James Pinchbeck

Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

James Pinchbeck is Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.


By Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

Listening to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Budget live, who would have thought that over the last 18 months we have experienced one of the biggest economic shocks and seen unprecedented levels of financial intervention from a government to support our economy and public welfare.

It would be interesting to know if anyone has or was able to tot up the sums of money, billions and millions, pledged and earmarked in terms of public spending over the next few years.

It certainly seemed to be a Budget based on our economic and social prosperity being driven by investment in both the public and private sector. Whilst few predicted that this would be a Budget of tax hikes, it was not unreasonable to think it might have included some, or some inkling of future changes.

It looks like balancing the books is dependent on business innovation and investment, along with public sector and consumer spending giving rise to tax revenues from direct and indirect taxes. 

With government borrowing at a level not seen since the end of the Second World War, there is surely a risk of a bumpy ride ahead if growth targets are not achieved and levelling up doesn’t really lead to levelling up.

The current rise in inflation is being, in part, attributed to increased and renewed global demand, particularly for goods following lockdown. This has led to supply chain issues along with increased energy costs linked to increased manufacturing and supply to meet such demand.

It is given this background coupled with low interest rates that inflation will settle down and so too will supply chain issues. However, perhaps workforce shortages will still be a real concern. The OBR forecast that the UK economy will return to pre-pandemic levels by the turn of the year.

Looking at the plethora of public sector spending announcements, few would disagree with much needed spending being allocated to our health service, education and infra structure projects, especially those that lead to a real levelling up. Those in the public sector will welcome the lift on the freeze for public sector pay increases.

More specific announcements, for businesses in particular, included the reduction in Business Rates for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors including a 1-year discount of 50%, more frequent revaluations – every three years from 2023; and relief for adopting solar panels and a 12-month rate holiday on property improvements.

For those businesses looking to make capital investments, the £1m Annual Investment Allowance will be extended to March 2023, instead of ending in December.

The arts, museums, entertainment and culture sector will no doubt applaud the announcement that the covid support and recovery Creative Tax Reliefs will not only be doubled but that they will now remain in place until April 2023.  

Whilst considering relief those involved in innovation, including research and development, will be delighted to hear about the enhanced reliefs available for R &D, along with increased funding available to support such activity through Innovate UK. For those undertaking research involving cloud computing and data, they will be pleased to hear that such costs are now eligible for tax relief.

Whilst the increase to the National Minimum Wage, for those aged over 23, from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour was announced before the Budget, few were perhaps aware of the pending changes to alcohol duty which focused going forward on these being ‘simpler, fairer and heathier’ – a key winner certainly seems to be English sparking wines and draft pulled beers/lagers all benefit from lower duties.

Moving on to fuel duty, but not advocating a drive to the pub, the good news as we face unprecedent prices at the pump, was that fuel duty will again be frozen.

It would be easy to think perhaps there was little in this Budget, in some ways it would be difficult not to agree. Perhaps the test will be around the impact and effectiveness of what seems to be an unprecedented public sector spending spree. In the Chancellor’s own words, it certainly seems like ‘an age of optimism’.  


For further in-depth commentary of the Autumn Budget & Spending Review 2021 you can still register for Streets’ virtual presentation at 12noon till 1pm on Thursday 28th October. All those registering and unable to join live will receive a link to the presentation recording and a digital copy of our Budget Summary.  Register here.

James Pinchbeck is Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

By Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

It looks like workforce shortages are here to stay and are going to affect more and more businesses, not just those looking for lorry drivers or those to work in care, hospitality, food and agriculture sectors.

Signs are that the professions and those in the tech sector, along with others, are seeing not just short-term labour shortages but what looks like longer term short falls.

With job vacancies hitting an all-time high in 2021, labour shortages are in part put down to Brexit and the withdrawal of EU workers from the UK labour force and the pandemic.

Other reasons may include improved education and increased participation in higher education leading to increased demand for higher skilled work, along with a growth in self-employment, as well as shifting attitudes to work.

So, what can employers and those seeking to fill vacancies do to address the situation in the short term?

Perhaps the most common approach or forced of hand response when labour is scarce is to pay more. However, this depends on affordability and the impact on the financial performance of the business as well as the implications on the pay of existing staff.

Other approaches to consider might include:

  • Increasing overtime, it might be possible to address labour shortages through offering temporary extra hours to existing staff.
  • Reaching out to those who may have recently retired to see if they might like to return on a temporary basis for perhaps reduced hours.
  • If not already offered, looking at rewarding existing staff for introducing new team members.
  • Outsourcing for key skills or shortages perhaps on temporary contracts. It might also be worthwhile looking at taking on student placements.
  • Looking further afield, the pandemic has served to highlight it is not necessary for us to be at the employer’s place of work to undertake our work. A good digital connection and perhaps a blend of occasional at place of work contact might be a workable model.
  • Checking the current status and satisfaction of your existing staff to safeguard retention.

