Colors: Purple Color

Pollution-busting plans for Coventry to become the UK’s first All Electric Bus City have been backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) leaders today.

Under the ground-breaking project, every bus in the city of Coventry will be electric powered by 2025, leading to improved air quality, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower running costs. Approval from the WMCA Board means that £50 million Department for Transport (DfT) funding will now be handed to the region to deliver the project.

Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the WMCA, will work with bus operators to replace buses and install charging infrastructure on the streets of Coventry. This includes pantograph, or overhead, charging points which will be available to all bus operators. Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who chairs the WMCA, said: “It took a lot of lobbying and persuading, but I am delighted we won the Government’s national competition to turn Coventry’s bus fleet all electric.

“It was great to welcome the Prime Minister to Coventry this week to talk about our all-electric plans, and crucially today’s confirmation by the WMCA board now unlocks his Government’s £50 million investment, meaning we can get on with rolling out the clean, green, electric buses onto the city’s roads. Not only will the clean bus fleet improve the public transport offering in Coventry, but it is also another step towards tackling the climate emergency and helping to attract people to leave their cars at home in favour of taking the bus.

“This is a great time for bus users in Coventry, with our newly refurbished Pool Meadow bus station, the trial of West Midlands On Demand buses serving the University of Warwick campus, as well our wider investment in fare-capping and better value fares, bus priority measures, real-time travel information and on board facilities like wi-fi and USB charging. It is a bus revolution here in the West Midlands, and Coventry is right at the heart of it.”

Transport Minister, Baroness Vere, said:  “Our £50m investment will see Coventry’s entire fleet of buses replaced with new, all-electric vehicles. This will have a profoundly positive effect on air quality and emissions in the area and reduce noise pollution. This Government is committed to decarbonising the transport network across the UK, as we build back greener and strive to achieve net zero by 2050.”

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs and regeneration at Coventry City Council, said: “We have finally got this over the line after we were able to convince the government that this city is the ideal location and this will make a major dent in addressing air pollution.

“We already have a range of schemes to improve air quality and this will help exceed our targets. We have great working relations with bus companies in the city and these are exciting times for all of us. The hard work starts now.” TfWM will lead the project in partnership with Coventry City Council, Warwickshire County Council and local bus operators – who are together paying 25% of the added costs of electric vehicles over diesel and charging infrastructure.

This is a major project for bus operators across Coventry, and attracts significant investment from them to replace every bus in their fleet within five years. Operators, including National Express Coventry, which launched 10 electric buses in service last summer, and Stagecoach, will also ensure the new buses offer customers the best in on-board comfort and technology, as well as being good for the environment. 

The clean air benefits will be felt beyond the city boundary, as many services which start or finish in Coventry serve Warwickshire, Solihull, Birmingham, Rugby and Leicester. This will support the #WM2041 target for the region to be net-zero carbon within two decades

Coventry was selected to be the UK’s first All Electric Bus City following a successful bid to the DfT. Applicants were required to demonstrate support from stakeholders in their local areas, outline existing plans to reduce greenhouse gases and improve air quality, and show how the plan would tackle an existing air quality problem.

This year TfWM is already on target to for buses to be Euro-VI compliant low emission vehicles – but this plan sets the region well on the road towards a zero-emission bus fleet.

Following months of planning and a period of interviews, The Black Pounds Project is thrilled to announce the names of the first Black owned SME businesses in the West Midlands to benefit from the organisation’s free mentorship programme. The Black Pounds Project (BPP), founded by Birmingham playwright CJ Webley in 2020, aims to help Black businesses who have been severely hit and at risk because of COVID-19, continue to contribute to the regional economy.

Sue Bedward founder of Midlands Business Leadership Academy and member of the interview panel said: “In the current climate we are delighted to welcome onboard our first cohort of eight-businesses, who will receive mentoring, coaching, workshops, business support and advice services through the BPP. The high calibre and the diverse range of products and services they offer is exceptional and we look forward to helping them take their businesses to the next level in building capability, capacity and a stronger local economy for the West Midlands, #blackbusinessmatters.” Those announced were amongst thirty businesses to make it to the shortlist.

