Colors: Purple Color

Full service content marketing agency, HDY Agency, has moved into larger office space to mark its third year in business after a bumper period of new client wins and growth in the team. 

Based in Birmingham’s creative quarter, the fast-growing agency has moved into a new space in The Custard Factory, which is more than triple the size of its previous base. The office move is part of its long-term growth strategy to win global work and continue to create job opportunities for creatives in the region. 

HDY spans a full spectrum of creative services and expertise which is split into three core areas: Creative Content Studio, Performance Digital Marketing and Organic Content covering digital, social media and email marketing, design, brand development, PR, experiential, influencer marketing and search engine optimisation.

In the past three months, HDY has secured seven new client wins and has welcomed 10 new people to its team, which now boasts 35 of the country’s best creative and strategic marketing talent.  

Angel Gaskell, co-founder of HDY Agency, said: “As we move out of lockdown restrictions and into the ‘new normal’, it was important for us to welcome in a new era of HDY for both our team and clients, with the move to our brand-new home kickstarting our exciting plans for the future. 

“We’ve always had a flexible, adaptable and dynamic approach to working and lockdown took away some of those vital elements of our culture - which has always had being social and having fun at its heart. Our new home represents bringing our team back together as we look forward to our exciting plans for the future.” 

Lord Robin Teverson, The Earl of Devon and leaders of top UK universities join the Lord Mayor of Birmingham to unite with the committee behind one of China’s new smart cities to announce joint research and innovation projects.

The team leading development of the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area, one of 13 new technology hubs and free trade zones in China, will be outlining plans for the new research centre, called the ‘Nanjing Jiangbei New Area Sino-UK Innovation and Development Centre’. In recent years, the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area committee has been working with key players in the UK’s innovation space to develop the new centre for collaboration at both national and regional levels.

The plans are being discussed at the ‘Nanjing Jiangbei New Area - South West UK Cooperation Forum’ during Nanjing Tech Week, a leading event promoting international innovation cooperation, hosted by the city of Nanjing. The forum gives entrepreneurs from China and the UK the platform to brainstorm opportunities and ways of working together.

Nanjing is currently twinned with Birmingham, UK, and the cities have a long-term working relationship. Muhammad Afzal, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, says: “These recent disrupted years have caused our world to re-think engagement strategies. Events like this provide pathways for innovation and technology to take the lead in building our futures.

“The establishment of the ‘Nanjing Jiangbei New Area Sino-UK Innovation and Development Centre’ will strengthen opportunities for us all to work together for the common good.”

Nanjing Jiangbei New Area is growing quickly. In 2020, the new city saw an increase of 300 new technology companies set up in the area, 1,543 science SMEs registered, 7,906 invention patents requested and the establishment of 12 universities.

So, to promote growth between two regions showing strong technological development, the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area is announcing a collaboration with The South West Business Council, an economic partnership representing the interests of businesses across the region of the UK, at the forum. Insight from the council’s board members, including Tim Jones, Chairman, Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon, and Lord Robin Teverson, member of the House of Lords and former MEP, has highlighted the development taking place in the South West, positioning the region as a strong partner for cooperation.

Discussions of business and educational collaboration are taking place at the forum, alongside plans to set up the ‘South West Business Council China Office’ within the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area.

Tim Jones, Chairman of the South West Business Council, says: “The UK leaving the EU has been difficult, but we are determined to develop global relationships. So, this is an important step in that direction and a huge statement for partnership working. We have strong academic links with Nanjing through our universities. Now we want to translate that into business activities, so that all of our businesses, big and small, can work towards the future together.

“Technology is the future, it is the way which growth will be achieved. Our view is that partnership working is the key, but we need to take the next generation with us so that they can maintain a sustainable relationship with growth economies like China.”


Charles Courtenay, Earl of Devon and board member of the South West Business Council, says: “There is a vast array of cutting-edge technology companies here in the South West of the UK. We are able to produce environmentally sustainable and healthy food that both sequesters carbon back into the soil and produces an incredibly healthy and varied diet. Indeed, it’s through the work of the Universities in the region that the South West has become the natural powerhouse that it is.

“It’s therefore with real pride that I'm able to talk about the amazing work in environmental and agricultural science and invite further strong and close relationships with China in these important growing market sectors.“

Lord Robin Teverson, member of the House of Lords, former MEP and board member of the South West Business Council, says: “There is a focus on the South West at the moment following G7. We are a successful region which is growing in the food, technology, tourism, environmental and higher education sectors. We are also set to become a beneficiary of the UK government’s levelling-up process, with increased investment in research and development.

“Internationally, regional connections are even more important than national ones. They allow close cooperation between individuals, joint programmes that are practical rather than theoretical and SMEs on both sides can involved. This is an important initiative – may our cultural and economic relationship continue to grow.”

David Underwood, Associate at Exeter College and board member of the South West Business Council, says: “This new opportunity will broaden our collaboration and provide more opportunities to work together, venturing into wider society and business areas, both within the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area and within the South West of the UK.

“The South West Business Council brings together many businesses in the South West, so this will provide tremendous opportunities to engage with people in Nanjing Jiangbei New Area in developing capabilities and new technologies, so that we can mutually benefit for the future.”

Invited to participate in the forum by the South West Business Council, Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, board member of the Russell Group, is signing a memorandum of cooperation between Nanjing Jiangbei New Area and the Innovation Centre of the South West University Alliance in the United Kingdom(1). She says: “The University of Exeter is constantly seeking new ways to engage with partners across the world to build productive relationships to tackle global challenges.