Whilst such approaches might help to alleviate the situation, much more needs to be done in the medium to longer term.

Perhaps one of the key aspects it is to recognise that we have and continue to experience changing attitudes to work and the world of work.

Employees seek much more than just pay, they seek to engage with employers who support them, offer flexible working, provide career opportunities, have a sense of purpose and are aware and concerned with environmental matters and corporate social responsibility as well good corporate governance.

So in looking to address the longer term issue of workforce shortages it might be worth considering the following:

  • Take time out to determine your future workforce needs in terms of the work to be done, the skills required and the nature of those you need to do such work.
  • With changing attitudes to work, with employees increasingly concerned about what is provided around employment conditions, training, career prospects, mental health and wellbeing, it might be a good time to look at the benefits in kind offered to ensure they are aligned to what is deemed a benefit.
  • It might be worth looking at your approach to remuneration, along with bonuses offered as well as the possible use of employee share schemes to incentivise and retain key personnel.
  • Seek to upskill and re-train existing staff, whilst at the same looking to provide recognition of this with career, promotion and development opportunities. On-going training and development is here to stay in a fast moving and rapidly changing world
  • Re-evaluate your employment offer and benefits – why would someone want to work for you? Be self-critical and not delusional in such an approach. It is very easy for us all to think we are an employer of choice when that might not be the case. It might be a useful exercise to commission an external review of your employer status/positioning. It might also be good to reflect on why people leave you organisation.
  • Review the effectiveness of your recruitment process including how you promote vacancies and perhaps use or don’t use recruitment consultants etc. Some still only post vacancies on their website and perhaps LinkedIn and hope they might get applicants!
  • Seek to improve productivity, especially through digital transformation, investment in technology and re-imagining the way tasks and roles are undertaken.
  • Look to ‘grow your own’ through recruiting staff to train and develop perhaps as an apprentice or through the government’s Kickstart scheme.
  • Look to work with your local Further Education and Higher Education provider to support your training/skills needs as well as to gain access to potential employees.
  • For some sectors, it would not be unrealistic to think labour shortages are not going to go away. In such sectors and jobs, serious consideration has to be given to how to replace or reduce reliance on labour through mechanisation, artificial intelligence etc.

Overall, it would appear business leaders and their HR teams are set to have some challenging times ahead. The real danger is too many seek to bury their heads in the sand, whilst their competitors seek to capitalise on the situation.

There is also a risk, ironically, that there could be a shortage of HR professionals to support those seeking to deal with the challenge of not just the here and now, but also the future.

James Pinchbeck is Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

By Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

As lockdown restrictions are irreversibly eased, we are no longer asked to continue to work from home (WFH) if we can. Over the last few months workers returned in the hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail sectors, yet many more businesses have had workers continuing — even preferring to — work from home.

Pre COVID, the majority of businesses favoured more traditional ways of working with a workforce based at a place of work. But the pandemic accelerated the need to adapt, coupled with increased take-up of technology (much of which already existed), and highlighted that the physical place of work is not as important or deemed as essential as previously thought.

At the moment there are two contrasting approaches to either the return to business or getting to grips with the new norm: either the hard-line return to the place of work or to indefinitely working from home. The latter though is likely to be a mix of WFH and some in-person attendance at the employers’ premises, so-called hybrid working.

Certainly, it is challenging for employers to decide what might be best for them, having to balance the needs of the businesses and those of its employees. In many cases WFH has suited employers and employees alike, often providing for a better work/life balance, without loss of productivity, and perhaps even some sense of novelty.

Though WFH has not suited all, either due to the nature of their work, access to suitable technology, lack of a ‘space’ to work in, general wellbeing and mental health. And we should probably expect for COVID restrictions or the need for COVID security to mean that we might not see a full return to work for all.

So are businesses really under pressure to consider how they manage workforce? Is it paramount that we decide whether it’s a full return or time to offer hybrid working for all? It would seem many small and medium sized businesses have not considered their approach, perhaps either because they are pre-occupied with day to day matters, or more likely they don’t know where to start.  

Perhaps the start pointing is asking the question, what has changed? What is different about my business, how, who and where we work?

Whilst doing nothing may seem the easiest option, it could be the costliest. Those businesses that don’t consider the lasting impact of the pandemic on the way we work and want to live our lives could be at risk of loss of personnel, challenges in recruitment and find themselves less competitive and profitable in the longer term.

There is also a risk that those offering hybrid working or perhaps even more extreme full and permanent working, fail to consider the wider implications.

For centuries the place of work has provided a sense of identity and purpose, it has been a place that has harboured and embraced an organisations culture and values, it has been a power house for innovation, creativity and collaboration, a place to nurture, train and develop staff and physical representation of the business to its customers and marketplace. Can all this be replaced purely by digital connectivity?

Please don’t think this is the viewpoint of a luddite advocating a return to the office, more is the thought and concerns of someone who feels there is a real need for a well-considered approach to the way we all work in a post pandemic world.

James Pinchbeck is Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

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