Colors: Purple Color

Amplify, the NEC Group’s premier hospitality business and hospitality provider for Resorts World Arena and Arena Birmingham, were crowned the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) Business of the Year.

The ambitious, six-strong team, led by Sally Walder, say they have adopted a “mindset of continuous improvement” and the award judges were impressed with their growing performance from modest beginnings.

They were selected for the GBCC’s premier title, sponsored by SCC, Europe's largest IT solutions company after clinching the award for Excellence in Sales and Marketing, supported by O2.

They have helped the NEC Group become the UK’s leading live events business operating in exhibitions, conferences, music, sports, family entertainment and hospitality.

Amplify’s reputation, both in the West Midlands and beyond, has led to incredibly high demand.

There is a waiting list for their premium membership offer, Air, and there is a new debenture-style membership to meet demand.

Newly-introduced call-back technology means the team don’t lose potential sales leads and website enhancements have made it easier for customers to book.

The website now offers sample menus for each hospitality level and virtual Google Earth tours of the restaurants, showing off the premium food choices and dining spaces on offer. Highlights of the past year have included:

  • Take That – hospitality tickets sold out in hours, with more people than before choosing hospitality over standard seating.
  • The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2018 generated a record year of hospitality revenue.

Russell Jeans, the GBCC’s chief operating officer, who chaired the judging panel, said: “Amplify exude a continual improvement ethos - capitalising on innovative new digital commerce, exceptional client knowledge, customer service and outstanding brand marketing to drive sales in this incredibly dynamic and exciting business.”


Excellence in Contribution to the Community (Sponsors: Big John’s)

St Mary’s Hospice

Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice are celebrating 40 years of providing care across Birmingham and Sandwell. Their mission is to “enable anyone with a life-limiting illness to live their life to the full” - a statement created by founder Monica Pearce.

Excellence in Customer Service (Sponsors: Virgin Trains)

Handle Kingdom Ltd

Handle Kingdom, who specialise in the retail of architectural hardware, have a strong commitment to “Customer is King” and go the extra mile to create an enjoyable and memorable experience. They have developed processes and simplified policies to make them customer friendly and  have  invested in training staff.

Excellence in Hospitality (Sponsors: Quality Business)

Conference Aston

A subsidiary of Aston University, Conference Aston is now one of the city’s foremost meeting destinations. With more than 40 years’ experience in the hospitality industry it has carefully crafted its offering to deliver high-quality service across its operations. The catering team have launched a campaign focusing on health-conscious menus.

Excellence in International Business (Sponsors: Aston University)

AFL Architects

AFL Architects, delivering high-profile sports projects globally, have grown their international business by 143 per cent over three years. They have established themselves worldwide with projects like the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium, the largest venue at the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar which will host the final and opening matches.

Excellence in Manufacturing (Sponsors: Birmingham Airport)

KEP Print Group

KEP Print Group, in an industry where countless print manufacturers have closed since the rise of digital marketing, have not only survived but made major changes to enter into a new chapter of sustainable growth. The Group has been a staple of the Greater Birmingham business community for 40 years.

Excellence in People Development (Sponsors: Wesleyan)

National Express

The public transport company is driven by the belief that they are a people business, employing many thousands and moving millions of customers. As well as being the biggest proportion of their workforce, they regard their bus and coach drivers are their most important and most valuable asset.

Excellence in Retail (Sponsors: Bullring and Grand Central)

Loki Wines

In seven years Loki Wine have been cited many times for being at the forefront of the independent drive in Birmingham that came out of the financial crisis in 2008.

Loki have won every national industry award in the UK and they were the first West Midlands merchant to win a national wine retail award.

Excellence in Technology & Innovation (Sponsors: Millennium Point)

Managed Enterprise Technologies Ltd


The cyber security firm are driving forward with innovations and are currently collaborating with Birmingham City University (BCU) as part of the Big Data Corridor initiative to develop their own Artificial Intelligence (AI).  The result will give METCloud a global advantage in cyber defence and surveillance.