“We have researchers who are working in partnership with researchers at Nanjing University’s School of Earth Sciences and Engineering to develop a deep-time digital earth program. Delving into the earth’s deep-time history helps our geoscientists in our two regions work out the rates of mechanisms of climate change. This is but one example of how Exeter and Nanjing researchers are already working together in areas of innovative strength for both of our regions. And I know there is great potential for other areas of collaboration in the future.”

Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) expert, Tracker, is strengthening its anti-crime capabilities with the appointment of Steve Whittaker as Police Liaison Manager.  Working with the Head of Police Liaison, Clive Wain, Steve’s more than 30 years’ knowledge and experience of organised crime, brings invaluable insight to the Tracker team.

Steve joins Tracker having spent 32 years in the police, in Leicestershire and South Yorkshire Police, achieving the role of Detective Chief Inspector. During his time as a Detective, he worked as the crime manager in Sheffield, where he was responsible for dealing with firearm cases, serious and complex investigations, burglary, robbery and vehicle crime.

Steve implemented massive changes in the restructure of the District and CID working practices. He has also led numerous multi-agency crime reduction initiatives, including creating and delivering a department that dealt with all firearm offences and discharges across the South Yorkshire force, reducing firearm discharge by 35%.

Steve, was also a Senior investigating officer in charge of numerous Homicide investigations, leading to numerous convictions for murder / manslaughter, where offenders received over 220 years imprisonment.

More recently, Steve worked for the National Crime Agency managing a team of investigators on historical child abuse cases.

Commenting on his new role, Steve said: “This is a new chapter in my career, where I can bring the wealth of my experience to assist Tracker in tackling the problem of vehicle crime. Working under the leadership of Clive Wain, I look forward to using my expertise in the area of vehicle crime and organised crime networks, as well as help build on already successful partnerships with UK police forces.”

Clive Wain, Head of Police Liaison at Tracker added: “The appointment of Steve Whittaker is a great asset to the Tracker Police Liaison team. He brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help support the innovative ways we are building new commercial partnerships as well as broader collaboration with the police at a local, regional and national level. This appointment marks our continued commitment to help identify and close the net on organised vehicle crime networks.”

Tracker is the only stolen vehicle recovery provider offering vehicle tracking systems that are supported nationwide by UK police forces. Over the past 27 years Tracker and the police have successfully recovered 26,777 stolen vehicles with a total value of £561m, recovered 2,545 other non-Tracker-fitted stolen vehicles and made 2,801 arrests.  

Working like an electronic homing device, a Tracker covert transmitter is hidden in one of several dozen places around the vehicle. There is no visible aerial, so the thief won’t know it’s there. The combination of VHF with GPS/GSM technology, unique to Tracker, makes its units resistant to GPS/GSM jamming, confirming Tracker as a superior security defence against determined thieves.

A newly-published report from findexable that algorithmically ranks cities and countries around the world according to the number and success of their financial technology (‘fintech’) companies has shown that London remains the second most active city in the world, behind San Francisco, but that the fintech space in the rest of the UK is expanding rapidly. This comes as fintech itself is booming: Mastercard data shows that in the first quarter of 2020, there was a larger shift to digital payments in 10 weeks than there had seen in the preceding five years.

As a major centre in world finance for centuries and a thriving technology hub it is no surprise that London is home to a number of world-class fintechs and is the centre of the country’s thriving ‘challenger bank’ sector. Findexable is the first organisation to use a proprietary algorithm to rank cities according to their relative fintech strength, proving that the UK is a major power in the space.

The 2021 Global Fintech Rankings, powered by Mambu, identifies emerging hubs, fintech companies and trends. The Index algorithm ranks the fintech ecosystems of more than 264 cities across 83 countries incorporating data from findexable’s own records and collated and verified by its Global Partnership Network, including Crunchbase, StartupBlink, SEMrush and 60+ fintech associations globally. The index was first published in 2019 and has seen a huge uptake by the fintech industry.

However, many cities outside of London are developing into thriving fintech hubs. Birmingham entered the rankings at 123, Cardiff came close after at 127. Although London is by far the largest fintech hub in the UK, the growth of what the report identifies as ‘tertiary hubs’ is promising.

Although growth in large English cities like Manchester and Birmingham is to be expected, as is the presence of fintechs in cities near London like Cambridge and Brighton, the report showed surprising growth in other British cities like Cardiff (ranked 127th) and Newcastle upon Tyne (ranked 155th), both of which were new entries this year. There were also significant climbs from Cambridge, Edinburgh, Belfast and Glasgow. This said, currently only London and Manchester are home to the headquarters of ‘Unicorn’ companies, privately held start-ups with valuations over $1 billion.

This growth in previously underserved areas echoed a theme seen across the world. The report showed huge growth in the number of countries and cities being listed: more than 50 new cities and 20 new countries joined the index for being home to at least ten fintech companies. The report found that even during a year of significant economic downturn and serious disruption, fintech companies were being launched and significant investment was being made in the sector, more than doubling the value of fintech unicorns as a group from $199 billion to $440 billion.

This speaks to one of the report’s larger themes, which is that fintech is bridging gaps in consumers’ lives, many of them revealed or made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from Mastercard showed that in the first quarter of 2020 there was a greater shift to digital banking in ten weeks than there had been in the previous five years. Fintech can no longer be dismissed as a fad but is a part of billions of peoples’ lives – ‘fintech for all rather than the few’. However, there is a significant gap between major players and the next generation of innovators in terms of funding that needs to be addressed to keep the industry moving forward with new ideas. There also remains a gap between the customers of fintechs – women are often early adopters, while emerging markets are sources of giant user bases - and the people leading them.

