Brentford Rolls Royce restorer welcomes VIP

Brentford business welcomed a senior government civil servant dubbed Mr SME to hear about some of the issues they face


Brentford Chamber of Commerce

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This article is republished from BodyShopMag

Adam Jackson, director of enterprise at the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation, visited Frank Dale & Stepsons on the town’s Harlequin Avenue as part of the Forum of Private Business’s Business Buddy programme. The scheme puts key decision makers from government with small businesses for them to hear about the problems or sector specific issues they are facing.

Adam met with the firm’s MD, James Crickmay last Monday, took a tour of the premises, met staff and learned about the history of the business.

‘He was a bit of a car enthusiast so he was really interested in what we’re doing here,’ said James.

‘We’ve got Rolls Royces in here that pre-date the First World War, and also cars that are just a year old, so there was plenty for him to see.

‘After his tour of the factory I shared with him my thoughts on what the Government should be doing for businesses like us. We employ a number of apprentices and I think the Government should be helping us take on more. This could be in the form of National Insurance breaks so we could afford to pay them more. This would help us recruit and retain staff too.

‘I suggested this to him, and he thought it was a really good idea. While he couldn’t say whether the Chancellor would be pulling something out of the hat in the Autumn Statement along these lines, he certainly assured me he would be raising the issue with ministers at BIS.'

Established in 1946, Frank Dale & Stepsons are the world’s oldest independent Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist. They are also the only Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist in London with a showroom, workshop and upholsterers all under one roof.

Following the visit, Adam Jackson said: ‘Working in government on business issues, I place great importance on getting out and about to meet real businesses. The Forum’s Business Buddy scheme is a great initiative – linking up government ministers and senior officials with businesses.

‘I have always been a fan of classic cars so I couldn’t believe my luck when the Forum suggested I visit Frank Dale & Stepsons. But I didn’t just see a beautiful collection of classic and vintage Rolls Royce and Bentley cars, I saw a fantastic private business that depends on the investment it makes in developing the skills of its workforce and which has developed a very strong export market and is using the internet to grow its business.

‘We also discussed apprentices, where an independent review has recently been carried out by Jason Holt on small businesses and apprenticeships.

‘James emphasised the importance of inspiring more young people in schools to be apprentices and endorsed Jason Holt’s recommendation that government should consider how best to provide employers with financial incentives.'

The Forum’s policy adviser, Robert Downes, added: ‘Decision makers in government like Adam need to hear first hand from small business the issues they face in their sectors. The best way for this to happen is by getting the two together, face to face, and this is why our Business Buddy programme has proved popular with our members.

He added: ‘The issue of apprentices was clearly high on the agenda during this meeting. Apprenticeships are an attractive training method for employers, but we also think the Government could boost their appeal by making them much more business-friendly.

‘We too would like to see small firms who recruit apprentices given financial help to cover training costs and at least some of the wages. BIS research suggests companies see payback after three years – but that’s too long for small firms.

‘While we welcome apprenticeship subsidies for those that go through the NAS, we feel they should be extended to those who carry out in-house training, either through tax or subsidies.

‘There is also a lack of information available to small businesses about course benefits and therefore they find it difficult to navigate a complex system made up of numerous courses
‘So clearer information on the effectiveness of courses is especially important because small firms need good quality that increases competency,’ he added.

December 4, 2012

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