Excellence in Training and Education (Sponsors: Scholars School System)

Services for Education

The charity, dedicated to providing music tuition for a wide range of organisations, including schools and local authorities, engages with 37,991 children in Birmingham each week. It tackles unconventional issues rarely discussed with other training providers and practices activities like healthy eating and mental health awareness.


In 2018, The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) launched the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help deliver gigabit capable connectivity to businesses. The scheme is backed by a budget of £67 million for eligible businesses to claim up to £2,500 off the cost of installation of full fibre connectivity to their premises.

Since the initiative launch, fibre broadband specialists Glide has analysed its successful applications to reveal the business hot spots which have benefited from the scheme. Glide have received close to 1,000 voucher requests, with currently over 900 vouchers issued - saving the local businesses an estimated £2,500,000 and increasing their access speeds 9 fold.

Of those applications, 13% of the vouchers were issued to businesses in Coventry alone - meaning 120 businesses in the area are now supported with full fibre connectivity that might otherwise have struggled to make this commercially viable.

The top regions that have benefited from the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme, based on the number of vouchers issued are:

  1. Coventry and Warwickshire (215)
  2. Northamptonshire (175)
  3. Greater Birmingham (80)
  4. Leicestershire (75)
  5. Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire (66)
  6. Berkshire (60)
  7. Bath and North East Somerset (55)
  8. Derbyshire and Nottingham (50)
  9. Southampton and Hampshire (45)
  10. Essex (35)
  11. London (30)

James Warner, Managing Director at Glide said: “With the Voucher Scheme set to run until 2021, or when the budget of £67 million runs out, it's great to see that so many local businesses are getting on board and investing in an ultra-fast and reliable network. We know how integral a good internet connection is to a business, and we have a good track record of delivering it (claiming 67% of the vouchers in the initial Coventry and Warwickshire trial scheme. We set up the gigabit knowledge hub, to answer any questions any potential businesses may have before they begin the claiming process.

“With an unprecedented interest in the scheme, the vouchers are being claimed at a greater rate than expected, so if you are in need of faster broadband, don’t delay in checking if your business is eligible.”

WV Living has appointed a contractor to develop new homes at one of its largest sites in the City of Wolverhampton.

Wilmott Dixon has been selected as a partner to build 266 homes, including 67 affordable homes, on the site of the former Wednesfield High School on Lakefield Road, Wednesfield.

The new development, named ‘The Marches’, will see a collection of one, two, three and four-bedroom homes for sale, with a sales office set to open in June 2019.

Works are expected to start on site next month (May), with the first homes completed in early 2020.

The development forms part of WV Living’s plans to deliver more than 1,000 new homes across the city over four years, as the council’s own housing company.

Kate Martin, Director for Housing, City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “This is fantastic news for WV Living and for the city, The Marches will provide much-needed quality homes to rent and high-quality homes to buy.

“WV Living is continuing to support the overall house building programme in the City of Wolverhampton and in appointing Willmott Dixon we will also see real, long-lasting benefits for the local community.

“Willmott Dixon’s business commitment to social value and sustainable futures is a real strength and we are confident this development will also boost local business and skills, and add further pace to housing growth across the city.”

Simon Liversage, Director for Willmott Dixon in the Midlands, said: “We are delighted to be working with WV Living to develop and build over 260 new houses and apartments, creating new housing stock for the people of Wolverhampton.

“At Willmott Dixon, we also believe we have a purpose beyond profit and that includes leaving a lasting positive legacy in the areas where we work.”

Work on WV Living’s three other phase-one developments in the city are also well underway. The site of the former Danesmore Park Primary School in Ashmore Park is due to be completed in the summer and will have 52 homes, including 13 affordable homes for rent.

The former Ettingshall Primary School site, named Sweet Briary, will see 25 houses and nine apartments developed on it, with ten affordable homes to rent.

The former Prouds Lane Leisure Centre site, named Peascroft, will enable 40 new homes, including ten affordable homes. Both Sweet Briary and Peascroft will offer the option of shared ownership for potential purchasers.


The Business Festival - running from 13 to 24 May, will see a total of 113 different business events over the fortnight. More than a dozen of these are outstanding manufacturing events comprising everything from tours of the region’s leading manufacturers; unique demonstrations of advanced technology to new product development and I.P. (Intellectual Property) support.

