying. As opposed to the previous day, the feast on offer was incomparable. We were greated by the owners themselves and offered a hot drink on arrival. The restaurant offers a vast range of teas and a very good coffee and as we were encouraged to our seats,grouped in fours, we found platters to share filled with exotic and fresh fruits. This was follwed up with plates of mixed toasts and a selection of preserves. During the breakfast, I introduced the co sponsors, hosts and speakers for the event. Andrew Brown and Lawrence Russel of Albert Goodman Financial were welcomed as speakers and gave us some very useful insights and advice whilst Debbie Staveley of b Clear Communications held us all rapped as she drew us into the inner macinations of the PR world.

Our sponsors, without whom the breakfast would not have been possible were Chawner Grey Solicitors and Buildbase builder’s Merchants. Both sponsors were very generous and made very welcome partners in the first breakfast of this kind the chamber has organised. We hope to work woth both sponsors in the near future and to repeat the undeniable success of this venture.

I attended a Business Club meeting on tuesday evening and, despite being let down by one speaker due to communication errors, we all left with a strong feeling that a lot of the present crisis was not only brought upon by the greed of a few, but could have and should have been easily avoided.

The main talk was given by Andrew Brown of Albert Goodman Financial planners.

Andrew is by nature a gregarious and exceptionally contagious person, his manner of discussing things that would leave most highly qualified financiers baffled in terms that the layperson can relate too is beyond comparison.

He brought along a small handout detailing some basic advice from another associate from Albert Goodman, Nick Hancock, which read:

Approaching the Tax Year end and many company accounting year ends, it is worth while considering tax planning.

The following are a few ideas;

  • Pay pension contribution prior to 5th April

  • Utilise full £50,000 Annual Investment Allowance

  • Use full £9,600 Capital Gains Tax Annual Allowance

  • Create a capital loss from sale of assets

  • Delay sales to following year

  • Bring forward revenue expenditure, for example repairs of buildings

  • Issue dividends pre 5th April

  • Pay spouses and/or children wages

  • Consider profitability for Tax credit purposes

  • If profitability is falling,consider reducing tax payments on account

  • Think about spreading tax payments over 12 months

These points in themselves raised a few eyebrows and prompted some serious questions, all which were dealt with comprehensively by Andrew as were the many, many questions that followed.Some of the points that were explained were how and why we got into this crisis, what it has meant positively for us and what we can and need to do now to limit the devastation.

One thing that has happened, quite clearly and publicly , is that the rate of inflation has collapsed. The pound in your pocket is worth the same as it was  some months, even a year ago. The halt in inflation and the collapse of the housing bubble has meant that first time buyers are once more able to take faltering steps towards the housing market, something that was unthinkable as little as 12 months ago ,unless you were a commune.

When the changes brought in by the Thatcher years allowed ordinary working people to buy their own homes, we all thought it was a great thing, a liberation for the masses. In reality, what has happened is that those with the money have bought up all the available property , forcing the prices up beyond the reach of those ordinary folk creating a baron landlord society with the few owning the majority.

The collapse has brought prices back down to a level where the process can restart.

Variable rate mortgages have disappeared, withdrawn by susceptible banks and leaving many people now paying little more than interest only mortgages. The extra spending power that brings may, it is hoped, kickstart the retail economy .

Car manufacturers are struggling to keep factories open to the extent that they are in some areas offering new cars at below cost prices, choosing to lose less money by not closing factories. Also , contracts are now being offered on shorter terms to those who hire company cars or vans, again at below cost prices of up to £100 subsidies.

It may feel as though we are heading into bleak times, but don’t be too distressed, every silver lining may have it’s cloud but there are some bargains to be had, just take the time, and importantly professional advice, and manage your accounts closely. You may find that your lifestyle costs can be dramatically cut, your mortgage minimised and some debts cancelled if you were miss sold a mortgage or endowment package.

Some people were apparently so pressurised into taking up new credit cards that they never received the proper paperwork to read and agree to at the time. If you were one of those people, contact Andrew or Albert Goodman Financial advisors, you may be able to write off that card debt entirely.

After his impressive talk on Tuesday, I have asked Andrew, already a Chamber member , to give a talk at a future Chamber meeting. I will of course, alert all readers nearer the time.