Colors: Purple Color

Southside District BID has named its new Chair as Southside business owner and Pride Festival director, Lawrence Barton, who will oversee the BID’s third term, which was secured following a record voter turnout and a 94% approval rate.

With multiple businesses residing in the district, including the iconic Nightingale club, Lawrence has been an integral part of Southside BID, working with the wider team as a board director for the last decade. Lawrence will take over the role from James Wong, who has held the role of Chair since 2018. James will continue to support Southside BID as a board director.

Established in 2011, Southside BID works tirelessly to support businesses across Birmingham’s most vibrant and unique district, making it a safer, cleaner and more welcoming destination. As Chair of the BID, this will continue to be a core focus for Lawrence throughout the next term.

Lawrence said: “I’m incredibly proud to step up to the role of Chair for Southside BID, the next few months are certainly going to be challenging as the district starts to reopen, following nearly a year of closure. My key focus is to continue in the BID’s lobbying efforts, shining a light on our businesses which have been devastated by the pandemic and ensuring that we are delivering the vital support they need to recover.

“Southside District is such a unique and dynamic part of the city and we want there to be a connected vision for everyone who calls the area home, creating an inclusive and accessible area for everyone to enjoy. We will continue to work closely with stakeholders from across the city to secure Southside’s place as a destination that is welcoming to all.

“I would like to give my sincere thanks to James Wong for his total dedication to Southside District BID. He has worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support businesses in the area and drive our successful reballot, whilst also doing so much for local communities and the NHS through his own business. They are big shoes to fill, and I’m delighted that he will continue to serve as a board member, to ensure we can continue to build on the successes to date.”

Southside District Manager, Julia Robinson, says: “Lawrence has played such an important role in the BID over the last decade, he was the natural choice to become our Chair. We have exciting plans for the area that we will implement over our third term, with the Hippodrome Square redevelopment set to start soon, plus the arrival of the Commonwealth Games next year, which will really help to drive awareness around this vibrant part of the city. We feel that Lawrence is perfectly placed to help us accomplish all of our ambitions and more.

“The BID would also like to thank James for all of his incredible work as our Chair, his lobbying efforts and dedication to the district led to us securing our third term with a record approval rating and voter turnout, securing 20% more votes than our previous ballot, which is an incredible achievement. So thank you James!”

The English Core Cities have joined forces to come together in a UK industry first, to support the conference and events industry as it continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, with the launch of Hybrid Events Solution UK (HESUK); a free-of-charge initiative open to all business audiences across the country, that will provide a solution for delivering national hybrid events in Covid-secure venues.

The conference industry has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with questions still hanging over us as to when the industry will start to meet face-to-face or in a live environment. In a solution to rebuild confidence within the industry and in light of the national lockdown, the Core Cities and their convention bureau teams are working together in a collaborative effort to help facilitate national business events to take place again, whilst taking Government guidelines into account.

Including the convention bureaus for Birmingham and West Midlands, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, NewcastleGateshead, Nottingham and Sheffield, the Core Cities have created HESUK as an initiative to provide a single point of contact for event organisers who are looking to organise or restructure national and regional conferences.

HESUK will allow delegates to attend the same national event at different Covid-secure venues within those regional hubs, enabling delegates to network and meet those within their field, whilst remaining in adherence to Government guidelines at the time of the event. Through live-streaming technology, each hub can be linked together, so speakers and contributors can be in different cities whilst still attending the same event and any delegates who can’t attend in-person will still be able to experience the event in a virtual way.

Stephanie Mynett, Visitor Economy Business Development Manager at the West Midlands Growth Company – which operates the region’s Convention Bureau – said: “In response to the ever-changing business tourism landscape, we’re continuously looking for innovative ways to support our local partners and wider industry with virtual or hybrid event solutions.  

“We’re pleased to be partnering with Hybrid Events Solutions UK, to offer a free-of-charge advisory service on how to navigate this sector during a period where travel confidence will be low or travel corridors may be closed. 

“The West Midlands has lots to look forward to, with exciting global sporting and cultural events such as the Coventry UK City of Culture this year and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games showcasing the very best of the region to the world. If you are planning an event in the region, please do not hesitate to get in contact with our team at” 

In ICCA’s Market Intelligence on Covid-19 Affected Meetings Report (Nov 2020) evidence suggests that in a post-pandemic world, the meetings and events industry will look very different to the one that we have all been so accustomed to, where both offline and online meetings will thrive together as the industry discovers new ways to connect.

The report also highlights the important role that hybrid event solutions will play in the future, with 84% of association planners intending to include hybrid and digital elements to their events moving forward.

Recognising this fundamental shift to the way organisers will be approaching event delivery, and in what is believed to be a UK industry first, the eight convention bureaus teams will be working together operationally. HESUK brings a fresh, out-of-the-box concept created to help the industry overcome the hurdles that lie ahead. Through one contact, the organiser will be able to work with Covid-secure venues across the network of Core Cities, as well as destinations outside of the Core Cities group.

On the initiative, Heather Lishman, Association Director of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) said: “The Hybrid Events Solution UK is a glowing example of how the conference and events industry is innovating and working together to support each other through this damaging period. It’s wonderful to see this level of collaboration from the English Core Cities. 