The Black Country proudly boasts a huge, world-class manufacturing and engineering base that employs 67,000 people across nearly 4,000 businesses ranging from metals and machinery manufacturing to chemicals, tooling, food and drink and furniture and equipment.

High profile employers in the region include the likes of ZF Lemforder UK, Assa Abloy (the world’s largest lock manufacturer by sales volume); Hadley Industries; Sandvik Limited and B E Wedge. Chamberlin is listed on the London Stock Exchange and the well-known 2 Sisters Food Group with brands like Fox’s biscuits and Goodfellas in its portfolio, is based in Wolverhampton.

A  number of manufacturing-themed skills events are also on offer in the Festival, showing that vital moves are already in place to provide a future workforce with specialised industry skills to support Black Country businesses in a changing, advancing technological landscape.

Johnathan Dudley, regional managing partner and head of manufacturing business at Crowe is one of the Business Festival sector leads for Advanced Manufacturing. He said, “As a region we have a lot to shout about particularly in this sector.  As well as being home to a large proportion of SMEs1, there are some 600 ‘high turnover’ [£5 million+] companies, many of which make products or component parts that are shipped right across the globe.

“The Festival brings everyone together, and gives us a great opportunity to collaborate, share ideas and showcase what the Black Country has to offer to the rest of the UK and the world.”

The Business Festival presents some fantastic opportunities for a closer look behind-the-scenes at some of the region’s finest manufacturers.


New research from Succession Wealth, the leading independent wealth management company with more than £7.75 billion of investments under management for over 20,000 clients, reveals that 10% of people aged 50 and over with pension plans, believe they have been approached by pension scammers trying to access their savings. One in twenty of those contacted (5%) – as many as 125,000 people - say they have lost money through one or more pension scams.

The scale of this problem could be greater than many assume because the research reveals that only 22% of people aged 50 and over who believe they have been targeted by pension scammers, said they reported this to the authorities.

Of those contacted by pension scammers, 84% claim to have been approached by them in the past 12 months, with six percent saying they were contacted by them more than 10 times.

Succession Wealth’s research reveals that 68% of people who believe they have been targeted by a pension scammer said they were contacted via the phone, with 27% saying it was via email. Some 4% said they were visited by them in person.

In terms of the tactics used by pension scammers, the findings reveal that 62% of those who believe they have been targeted by them said they were offered a ‘free’ pension review, and 42% were told about an investment scheme that promised high guaranteed returns. Some 27% said they were put under pressure to give an answer quickly, and nearly one in five were told about opportunities to use their pension savings to invest in other products but were given no details of these.

Mark Stokes, Head of Communications, Succession Wealth said: “Our findings are very alarming and illustrate the potential scale of the problem that is pension scamming. Some of the people being targeted are vulnerable and more needs to be done to protect them. The FCA’s Scamsmart initiative is very helpful in this regard.

“We are writing to all of our 20,000 plus clients to warn them of this problem. Given that we manage many of their pension plans, Succession is able to help clients ensure that they don’t become victims of this crime.”

Advice on how to spot and avoid pension scammers, and what to do if you suspect a scam can be found at: or

Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the Low Pay Commission (LPC), today welcomed the Government's announcement that it has accepted in full the recommendations the LPC made for future minimum wage rates.

Future rates were announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Budget, in line with those recommended by the LPC. The National Living Wage (NLW), the statutory minimum for workers aged 25 and over, will increase by 4.9% to £8.21 per hour. Rates for younger workers will also increase above inflation and average earnings. They will apply from 1 April 2019.

Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the LPC, said: “I am pleased that the Government has again accepted in full the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations for future minimum wage rates. The increase in the National Living Wage (NLW) to £8.21 in April 2019 will ensure a pay rise for the lowest-paid workers that exceeds both inflation and average earnings.”

“Over the past year, the labour market has continue to perform well and the economy, while subdued, has met the criteria of ‘sustained growth’ set out in our remit for the NLW. We therefore recommended an increase in line with a path to 60 per cent of median earnings by 2020. On current forecasts, we estimate that the NLW will reach this target at a rate of £8.62 in 2020.”