The West Midlands-based businesses confirmed are: Fiona Morrison, Fegus Designs offering a range of eye catching and vibrant merchandise and art for children, with a strong emphasis on diverse characters; Craig Markham, Bubble Bar a full service bar with a full range of local beers, ciders, wines, guest cocktails, gins and soft drinks served from a vintage caravan; Christianne Lee, Broke and Beautiful UK creating a brand for girls  who want a luxury handbag on a budget and on-trend for each season; Dave Daniels, Ms Tita Coffee a distinct, luxury and hearty coffee brand, born in the Jamaica Blue Mountain region; Ebony Hemmings, Breathe in Media helping businesses to maximise their digital platforms and engage with their audience through social media, video and content marketing; Kenya Mcfarlane, Natju  providing a range of freshly made natural juices, teas and a popular detox programme to suit all budgets; Ayisha Hamilton-Amos, Yeesh LTD a skincare and haircare beauty brand that specialises in naturally sourced products allowing men and women to take back control of what they allow on their skin and crown and Cleo Wright, Cleo’s Kitchen providing tasty healthy, vegan desserts and treats.

Founder CJ Webley said: “This Mentorship scheme will offer access to a pool of professional advisors who are dedicating their services for free to help kick start the businesses for when we come out of lockdown.  Topics covered will include professional development coaching and training in becoming legally and regulatory compliant across all areas and, where necessary, funding to help with digital and branding strategies, marketing materials, set up costs, graphic design and finance management.”


The BPP will support each business over a twelve-month period and, as the project develops, the team will compile a directory of high quality, professional Black owned businesses that everyone can benefit from.

The Black Pounds Project launched its fundraising page in June 2020. For the project to support as many Black businesses as possible during this time, further funding is desperately needed.

The government is to cut grants aimed at encouraging people to buy electric vehicles in a move that has been criticised by the motor industry.

The Department for Transport will reduce the grant from £3,000 to £2,500 and restrict it to cars under £35,000. But Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said it is "the wrong move at the wrong time".

It said the decision goes against the government's zero emissions ambitions. SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said: "This sends the wrong message to the consumer, especially private customers, and to an industry challenged to meet the government's ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero emission mobility."

The government said that higher-priced vehicles are typically bought by drivers who can afford to switch to electric vehicles without a subsidy. It said the changes will allow funding for the grant to go further.

Transport minister Rachel Maclean said: "We want as many people as possible to be able to make the switch to electric vehicles."

"The increasing choice of new vehicles, growing demand from customers, and rapidly rising number of charge-points means that while the level of funding remains as high as ever, given soaring demand, we are re-focusing our vehicle grants on the more affordable zero emission vehicles."

The government will also alter how it calculates the plug-in van grant, and change the eligibility for grant to vehicles that are able to travel for 60 miles without any emissions. The plug-in car grant was introduced a decade ago, and was designed to reduce the price of electric cars, which generally cost more to make than petrol or diesel equivalents, to encourage more people to buy them.

A Wolverhampton-born community interest company that is committed to eradicating homelessness for women has set out ambitious plans to offer over 2000 beds by the end of 2021. Lotus Sanctuary has moved from a start-up non-profit organisation in 2018 into one of the sector’s fastest instigators of change, offering up to 550-bed spaces for vulnerable women, who are dealing with complex issues or fleeing domestic violence.

The social enterprise has been able to leverage over £30m of private sector investment to lease a mixture of one, two and three-bed properties across the East and West Midlands, the North West, the North East, the South West and Yorkshire and Humber. Driven by a desire to give individuals more than bricks and mortar, the critical service has seen referrals for its wrap-around support surge during lockdown and now has plans in place to quadruple the number of people it can help over the next twelve months.

“There are over 300,000 people currently homeless or living in temporary accommodation, from the rough sleepers who have become a familiar sight in our cities to the hidden homeless, sofa surfers or those living in shelter,” explained Gurpaal Singh Judge, Chief Executive Officer of Lotus Sanctuary. “Combating houselessness is an issue in itself with a shortage of housing in the UK. However, homelessness is something we are only starting to realise is a deeper issue, an issue that sits deep within the hearts and minds of our residents. More than an issue of bricks and mortar, it’s an issue of trust and trauma. A house isn’t always a home.”

He continued: “A woman who has sought drugs as a way to escape the past or ongoing violence, only to find herself in a male dominated hostel or sleeping on the streets needs more than a house or a flat to solve her problems. As a sector we need to realise that it’s homelessness we need to solve by working with our residents to create that same sense of belonging that we all feel at home. That can only be done by a multi-pronged approach - a holistic, person-centred programme, tailored to fit the needs and requirements of the individual.”