“Live conferences and events have ceased as we continue the fight against COVID-19. Going into 2021 there is a strong desire to get live events back, to have people meeting face to face, networking, sharing and learning together. Creating a hybrid event is a solution to enable this, as the world navigates its way through the pandemic with rapid testing and vaccines on the horizon. The biggest challenge is confidence; organising a series of live event hubs across several destinations is a big logistical challenge, therefore we welcome this solution which seeks to make the process easier for organisers, which should get people meeting as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Simon Hughes, Chairman of Business Visits Events Partnership (BVEP) said: “The Hybrid Events Solution UK is a fantastic concept, and it is inspiring to see these cities working together to help instil consumer confidence and get the conference and events industry up and running again.”

Any organiser interested in using the service simply has to contact any one of the Core City convention bureau teams: Birmingham and West MidlandsBristolLeedsLiverpoolManchesterNewcastleGateshead, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The founder and former trustees of the collapsed charity Kids Company have won a High Court battle against being disqualified from other organisations. The Official Receiver argued they were "unfit" to hold directorships because of their handling of the charity. But the ruling cleared former chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh and the others of personal wrongdoing.

The judge added the charity may have survived had it not been for unfounded allegations of criminal activity. A plan to restructure the organisation's finances had been agreed with David Cameron's government. But the charity closed its doors in 2015 after the Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into sexual assault allegations, following the broadcast of a TV news report.

The police investigation concluded in 2016 after finding no evidence of criminality.

In her ruling, Mrs Justice Falk said the charity, which worked with hundreds of vulnerable children in London and Bristol, may have survived financially to continue its work had it not closed. During the lengthy court battle, the Official Receiver - a body that looks into potential wrongdoing by company directors - had alleged that the charity's former leaders should be disqualified as directors because the organisation had been so badly run.

In the run-up to its collapse, the charity was spending around £20m a year, up to a quarter of which came from the government. The Official Receiver alleged that Kids Company's business model had become unsustainable from around September 2013 and its failure was inevitable. It also alleged that the defendants knew or ought to have known that and should have planned to avoid financial collapse.

The charity's chair at the time of its collapse, who was also cleared by the ruling, was former BBC executive Alan Yentob. Mrs Justice Falk said the case was not proven.

"There was no allegation of dishonesty, bad faith or personal gain," said the judge. "There was no allegation of inappropriate expenditure in relation to any of the children assisted by Kids Company.

"The allegation is not made out against any of the directors and they are not unfit. The case against them fails. While aspects of the charity's work were high-risk, the business model was not unsustainable."

Mrs Justice Falk said the charity had grown rapidly from its south London base as demand for its specialist support services for vulnerable children grew. Despite having a substantial and stable government grant, it also needed to raise additional funds from private donors - and by 2015 it was in talks with Whitehall over how to do that amid concerns about its cash flow and staff costs.

"That restructuring plan was agreed and a further government grant was awarded," said the judge. However the charity was forced to close after sexual assault allegations the same week. The charity was exonerated following a police investigation - but by that time it was too late.

Ms Batmanghelidjh said the ruling was "justice" for the "thousands of staff, volunteers and donors who created Kids Company over nearly 20 years". But she said Kids Company would not have had to "carry that burden of child protection if the child protection system in this country was fit for purpose".

A statement issued on behalf of former trustees said: "Kids Company was forced to close in August 2015 following what the judge records as 'unfounded allegations' of child abuse, which made fundraising from private and government sources impossible. We are pleased that finally the facts have been gathered and assessed in a court of law."

MPs have given the go-ahead to the next phases of Britain’s high-speed rail network, with the Bill approving the building of HS2 Phase 2a north from the West Midlands to Crewe achieving Royal Assent. Parliament’s approval for this new phase of HS2 plugs the line into one of the country’s principal rail hubs in Crewe. It also means the 58km (36 miles) route will be built earlier than originally planned, enabling towns and cities across North West England, North Wales and Scotland to benefit sooner, with the opening now planned to coincide with Phase One between London and the West Midlands.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: “This is a landmark moment in our infrastructure revolution. HS2 is the most significant expansion to our national railways in a generation – transforming connectivity between our towns and cities and vastly increasing the capacity of our rail network. By proceeding full steam ahead, we are delivering on our commitment to unite and level up the country. The construction of Phase 2a will support thousands of jobs and create opportunities for local businesses as we build back better.” The decision means HS2 is set to deliver another major economic boost to UK PLC, by supporting around 5,000 jobs to build Phase 2a, with many more in the supply chain. In addition, the railway will support 140 permanent jobs at its maintenance base near Stone in Staffordshire.

Welcoming the decision, HS2 Ltd CEO, Mark Thurston, said: “Parliament’s approval for extending HS2 beyond the West Midlands to the North is a clear sign that MPs recognise the enormous potential of this scheme and continue to give their strong support.As the first major railway built in the North for over 100 years, HS2 will spur massive economic growth for our towns and cities, help to level up the country, and provide cleaner, greener public transport for millions.