“We recommended real-terms increases to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates for younger workers and apprentices, as the labour market conditions for these groups remain strong. These rates will continue to rise faster than both inflation and average earnings. We opted for smaller increases than we recommended last year because of slightly weaker labour market conditions for young people, combined with insufficient evidence to fully understand the impact of the largest increases in a decade implemented in April of this year. However, next year’s will still be some of the highest increases on record.”

“The 2019 Low Pay Commission Report, containing the underpinning analysis and evidence used to make these recommendations, will be published on November 27.”

The LPC’s rate recommendations comprised:

  Current rate Future rate (from April 2019) Increase
NLW £7.83 £8.21 4.9%
21-24 rate £7.38 £7.70 4.3%
18-20 rate £5.90 £6.15 4.2%
16-17 rate £4.20 £4.35 3.6%
Apprentice rate £3.70 £3.90 5.4%
Accommodation offset £7.00 £7.55 7.9%


Business leaders said a new survey demonstrates how political inaction over Brexit has had a damaging impact on firms in Greater Birmingham.

And the government were further criticised for introducing plans for a tariff scheme in the event of a no-deal Brexit without any consultation with the business community.

This follows the results of a new survey which shows that confidence and home orders among manufacturers in Greater Birmingham have plummeted over the past six months plus a universal lack of preparedness for Brexit.

The first Quarterly Business Report of 2019 by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) revealed that investment intentions among manufacturers had dipped alarmingly in line with domestic trade. However, the service sector held up better.

Businesses are to be praised, say the GBCC, for their resilience in the face of “chaos and turmoil” generated by politicians in Westminster over Brexit.

The report, sponsored by Birmingham City University, shows that domestic sales for manufacturers fell dramatically with only 39 per cent reporting increased sales, a drop of 10 per cent on the previous quarter. Advance orders fared worse with 29 per cent showing an increase against 41 per cent in Q4 last year.

This decline had a negative impact on confidence. Manufacturers expecting to improve turnover in the next 12 months fell from 71 per cent to 43 per cent while those confident that profitability would increase dropped from 56 per cent to 37 per cent.

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of the GBCC, said: “For the past two years, a sense of chaos and turmoil has defined political activity at Westminster. This has created the impression that very few politicians are capable of putting aside party allegiances and working together in the national interest to tackle the most crucial negotiation this country has witnessed in over a generation.

“In the meantime, our firms have quietly and confidently gone about their business with a calm reassurance borne out in the results we have seen in a number of these reports over the past 18 months. Nevertheless, as we approach the end of March, it is clear the spectre of Brexit is having a marked effect on business output.

“Our latest survey reveals a noticeable increase in the proportion of businesses reporting a fall in domestic and international sales, a drop in recruitment levels with cash flow projections and investment levels hovering dangerously close to negative territory.

“In particular, it was no surprise to see that over a quarter of firms cited Brexit-related uncertainty as the main pressure they are encountering as the country faces the prospect of sleep walking into a disorderly withdrawal from the EU.

“Politicians have been quick to roll out empty platitudes on protecting the needs of the business community but their actions suggest otherwise. The Government’s plans to introduce a tariff scheme in the result of a no-deal Brexit going ahead without any consultation of the business community is a case in point.

“We will be working with the British Chambers of Commerce to ensure the views of local firms are reflected and recognised throughout the duration of the negotiation process, however long and arduous that might continue to be.”

Julian Beer, deputy vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University, said: “The past quarter has seen some truly remarkable political scenes, with Brexit dominating the landscape.

“Two failed attempts at ratifying a withdrawal agreement to leave the EU have been followed by a last-minute political scramble. Whatever one’s views on the EU, uncertainty is always a challenge for businesses.

“As such, it’s unsurprising that Q1 of 2019 has seen a modest softening amongst surveyed businesses, particularly in the UK market. Indeed, it is testament to the resilience of businesses throughout Greater Birmingham that this hasn’t been more severe.”

