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Alastair Caithness

Key points from the pre-election Budget March 2015

The key points from today’s Budget

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today delivered his final Budget statement ahead of the General Election in May.

George Osborne

The key announcements included:

  • The UK economy grew by 2.6% in 2014, with growth forecast at 2.5% for the year ahead. In addition, employment has reached record levels, trade deficit figures were described as “the best for 15 years” and living standards were reportedly higher than in May 2010, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Inflation was projected to fall to 0.2% in 2015.
  • The deficit has been halved since 2010 as a share of national income, with borrowing set to fall to £90.2billion in 2014-15 and further to £75.3billion in 2015-16.
  • Plans to cut £13billion from government departments and £12billion from welfare spending.
  • The pension pot lifetime allowance will be reduced from £1.25million to £1million from next year. The law will be changed to allow pensioners to access their annuities, with the 55% tax charge abolished and tax applied at the marginal rate. An additional investment of £25million to support army veterans was also announced.
  • Beer duty will be cut by 1p, cider and whisky by 2p, and wine duty will be frozen. Tobacco duty remains unchanged.
  • A planned increase for petrol duty in September has been scrapped.
  • The personal tax-free allowance will rise to £10,900 in 2015-16 and again to £11,000 in 2016-17. The 40p tax threshold will also rise above inflation, from £42,385 to £43,300. Also on personal taxation, annual paper tax returns will be abolished and a review of inheritance tax avoidance through deeds of variation will take place.
  • A new personal savings allowance – with the first £1,000 interest becoming tax free – and the annual savings limit for ISAs increasing to £15,240.
  • New Help to Buy ISAs for first-time buyers which the government will top up by £50 for every £200 saved for a deposit
  • A tax on diverted profits, to tackle multinational profits being “artificially moved offshore”, will be launched next month. The annual bank levy rises to 0.21%.
  • The supplementary charge on North Sea oil producers will be cut from 30% to 20% and a new tax allowance will encourage investment.

Continue reading “Key points from the pre-election Budget March 2015”

Jargon Bust – Variant Bids

Variant bids are different from other bidding styles because they are a little more flexible than regular bids.

Typically a bid will not be accepted if it does not meet the criteria, however with variant bids organisations can submit two proposals: one that matches the outlined criteria and one “variation” to increase their chances of winning the business. Variant bids come in many shapes and sizes and can be as simple as a different pricing structure or as in-depth as a proposal detailing a new, innovative way to deliver a service.

Jargon Bust

Continue reading “Jargon Bust – Variant Bids”

UK Chancellor reveals Autumn statement

Funding for health services and freeze on fuel duty

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his Autumn Statement today, saying he was presenting a forecast which showed the UK was the fastest growing of any major advanced economy.

He pointed to higher growth, reduced unemployment, falling inflation and a deficit reduced to half of what the Government inherited as evidence that the long-term economic plan was working.

Mr Osborne stressed the need to address “problems that remain unresolved in the British economy”.

Key announcements included a complete reform of Stamp Duty, additional funding of £2billion for health services, the doubling of Small Business Rate Relief for another year, a freeze on fuel duty and a rise in personal tax allowance to £10,600 next April.

The main findings of the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast were outlined, including:

  • GDP growth forecast at 3%, with 2.4% growth forecast in 2015, 2.2% in 2016, 2.4% in 2017 and 2.3% in 2018 and 2019
  • Borrowing forecast to fall to £91.3bn this year, £75.9bn next year, continuing to a predicted surplus of £4bn in 2018-19
  • Deficit cut in half and predicted to fall to 4% next year, then 2.1%, then 0.7% before moving to surplus
  • Inflation forecast revised down to 1.5% this year, 1.2% next year and 1.7% the following year
  • Unemployment revised down in each year of the forecast, falling to 5.4% next year before settling at 5.3%
  • Meaningful real wage growth” predicted to pick up in 2015 and grow above inflation for the next 5 years

Other announcements included:

Continue reading “UK Chancellor reveals Autumn statement”

Millstream founder shares experiences at Procurement Week

The founder of the company which runs the national procurement portal for Wales presented two prizes at the 2014 Welsh National Procurement Awards in Cardiff.

Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering provider Millstream, attended the awards ceremony on Friday (March 21), which marked the end of Procurement Week.

Procurement Week is an annual event staged by Bangor University’s Institute for Competition and Procurement Studies (ICPS) to share knowledge about the latest procurement innovation strategies, law and policies from around the world.

Millstream runs Wales’ national e-procurement database, Sell2Wales – which handles tenders worth around £4.3billion annually – and the Scottish equivalent, Public Contracts Scotland.