As construction starts, this new phase of work will very quickly support 5,000 jobs in the North, with many more in the supply chain, further cementing HS2’s critical role in Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic.” Once operational, high-speed services operating between London, Birmingham and Crewe will use the newly-constructed high speed line – delivering extra capacity, improved reliability and reducing journey times. These services will then join the existing network to create direct services to places including Liverpool, Manchester, Preston, Carlisle and Glasgow. Crewe is also the station for connections to North Wales and Shrewsbury.

Dr Kieran Mullan, MP for Crewe & Nantwich, said: “Extending the HS2 line to Crewe is a major step towards levelling-up the north. It is crucial to bringing new jobs and opportunities to our town and for creating better local rail connections as we free up the currently overly congested line West Coast Main Line. This reaffirms Crewe’s status at the heart of the rail network and just as we were a crucial part of the previous rail revolution, HS2 will cement our place as a vital part of the next.” Passenger services will start between HS2’s stations at London Old Oak Common and Birmingham Curzon Street between 2029-33. Phase 2a’s opening will be aligned with the London – Birmingham route.

Sara Williams, CEO of Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “HS2 brings potential benefits for Staffordshire businesses, both now and in the future. Extending the high speed line northwards will generate thousands of contract opportunities for local businesses of all sizes and their involvement will provide a vital boost for the Staffordshire economy in the years ahead.”

The first phase of HS2 between London and the West Midlands is already well underway, with the start of construction announced by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September 2020. There are 240 sites now active along the Phase One route, employing over 13,000 people and over 400 apprenticeships, with tens of thousands more jobs supported through the supply chain. Almost 2,000 companies have worked on the project to date, with 98% of them based in Britain.


After 130 years on kitchen tables, Aunt Jemima products will have a new name: Pearl Milling Company. The announcement from PepsiCo-brand comes almost eight months after the company said it would remove the Aunt Jemima name, acknowledging it was "based on a racial stereotype".

The new name is a nod to the original mill that began producing the self-rising pancake mix in 1889. The rebranded products will be available starting in June 2021. The new Pearl Milling brand was "developed with inclusivity in mind", PepsiCo said. In images released by the company, the new products bear the familiar red and yellow colour scheme of the existing products.

They include a printed label that says, "New Name Same Great Taste, Aunt Jemima". The original image used on Aunt Jemima products - a smiling Black woman with a bandana in her hair - had been widely criticised for romanticising the antebellum South, a time before the US Civil War.

The first Aunt Jemima character was based on Nancy Green, a storyteller, cook and missionary born into slavery in Kentucky in 1834. The name itself was taken from a character from minstrel shows in the 1800s that mocked African-Americans.

Quaker Oats, a division of PepsiCo Inc, bought the Aunt Jemima brand in 1925 and updated the image over time - replacing the kerchief on the character's head with a plaid headband and later adding pearl earrings and a lace collar. The changes were "intended to remove racial stereotypes", the company said in a press release.

This summer, as racial justice protests swept across the US following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody, the brand was faced with renewed criticism. In June 2020, it became one of the first major brands to announce it would change its name to avoid racial stereotypes.

The company also pledged a $5m (£3.6m) "commitment to support the Black community". It announced an additional $1m (£720,000) investment aimed at Black girls and women.

Mars Food recently announced it would rename Uncle Ben's rice products to Ben's Original and remove the image of a smiling, grey-haired Black man from its packaging. Uncle, like aunt, was used in southern US states to refer to Black people, instead of the more formal "Miss" or "Mister".


Rackspace Technology (NASDAQ: RXT), a leading end-to-end multicloud technology solutions company, today announced the successful collaboration with Microcomputer Consulting Group (MCG), a leading IT outsourcing provider, to provide a more secure, seamless remote work situation amid the pandemic. The collaboration – which centred around migrating customers to Microsoft 365 – has helped increase MCG’s secure email hosting and access to collaboration tools that are now essential to remote work success.

MCG’s 100 clients with nearly 2,000 email accounts experienced an onslaught of phishing and ransomware attacks, any of which could have been devastating to their businesses, if successful. Rackspace Technology had previously helped the New York-based company restore email service during Superstorm Sandy, so the two teams quickly worked together again on a strategy to transition clients to Microsoft 365. Even while executing that plan in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rackspace Technology team was able to transition customers to a more secure service, in most cases over the course of a weekend.

“There was a significant value prop to partner with Rackspace Technology because they’ve expertly supported us in previous urgent and uncertain times. We could assure customers the whole project would be executed effectively and with limited to no downtime,” said Ken Goldberg, President of MCG. “The collaboration between our teams was stellar, the strategy was exactly what we needed, and the customer service was fantastic. It really was a pleasure working with the entire Rackspace Technology team.”

In order to transition so many customers in a short period of time, the Rackspace Technology team planned for a three-phased approach. Customers experiencing the most attacks were prioritized and transitioned first. But as phase two approached, the pandemic occurred, forcing businesses into a remote work culture, creating a higher urgency for change. While secure email would still be a key benefit of the transition, customers now desperately needed the remote work and collaboration services from Microsoft, including SharePoint, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams.