Raj Kandola, senior policy and patron adviser at the GBCC, said a set of questions about Brexit revealed a concerning lack of preparation for Brexit.

He added: “Sixteen per cent of firms in both sectors combined felt ‘not at all prepared’, 44 per cent felt ‘somewhat prepared’ and, worryingly, 25 per cent ‘didn’t know’ how prepared their business was ahead of a potential no deal Brexit.

“Our advice for businesses remain simple – prepare for what you can control and the GBCC is running as number of free Brexit Clinics to support local firms through the process.”


A top Oldbury businessman and charity supporter was made an Honorary Freeman of Sandwell at a special ceremony.

David Manners, chairman of David Manners Group was recognised for his innovation and entrepreneurship in commerce and his local community work at a special ceremony at Sandwell Council House.

Mr Manners attended Bearwood Primary School and lived in Beakes Road in Smethwick for many years.

He married his wife Janet who grew up in Drayton Road and worked with his brother Gordon in the family dry cleaning business before setting up his firm opposite Lightwoods Park after seeing a potential business opportunity after searching for an exhaust for his Daimler Dart.

That led to him setting up a successful international business dealing in car parts. In 2018 the company won the Employer of the Year and Social and Corporate Responsibility class in the Midlands Family Business of the Year awards.

The business, based at Wolverhampton Road, Oldbury, employs 60 people, with his daughter Kate as managing director.

Councillor Steve Trow, leader of Sandwell Council, said: “David Manners is a local man who has made a very real contribution to life in Sandwell.

"He is not only a very successful businessman who has brought employment and prosperity to Sandwell with his successful companies he has supported local charities and good causes for many years.

“These have included the Black Country Women’s Aid, Thimblemill Library, Santa in the Woods at Warley Woods and the Better Understanding of Dementia for Sandwell group.”

Mr Manners, who was supported by family and friends at the ceremony, said: “I was very honoured and excited at being given this honour and feels like getting an Oscar.”


Future Faces will celebrate another record year – during which it has doubled in size – at the ICC in Birmingham in September.

The young professionals’ arm of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce is staging its fifth annual awards and dinner on Friday, September 20.

A move to the ICC, one of the largest conference and event venues in the city, reflects the organisation achieving record growth in the past 12 months.

Future Faces helps businesses support young colleagues during their career development and its membership profile now spans across multiple sectors, comprising professional, financial and IT, manufacturing and construction, charity and public sector, marketing and events, leisure and business hospitality, technology, engineering and entrepreneurial and creative.

Mark Hipwell (pictured), Future Faces president, said: “Now in our seventh year, the Future Faces network has grown from strength to strength.

Our numbers have grown exponentially and we are excited that our awards dinner is graduating to one of Birmingham’s biggest event spaces.

“I can’t wait to see the awards applications coming in over the next few months - particularly as Birmingham continues to hit massive highs with entrepreneurs, small businesses and with its ever-changing skyline.

“I’d highly recommend any young professional who is keen to develop their career or promote themselves beyond their own business sector to apply for the awards.”

At the 2018 awards, marketing expert Rebecca Halbert from commercial property consultancy Avison Young was crowned the Future Face of Greater Birmingham, having also won the Future Faces of Sales Marketing and Communications sector award.

The winner of this year’s overall Future Face of Greater Birmingham award will also receive a fully-funded Executive MBA scholarship from Future Faces patron Aston University. The scholarship is worth up to £30,000.

Mark Smith, executive director of business engagement at Aston University, said: “Aston University is delighted to support Future Faces by offering a fully-funded MBA programme to the winning member.

“Alongside the excellent opportunities offered by Future Faces, the Aston Executive MBA - one of the best in the world - will equip them with the knowledge needed to thrive in their sector.

“We look forward to welcoming the winner into our Aston Business School alumni.”

This year’s awards will feature two new categories – the Future Face of Charity and Social Enterprise and the Future Face of Public Sector and Education, reflecting the network’s multi-membership base.

The Future Faces Ambassador Award is sponsored by Common Purpose, with the winner receiving their Streetwise MBA, worth £5,000.