Findexable’s founder and CEO Simon Hardie explains: “The UK continues to be a major player in fintech, but unlike the larger finance sector it is moving away from being largely London-based. We are seeing how investment in creating technology hubs in secondary cities is translating into the creation of thriving communities and viable companies. We have even seen fintech companies emerge in towns like Macclesfield, Ashford, Caerphilly and Inverness.”

He adds: “It is part of a greater push toward bridging the gap between companies and their customers that we have identified happening across the world since the annual report started in 2019, but which has accelerated in the last 12 months as a result of the pandemic driving more people to use digital finance. Where there are more customers there will be more businesses, and in an innovation-driven sector like fintech that translates to greater chances for new ideas that can shake up the entire industry.”

Elliott Limb, Mambu’s Chief Customer Officer, comments: “Fintechs are part of a global revolution to make financial services easier, faster and simpler, and the UK is a major part of this. They are changing the way we save, spend, borrow, and invest money. Whether competing, cooperating or supporting traditional financial institutions, they are reshaping digital services for a real-time, on-demand world.”

For the purpose of the Index algorithm, fintech is any business that applies a technologically enabled innovation specifically geared for the provision or distribution of financial services.

The country and city rankings were calculated from a total score comprised of a combination of three metrics:

·         Quantity – Size of fintech ecosystem and supporting structures – number of fintechs, fintech hubs, co-working spaces, accelerators, global influencers and population (countries only)

·         Quality – Impact/performance – size and growth of fintechs (e.g. number of unicorns), investment, events, value generation, international collaboration, website ranking

·         Environment – ease of doing business, critical mass, regulatory environment – regulatory interventions to improve competitive environment, incentives for start-ups, internet censorship, payment portals, fintech courses.

Global retail IT consultancy and technology firm, REPL Group, part of Accenture, has announced plans to recruit over 100 professionals to its business over the course of the next quarter.

REPL’s recent momentum is representative of a year of historic expansion for the organisation. Q1 of 2021 marked its acquisition by Accenture, a global professional services company with leading capabilities in digital, cloud and security, offering unmatched skill specialism and experience in more than 40 industries worldwide. The deal brings together the organisations’ retail and supply chain capabilities to lead the business in its next phase of growth.

The recruitment drive as a result of the acquisition will look to strengthen all departments across the organisation, with a priority focus on hiring talented Business Analysts, Solution Architects, Software Developers, Project and Programme Managers, Data Engineers and Test Engineers, as well as Workforce Management and Supply Chain consultants. Plus the Graduate Programme will continue to seek out promising consultants. Further strengthening REPL’s position in the market is its attainment of the Great Place to Work certification for the second year in a row. The firm ranked 13th on the Best Workplaces list for large organisations (251-1000 employees), up from 58th on the 2020 list for medium sized businesses (51-250 employees). The certification followed rigorous benchmarking against some of the most respected global companies.

Cerys Johnson, CEO, REPL Group, commented: “Our organisation has gone from strength to strength over the last 12 months, reflected by the exciting acquisition by Accenture this year and our future plans to greatly expand our talented team, despite the tough economic circumstances that have recently affected the industry. To not only have been awarded the Great Place to Work accreditation again this year, but also to have risen up the rankings is a fantastic achievement and reflective of the commitment to our people and how they drive everything we do as a business.”

Birmingham City Council's improvements in its financial management have been described as exemplary in a new report from the leading professional institute for local government finance.

An independent report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is based on a review of financial management capability against CIPFA’s five-star model and ranked the city council as a three-star authority – up from the one-star rating awarded in 2019 and delivered a year ahead of schedule.

The latest review, carried out in April and May 2021, stated: “Over the last two years the core finance function at Birmingham has moved on from delivering the more traditional stewardship aspects of financial management that had evolved through keeping the operational services ‘safe’, ensuring that the organisation works within its approved financial targets, to a much more mature and dynamic supporting and enabling service that drives diffused financial management.

“In summary, Birmingham City Council has made great strides in addressing the issues that constrained overall financial management capability. We would conclude that this progression highlights a highly commendable response to issues arising from our April 2019 assessment.

“It would be our considered view that Birmingham City Council should be considered to be an exemplar in the transformation of financial management capability given the extent of improvement achieved over the last two years.”

The council’s previously-stated aim was to achieve a three-star rating by March 2022. In a double boost for the city's taxpayers, the rating comes in the same week it was confirmed the council achieved a balanced budget last year, despite the challenge of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Over the last decade we have had to deal with years of austerity and uncertainty, but in more recent times, thanks to a renewed focus and effort from all involved at the council, we have begun putting in place firm financial foundations.

“The unprecedented circumstances of the last 18 months could have easily knocked us off course, but it is greatly encouraging to hear from the highly-respected source of CIPFA that we are doing things in the right way for the citizens of Birmingham, who fund the services and activities we provide on behalf of the people of the city.

“We are realistic – we are still on a long road to recovery from the financial impact of COVID, but, as recognised by CIPFA, we will keep a very sharp focus on budgets and continue making our case to Government for every penny of help this city needs in the months and years ahead.”

Three stars is a significant improvement on the previous one-star score received from CIPFA in July 2019, which indicated the council was only at the basic ‘securing stewardship’ level. A full report detailing CIPFA's findings is due before the council Cabinet on June 29 - along with an outturn report on the council's balanced budget for last year.