Rackspace Technology met that urgency with action, quickly working to transition the rest of MCG’s clients, all with little to no downtime for employees. The result is a more nimble company that not only is protected from the potentially costly email attacks, but has a Microsoft infrastructure that can be scaled to other products.

“We have a great history with MCG and we were excited to help their customers improve both their security and collaboration efforts, especially after the pandemic created such a chaotic work environment,” said Jeff DeVerter, Chief Technology Officer, Solutions at Rackspace Technology. “MCG customers are now set up for further success as the future of work evolves and new tools are needed.”

HS2 Ltd has earned the accolade of becoming the only organisation in the UK to have achieved the Clear Assured Platinum Standard accreditation. It received the award in recognition of its commitment to embedding inclusive best practice into all elements of its work, including the design and delivery of Britain’s new railway.

In less than 10 months, HS2 Ltd has enhanced its Clear Assured rating from Gold to Platinum. Through evidence-based assessment, it demonstrated that it had moved beyond ensuring its policies and procedures underpin the diversity and inclusion strategy, to demonstrating that its ideology is based on diverse talent being included in every aspect of operational performance. A key element of the Platinum Standard accreditation is an organisation’s ability to exert influence and make change happen externally. HS2 Ltd was credited for reflecting the wider communities it works with, and assessors praised it for being consistent and for helping to make a difference.

HS2 Minister, Andrew Stephenson said: “It’s absolutely vital that we strive continuously to increase diversity and support inclusion across government, public sector projects and beyond. HS2 Ltd has made a commitment to put inclusivity at the heart of their work and it’s encouraging to see their continued efforts receive recognition as the only organisation in the UK with this accreditation.”

Kate Headley, Director of awarding body the Clear Company said: “In an unprecedented achievement, HS2 Ltd has undoubtedly shown its ability to deliver constructive, authentic change. They have transformed inclusion with innovation, determination and excellence and are delivering a sustainable legacy of belonging for employees, the engineering sector and future rail users. Our assessment team were left with an overwhelming impression of an organisation that has the desire and direction to do so much more.”

HS2 Ltd’s approach in considering the needs of the end users of Britain’s new railway was also a key factor in the assessment. It demonstrated that it had stretched the boundaries of thinking in its design of Birmingham’s flagship Curzon Street Station, which received accolade from the assessors. It concluded that HS2 Ltd went above and beyond mandatory regulatory obligations in setting new standards, using focus groups, workshops, panels, and soundboards to understand what inclusive design means for those with protected characteristics.

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd said: “This accreditation reflects the investment and commitment we’ve made to our company values at HS2 and the culture we are creating. Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of that culture and all …

… towns and cities of our country, so it’s imperative that the diversity of the communities it will serve is reflected in our approach to the development, design, construction and operation of the railway.”

In a further sign of its commitment to the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda, HS2 Ltd has retained its Disability Confident Leader status for another three years. It is striving to address the gender imbalance inherent across the construction and rail engineering sectors and is actively aiming to recruit more disabled workers into roles right across the project. In its latest performance data, HS2 Ltd exceeded industry benchmarks set for the percentage of Black and Ethnically Diverse, disabled and female employees that make up its workforce.


City of Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands Railway have secured grant funding for the construction of a new cycle hub offering more than 100 spaces for cycles at Wolverhampton Interchange.

The £525,000 hub will provide 92 undercover and 18 uncovered spaces - and will also feature controlled access, LED lighting and CCTV security. It will be located next to the railway station multi-storey car park, near the pedestrian footbridge to the city centre – and forms part of the city’s award-winning £150million Interchange development delivering improvements to bus, tram, train and cycle connectivity.

Funding for the hub consists of a £472,500-award from UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans, as part of the Department for Transport’s programme, Cycle Rail, with the remaining amount mostly coming from the Government’s £1million Towns Fund Accelerator Grant for the city. Final design work on the hub will now begin and pre-fabrication will be carried out off-site before on-site works start in June and are completed by autumn.

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor Stephen Simkins, said: “The Interchange is a jewel in the crown of our city and part of the multi-billion-pound regeneration that is taking place across our city. The new cycle hub gives people more options and encourages this healthy, clean and green form of transport.

“As a city we’re committed to improving our infrastructure for more sustainable transport and this scheme complements our ongoing work to improve and grow our cycling network. The completed Interchange will connect train, tram and bus in one place and will ultimately provide a gateway to our city that we can all enjoy using - and be proud of.” The addition of the cycle hub to encourage cycling will also help Wolverhampton lower carbon emissions by enabling people to engage in active travel.  

Brenda Lawrence, Head of Stations for West Midlands Railway, added: “These superb new cycle facilities will play a key role in the Interchange development which is transforming how passengers travel to and from Wolverhampton.

“We are fully committed to encouraging sustainable modes of transport wherever possible and we’re making a significant investment in cycling facilities across the railway network to support this aim. With increased numbers expected to start using the railway again later this year this scheme comes at just the right time as we look forward to welcoming customers back on board.”

