Unit 14 Elgar Business Centre, Moseley Road Hallow, Worcestershire, WR2 6NJ
Mon – Fri, 9am – 5pm
01905 622245
office@threecountiespayroll.co.uk

Covid ‘hastens move towards cashless society’

When was the last time you paid for goods or services with cash or a business refused to take cash and insisted you pay by card?

Both questions, which led to plenty of pondering among the SW&A team, were prompted by a recent survey suggesting coronavirus had hastened a shift towards a cashless society.

Consumer group Which? revealed that 34% of people quizzed said that they had been unable to pay with cash at least once since March 2020.

Grocery stores, pubs and restaurants were most likely to refuse to take notes and coins and Natalie Ceeney, who has written a report on the issue called Access to Cash, has urged ministers to act.

“Figures show that it’s not simply the odd coffee shop going cashless, but this is creeping into the wider economy,” said Ms Ceeney.

“We can’t just blame individual businesses. Many are going cashless because they can’t easily bank cash takings as their local branch is closed or some distance away. The government needs to legislate to protect the viability of cash as it promised to do so last year.”

Which? said lack of cash access was a problem for people with certain health conditions or without access to a computer.

Jenny Ross, editor of Which? Money, said: “We have repeatedly warned about the consequences that coronavirus will have on what was an already fragile cash system, but nowhere near enough action has been taken by the government or the regulator to understand the scale of this issue.”

The situation has been made even more problematic by the amount of bank branches disappearing from our High Street – HSBC and Barclays are among the latest to announce closures – and the fact that more than one in four cash machines are charging people to withdraw their money at a time when banks are saving millions by closing branches.

In February 2020 Which? estimated that more than 8,700 free ATMs have closed in the past two years, with rural communities worst affected. The closure of bank branches – about 1,200 in the same period – has reduced access to ATMs and can force people to use fee-charging machines or face having to venture further afield to find a free-to-use one.

SW&A fully understands the problems people face if cash is rejected by traders and hopes that a solution can be found quickly to ensure that it can still be used with confidence across all areas of society.

Are you keeping “money secrets”?

Almost four in 10 Brits are keeping “money secrets” from their loved ones, including hiding problems with debt, new research has revealed.

According to a survey by the Money & Pensions Service (MaPS), the most common areas being kept to oneself are hidden credit cards (37%), undisclosed loans (23%) and secret savings accounts (21%).

Covering 5,200 people nationwide, the poll suggests there is still a stigma around talking about personal finances and problems related to them.
Almost 40% of those quizzed said they kept concerns to themselves, often due to feeling embarrassed or a fear of being judged.

People in relationships also tended to underestimate the extent of money secrets their partner kept from them and while 23% of people in relationships suspected their partner hid things, nearly half admitted to having done the same.

Millennials aged between 25-34 were the most secretive generation, with three in five hiding details of their finances.

The survey marks Talk Money Week, which aims to encourage people who are struggling financially in the pandemic to talk their situation over with a family member, friend or expert.

As the old saying goes, a problem is a solution in disguise and MaPS says sharing concerns and fears could help make money problems more manageable, benefiting the health, personal relationships and overall wellbeing of those affected.

Research shows that people who talk about money:
• Make better and less risky financial decisions
• Have stronger personal relationships
• Help their children form good money habits for life
• Feel more in control and less stressed or anxious

Building money conversations into our everyday lives also helps us build financial confidence and resilience to face whatever the future throws at us.

The Talk Money Week section of the MaPS section website has online guides on talking about money to partners, children, parents and grandchildren and friends along with links to organisations who can offer support.
Visit https://maps.org.uk/talk-money-week/

Student loan interest rate set to rise

With all the chaos surrounding GCSE and A level results, it’s easy to overlook another student related story that’s been in the news.


From next month, students in England and Wales will face higher interest rates on their student loans with the maximum interest rising from 5.4% to 5.6%.


The increase will apply to anyone who started an undergraduate course in the UK after September 2012, including those studying or starting university this year or who has graduated or left a course in the past few years.


Three Counties Payroll has rounded up some key facts about the increase.


Why are rates going up?
Plan 2 interest is based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which measures the cost of living. Whatever RPI is in March becomes the loan’s interest rate, plus up to 3% on top. This year’s RPI is 2.6%, up from 2.4% the previous March.


What does this mean for the loan balance?
The balance will accumulate a bit more interest but the rate will be on a sliding scale depending if people are still studying or have left their course. Either way, the rate rise won’t make a massive difference to the balance.


Will students be worse off?
Students won’t be out of pocket because of higher rates as they don’t start repayments until they’ve left and are earning above an income threshold. They will then repay 9% of anything they earn above the threshold of £26,575 (£27,295 from April 2021). If they earn less than this, repayments stop until they’re back over the line. Interest rates have no impact on monthly repayments.


Should the loan be repaid early?
Students shouldn’t feel pressured into making early or additional payments. Paying the loan back early could save higher earners money in the long run but most students will never earn enough to repay the full sum. After 30 years, any remaining balance is wiped out.