Cllr Tristan Chatfield, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, added: “As guardians of the public purse, we have to make every penny count when improving the lives of people in all parts of Birmingham.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, there is much for the city to be optimistic about, with many opportunities arising from the likes of HS2 and the Commonwealth Games.

“This will be underpinned by sound financial management, and we stand ready to build on the progress that we are grateful CIPFA has witnessed and acknowledged, with an ambition to add to our three stars.”

New research has revealed the UK regions which have benefited the most from working from home (WFH), with people in Scotland and London feeling least positive about the experience. The research was conducted by money transfer experts Xendpay, which analysed the latest ONS data from a study of UK adults in work.

Overall, when asked to assess how working from home had affected them both negatively and positively, people in London had the lowest net positive score out of the English regions. Taking into account all of the UK, only Scotland rated lower than the capital. One in four Londoners (25%) say they have suffered from reduced wellbeing due to WFH, and the capital also had the highest percentage of people - 28% - who say their work life balance has reduced.

In addition, 34% experienced more distractions while WFH in London and 19% were slower to complete work. London also had some of the highest numbers of people who felt that home working made it harder to think of new ideas (19%), and to work with others (49%)

Only one area of the UK has felt more negatively about working from home than London, with 36% of people in Scotland experiencing reduced wellbeing, and 22% reduced work life balance. In total, negative sentiment outweighs positive feelings among Scots, resulting in the lowest score on the index.

People in Scotland have also found it the hardest to focus when WFH in the UK. 38% have experienced more distractions and 20% found they were slower to complete work. Alongside Scotland and London, South West England has had the third most negative WFH experience.

One in five in the region (20%) have suffered from reduced work life balance, and 32% have felt a reduction in their wellbeing. The South West is also home to the highest percentage of people who have found it harder to work with others (52%).

The West Midlands sits at the top of the rankings – in total, 66% of people in the region experienced an improved work-life balance, and 43% had increased well-being.  Wales ranks a close second, and has the highest percentage of people who feel working from home improved their work-life balance, at 77%.

The North West placed third overall, with 47% of people noting an improvement in wellbeing. The West Midlands, Wales and the North West have seen the biggest increased focus at work, due to WFH. 57% of people in the West Midlands are completing their work faster, while in the North West, 47% experienced fewer distractions as a result of home-working. 

A spokesperson from Xendpay said: “It’s fascinating to see the discrepancies in different UK areas when it comes to people’s experiences of working from home. While many of us have been in this situation for over a year, it’s clear that - when it comes to home-working - not every area is equal.” 

The research was carried out by Xendpay, which aims to reduce the cost of international money transfer while maintaining the best possible customer service. It provides a no-fee international money transfer service to bank accounts, offering exchange rates usually only available to multinational corporations, without compromising on transfer times or reliability.

A Birmingham-headquartered engineering firm has accelerated its strategic growth with several senior appointments. And the move coincides with an overall boost in employment which has seen the business employ over 50 new employees since the start of the year.

The multi-disciplined adi Group, which covers a broad range of sectors including aerospace and defence, automotive, food and beverage and manufacturing markets, has recently taken on 12 new senior figures at the company, bolstering its 30+ divisional offering. Accelerating its numbers to 700+ staff across the Group, which is situated at Kings Norton, the business has undergone significant growth as it looks to support the manufacturing market throughout the coronavirus crisis and beyond.

“This has been a key time for both the business and the wider manufacturing sector,” said adi Group founder and CEO Alan Lusty, who celebrated the Group’s 30 years of the Grou last year. “Rather than bunker down and hope for the best, we’ve actively recruited in a number of key areas of the business, which has enabled us to continue serving a wide range of manufacturing markets.

“It’s our ears to the ground approach, actively monitoring and responding to changes in the marketplace, that has enabled us to continue our success and birth over 30 specialist service divisions over the years. We now look forward to the future ahead, which will be increasingly shaped by needs to lower carbon footprints, drive production efficiency and lower operational costs, something which is always at the forefront of our minds and business philosophies.”

Joining the adi Group are experienced industry veterans, including new Vehicle Charging Solutions general manager Robert Byrne. Helping to drive electric vehicle infrastructure in the UK, Robert will support divisional director Kenny Green with over 35 years of experience to his name, having led charge point installation projects for big brand names including Nissan and its electric Leaf range.

Elsewhere, new air hygiene manager Gareth Richards is set to bolster adi Environmental’s ranks, having racked up an impressive career in the air and water hygiene sector, with works completed across NHS properties, HM prisons and high security MOD sites across the UK and abroad. Overall, the Group now operates across 12 regional sites in the UK & Ireland, with a manufacturing capacity in excess of 200,000 sq. ft.

The business has also extended its commitment to youth skills development in the sector, continuing both of its apprenticeship schemes throughout the pandemic, as well recently ranking as one of the Best Companies to Work For in the Midlands in The Sunday Times annual survey list. For Group strategic account director James Sopwith, adi’s successes are indicative of its sustainable ethos:

“We’re immensely proud of the success of the Group, particularly given the year that businesses like us have endured in the past year,” he said. “What we’ve been able to do is focus on our foundations, which are fuelled by a belief that building sustainable communities, from regional to nationally, are the building blocks for propelling forward our industry and those that want to work in our sector.

“Our pre-apprenticeship scheme really is the best example of this, a partnership with a local school that educates young people on the rewards our industry has to offer at an early age, dispelling outdated perceptions of the sector and going some way to fulfilling an ever-growing skills gap that we as business face and tackle head on. It would have been quite easy to postpone our apprenticeship schemes in light of the difficulties the pandemic posed, but we simply couldn’t take away that opportunity for young people to get on the careers ladder at a time they needed it the most.

