Firms are told itis time to prepare for the worst case

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SMALL businesses (SMEs) are especially at risk if the unexpected happens, seminar delegates in Milton Keynes were told.

With winter and a possible double dip recession looming, Milton Keynes Council is keen to encourage local businesses to plan for the worst.

The council, in partnership with the Cabinet Office, the British Standards Institute and Pricewaterhouse Coopers, organised a seminar on business continuity at the Open University on October 10.

Top civil servant Robert MacFarlane, assistant director at the Cabinet Office, said: “SMEs are less likely to have taken good, robust steps to build their own resilience.”

But it was in the national interest for them to do so, he explained.

He said government policy was not to regulate but to ‘nudge’ companies that haven’t looked at survival plans to do so.

Milton Keynes Council is to be featured as a case study in the new Civil Contingencies Act guidance due to be published in 2012.

The new city’s Business Resilience Forum was launched in 2006.

The council’s chief executive, David Hill, said the authority had benefited from having a good business continuity plan in place during the disruptive snow last winter.

The plan had been drawn up to cope with avian flu, where two-thirds of the workforce could have been affected.

He said: “We carried out skills matches to ensure core services could continue.

“The Meals on Wheels service wasn’t able to cope so we asked our drivers of 4x4s to take meals around.

“The plans also worked seemlessly for the second heavy snow.”

Attendees at the workshop were also told about the Milton Keynes-based British Standards Institute’s BS 25999 – the first standard for business continuity management.

Adrian Jolly, of financial back office outsourcing company IFDS said the work involved in getting the standard was more than offset by the benefits, including commercial advantages against competitors.

But Melanie Hewitson, of Camelot, said the Lotto company had followed the principles of BS 25999 but was not ready to take the plunge.

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