270 000 start-ups: The current business boom is reflected in the 270 000 mainstream business start-ups in the first half of 1997, up 11 per cent on the same period last year, according to Barclays’ Small Business Bulletin. There has been a corresponding decline in the number of closures, down 14 per cent on the same period in 1996. And companies are now typically surviving longer, with nearly 50 per cent of small businesses still trading after three years, up by 5 per cent compared with the first half of 1996.

New superstore to open: A new business advice superstore is on the cards, with a launch planned for the autumn. The service, to be named Access Business, will bring together services currently offered by local and central Government departments, and will operate under the Government’s Better Regulation initiative. For more details, contact: the Cabinet Office on 0171-270 0207.

Handy new book: Business guru Charles Handy urges companies to take broader social responsibility in his new book The Hungry Spirit: Beyond Capitalism – A Quest for Purpose in the Modern World (Hutchinson 14.99). Handy argues that by ‘downsizing’ beyond the needs of ‘re-engineering’ some companies have become too focused on the mechanism of capitalism at the expense of any wider consideration for the welfare of their employees.

Self-assessment causes confusion: Though 61 per cent of small-business owners have paid the first half-year tax due on 31 January, many are still baffled by the new system, according to a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses. The tax form, designed by Wolff Olins, was found difficult to understand by 80 per cent of respondents, and 62 per cent said they felt badly informed as to how the penalty system for submitting late returns or late payment of tax would operate. Meanwhile, 80 per cent said they would not be sending their books to the taxman for the Inland Revenue to work out their tax, with 10 per cent unaware this was an option.

Your starter for 11 000: Nobody ever said starting a new business was easy on the pocket, but new research suggests it might be even harder than you might have thought. A survey just released by Barclays finds on average it costs around 11 000 to set up a new business in the UK, with 66 per cent of entrepreneurs using their own savings to fund it. For the remaining 34 per cent, who rely on external funding, banks are the main providers, stumping up 72 per cent of the cash. The report also shows that, if you do need some more money, buttering up friends and family can prove quite fruitful, with a third of current borrowers relying on them for financial assistance. Once a business decides to seek external funding it can access the funds quite quickly. Almost half of businesses applying receive finance within one week, with only one in ten having to wait more than three months. Meanwhile, awareness of other finance options such as venture capital organisations is relatively low, says the report. Only half the businesses surveyed had researched the funding options open to them before starting up.

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