The new Countryside Stewardship (CS) scheme opened on the 1st July 2015.  CS replaces Environmental Stewardship, the English Woodland Grant Scheme and Catchment Sensitive Farming.

Countryside Stewardship comprises of three elements:

• Mid Tier – multi-year agreements for environmental improvements in the wider countryside
• Higher Tier – multi-year agreements for environmentally significant sites such as SSSIs, common land and woodlands
• Capital Grants – a range of one to two year grants for hedgerows and boundaries, improving water quality, and woodland management plans and tree health.

Unlike Environmental Stewardship, CS is competitive and applications will be scored based on the environmental priorities for your area.  This will depend upon which National Character Area (NCA) you are in.  If you would like to know what the statement of priorities are for your area then please contact us.  Only the highest scoring applications will be selected for CS.

If you are already in an Environmental Stewardship scheme that expires after 2015 then you will not be invited to apply for CS until the year of expiry, but for those whose schemes expire this year, or those not already in Environmental Stewardship then you can apply this year.  The deadline for application is 30th September 2015 and the agreement would start on 1st January 2016.  If you find you are unsuccessful this year you can apply again next year.

If you have any queries regarding Countryside Stewardship or you would like help with an application then please do not hesitate to contact Sally Nicholls on 01237 472 725.

Head of our Manufacturing & Technology specialist team, Chris Hill, recently participated in a regional round table discussion on R&D Tax Credits, organised by Insider.

Whilst R&D Tax Credits have been available to businesses that innovate and develop new products and services since 2001, recent figures suggest that only 15% of activity that would qualify to benefit from this tax incentive is actually subject to a claim for tax credits.

Read more about the discussion here


It’s not uncommon for directors of owner managed businesses to draw funds from the company by way of a dividend with either no salary or a very low one. The benefit? You pay less tax and this is a good thing, right? But, what happens when the company starts to struggle and enters into an insolvency event?

Drawings are treated as loans from a Company. In practice, a director may draw a regular amount each month, later declaring a dividend at the year-end or at interim periods.

To declare a legal dividend, there MUST be distributable profits in the Company. Board minutes approving the dividend, dividend counterfoils and interim/annual accounts need to be produced each time a dividend is declared. Without this paperwork, you may be at risk!


If you are thinking about or planning an expansion of your business, you should always ask yourself, is there any grant funding available to support me in this? Even in these times where public spending is being cut back significantly, there are still a number of sources of grants available to businesses willing to invest to create jobs and improve profitability.

Grant funding can, however, be a little confusing at times. There are potentially a myriad of sources of grant monies, but their availability may be restricted to a particular time frame or to a specific geographical area.

What types of grant are available?

Grant funding generally takes two forms – capital grants and revenue grants.

Capital grants are used to fund expenditure on equipment, buildings, plant and machinery, as part of a project to safeguard or create jobs. These tend to be the larger projects and funding will be set as a percentage of the overall project spend. The grant may be advanced in instalments, linked to a period over which the expenditure takes place or any jobs are created.

Revenue grants usually involve smaller grant advances and the application process is less complicated. Typically they may part fund marketing activities, professional advice, training and apprenticeship costs.


Every business needs an accurate business plan which balances the optimism of a sales team with the prudence of the finance department and needs of a production team. An inaccurate business plan can have major consequences for a business: strains on cash flow, unhappy funders when the actual results bear no resemblance to the plan, incorrect stock pricing and purchasing, an inappropriate staffing model, and ultimately an underperforming business.

So how do you achieve a business plan that is balanced and credible? 

The key is to make sure all departments have input in what should be a fully integrated business plan, with a profit and loss account, balance sheet and cash flow. Too often we see business plans which are centred on overly optimistic turnover estimates, underestimated costs, and certainly not integrated with the cash flow. Taking the time to get it right, based on well considered assumptions will pay dividends both in the medium and long term.