Tim Williams is pictured with the Welsh Minister for Finance, Jane Hutt AM

Tim Williams is pictured with the Welsh Minister for Finance, Jane Hutt AM

Continue reading “Millstream founder shares experiences at Procurement Week”

Key highlights of March 2014 Budget announcements

UK Chancellor George Osborne delivered his annual Budget speech in Parliament today.

The key points were:

  • OBR growth forecast revised upwards, to 2.7% in 2014, 2.3% in 2015 and 2.6% the following two years, with 2.5% predicted in 2018. The forecast for underlying cash borrowing has been revised downwards, with a small surplus expected in 2018-19.
  • Confirmation that a new £1 coin will be introduced in 2017.
  • Charter for Budget Responsibility to be brought forward in Autumn.
  • Structural welfare cap to be set at £119bn in 2015-16 rising with inflation. A vote will take place next week.
  • HMRC budget for addressing tax non-compliance to be increased with more powers to collect from bank accounts.
  • VAT on fuel for air ambulances to be removed.
  • Inheritance tax for those in emergency services “who give their lives protecting us” to be waived.
  • 15% stamp duty on purchase of residential property by companies to be expanded to cover those valued over £500,000.
  • All long haul flight to carry Band B tax rate for Air Passenger Duty from 2015 and new start-up support for routes from regional airports.
  • Lending for exporters to double to £3bn with interest rates for exporters to be cut by a third.
  • Help to Buy scheme in England to be extended to 2020.
  • Forecast for North Sea oil receipts revised downwards with new allowances to support North Sea investment.
  • Extension of grants for small businesses to support apprenticeships, the annual investment allowance for companies doubled to £500,000 and extended to end of 2015, and business rates discounts and enhanced capital allowances to be extended in enterprise zones for three years.
  • A £7bn package to reduce energy bills for manufacturers including a capping of the Carbon Price support rate from 2016-17, an extension of the compensation scheme for energy intensive industries to 2019-20, and new compensation to protect against the increase costs of the Renewables Obligation and Feed-In Tariffs.
  • The fuel duty rise planned for September will no longer take place.
  • Bingo duty cut to 10% and duty to be raised on fixed odds betting terminals.
  • Alcohol duty escalator to be scrapped, a freeze in duty on whisky and cider and a further cut to beer duty of 1p.
  • Tobacco duty to increase by 2% above inflation.
  • Income tax personal allowance to increase to £10,500 from April 2015.
  • Confirmation of an increase in the maximum tax-free childcare support available to £2,000 per year per child.
  • £140m of funding to repair flood defences.
  • Reform of ISAs into a simpler product with an increase in annual limits to £15,000.
  • Cap on investments in Premium Bonds to be lifted to £40,000.
  • Changes to pensions including a new requirement for guidance on pension choices for those retiring with a defined contribution pension pot, a reduction in the guaranteed income required to access savings flexibility, and an increase in the total savings that can be taken as a lump sum. A new pensioner bond is also to be launched in January 2015 and legislation to remove remaining tax restrictions on pensioner access to pension pots is planned.
  • Abolition of 10% rate on savings income and an increase in the amount of savings to benefit to £5,000 from April 2015.

Millstream celebrates 25 years in business

Aberdeen-based Millstream, the electronic tendering provider which runs the national e-procurement portals for Scotland and Wales, is celebrating 25 years in business.

From its early days in the late 1980s in Aberdeen, with just three staff and a team of about 30 contractors, Millstream now has almost 50 staff and has successfully built its Tenders Direct and myTenders websites, which provide private companies with tender information on new business opportunities in the public sector. Continue reading “Millstream celebrates 25 years in business”

Making the most out of public procurement portals

Tendering procedures can be time-consuming, stressful and difficult to navigate for both purchasers in the public sector and private companies seeking business opportunities, writes Duncan Dallas, Millstream’s head of procurement portals.

However, with many European governments and public authorities now handling procurement electronically to save time and comply with the latest EU legislation, national procurement portals have helped to standardise tendering processes into one much simpler online system.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own dedicated public sector procurement websites, while Contracts Finder is the UK Government’s equivalent.

Duncan Dallas, Head of Portals at Millstream Associates

Duncan Dallas, Head of Procurement Portals at Millstream

Publishing all available opportunities in one place means it is much easier for businesses to find suitable tenders.

Indeed, recent figures released in Scotland alone show that more small businesses than ever before are securing public contracts through Public Contracts Scotland, with 80 per cent of 13,308 suppliers awarded contracts through the online portal in 2012 being based north of the border.