“At adi, we continue to grow and diversify our workforce, with the Midlands and regions across the UK integral to our ongoing business aims.” With household food and drink brands, automotive giants and aerospace experts part of its ever growing client list, adi continues to build in a stature as a one of top engineering firms in the UK, a status upheld by its top ten ranking in the construction and engineering sector in the Best Companies 2021 sector lists.

The North West is seeing the fastest growth in electric car ownership of any region in the UK, according to DVLA car registrations data analysed by car leasing comparison website LeaseLoco. The latest figures provided by the DVLA reveal that electric car (EV) registrations have more than tripled - up 214% - in 12 months in the North West, with 21,993 EVs registered at the start of 2021, compared to 7,005 a year earlier.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) submission was made by LeaseLoco to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in June 2021, requesting the most up-to-date figures on BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) registered in the UK. Three other regions have seen electric vehicle registrations more than double over the past 12 months; with registrations up 142% in the South West, 132% in Yorkshire and the Humber, and 128% in the South East.

EV registrations have almost doubled in Scotland (97%) since the start of 2020, while registrations in London are up by more than two thirds (69%). The West Midlands is languishing at the bottom of the EV table, with the slowest growth in registrations, EV registrations are up just 45% since the start of 2020, suggesting car owners are showing resistance to early switching to electric.

Table: UK regions ranked in order of fastest growth in BEV registrations, 2021 vs 2020

Region

Number of BEVs registered -  

Start 2020

Number of BEVs registered -

Start 2021

% Increase in BEVs

North West

21,993

7,005

214.0%

South West

27,964

11,554

142.0%

Yorkshire & the Humber

14,639

6,304

132.2%

South East

51,205

22,453

128.1%

Scotland

14,808

7,529

96.7%

East

21,038

11,152

88.6%

Northern Ireland

2,549

1,390

83.4%

East Midlands

10,047

5,793

73.4%

Wales

4,641

2,696

72.1%

London

24,908

14,735

69.0%

North East

3,574

2,323

53.9%

West Midlands

16,888

11,628

45.2%

 

John Wilmot, CEO of car leasing comparison websiteLeaseLoco comments: “These DVLA figures show a huge disparity between regions where consumers are showing commitment to early switching to electric vehicles, and regions where electric car switching needs a jump start. 

“The Government will start feeling the pressure if EV registrations don’t show signs of accelerating and momentum is lost on its journey to “Road to Zero” emissions. The demand is definitely there - we have seen electric car enquiries on our site almost triple this year and we have hundreds of thousands of EV deals available to consumers.

“But EV registrations still make up a very small percentage of the total number of new car sales. While they are cheap to run and most owners are keen to drive less-polluting cars, too many people who rely on their vehicles for work and leisure, are holding off making the switch while there are question marks around the charging infrastructure and the initial cost of an electric vehicle.

“The Government needs to take advantage of the growing popularity of zero emissions motoring, but the worry is that without more focus, investment and education, demand will not translate into sales and momentum will be lost. With the sale of new diesel and petrol cars banned from 2030, the next two to three years will be critical in ensuring that the switch to greener motoring stays on track.”

Government transport minister Rachel Maclean MP has been shown how more than three million pieces of data a day gathered from the region’s roads network is helping to reduce traffic congestion and keep people moving.

This cutting-edge data gathering project, called Network Resilience Live Lab, is funded by the Department of Transport (DfT) through the two-year £22.9m ADEPT Smart Places Live Labs programme, until November 2021. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is using data that is harnessed round-the-clock from Static Automated Traffic Counters (SATCs) backed up by live feeds from more than 2,000 CCTV cameras covering the transport network to build up a detailed picture of traffic and transport movements around the region.

This data stream is being further enhanced with 5G roadside data sensors which relay live information on traffic movements. TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is working with partner councils and transport operators to relieve pressure on the region’s roads. Approximately 50% of the road traffic in the region is carried on 7% of the road network leading to congestion.

Data is compiled by the Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC), run by TfWM in collaboration with local authorities and transport operators, to better direct and manage the transport network around major incidents and large scale events. This data is used to offer instant traffic advice and warnings to the travelling public, such as through the @WMRoads twitter feed, to avoid an incident or find an alternative route. Transport planners are also using the information to act, such as putting diversions in place, to deal with congestion.

Rachel Maclean, who is Redditch MP as well as Department for Transport Minister toured the £22 million Regional Transport Coordination Centre (RTCC), the information gathering nerve centre in Birmingham, where the data is received, along with live information from public transport operators, and analysed.

Transport Minster Rachel Maclean said: “The UK is paving the way when it comes to the future of transport and the development of cutting-edge technology and I’m delighted to see this being embedded in the West Midlands area through the Adept Live Labs project.

“Reducing traffic will cut transport emissions and improve air quality, making our communities healthier, better places to live. That’s why supporting innovation is a priority for this Government, as we look to solve the complex challenge of decarbonising transport and achieving net zero by 2050.”

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “We took this opportunity to show the Minister the ground-breaking work being done with big data to deal with traffic congestion on our roads.

"It is a major issue for many thousands of people a day as they travel about our region which is why we are investing more than £1 billion in improving our bus, train, tram and cycling infrastructure around the region as well as relieving some of our notorious congestion hotspots such as Birchley Island in Oldbury. Alongside this we have introduced the RTCC which uses the vast amounts of data gathered to produce better travel information, and even spot problems before they develop, so people spend less time sat in their cars – saving them time and benefitting our environment in the process.”