The Women's Super League have announced that Barclays will become its first ever title sponsor in a deal the English Football Association calls "the biggest ever investment in UK women's sport by a brand" with the partnership, worth in excess of £10m.

With previous WSL winners having not been awarded any official prize money, the new deal, starting from next season, will see the competition rebranded the Barclays FA Women's Super League with a prize-money pot of £500,000.

Former Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith said: "This is massive news for the game in England.

The women’s game is in a healthy place now and you can see the interest growing year-by-year.”

Kelly Simmons, the English FA's director of the women's professional game, added: "It's a real landmark moment in the development of the women's game.

This investment will add the fact that schools can make sure lots of girls will get the chance to play football, which is our pipeline for the future."

"If England can do well at the World Cup and get to the final, or even win it,” Smith said, “then the game will be taken to a new level. It's a healthy place to be."

Barclays' sponsorship deal will see them become the lead partner of the FA Girls' Football School Partnerships, a nationwide scheme to help develop girls' access to football at school.

The partnerships aim to double participation and fan base in the game through the FA's Gameplan for Growth strategy, a four-year plan launched in 2017.





An out-dated block of bedsits in West Bromwich has been transformed into new flats after a million pound refurbishment by Sandwell Council.

Sandfield House in Walsall Road has undergone a massive face-lift – inside and out – which has seen the original 24 bedsits remodeled into 13 one and two-bedroom flats.

Works has seen the internal layout remodeled to create one and two bedroom flats to replace the bedsits.

Each flat now boasts a new kitchen, bathroom and heating system and has been rewired.

Corridors and staircase areas have been modernised and redecorated with new communal lighting inside and outside the block.

Old tiling on external walls has been replaced with insulated render along with new double-glazed windows making homes more energy efficient.

Security to the block has been increased with a new frontage and door-entry system together with external lighting.

A new car park is also under way which will see each flat have its own parking space.

Councillor Kerrie Carmichael, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “In recent years as tenants moved out, the accommodation became unpopular, with the bedsits becoming difficult to let and the block remaining empty.

“We looked at a number of options for the building and, given the increasing demand for housing, decided to invested in refurbishing the two-storey block.”

Remodelling work started in July 2018 and has been carried out by Vinci Facilities for the council.


Responding to the workforce report by the King’s Fund, Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said:

“This well-considered report is clear that there will need to be minimum of £900 million more invested every year for the next five years in order to boost numbers of staff we train, employ and develop to support the delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan.

“The report reinforces the argument from employers that some level of incentive is required to fill the extra nurse training we need in particular, as well as the importance of a more thoughtful government approach to international recruitment after we leave the European Union.

“Employers accept that there is more they must do to improve our workplaces but they also need tangible national support and extra investment.”

Many other actions employers have been calling for include:

  • Changes to the way the apprenticeship levy operates to realise the opportunity this route provides for nurse training
  • The importance of re-investing in workforce development funding to help keep pace with emerging technology and enable the necessary service transformation to take place
  • Ensuring the NHS pay system supports recruitment and retention
  • Pension reform and to ensure we have a functioning immigration system which enables the necessary international recruitment in the NHS and social care.

Some 69 per cent of landlords surveyed by Spareroom state they insist on a ‘no-pet’ policy.  Yet, 21 per cent of pet owners asked admit they breach the terms of their tenancy agreement by keeping animals in their homes without their landlords’ knowledge.

For the first time, efforts to encourage landlords to reconsider their stance on pets in their properties by the UK’s first pet think tank are anticipated to result in a default right for renters to keep pets.

Key reasons landlords are against allowing pets in their properties include smell (57 per cent) and potential damage to the property (55 per cent), while 37 per cent hold concerns that tenants will not properly train their pets. Despite landlords’ reservations, 88 per cent of residents state they have never met complaints about keeping domestic animals, nor have their pets caused any damage to houses they rent.

London’s best-known animal shelter, Battersea Dogs Home, has launched a campaign for a more consistent approach by the Capital’s social housing providers when it comes to pets, stating that 10 per cent of animals it takes in are due to landlords refusing to accommodate them.