More than £6million in small business grants has already been paid to over 900 eligible City of Wolverhampton businesses within a month of the latest round of Government funding going live. This relates to financial support for businesses forced to close due to the current national lockdown and includes the mandatory Local Restriction Support Grant (Closed) and one-off business support payment.

Hundreds of applications continue to be dealt with and details on any of the grants, eligibility criteria and how to apply can still be found. Businesses are being urged to remain patient and not duplicate applications, as this may result in a business’ original application being delayed, investigated or rejected.

Councillor Stephen Simkins, Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “This latest funding relates to businesses forced to close in the current lockdown. We also continue to work hard to process applications from hundreds of businesses impacted in all sorts of ways by national Covid-19 restrictions since November.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we are doing everything we can to make it as quick and easy as possible for them to access the grants available, this includes redeploying staff with appropriate financial systems knowledge from other parts of the council. I am urging Wolverhampton businesses to head to the business grants web page and find out what funding is available to them.

“Over the course of the pandemic we have ensured thousands of eligible businesses have had quick access to vital funding to help them through this most difficult time. We are ensuring the latest grants are allocated swiftly and that no business is left behind as our city looks to recover from the financial impact of Covid-19.”

City of Wolverhampton businesses not eligible for the Government’s Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) under the current lockdown can apply for the Council’s discretionary schemes. They include an additional one-off payment and the latest Additional Restrictions Grants and are available to businesses that are open but have been significantly affected due to the current lockdown restrictions.

The discretionary scheme is also available to closed businesses not eligible for the national Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed). All grant application forms submitted by businesses are subject to thorough eligibility checks.

Further communication with businesses may be necessary if any of the required information is missing.

New analysis published by the TUC reveals the economic hit to the West Midlands from government plans to cut pay rises for key workers in the public sector. A total of £1.3 billion will be cut from key worker pay settlements in England this year, following announcements made by the chancellor in November 2020.

The analysis calculates the hit to the economy from the difference in economic activity expected if pay settlements go ahead in full, compared with if the chancellor implements the cuts. To allow comparisons between different regions and constituencies, the TUC calculated and ranked the effective loss of spending power per head compared to the previous year.

For the year April 2021 to March 2022:

·         The hit for England is -£1.7 billion

·         The hit for the West Midlands is -£166 million

·         The average hit per West Midlands constituency is -£2.8 million

·         Of the top 30 worst hit parliamentary seats in England, seven are in the West Midlands: Birmingham Ladywood, Stoke-on-Trent Central, Birmingham Edgbaston, Wolverhampton North East, Dudley North.

Data for the specific hit to each West Midlands constituency can be found through the link in the notes below. Millions of key workers who kept the country going through the pandemic will lose the pay rises they were expecting.

The TUC is encouraging the chancellor to reconsider, and to commit to policies that will improve pay and conditions for all key workers.

These should include:

·         Fair pay rises for key workers in the public sector – with a plan to restore wages to their levels before austerity

·         Guarantee that all outsourced public sector workers get a pay rise so that they earn at least the real Living Wage

·         Action to ensure that every key worker in every sector gets a pay rise, including raising the national minimum wage to at least £10 per hour

·         Ban zero-hour contracts – and use the long-awaited employment bill to strengthen rights to fair working conditions for key workers

The TUC argues that cutting key worker pay weakens wage growth for other workers too – especially those in jobs that directly depend on consumer spending.

If public sector key workers are forced to tighten their belts, the reduced spending hits businesses too. And that impacts on other workers’ pay.

The TUC says that the chancellor must not repeat the mistakes of the 2010s. Millions of public sector workers saw their pay capped by George Osborne. They lost thousands of pounds – and the knock-on impact was wages falling across the economy and the worst slump in living standards in more than 200 years.

This is particularly important for parts of the country that the government has promised to level up, as the analysis shows that restricting pay rises for key workers will increase existing inequalities.

TUC Regional Secretary Lee Barron said: “Key workers have kept the West Midlands going through the pandemic. The Prime Minister clapped them, but his applause will ring hollow if he cuts their pay. It’s no way to thank them.

“We’re all part of the same pay circle. When a key worker spends their wages, it goes into other people’s pay packets. Shop staff, factory workers, delivery drivers, childminders, bar staff – right across the economy, we are all connected.

“If our key workers get the pay rises they’ve earned, it will benefit everyone. The spending boost will help our local businesses and high streets recover quickly. And it will help level up our unequal economy.”

Birmingham City Council has published its latest financial plan. This medium-term financial plan follows on from the publication of a new Delivery Plan in November 2020, which outlined the Council’s priorities, actions and key commitments to May 2022. The key areas of focus include:

·         Reforming the way the Council operates;

·         Shifting the focus from crisis to prevention;

·         Increasing the pace and scale of economic growth.

The Council’s Financial Plan 2021–2025 provides firm financial forecasts for income and expenditure driven by the Delivery Plan. The plan aims to balance a significant programme of investment, transformation and support for the most vulnerable against continued financial challenges due to ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Above inflation, additional investment in services totals £69.1m in 2021/22, including a further £22.5m for adult social care, £12.3m for children’s services and £6.9m for neighbourhood services the latest financial plan goes to Cabinet on February 9 before going to Full Council for final approval on February 23.