Live Labs programme director Giles Perkins said: “The ADEPT Live Labs programme represents the cutting edge of innovation in the local roads sector.

“We are pleased that the Minister and Mayor have been able to see first-hand the great things that our West Midlands colleagues have achieved with their approach to the application of large-scale data processing to help solve challenging congestion issues. Over the coming months we’ll be sharing insights and learnings from the programme widely so that the whole of industry can benefit from DfT’s £23m investment.”

As well as the large-scale data gathering operation in the Live Lab, work is also being carried out, under TfWM’s Future Transport Zone umbrella, to study and research individual travel patterns and behaviour to find ways of better targeting messages to encourage people to change their travel choices – such as choose a better time of day or switch to public transport.

The Minister also spent time with the Future Transport Zone and West Midlands 5G to find out more about their work on innovative projects including the autonomous vehicle testbed. Reducing the traffic congestion on the roads can help cut carbon emissions and improve air quality as part of our #wm2041 plans for a net zero carbon region.

Councillor Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: "We're harnessing cutting edge technology in the Live Lab to boost our efforts to reduce congestion and change the way people travel across the region.

"Information gathered from the traffic counters is helping us to better manage our network and design new ways of getting about to reduce gridlock and encourage more walking, cycling and greater use of public transport." ADEPT represents local authority, county, unitary and metropolitan directors.

The ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme is a two-year £22.9 million project funded by the Department for Transport and supported by project partners SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, Ringway and WSP. Nine local authorities are working on projects to introduce digital innovation across SMART mobility, transport, highways, maintenance, data, energy and communications.

Live Labs is part of ADEPT’s SMART Places programme to support the use of digital technology in place-based services.

Downtown in Business Liverpool hosted an exclusive breakfast event the first live ‘Liverpool Property Club’ event of 2021. We were joined by a panel of esteemed speakers, CEO of Liverpool City Council, Tony Reeves, CEO of Knowledge Quarter & Sciontec, Colin Sinclair and Principal & Managing Director of Avison Young and Chairman of the Liverpool MIPIM delegation, Stephen Cowperthwaite at Malmaison Liverpool.

The Liverpool Property Club came together to discuss Liverpool post-Covid and the recovery from the pandemic, the property and regeneration sector across Liverpool, plus the developments across the city including The Spine building up in Paddington Village, to the new Everton football stadium down at Bramley Moore Dock and the need for repurposing parts of the city.

CEO of Liverpool City Council, Tony Reeves commented on how Liverpool ‘has the potential to do some amazing things starting [today]’ looking beyond lockdown restrictions across the region, particularly following the success of the pilot schemes across the city.

Knowledge Quarter CEO, Colin Sinclair addressed the guests in attendance about the importance of returning to work from the office and the increase in productivity and career/business developments when working collectively in person, plus the exciting new projects taking place in the Knowledge Quarter.

Lastly, MD of Avison Young and Liverpool MIPIM Chairman told the attendees of the plans for the changes being made to MIPIM in now becoming the ‘Liverpool Place Partnership’ to cover a broader spectrum of sectors in Liverpool.

Many thanks to Malmaison Liverpool for hosting our first live Liverpool Property Club of the year. DIB also extends their thanks to sponsors Project FourMorgan SindallLiverpool MIPIM and Sutcliffe.

UK supermarkets are fuelling demand for meat and dairy products which is harming public health and the climate, reveals a new supermarket scorecard published by environmental charity, Feedback, today. 

The scorecard ranks the UK’s top 10 supermarkets on their efforts to reduce the environmental cost of the meat and dairy products they sell. The Co-op, Tesco, and Waitrose top the rankings but even the Co-op, the best performing retailer, scored just 45%.  Asda, Iceland and Lidl ranked bottom with the worst performer, Lidl, scoring just 17%.

Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, said: “UK supermarkets are continuing to drive demand for meat and dairy products that are already responsible for around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions - and fuelling deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere. It’s time for supermarkets to step up to the plate, slash their meat and dairy products and offer customers more sustainable and healthier options”. 

The scorecard revealed that many supermarkets have improved their environmental policies since the last assessment in 2019 but that they were failing to translate this into action:

·         All 10 supermarkets actively encourage meat consumption through promotions, and not just to avoid waste when products near their expiry dates. This means retailers are fuelling – and not simply responding to - demand for meat. 

·         Only one supermarket, the Co-op, is accurately measuring and publicly reporting on the climate impact of the goods it sells – but only for its own label products. 

·         Half the supermarkets including Tesco, M&S and ALDI continue to use misleading or ‘fake farm’ labels and names such as ‘Trusted Farms’ which give the impression that their meat is produced to higher standards than is the reality. 

·         Options such as organic or free range make up less than 20% of the products offered by all the supermarkets, while Iceland offers no free range or organic options. Only 3 retailers – Asda, Morrisons and Tesco – ensure that more than a quarter of the ready to cook meals they offer are vegetarian or vegan.

·         None of the supermarkets reveal how much meat and dairy they sell as a proportion of their protein sales, making it difficult to track their progress. 

More promising signs include the steps taken by all retailers to promote healthy fruit and vegetable consumption, commitments from the Co-op and Sainsbury’s to link board or senior leadership remuneration to achieving environmental outcomes, and supermarkets’ work to put pressure on Brazilian suppliers to prevent products linked to deforestation from entering their supply chains. All the retailers, with the exception of Iceland and ASDA, have made a public commitment to drop meat linked to deforestation, however they have yet to remove these products, including chicken and pork fed on soya grown in deforested areas, from their shelves.  

