With a chill well and truly in the air, an associate with leading legal, financial and property specialists Pagan Osborne outlines her top tips for preparing for winter and explores what people living and working in rural areas can be doing now to ensure they are not caught short when the bad weather strikes.
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associate at Pagan Osborne, said:
“Last year’s winter was atrocious and caught many of us unaware. And unfortunately, we look set to be hit with more bad weather. Rather than get caught out again, there are things we can do to make things a bit better and easier.”
• Power of Attorney (PoA): A PoA allows someone else to handle your affairs on your behalf should you be unable to do so. That can be if you are no longer able, through illness or incapacity, or simply if you are away for a long period or, as in the case of the weather you are unable to get to where you need to be.
You can appoint anyone to be your PoA, a friend, relative, colleague, carer or even your solicitor. They can deal with matters such as paying bills, dealing with bank accounts and signing documents.
It may be that you are unable to get into town to deal with business matters, such as paying wages or suppliers. If you have a PoA they can do this for you if they are in town or able to travel there.
• Insurance: Check your insurance cover to ensure outbuildings and sheds are covered in the event of damage or collapse due to weight of snow. Also check all houses/cottages have appropriate cover for bad weather damage e.g. damage caused by frozen pipes, weight of snow on drains, effect of frozen water and snow suddenly thawing etc.
• Energy suppliers and efficiency: With energy bills soaring, ensuring you are getting the most from your money has never been more important when it comes to powering and heating your home.
Most people are on the wrong energy tariff and could be paying too much. Use a comparison website to see what is on offer. Or contact your supplier and explain your circumstances, they may be able to move you to another of their tariffs. Don’t be afraid to switch suppliers. This can be a slightly difficult process but in the end, it can make you significant savings.
There are also a number of things you can do to be more energy efficient. Insulating your home can save hundreds of pounds. The Scottish Government’s Energy Assistance Package provides these services for free and many groups are eligible for support.
• Staff: Consider health and safety procedures for you and employees in relation to bad weather conditions e.g. grit access roads to the farm/estate. Also, the provision of suitable outdoor clothing and equipment and see if there are hazards that can be removed, e.g. large icicles under shed roofs etc.
What is your policy if an employee cannot make it into work due to bad weather, do they still get paid or is it to be taken as a holiday? It might be good for relationships with staff to have this clarified.
• Paperwork: You could use this generally quieter time of the year to get paperwork in order. Look at the structure of your business, is there anything that could be changed to make it more efficient/profitable. There are a number of things which may be considered along with your advisors such as diversification, succession planning and tax planning for instance.
“Now is the time to act to get prepared for a turn in the weather. I know we’re all keeping our fingers crossed we aren’t hit as hard as we were last year but it makes sense for everyone to put in place things that can make life that little bit less stressful.
“The snow struck at this time last year out of the blue. The sun may still be out at the moment but there is no harm in preparing for a cold snap.”