The council has already saved over £700m since 2010. A different approach to the budget has been adopted this year meaning that there are no new savings proposals requiring public consultation – with most savings in the budget having already been consulted on and approved in previous years. The only material new saving is for ‘establishment controls’, for which there are no redundancies anticipated as the outcomes are likely to be deleted vacancies and reduced agency costs. This is budgeted to save £20.1m per year.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The plan has been produced against a backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic impact that the last year has had across our city. Families have lost loved ones, businesses have struggled and jobs have been lost. Many people have struggled financially, mentally and in lots of other ways.

“The pandemic has highlighted long-standing issues and inequalities that must be tackled to ensure that every neighbourhood and every community across Birmingham benefits from the recovery to come. But Birmingham is, and always has been, a resilient city.  The strengths and assets that made this an attractive place to live, work and invest before COVID-19 have not gone away – in fact they are now more important than ever. We will make these ongoing strengths work for the people of Birmingham, building more homes, creating more jobs and ensuring that the benefits are felt in every street, neighbourhood and community.

Exciting times lie ahead once we overcome the pandemic. HS2 is still happening, bringing jobs and opportunities; some of the UK’s biggest companies, such as PwC and HSBC, are proud to call the city home; we have fantastic universities that are producing a strong pipeline of talent; and next year we play host to the 2022 Commonwealth Games – a huge event that will really put Birmingham on the global stage. But though there are many reasons for optimism, this is also a city of challenges; a city where over a decade of cuts in funding from Government has left its mark on our public services.

“Our new Financial Plan will play a significant part in helping improve things for the people of Birmingham.”

More than four in ten businesses in the West Midlands have seen an employee move on because their mental wellbeing wasn’t being looked after, with a quarter losing a key member of their workforce, according to new research from not-for-profit healthcare provider, Benenden Health.

The survey of UK employers and employees revealed that 41% of businesses in the West Midlands have experience of an employee leaving their company because their mental wellbeing wasn’t cared for, with 28% saying they had lost a really valuable staff member, suggesting businesses could face a staff retention crisis as employees struggle with increasing mental health demands. The research underlined the importance workers in the West Midlands place on mental health provision in the workplace, with half of workers (53%) saying they would seek a new job if their mental wellbeing was not being supported by their employer.

Some 58% of workers also said a supportive mental wellbeing policy would increase the likelihood of them joining a new company. Benenden Health, which has launched a new report looking at the impact of poor mental wellbeing on the country’s workforce, asked employees of UK businesses to consider the impact of their mental wellbeing throughout their working life, rather than solely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With almost half of workers (45%) in the West Midlands saying their job had become more stressful in the last two years, Benenden Health is encouraging businesses in the region to engage with their employees to understand their mental wellbeing requirements. This could ultimately prevent them from leaving the business, saving on training and recruitment costs and preserving a strong workforce.

The research also highlighted a disparity between how employers’ priorities are perceived. Less than half (47%) of workers in the West Midlands believe that the mental wellbeing of employees is a big priority for their employer and that the business genuinely cares about the issue, whereas 68% employers in the region say they genuinely care about the mental wellbeing of their employees. Yet only 52% of West Midlands employers said that they have asked employees what they would like to see from the company in terms of mental wellbeing support, with this lack of communication impacting on the necessary and appropriate provision of resources.

Bob Andrews, CEO at Benenden Health, said: “It is concerning that employers in the West Midlands have reported losing good staff due to poor mental wellbeing provision, something that employees clearly consider important, and which could be creating a perfect storm for UK businesses. The data highlights a missed opportunity for companies to listen to their employees and promote good mental wellbeing within their organisation, as this can have a real positive effect not only on the health of employees but also on absence rates, productivity, recruitment and retention.

“Businesses who do not take an interest in strengthening their mental wellbeing provision also risk missing the opportunity to access a talent pool that would be loyal to a company that prioritises positive mental wellbeing. It’s important that employers don’t just talk the talk when it comes to mental wellbeing, but also put things into practice to support their staff. It’s not too late though. I hope these findings will encourage businesses to think again about how they approach wellbeing within their organisation and make their workplace an even better place to be.”

Benenden Health enables businesses to offer affordable, high quality, private healthcare to every employee. This includes round the clock care such as 24/7 GP and Mental Health helplines, plus access to services such as Physiotherapy and Medical Treatment so employees can have peace of mind that they can ask for help whenever they need it.

As a not-for-profit organisation, Benenden Health offers support to its 800,000+ members at the same affordable cost of just £11.50 per employee, per month.

The banking industry has long been around and has always been at the forefront when it comes to technological innovations. One of the most recent innovations that have become more prevalent is the use of internet banking. According to data presented by Trading Platforms, online banking penetration in Great Britain reached 76% in 2020 compared to 42% in 2010.

From the early days of the development of ATM cards to the widespread use of credit cards and more recently, contactless payment options, the banking industry has always welcomed technological advancement as a way to enhance the products and services they provide.  The rise of non-brick and mortar banking institutions and fintech companies have also made banking much more accessible and much more mobile in recent times.

