Over the past month or so I’ve been attending regional AGMs and conferences around the country. By the time you read this I will have been at seven since early March. These always provide a good opportunity to gauge members’ views on the state of business and the key issues that you want the FMB to address.
Despite the constant economic gloom coming through in the media, the messages I’m getting are mixed and probably support the view that we must take care not to talk ourselves into a recession.
There is no doubt that there is a downturn, and the full impact of the credit crunch has probably still to be felt, but I am talking to members who are reporting they remain busy and are getting enquiries. Our recently published State of Trade Survey for the first quarter of 2008 also shows a mixed message. Nationally employment levels had remained stable in the early months of the year but there are real concerns about future workload. The picture is variable over the country with some regions, particularly the North West showing a considerable improvement in expectations compared with late 2007.
The full details of the survey can be found in our Publications section.
Find a builder
The FMB is here to help members - and help is more likely to be needed during difficult times. I’ve plugged our find a builder service before, and many members find that it generates a steady stream of enquiries for them that they turn into work. So perhaps now is the time to enhance your entry and make sure you take advantage of the opportunity, if you don’t have your own web-site, you can have three FREE pages on the FMB site to show potential customers just how good a builder you are.
Help with marketing
We are looking at other initiatives to help you in marketing your business through difficult times, with ideas on areas such as presenting quotations and closing sales, managing cash flow and chasing bad debts. And this will be the theme of our national conference in September.
A clear message from the regional events is that it is often the little things that frustrate you on a day-to-day basis. One area of continuing concern is the operation of new CIS. The clock can’t be turned back, the new system introduced in April 2007 is here to stay for the foreseeable future, but we are working closely with HMRC to make sure that the problems are dealt with.
Clearly there are still problems in some areas with both on-line returns and postal returns. But if you are convinced that a penalty has been imposed unfairly, make sure you appeal. I’m told that the majority of appeals are successful. And it is important that you let FMB know about any problems so that Gordon Marjoram, our former National President who represents us at monthly meetings with HMRC, can raise your concerns and get them addressed.
Cut The VAT
Finally, as you may have seen we’ve had considerable success in raising the profile of our ‘Cut the VAT Campaign’. Many national newspapers have covered the story particularly when we released the news that the Treasury had made a windfall of over £500m from the VAT on repairs to homes after last year’s floods. The clear message was that in those circumstances it was used as just another stealth tax.
FMB Director General, Richard Diment