Portals simplify the creation and management of the tender documentation required by EU and UK regulations, which means that contracting authorities must adhere to transparent, non-discriminatory and proportional principles when purchasing goods and services, and they must also advertise all contracts above a certain value in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

As the only company providing national public procurement websites for several European member states, Millstream has operated the national procurement portal for Norway for the past seven years and the Public Contracts Scotland portal for the past five years, on behalf of the Scottish Government. We also provided the Irish Government’s eTenders website from 2003 until 2012 and have just started work with the Welsh Government. Continue reading “Making the most out of public procurement portals”

No way to keep track of business opportunities without online system, Millstream warns

Public sector tendering opportunities are a valuable way to secure new business, with hundreds of local contracts published every week in every sector, from healthcare and IT to construction and transport.

Many local authorities, NHS trusts and government departments now handle procurement electronically to save money and time as well as ensuring compliance with the latest regulations.

It is therefore vital for businesses to ensure they do not miss out on any potential opportunities in their own local area, throughout the UK or mainland Europe, according to Tim Williams, managing director of electronic tendering specialist Millstream, which runs the Tenders Direct and myTenders websites.

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

“The days of the printed version of the Official Journal of European Union are long gone and there is no effective way to keep track of all the opportunities without using an online system, particularly in today’s fast-paced world of business,” said Tim, whose company recently won a contract to run the national procurement portal for the Welsh Government.

“Procurement processes will all be conducted entirely online in the near future and the Government’s target is for procurement to be completely electronic by 2016, so it’s vital that companies make sure they don’t miss anything.

“We aim to make it as easy as possible for purchasers in the public sector to advertise their tenders and to help small and medium sized companies to identify new business opportunities and crucially, to give them the best chance of winning that work.”

Tenders Direct was established by Tim in 1992, to make it easy for subscribers to find information on public contracts.

Continue reading “No way to keep track of business opportunities without online system, Millstream warns”

Millstream to exhibit at national NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool

Reform and financial challenges on the agenda

Leading e-procurement services provider Millstream is to exhibit at the NHS Confederation annual conference next week, when NHS reform and its financial challenges will be on the agenda.

The NHS Confederation is the membership body for all organisations that commission and provide NHS services and its annual conference and exhibition is being held at the ACC Liverpool from June 5-7.

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Millstream runs the mytenders and Tenders Direct websites, which allow public sector organisations to publish tenders and private sector companies to bid for new business, as well as national procurement portals for Scotland, Wales and Norway.

Like local authorities, transport operators and other public bodies, NHS trusts are bound by strict rules on procurement, which affect every purchasing decision made in the public sector.

A growing number of UK public authorities now handle tendering electronically in order to comply with the latest European Union legislation – and save both money and time – and the EU is proposing to make electronic tendering compulsory in the next few years. Continue reading “Millstream to exhibit at national NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool”

Millstream to provide public sector procurement portal for Wales

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Leading electronic tendering provider Millstream has been awarded a contract to run Wales’ national e-procurement database, which handles tenders worth around £4.3billion annually.

The Welsh Government (Llywodraeth Cymru) has appointed Millstream to design and run a new-look portal for all public sector tenders, ranging from construction and transport to IT and healthcare.

A number of European governments and public authorities now handle procurement electronically in order to save money and time and to comply with the latest EU legislation.

As the only company providing national public procurement websites for several European member states, Millstream has operated the national procurement portal for Norway for the past seven years and the Public Contracts Scotland portal for the past five years, on behalf of the Scottish Government. Millstream also provided the Irish Government’s eTenders website from 2003 until 2012.

The new look portal will be released in June.

Managing director Tim Williams said: “We are delighted to be able to bring the experience we have gained in Ireland, Norway and Scotland to deliver an effective and fully road-tested service for Wales. The Welsh Government has a very innovative and practically focused approach to procurement and we look forward to contributing to its further success.

“This is a key contract for us, which comes on the back of extensions to our existing contracts with Public Contracts Scotland and the Doffin portal in Norway and underlines our ability to deliver a simple to use system that is reliable and effective.

“The national portals have helped to standardise tendering processes into one online system for both purchasers in the public sector and private sector suppliers, which opens up opportunities for companies while saving both time and public money.”

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

Tim Williams, MD at Millstream Associates

EU legislation means that contracting authorities must adhere to transparent, non-discriminatory and proportional principles when purchasing goods and services. They must also advertise all contracts above a certain value in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

Millstream’s portals simplify the creation and management of the tender documentation required by EU and UK regulations.

The company has managed Public Contracts Scotland since 2006 and has provided the Doffin portal for the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi) since 2005.

As well as operating procurement portals for national governments, Millstream runs the Tenders Direct website, which provides private companies with comprehensive information on new business opportunities from the public sector, such as the government, local authorities, emergency services, NHS trusts and the armed forces.

It also runs myTenders, a tender publication and management service used by more than 700 public organisations in the UK to submit fully compliant contract notices to the OJEU and Contracts Finder, as well as publicising them on the organisation’s own website.

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