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BIFA: £8m funding for customs training ‘very welcome’

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the recent news of an £8 million government funding scheme for customs intermediaries and traders.

Grants have been made available for all customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations. The aim of the grants is to support training and the upgrade of IT systems.

According to BIFA, the government has actively engaged with freight forwarders, independent customs brokers, and fast parcel operators in order to understand the needs and challenges industry bodies face in supporting current and future clients.

This scheme is intended to help support the extra demand for customs brokerage services associated with the UK’s departure from the EU, as well as issues associated with the replacement of the current system used to process customs entries.

Robert Keen, director general of BIFA said: “During our meetings with both HM Treasury and HMRC, BIFA highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a shortage of staff of suitable quality.

“We emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend. So, the news of this funding is very welcome.”

The grant includes HMRC providing an investment of £3 million to fund increasing training capacity.

BIFA also notes that the grants include £2 million to fund training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations (or intending to complete customs declarations in the future). The grant will provide funding for up to 50% of the cost of training staff.

There is also £3 million available in IT improvement funding, available to small and medium sized employers in the customs intermediaries sector currently completing customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. The grant will fund investment in packaged software that increases the automation and productivity of completing customs declarations.

BIFA is encouraging those who believe they might benefit to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.

More information and grant applications can be found at: GOV.UK

£20m funding available to reduce supply chain emissions

Organisations can now apply for a share of up to £20 million for collaborative projects that reduce emissions and build the UK supply chain.

It’s the latest part in a series of funding competitions delivered in partnership by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), Innovate UK and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Through a 10-year, £1 billion joint government and industry commitment, the APC exists to accelerate low carbon propulsion technologies in the UK, aiming to make the UK a global centre of excellence for next-generation low carbon vehicle development and production.

The competition focusses on projects that enhance UK capabilities in low carbon technologies for automotive and create a long-term supply chain, paying particular attention to the design, build and manufacture of zero tailpipe emission vehicles, along with projects that demonstrate a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, including motors, batteries, power electronics, hybridisation and alternative propulsion systems.

The areas for consideration include alternative propulsion systems, electric machines and power electronics, energy storage and energy management, lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures and thermal propulsion systems.

The competition opens 7th January 2019, with deadline for applications at midday on 6th March 2019.

More information on the completion and details on how to apply can be found here:

CASE STUDY: Distribution Centre Project Funding

Key Finance recently worked with a leading UK wholesale food and distribution retail business after it purchased an outdated distribution centre that required a refit and refurbishment.

An extra complication was that the distribution centre consisted of two sites, with funding required for almost everything inside and attached to the buildings, including, but not limited to, the ceilings, stairs, wiring, shelving, racking and IT equipment.

In total, £2.37 million funding was required of which £1.16 million was for soft costs, which is where a slightly different approach was required. The high proportion of soft costs – at almost 50% of the total funding – was a concern for a large number of traditional funding sources and created a roadblock for the client.

The Solution

The Project-Based Lending (PBL) model offered by Key Finance funded 100% of the project, including all of the soft costs that other funders were unable or unwilling to cover.

Key looked at funding the fit-out of the two facilities together, and in doing so was able to write down 100% of the deal – the solution essentially split the transaction across one finance lease and one loan, which together encompassed the entirety of the funding required.

This also provided vital working capital to the client, something was simply not possible from all other funding avenues that it had explored while researching the project.

“Key were smooth and efficient and were able to control the run in to our year end,” said the client’s Group Finance Director. “The whole project was funded without drama and has contributed to one of our biggest years to date.”

Key Finance is also able to work with distribution & logistics industry suppliers through its Vendor Programme, which has been designed to help them offer quick and easy finance to their clients.

“The distribution and logistics industry is facing numerous challenges in today’s economic and political climate, but the roll-out of our PBL tool means that the ability to fund expansions and improvements should not be one of them,” said Key Finance Managing Director Henry Mounsey.

“We’re incredibly proud of the reputation our family-run business has earned and we welcome the opportunity to work with new clients of any size in the supply chain sector.”