Meat and dairy production contribute to climate change through direct emissions from animals and their waste and through the destruction of important ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest to raise cattle or grow soy for animal feed. The UK imports the majority of its soya from South America, at least 90% of which is fed to animals, particularly chicken and pork.

The 10 supermarkets control 94% of the UK grocery market and have a huge influence on what we eat through the products they sell, and the way in which they market, package and promote them.  Many customers want to reduce the health and environmental impacts of their food with 43% of people surveyed by YouGov say they often make the choice to reduce their meat consumption when shopping. 

The government's Committee on Climate Change has said the UK need to cut meat and dairy consumption by 20% by 2030 to meet its climate commitments while the University of Oxford estimates consumption of meats such as beef should be cut by as much as 89% to meet the NHS Eatwell guidelines.

Millstone added: “With 3 out of 4 shoppers visiting supermarkets several times a week, it is clear that retailers have a special responsibility to help their customers enjoy food that is both good for them and for the planet. Supermarkets must be clear about the climate impact of the food they sell and commit to selling much less meat and dairy and much more fruit and veg.

Former Arsenal and Crystal Palace footballer and environmental entrepreneur, Mathieu Flamini, said: “Reducing my consumption of animal protein and dairy improved my health and my performance on and off the pitch: I was able to recover quicker and cope with the daily workload better. I was not only doing myself good by eating less meat, but as a nature lover I was also able to reduce my impact on the planet. We all need to do our bit, including the retailers who supply us with so much of the food we eat.”

Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better added: “Feedback’s scorecard shows retailers are still focused on boosting meat sales, despite setting net zero targets and pledging to help us eat healthier and more sustainably. Making it easier for shoppers to buy more meat and dairy than they need, or probably want is not the way forward for our health, or that of the planet.” 

 

The 2021 scorecard ranking, and scores are outlined below:

Rank

Supermarket

Score (%) 

1st

Co-op

45.6%

2nd

Tesco

41.3%

3rd

Waitrose

38.1%

4th

Sainsbury's

37.5%

5th

M&S

33.1%

6th

Aldi

28.1%

7th

ASDA

23.8%

8th

Morrisons

22.5%

9th

Iceland

21.9%

10th

Lidl

17.5%

Midlands Air Ambulance Charity in partnership with M6toll, is launching its ‘MAAC’s Moguls’ competition for schools, a Dragons’ Den-style challenge, designed to give secondary school pupils across the region the chance to develop their business skills.

Schools, and Year 10 students (academic year: 2021/22), in the West Midlands are being encouraged to register their interest in the competition before Monday 12 July 2021.  Teams of six will have the chance to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to five local business leaders to request funding for their plans.

The successful teams from across the whole of the Midlands will be presented with £100 each for their concept, which they must grow into a £500 donation or more for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity. As part of the initiative, the teams will be mentored through the process by the business leaders, providing them with a unique experience to help make their CVs stand out from the crowd.

Pam Hodgetts, corporate partnerships manager for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity is passionate about supporting young people and created the MAAC Moguls initiative. She said: “As well as operating our vitally important air ambulance-led service, we are also socially committed to the communities we serve. Our competition will help students develop skills in public speaking, teamwork, creativity, marketing and finance, as well as having the rare chance to be mentored by some of the region’s leading businesspeople, including members of the management team from M6toll.”

Sarah Loizou, CSR executive sponsor at M6toll, which is supporting the MAAC’ Moguls competition, adds: “At M6toll, we take our responsibility in the local community extremely seriously, and support dozens of local projects each year. We are also passionate about developing the talent of the future, which is why we are proud to support Midlands Air Ambulance Charity’s MAAC Moguls initiative, helping youngsters embrace their entrepreneurial skills and help raise funds to save local lives in the process.”

To register your school’s interest, visit: midlandsairambulance.com/maacmoguls before Monday July 12. The competition will launch officially in September and students who pitch successfully will have 12 weeks to grow their £100 into at least £500 for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity. Judging will take place in November and an awards ceremony will be hosted in December.

Retail trade union Usdaw has provided written evidence to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) on minimum wage rates. The LPC’s annual call for evidence closes today and responses will help shape the recommendations they will make to the Government this autumn on the 2022 minimum wage rates.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw General Secretary, says: “Today we are providing the Low Pay Commission with evidence of why we need a new deal for workers that includes at least £10 per hour, an end to youth rates and more secure employment.

“The impact of the Coronavirus crisis continues to be felt across our economy and society, even as we emerge from the current restrictions.

“Workers in retail, distribution and many other low-paid industries have shown just how vital they are to keeping the UK economy going during a time of extreme pressure. As we emerge from the pandemic, these key workers must not be forgotten and it can only be right that their contribution is recognised with a wage they can live on.

“The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the hours available to workers varied significantly across different sectors. Workers deserve a right to a normal hours contract to end the uncertainty many face.

“The priority must be to bring confidence back to the economy and ensure that people are spending again, by putting more money in people’s pockets. The National Living Wage should be increased at least in line with the planned target to reach 66% of median earnings by 2024.

“Usdaw continues to campaign for an immediate National Living Wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, regardless of age, so youth rates are abolished as soon as possible. If you’re old enough to do the job, you’re old enough to be paid the rate for the job.