Particularly important in the manufacturing sector is to have accurate gross margin calculations. If the stock price is wrong or the stock levels incorrect then this is a major element of the business which is unlikely to recover elsewhere.

Points to consider when compiling the plan:

• Review your historical sales trends and forecasts going forward, consider seasonal trends, shut down periods, significant changes in the order book, new contracts, terminated contracts, discounts given, question the sales team about sensitivities;
• Review the actual cost of producing each stock item, does this vary per customer, what are the stock lead times and impact if stock is received late on production schedules, potential exchange rate differences, import duties;
• Review staff levels, will additional staff be needed at certain times in order to meet production levels, can shift patterns be altered or will agency staff be needed
• Include all the fixed costs such as rent, rates, insurance and also variable costs such as repairs, motor, finance costs;
• Consider industry trends and sector market data, competitor activity;
• Get your credit terms built into the cash flow both for your customers and suppliers, make the cash flow an accurate reflection of the cash inflows and outflows;
• Build in key performance indictors;
• If you need additional finance from the bank involve them from an early stage;

Hopefully what the above demonstrates is that there is so much to consider and that involving all the key personnel means you get a more accurate business plan. Then once you have it, it’s important to monitor it, update it for your actual results from your management accounts and react to the results accordingly, review your key performance indicators and do something about those which fall outside the parameters set.

Use the business plan to control, monitor and review the business performance. If used correctly it can potentially be the most valuable business tool. 


Since 1 April 2015 4 categories of charity have become entitled to reclaim VAT on goods and services supplied to them for non-business activities.

The charity does not even need to be VAT-registered to make a claim.

These charities are:
1. Palliative care charities – mainly covering adult and children’s hospices and those supplying care via qualified nurses or doctors in peoples homes

2. Air Ambulance charities

3. Search and Rescue charities – includes cliff recue, sea rescue, mountain rescue, cave rescue and rescue dogs, also any charity whose main purpose is to support search and rescue charities.

4. Medical courier charities – mainly covers “blood bike” charities. This also covers support charities for medical courier charities.

Thomas Westcott will be pleased to offer advice and assist any qualifying charity with making a claim, click on the link below to view details of our charity team.

Charity Team

Thomas Westcott Chairman, Richard Thomas, right, inducted as President of ICAEW Chartered Accountants South West by Mike Sturgess of SWAT, immediate past President.  Chartered Accountants South West has a membership of 3000 chartered accountants including practising, business and retired members. The organisation supports members and trainee chartered accountants throughout the South West region including the provision of courses and organisation of events as well as representing the national body on a regional basis.




Several charities have Permanent Endowment funds in their ownership. There is usually a restriction in the Charities governing document on its use and it is normally one of the following assets: land; buildings; cash; investments.

There are normally significant restrictions on Permanent Endowment funds with frequently the asset itself or the income from the asset only being available for the use as set out in the governing document.

Charity companies (including CIOs) cannot hold Permanent Endowment funds but they are able to transfer such funds to a ‘shell’ charity they own. Such transfers must be used for the original purpose of the fund. They must be kept separate from general or corporate assets.

There may be circumstances when the trustees may wish to spend a Permanent Endowment, but there are requirements which must be fulfilled. The reasons for spending the endowment must be:

• It is necessary to enable the charity to carry out its purpose
• The charity needs the money to set up a new project
• The charity has outgrown its existing premises and needs to sell

Charity Commission consent is needed if:

• The charities annual income is over £1000
• The whole of the Permanent Endowment fund is worth more than £10,000.
• Permission can be obtained by an online form providing basic information such as details of the decision making process, the resolutions proposed including the
reasons, the current market value of the endowment.

There will be requirements to hold quorate trustees meetings; vote with 2/3 of trustees voting to be in favour; and to ask the charity commission to agree.
In short despite the restrictions on them, it is possible to make use of the Permanent Endowment Funds and on occasions to transfer to a similar minded charity, provided the procedures are applied and Charity Commission permission is obtained.