In 2007 online banking penetration was at a mere 30% in Great Britain but the number reached  76% in 2020. Both traditional established banks and newer digital online banks have taken advantage of the rise of mobile devices with the smartphone the preferred device to access online banking. In Q1 of 2020, 58% of survey respondents indicated accessing their online banking through their smartphone in the three months prior to the survey, while only 14% indicated they used their tablet device.

In 2019-2020 the UK ranked 8th among European nations for online banking penetration. Leading the way is Norway with an impressive online banking penetration of 95% compared to the Uk’s 78%. The use of cash has severely decreased in countries such as Germany and Austria where trust in online banking institutions have been on the rise. Only 5 countries from the European nations in the survey had less than 10% penetration  - Bulgaria(9%), Romania (8%), Bosnia and Herzegovina(5%), Kosovo(5%) and Montenegro(3%).

The rise of alternative payment options from traditional banks has also been on the rise in Europe. One of the more prominent ones is London based financial company Revolut who in February 2018 announced that they had secured over 1.5 million customers. By 2020, that number had grown to an impressive 10 million customers. Projections for Revolut shows them continuing on an upward trend reaching 18 million customers by December 2021.

The banking industry has long been around and has always been at the forefront when it comes to technological innovations. One of the most recent innovations that have become more prevalent is the use of internet banking. According to data presented by Trading Platforms, online banking penetration in Great Britain reached 76% in 2020 compared to 42% in 2010.

From the early days of the development of ATM cards to the widespread use of credit cards and more recently, contactless payment options, the banking industry has always welcomed technological advancement as a way to enhance the products and services they provide.  The rise of non-brick and mortar banking institutions and fintech companies have also made banking much more accessible and much more mobile in recent times.

In 2007 online banking penetration was at a mere 30% in Great Britain but the number reached 76% in 2020. Both traditional established banks and newer digital online banks have taken advantage of the rise of mobile devices with the smartphone the preferred device to access online banking. In Q1 of 2020, 58% of survey respondents indicated accessing their online banking through their smartphone in the three months prior to the survey, while only 14% indicated they used their tablet device.

In 2019-2020 the UK ranked 8th among European nations for online banking penetration. Leading the way is Norway with an impressive online banking penetration of 95% compared to the Uk’s 78%. The use of cash has severely decreased in countries such as Germany and Austria where trust in online banking institutions have been on the rise.

Only 5 countries from the European nations in the survey had less than 10% penetration  – Bulgaria(9%), Romania (8%), Bosnia and Herzegovina(5%), Kosovo(5%) and Montenegro(3%). The rise of alternative payment options from traditional banks has also been on the rise in Europe. One of the more prominent ones is London based financial company Revolut who in February 2018 announced that they had secured over 1.5 million customers. By 2020, that number had grown to an impressive 10 million customers.

Projections for Revolut shows them continuing on an upward trend reaching 18 million customers by December 2021.

With the majority of us still working from home a year after the outbreak of Coronavirus, employee satisfaction has plummeted. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Forbes, revealed that 80% of employees would consider quitting their current position for a job that focused more on employees’ mental health. It’s clear that employers need to take a pro-active approach to combat this statistic. 

With the rise in hybrid working, the 4-day working week is a trend that is becoming increasingly popular and helping to actively tackle the intermittent crisis we face. Those companies implementing it are seeing a significant increase in employee satisfaction rates, as we continue to work from home and filter back into agile working. 

AI technology will significantly disrupt every aspect of every industry in every country including how and when we work. Within the near future, we’re likely to see an increase in remote and more flexible work schedules like the 4 day work week. In fact, TUC thinks that a 4 day work week could become a reality within this century if businesses are forced to share the benefits of new technology with their employees.

Some companies are already realising the benefits of a 4 day work. Not only does a 4 day work week increase employee satisfaction, company commitment and teamwork, but it also decreases stress levels. Even better, reducing employees’ work schedules to a 4 day work week doesn’t harm their productivity or company output.

One business that has taken this stride is Verriberri, a multi award-winning marketing agency who are seeing huge improvements to productivity and staff wellbeing since implementing the 4-day working week.

For anyone interested, their CEO Sarah Kauter, who recently won businessperson of the year award, would be happy to share her thoughts on why a shorter working week is the way forward, and advice for business owners looking to achieve this also.

Leading logistics firm Europa Worldwide Group which has a branch located in Prologis Park, Midpoint Way, Minworth, in Birmingham is championing efforts to support young people by developing its own career programme, creating opportunities for a career in sales in logistics. This year, the programme has been extended to include graduates, with applications open until 12 February 2021. So far Europa has seen a hugely successful response, with Manchester in the top three of the most popular cities across the country for graduate applications.

It follows news of the Government’s recently launched Kick Start programme, which provides funding to employers to create job placements, highlighting the challenging job market for 16 to 24 year olds. Following a successful launch last year, Europa’s RAPID Career Development Programme has been re-launched for 2021 and so far has seen a vast increase in the number of applicants in comparison to its first year.

