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Start-ups boom: The number of small business start-ups is now higher than at any time since the late Eighties, according to Barclays’ latest Small Business Bulletin. The bulletin also claims that four out of five new business owners are optimistic that they will achieve a higher level of business activity within the next 12 months, and 65 per cent of businesses expect to take on more staff.

Both trends are generated by growing economic confidence. ‘Although still cautious following their experience of the recession, potential business owners are becoming more confident about activities in the marketplace,’ says David Lavarack, small business services director at Barclays Bank. ‘Looking ahead, we expect start-ups to continue to rise moderately and the level of closures to remain constant, leading to a more stable and mature stock of small businesses that are capable of creating a firm foundation for economic growth.’

Self-employed tax advantages:

A free guide to the tax advantages and responsibilities

of the self-employed has been produced by National & Provincial Building Society and TaxAid, the charity that provides a free and independent tax service to those on low incomes or in debt.

‘You immediately walk into a tax minefield when you set up your own business or become self-employed,’ says TaxAid director David Brodie. ‘Keeping up to date with changes to the legislation and understanding what it means to you can be very difficult.’

The leaflet will provide anyone who plans to go self-employed with a simple guide to taxation.

Small business skills: A new 63m Government training programme aimed at helping companies with up to 50 employees improve their skills has been launched. The Skills for Small Businesses project will last for three years and be run by Business Links or local Training and Enterprise Councils.

Business Links will help a company to identify the employee most suited in terms of status and technical competence to train to National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 3 and above.

It is hoped that the benefits of the scheme will filter out beyond the 24 000 firms it is expected to help directly, with Links developing the programme by introducing networks or consortia of small firms which can share new skills.

Admin tackled: Sussex software consultancy V8 Systems has launched a software package specifically designed to meet the administrative needs of design consultancies. Called Intega, the system provides help with ‘everyday tasks such as recording time spent, mark up on purchases and issuing estimates or purchasing orders’, according to a V8 spokesman.

V8 claims that the system was ‘developed by designers for designers and has been tested in consultancy environments’.

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