“As the country tries to recover from the pandemic we need a new deal for workers that includes a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour, more secure contracts and an end to rip-off youth pay. The best way to thank key workers is to ensure fairness at work.”

Usdaw’s New Deal for Workers calls for:

·         A minimum wage of at least £10 per hour for all workers, ending rip-off youth rates and providing a living wage.

·         Minimum contract of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it, that reflects normal hours worked and a ban on zero-hour contracts.

·         Better sick pay for all workers, from day one, at average earnings.

·         Protection at work – respect for shopworkers, abuse is not a part of the job.

·         A proper social security system, Universal Credit does not provide a safety net.

·         Job security, with day one employment rights for unfair dismissal and redundancy.

·         Fair treatment and equality for all workers, including equal pay.

·         A voice at work, stop rogue employers refusing to engage with trade unions and end ‘fire and rehire’.

New analysis of the latest ONS figures has revealed that Staffordshire Moorlands has had the largest increase in average house prices in Staffordshire in the past 10 years. The study by A-Plan Insurance compared the average price of a house in March 2011 to March 2021, across more than 400 areas of the UK.

Staffordshire Moorlands is at the top of the list with a 53.80% percentage increase when compared to the average house prices ten years ago. In March 2011 the price was £137,293.93, whilst in March 2021, it rose to £211,151.49.

Cannock Chase is the area with the second largest percentage change over 10 years with a 52.46% increase. Over the ten years, the average house price has increased by £66,316.32.

Tamworth is the third house price hotspot of Staffordshire having risen from £125,096.62 in 2011 to £192,164.81 in 2021.  

Staffordshire’s house price hotspots over the past decade, by A-Plan Insurance

Area

Average house price in March 2021

Average house price in March 2011

Percentage change over 10 years

Staffordshire Moorlands

£211,151.49

£137,293.93

53.80

Cannock Chase

£191,412.94

£125,552.36

52.46

Tamworth

£192,164.81

£127,096.62

51.20

Stoke-on-Trent

£125,934.18

£84,175.77

49.61

Lichfield

£266,771.84

£179,851.35

48.33

Stafford

£242,090.89

£168,320.62

43.83

South Staffordshire

£260,723.63

£184,800.77

41.08

Newcastle-under-Lyme

£166,858.52

£118,928.38

40.30

East Staffordshire

£194,319.80

£139,233.46

39.56

Staffordshire

£212,282.58

£146,585.27

44.82

Coming in at the bottom of the list is East Staffordshire, where average house prices have risen from £139,233.46 to £194,319.90, a percentage increase of 39.56. The county’s second lowest average house price increase is in Newcastle-under-Lyme, where it has risen from £118,928.38 in March 2011, to £166,858.52 ten years on – a jump of 40.3%.

Lichfield has the highest average house price in Staffordshire, standing at £266,771.84 in March 2021, compared to £179,851.35 ten years previously, but has only had the fifth largest increase in price at 48.33%. The lowest average house price in Staffordshire is in Stoke-on-Trent, where it was measured at £125,934.18 March 2021, after a 49.61% rise from £84,175.77 in March 2011.

Overall, Staffordshire’s average house price has increased by 44.82% in the last decade. In March 2011 the average price was £146,585.27 and has risen to £212,282.58 in March 2021. Across the UK, the average house price in March 2011 was £165,648.54, while the latest figure stands at £256,405.17– an increase of 54.7%. 

Comparing the four nations of the UK, England has seen the biggest increase in average house price over the past ten years – 58.6% - going from £173,045.56 in 2011, to £274,615.37 in 2021. Wales showed the second highest increase of 48.1%, going up to £185,431.00 in March 2021, compared to £125,133.01 a decade earlier.

Scotland’s average house price has risen by 32% since March 2011 – third out of the four nations. It was £126,172.03, and according to the most recent ONS data, is now £166,566.05. Northern Ireland has seen the lowest rise in the UK, but the average house price has still gone up by 25.3%, standing at £149,178.24 in March 2021, up from £119,023.88 in March 2011.

Commenting on the figures, a spokesperson for A-Plan Insurance said: “Ten years is a long time in the property market, and in the time more than half of the areas measured in the UK have seen the average house price rise by more than 50%. Some places have seen the average price nearly double in value, reflecting just how important home ownership is to people in the UK.” The research was carried out by A-Plan Insurance, which has a high street branch in Lichfield and more than 100 nationwide.

The company, established in the 1960s, provides a personalised service to more than 600,000 clients.

With two weeks to go before the deadline, small and medium sized businesses in the West Midlands are being encouraged to apply for funding to help them adapt to new customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.

The £20m Brexit Support Fund, which closes 30 June, enables businesses who trade with the EU to access up to £2,000 of funding for practical support including training and professional advice on new customs, rules of origin and VAT processes.

Since launching in March, more than 12,000 businesses across the UK have registered for the fund. In the West Midlands, 264 businesses have submitted applications, with a total of £396,859 in funding applied for so far.

Katherine Green and Sophie Dean, Directors General, Borders and Trade, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said: “Smaller businesses who trade with the EU have a vital role in our economy and we understand they may have experienced a more challenging time than larger businesses in adapting to changes. We would encourage small and medium businesses impacted by new importing and exporting rules, to apply for funding today.”

To be eligible for the grant, businesses must have no more than 500 employees and turnover no more than £100m. They must only import or export goods between Great Britain and the EU, or move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

If businesses already import or export goods to and from a non-EU country, they are not eligible.

In addition to the funding, small and medium businesses can access specialist advice and support:

Additional support is available to businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland through the Trader Support Service.