Last, but not least, the interest rate has no bearing on how much the loan costs and remember that the RPI can fall. Student loan interest in 2018-19 was 6.3%, so it can and does go both ways.

Furlough – what happens next?

Over the past six months, the dedicated team at Three Counties Payroll have helped many businesses all over the country deal with the nitty-gritty of putting their staff on furlough leave.

Changes are afoot, however, and for clarity we’ve rounded up the latest developments, what is happening in October and beyond and how the scheme currently operates.

From September 1, businesses that have put staff on furlough had to pay 10% of their wages. This will rise to 20% the following month before the scheme ends on 31 October.

To encourage businesses to protect jobs, the government will pay a £1,000 bonus for every furloughed employee that is kept on until the end of January 2021. These workers must be paid an average of at least £520 a month between November and January.

If a worker loses their job and is entitled to redundancy pay, this should be calculated based on pre-furlough wages. You can apply for payments from the Insolvency Service if you’re made redundant while on furlough because your company has gone bust.

When the scheme was launched, furloughed staff were unable to do any work for their employer. However, they can now work on a part-time basis. Those still on furlough can do volunteer work for a community project or even for their company as long as they aren’t making them money or providing a service.

Employers can give their staff additional training but must top up furlough payments if they do not reach minimum wage for the time spent on this.

Anyone furloughed retains the same employment rights. If you are ill, on unpaid leave, shielding or have caring responsibilities you are eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). Staff on parental leave will still receive SSP.

If you work for more than one firm, you can receive furlough from any of them, up to £2,500 a month per employer. You can continue working for any that still need you or start working for a new employer, provided you are not in breach of any existing contracts.

Companies can no longer make new furlough claims, except for returning military reservists and people returning from statutory parental leave.

If your business has any queries about the furlough scheme, please call the knowledgeable and friendly Three Counties Payroll team on 01905 622245.

Fraudsters cash in on Covid lockdown

Here at Three Counties Payroll we were disturbed, though not surprised, to hear that fraudsters have exploited the UK’s uncertainty during the pandemic with a flood of scams.

Involving anything from travel, investments and social media, the number of scams leapt 66 per cent in the first six months of this year, according to Barclays.

And it seems the ruthless schemes show no signs of slowing down as the figure rose by a further five per cent in July compared to June.

Barclays said scams relating to investments went up by 49 per cent in July – the highest level it has ever reported – and there has been an increase in campervan scams, particularly on online marketplace sites.

The increased number of people online during lockdown to keep in touch with their family and friends have been targeted in social media related scams and cryptocurrency fraud is also increasing.

We echo Barclays’ concerns about the situation and are urging our customers to stay vigilant as the nation continues to move out of lockdown.
The phrase: “If something seems to be too good to be true, it usually is” may be well-worn but it certainly will never go out of style while there are fraudsters intent on separating us from our hard-earned cash.

Our advice is simple: If you are ever in doubt about an unsolicited offer or opportunity, take all the time you to check it out or get a second opinion from someone you trust – like The Three Counties Payroll Team.

You should never feel threatened or pressurised into making an instant decision and should always check if the website you are dealing with is genuine or a cloned page.


The Financial Conduct Authority has a register that consumers can use to see whether the company that has contacted them is authorised to provide regulated financial services. Visit https://register.fca.org.uk/s/

New home & bright future at our new premises at Elgar Business Centre, Hallow, Worcester…

Three Counties Payroll are delighted to announce that we have a smart new home in Elgar Business Centre just outside Worcester, a short drive from our previous premises.

 

After ten happy years at Ball Mill Top, we felt it was time to expand into larger, purpose built offices. There’s plenty of space for our dedicated accountancy and payroll teams – and for clients and business contacts to visit (while maintaining those all-important social distancing guidelines, of course).

We’d been planning the move for quite some time before the Covid 19 crisis struck and did think about putting it off. However, we took a deep breath, backed our conviction that this was the best thing we could do for the business and went ahead.

The staff weren’t told we were on the move until the actual day in early July – although they had viewed the office – so making the switch came as a lovely surprise (we think!)

Best of all, the move was completed with little to no disruption to our valued clients. We’ve retained the same telephone numbers and have arranged to have post redirected to ensure that no crucial correspondence goes AWOL.

We’ve also retained our former, now empty, office at Ball Mill Top for a period of time to further assist in the transition for clients.

Anyone who is familiar with the way that SW&A operate will know that #KeepItLocal is one of our favourite mantras and you’ll be pleased to hear that we used clients and local suppliers for this project.

Our MD Neil Sysum offered to pay suppliers 50% up front for products and services and did not request any discounts. As the move was made possible by the support of clients and local businesses, we felt it was only fair to give something back to suppliers and customers at this difficult time.

We’d like to round off this blog with some heartfelt thank yous:

• City Signs Signage and Display Limited for the new signage;
• Penguin Supplies for the classy black cabinets;
• Goforgranite for the kitchen;
• Ohmygosh for the celebration cupcakes.

Look forward to seeing you at the new Three Counties HQ soon when it’s permitted…