Welcome to the first edition of Vision for 2024.

With it looking like we will have a General Election towards the end of the year and with it also being a US Presidential election year, I’m sure there will be plenty to discuss.

Apparently we spent more over the Christmas period on foodstuffs than in 2022 with Sainsburys, Tesco and M&S reporting increased sales, the latter showing a 9.9% increase. Despite this optimism, the British Retail Consortium is still predicting a challenging 2024 with higher living costs squeezing family budgets. Inflation fell further to 3.9% but further reductions will be harder to come by and in the USA their latest inflation figure has rebounded upwards to 3.4%, showing that even the Land Of The Free has not conquered inflation yet.

After the major data protection gaff that cost Chief Executive, Dame Alison Rose her job last summer, Chairman Sir Howard Davies has been trying equally hard to upset customers. Last week on BBC’s Today programme he said he believes it is not currently “that difficult” for people to get on the housing ladder.

He added “people have always had to save for a deposit but admitted they had to save more today, warning of easy access to credit.” Critics said his comments were “astounding” and “out of touch with reality”. He later sought to clarify his remarks, saying he “did not intend to underplay” the challenges buyers face. When in a hole stop digging!

2024 – A YEAR FOR FLEXIBILITY

Looking back at 2023, we have been amazed at the resilient way our clients have handled the uncertain economy. You have demonstrated to us how we can all be flexible and readily adapt to a change in circumstances! We hope that by this time next year we all will be looking back on a more settled 2024. However, we have to admit that uncertainty is an inevitable part of business life.

With this in mind, for January, we are encouraging all clients to take time to prepare a 2024 Strategic Plan. A plan that will set you on a course to success, to quote a saying used regularly by a professional friend, “A sailor without a destination will never get a favourable wind!”

We all know this simple truth: It is easier to get to your destination with a plan. When you are driving from here to say London, it helps to know where London is, the motorway you need and the direction you need to take to get there. If you have a vision of what you want your business to look like when it is “complete” then you will be able to ‘drive’ your business towards that vision and monitor how you are doing as you go along.

Without a strategic plan, you could end up like flotsam in the sea; being blown ‘this way and that way’ without any control. On the other hand, a plan helps you to keep your business focused on the things it is good at doing. It helps you determine where to spend time, resources and money for the best effect.

How do you put together a strategic plan?

  • Take time to review your own personal objectives. The business is there to provide you with what you want from life. Do not forget this;
  • Look at where you are now. Assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Identify your position in the marketplace, the competition, your systems, and what you are good (and not good) at;
  • Focus on where you want to be. Look ahead (say) 2 years. What do you want your business to look like when it is running profitably and successfully? This will help you determine your priorities – the big issues on which you need to focus. This is the strategic plan;
  • Write your vision down (or type it up!). Define what must be achieved and the actions you need to take;
  • Allocate responsibility. Specify who is responsible for doing what;
  • Monitor, review and adjust. Monitor how you are doing each month against your plan and consider what needs to be done to keep you moving forward. If your plan begins to look unrealistic, be prepared to review and adjust it.

We have useful tools and checklists to help you analyse where you are now, set a strategy, agree actions and then monitor them. Please talk to us about how we can help you achieve your goals – we have helped many other businesses grow and succeed!

BUDGET 2024

It was announced over the past few days that the 2024 Spring Budget will be on Wednesday 6 March. This will be Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s last attempt to woe voters ahead of a General Election that Rishi Sunak indicated would be in the Autumn. As usual there will be a Budget Special edition of Vision on the evening of the Budget.

You will recall in his Autumn Statement he cut Employee’s National Insurance from 12% to 10%. Well this came into being over last weekend so anyone being paid weekly will see the first benefit in their pay packets this week. If you are self employed, then you will have to wait until 6 April 2024 to see any changes with Class 2 being abolished and Class 4 falling 1% to 8%. Of course, you will not actually see the benefit of this until January 2026 when any balance of 2024/25 tax and NIC may be due. Let’s hope there is some further giveaways come March.

CONTACTING HMRC (OR NOT)

The simple answer to this is neither you nor we can! You will recall I advised that, with literally no notice, HMRC confirmed that from 11 December until 31 January 2024, it will severely reduce its self assessment helpline and redirect the majority of callers to to online services, telling taxpayers to find their own answers to queries about tax returns.

HMRC said that call centre advisers will focus on answering ‘priority queries’, described as ‘those that cannot be easily dealt with online’, as well as supporting the small minority of callers who require extra support or cannot use online services. However, HMRC has not explained how these priority calls will be ranked and dealt with during this period.

The service reduction will also affect us and we too will be told to use online services rather than relying on the agent dedicated line to resolve problems. In the same period last year, HMRC did agree to deal with calls relating to Self Assessment filing, payments and repayments, but a few days ago even this promise was reneged on. Basically, if you cannot find the answer using their online services, you will have to wait.

Personally, I see this as the thin end of a very thick wedge. I can see HMRC’s announcement now that this worked so well, with so many people solving their own problems using online resources that all phone lines will be limited in future. One way to get rid of a queue is to stop people from forming one in the first place.

AND FINALLY …..

With it being US election year and Donald Trump seemingly more popular with every court case against him, just before his loss in 2020 ventriloquist, Jeff Dunham, famed for being totally not PC, created another little fella in Larry.

Enjoy and have a good weekend.