While landlords and renters have opposing views, common ground needs to be found, as the ‘No Pets Rule’ is a key element to bear in mind when looking for new accommodation.

Sian Astley, builder, DIYer and property expert for the Homebuilding & Renovating Show, who has been a hands-on landlord of 17 rental properties for 15 years (and is a cat owner and lover!), shares her solutions below.    

Introducing a pet policy within the rental agreement

A solution to encourage more landlords to accept pet-owners may lie in finding a balance between conflicting needs. Including a clause for pets within a tenancy agreement approved by housing regulatory bodies such as the NLA, MyDeposits or Spareroom, may help to inform tenants of their rights and responsibilities for any issues or damage to the property resulting from insufficient training or inadequate supervision of their pets. Where clear evidence exists of pet-inflicted damage or difficulties, this would quash attempts to evade their responsibilities by the tenants.           

Responsible pet ownership                                                             

Responsibility from tenants in rented housing for the upkeep of their pets poses another solution. Tenants should use their own judgment about whether an animal is suitable for a rental home and should be prepared to rectify issues with their pets on their own initiative. Maintaining awareness of the condition of their animals to other residents may also help to ensure a pet-friendly environment.

Insuring against pet damage

Keeping insurance for both residents and homeowners can also offer an answer. Requiring potential tenants to purchase pet insurance before they inhabit a property warrants that landlords can effectively narrow down responsible pet owners and increases the likelihood of tenants taking greater care of a rental home. However, landlords incurring extra costs in the future as a result of today’s damage is unfair. Additionally, charging increased rent to pet-owning residents who are covered by insurance may be considered unreasonable and extortionate.

Zero-tolerance for unruly pets

Despite Labour’s recent proposals to give tenants in rented properties a ‘default right’ to owning pets, an agreement between landlords and tenants can be enforced which places restrictions on badly behaved pets. By including a clause within the tenancy agreement governing that where a domestic animal is disruptive to other residents, for example odours, excessive noise or aggression, the landlord can be authorised to prohibit the pet from occupying the premises.

To answer more questions on this topic, Sian Astley will be present at the National Homebuilding & Renovating Show, NEC Birmingham, from 28-31 March 2019. 


Nationwide has made a bold commitment to protect branches as it urges businesses to rediscover their role in the community at a difficult time for the nation.

Failing to embrace changing consumer needs and not actively encouraging communities to thrive could spell the end for many local shopping centres due to disenfranchised local shoppers, Britain’s largest building society warns.

Nationwide, which has around 650 branches, has today committed to not leave any town or city in which it is currently based without a branch for at least two years.

Nationwide hopes that the assurance, which lasts until at least May 2021, will give consumers confidence that their local shopping centres will not be left branchless. It has been made as far ahead in the future as is possible given Nationwide’s scale and the fact it is not immune to major shifts in consumer behaviour.

The move, which comes in the wake of significant bank branch closures, forms part of Nationwide’s staunch support of communities, which includes allocating £22 million of funding over five years to help local housing issues, pledging to serve small businesses by entering the business banking market and an ambitious £50 million project to build more than 230 new homes in Swindon, with any profit to be reinvested back into communities.

A bank or building society branch often acts as a bellwether for the health of a high street and can be a catalyst for growth or decline. They are not only places to access cash and make transactions but also provide somewhere for people to talk to someone face-to-face regarding their finances or concerns. Nationwide data shows a clear correlation between the health of a high street and the local contribution of a branch due to increased footfall and transactions.

An estimated 10,000 shops are expected to close over the course of 2019, according to the Centre of Retail Research1. But while much of the focus on declining footfall has been on the shift to online retail, Nationwide believes more needs to be done to serve and empower communities.

Joe Garner, Chief Executive of Nationwide Building Society, said: “Healthy high streets are vital in keeping local communities alive. They are a major part of our history and identity – a space where we come together. But in many cases they have become almost uniquely transactional, despite consumer behaviour highlighting that people increasingly want to relax and enjoy themselves when out shopping. We need to rediscover the sense of belonging that has served communities for centuries and as businesses we need to open our doors to people and not just customers. It’s not good enough that we succumb to the perceived inevitable and watch our local shopping centres fade away. We owe it to our communities to make ourselves relevant again.”