The RAPID programme gives school-leavers and graduates the opportunity to become part of its Europa Road sales team, which specialise in European road freight. Europa will be placing a RAPID school-leaver and graduate in each of its 13 UK branches, with a view to potentially add a second graduate in its larger branches.

Jamie Hedgecox, Branch Manager for Europa Road’s Birmingham branch, comments: “The pandemic has shone a light on logistics, so we are seeing an increase in the level of understanding amongst both school-leavers and graduates. With this in mind, we felt it was the right time to extend the programme to university students. The response and calibre of graduate candidates in the Manchester area has so far been fantastic.”

Lana Jay, Europa Worldwide Group’s Early Careers Talent Manager explains why this year the programme is unique in that they are spreading the opportunity wider, to find the brightest and best young individuals. She comments: “The graduate addition will work in partnership with the current programme focusing on school-leavers. We have been talking, mostly virtually, to schools and universities across the country to explain the innovative and dynamic opportunity.

“Over the next couple of months, we will be taking interviews via video screenings, hoping to have our new Graduate join our Europa Road team in early April. To support their transition from education to becoming part of the Europa Road sales team, we have a uniquely tailored programme of training and development and we can’t wait to get started with our new class of RAPIDs later in the year!” 


The innovative RAPID Career Development Programme showcases Europa’s continued investment into the next generation of talent in logistics. Also available to school-leavers, with applications open until 30th April 2021, the successful applicants will have a starting salary of £22,500, benefits including a company car and the chance to earn extra commission after just a few months. Europa Worldwide Group is a specialist road, air & sea and warehouse operator, with a £205m turnover which employs over 1,000 staff across 16 sites in the UK, plus Belgium and Hong Kong.

The initiative is the brainchild of Europa’s Managing Director Andrew Baxter, designed to appeal to highly ambitious and focused individuals who are keen to earn and learn, hit the ground running and progress up the sales career ladder from as early as 18-years-old.

Europa’s own management team can tell some inspiring success stories of starting at a junior level and working their way up to Director level, moving roles internally and progressing and developing gradually through the business.

Interested school-leaver applicants can still apply now.


Forward-thinking business, professional and financial services firms including PwC, HSBC, Arcadis and Pinsent Masons have joined forces with social enterprise Ahead Partnership to launch an exciting new careers and skills initiative. The programme is designed to build young people’s aspirations and support the sector’s talent pipeline and recovery across Greater Birmingham and Solihull.

The exciting, year-round Growing Talent in #BPFS programme is now well underway, with Ahead Partnership leading the delivery of virtual and pre-recorded activities enabling young people to get involved from home throughout lockdown, following the initiative’s successful November launch. The initial launch festival brought together 760 students and 58 volunteers spanning 23 regional employers to engage in online activities from skills workshops to meet-the-employer events, while sign-ups for accessible digital resources indicate plans to continue facilitating sector learning with over 15,000 additional students.

Enabling aspirations in areas with opportunities – the regional value of BPFS is forecasted to double to £50bn over the next 10 years – the launch festival alone inspired 91% of students that provided feedback to say that they had increased awareness of different roles in the BPFS sector. With lockdown continuing to impact the way that schools and employers operate, Ahead Partnership is now leading the ongoing activities for 2021 which include spotlight panels with a focus on women in professional services, apprenticeships and the various BPFS sectors; and Q&As on a range of roles in financial services.

Key employer activities include the virtual delivery of the PwC Skills Academy; Capsticks virtual work experience; and HSBC’s Investing in Futures. The timely initiative is made possible by important funding from Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP, the CEC, Birmingham Enterprise Partnership and committed private sector employers.

Stephanie Burras CBE, Chief Executive of Ahead Partnership, said: “We were delighted to see such a positive response from both keen students and committed volunteers that engaged in the launch of Growing Talent in #BPFS, and are now busy delivering this exciting programme. Initiatives that help inspire young people to look ahead, develop their skills and aspire to sectors with opportunities available are really crucial at this time.

“We welcome other forward-thinking businesses that want to show their support to get involved with this exciting year-long initiative, which is set to make a big impact on young people and the regional professional services sector.”


Head of Skills at GBS LEP, Spencer Wilson, said: “The Growing Talent programme creates career pathways for young people into key roles within the Business, Professional and Financial Services sector; ensuring the talent pipeline for businesses, and career opportunities for young people exist in this key growth sector. Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP is proud to support Ahead Partnership in delivering this vital intervention that inspires our young people and supports our businesses.”

Tim Boyes, CEO of Birmingham Education Partnership, said: “Helping young people to ready themselves for the world of work, raising aspirations, and opening their eyes to a world of possibilities is a key task for schools and college. To do this schools need deep connections with employers, and young people need to be able to see and feel what it is like to be in a workplace. Building on the experience of delivery of Professional Services Week in previous years “Growing Talent BPFS” exemplifies best practice, providing a range of great opportunities for young people to learn about the professional Services sector and what it takes to forge a successful career within it.”

The Ahead Partnership-led initiative follows four years of successful Professional Services Weeks across Birmingham, extending activity to an exciting year-round programme. From SMEs to global firms, businesses of all sizes are still welcome to join the impressive line-up of regional employers already committed to sponsoring valuable activities.