The Society is committed to spending £350 million over five years - £80 million this year alone - to ensure its branches remain relevant to the needs of people – from introducing high-definition video and iPads to creating areas where members can chat, read a newspaper or have a coffee. Creating a sense of community in the branch has been key to the new design. Branch usage remains stable, while there has been significant growth in some areas, with in-branch current account openings increasing by more than a third (38%) in the last five years.

Nationwide will still close branches where it makes sense to do so, for example where two outlets are near each other and could better serve members if they were combined and received additional investment.

The Society will continue to look into the health of the high street this year and will be working with like-minded organisations to create positive change and explore what can be done to help communities thrive.

Garner added: “As a mutual we exist to serve the needs of our members and we are driven by that purpose.  Our members tell us they want digital convenience and a human touch.  That’s why we are both investing in technology and making this promise to maintain our branches. Even with the latest technology, members appreciate being able to visit a building and meet with real people who can help them with their financial affairs or even just listen.”


As Wales, Ireland, England, Italy Scotland and France bring this year’s competition to another exciting climax, the Guinness Six Nations is considering an offer from private equity firm CVC to sell a stake in rugby's oldest championship; with the Six Nations unions having been in talks for the past 18 months over pooling their commercial interests, a strategy dubbed 'Project Light'.

It is believed it could provide a windfall of more than £100m to each union but would mean partly surrendering control of the competition. Coming as the power-brokers of the world game meet in Dublin over the proposed Nations Championship,

If the Six Nations decide to sell to private equity, it would almost certainly kill the chances of the revolutionary Nations Championship getting off the ground. World Rugby will present its vision for the future of the sport following their meeting as the power-brokers of the world game meet in Dublin.

The interest from CVC - one of a handful of possible options - means the Six Nations face a dilemma between selling to private money, or embracing the World Rugby-sanctioned Nations Championship.

It is understood CVC's offer is for an approximate 30% share in the Six Nations. Sources at the unions have not denied an offer is on the table but insist a deal is not imminent.



Mortgage free retired homeowners saw their homes increase by nearly £1,000 a month over the past six months despite housing market uncertainty, analysis from UK’s leading independent equity release adviser Key shows. Total property wealth owned by over-65s who are mortgage free is at a new record high of £1.118 trillion with the average homeowners seeing the value of their homes grow by £28 billion.

Across Great Britain, average gains for the over 65s in property wealth are worth £5,998 each with all areas of the country benefiting in the past six months.  Homeowners in Yorkshire and Humberside (+£8,607) have seen the biggest increases followed by those in Wales (+£7,875) and the North West (+£7,546) have also done better than average (+£5,889).

Retired, mortgage free homeowners in London (+£1,655) have the least to celebrate and have only just matched over six months the same amount over-65s in Yorkshire & Humberside have achieved in a month (+£1,435).  Key’s index demonstrates the long-term investment success of home ownership and the value of housing wealth for retirement planning.

Those in Yorkshire and Humberside have seen the biggest increases (+£8,607), followed by homeowners in Wales (+£7,875) and the North West (+£7,546).

Retired, mortgage-free homeowners in London have seen property values rise by an average of just £1,655 in six months.

Over-65s in the North West are most likely to own outright with 671,000 having paid off mortgages compared with 656,000 in the South East.

However nearly a fifth of all property wealth held by retired homeowners is in the South East.

Will Hale, CEO at Key said: “The numbers are fascinating but the basic fact is that no matter what happens year to year to house prices many over-65s will have considerable property wealth which can transform their standard of living in retirement and help family members.

“Increasingly equity release customers are able to make substantial gifts to family members including their adult children or even grandchildren with money being used to clear debts, fund university fees and pay for house deposits and weddings. Customers can also use the money to ‘age-proof’ their own homes and preserve wealth for the family.

“While equity release is not right for everyone, it is clear that if your home is your largest asset in retirement, you should take some time to think through when and if you might need to access this wealth. Speaking to a specialist adviser is key to making smart choices.”