Lotus Sanctuary typically provides properties for two years and, during that time, will work with the resident to understand their issues before creating a bespoke pathway to independence, including mental health and specialist support, access to training and a host of volunteering/employment opportunities. Over the last year, the CIC has grown from 24 units in the West Midlands to over 550 bed spaces in seven out of the nine English regions.

This is just the start, with strategic expansion plans targeting 2000 beds by 2022, with the biggest growth being in the Midlands and Greater London. Whilst the focus will still strongly be on supporting vulnerable women, the decision has been taken to create units for mothers with children and separate dedicated properties for men.

Lotus Sanctuary Business Development Manager, Stephanie Knight, added: “Volunteering is another fully fledged provision we are adding, giving volunteers the chance to get involved in supporting our residents. This carries a two-fold benefit of bolstering the amount of support we offer individuals and creating a pathway into employment for the volunteer…a win-win we like to think. Our mission is to eradicate homelessness and to do that we need to be bold and brave.

This means we are exploring financing options to start the purchase of freehold properties for Lotus Sanctuary itself (instead of us leasing) and are hoping to open coffee shops and second-hand furniture stores that can be staffed by our residents. Covid-19 and lockdowns are naturally presenting challenges for our plans, but we are determined as ever to take the Lotus ‘approach’ to as many people as we can.”

Leading investment professionals Rob Freer and David Newton have today announced the launch of NewHall Capital, an independent, owner managed private equity firm, with the aim of providing equity funding for companies in the Midlands to grow, create jobs and build value in their businesses.

Managing Director Rob Freer has over thirty years corporate finance and private equity experience, having previously held senior positions at NorthEdge Capital, Royal Bank Private Equity, Lloyds Banking Group, EY and Deloitte. He most recently set up and managed the Midlands office of NorthEdge Capital where he was responsible for originating and executing a number of successful investments. He was shortlisted twice for the Insider Dealmaker of the Year and secured the International Deal of the Year award in 2019. 

Rob is joined by David Newton who has previously worked as a corporate financier for EY, investment banks Williams de Broe, Seymour Pierce, XCAP Securities (where he was Head of Corporate Finance) and the Midlands based corporate finance boutique, Cattaneo. David has been the CEO of an AIM listed business and the FD of a number of SME companies.

NewHall Capital seeks to address the significant regional imbalances in the supply of SME equity finance that has historically favoured London and the North of England. They are looking to partner with local management teams committed to growing and developing their business.

NewHall Capital is now actively seeking investment opportunities with an enterprise value of up to £10 million and is predominantly focused on funding scenarios including Management Buyouts, Equity Release, Shareholder Recapitalisations and Development Capital transactions.

Unlike conventional private equity companies, NewHall Capital offers a highly flexible and tailored investment structure with no fixed term fund life. Most importantly, the team invest their own money into the deals they execute and manage, generating a strong alignment of interest with the management teams they are supporting.

The firm’s generalist sector approach and bespoke funding solutions, combined with the deep private equity, corporate finance and growth capital experience of its team, will ensure investee companies receive the right support they need to build value in their businesses.

Rob Freer, Managing Director of NewHall Capital stated: The SME sector in the Midlands has been underserved for too long. Despite the uncertainty caused by the government’s ongoing coronavirus lockdown, local businesses are keen for investment to grow their businesses, delivering on their existing plans or accelerating new opportunities. Therefore, I am delighted to say that we are firmly open for business and looking to secure as many quality opportunities as possible. We have been delighted to the response to our launch and are already reviewing a number of exciting opportunities.

Director at NewHall Capital, David Newton, added: “Everyone at NewHall Capital is passionate about supporting business in the Midlands and its neighbouring areas. We strongly believe that when it comes to investment, regional businesses want to work with a local partner they can build strong relationships with. Our supportive, straight forward approach, professional experience, and shared alignment provides the confidence that businesses need to invest and fulfil their financial, operational and strategic objectives.

“We look forward to working with like-minded passionate companies as we build value together.”

Probation services must show greater consideration and confidence in their work with Black, Asian and minority ethnic service users and staff, according to a new report. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation found the probation service’s focus on racial equality has declined since Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were introduced in 2014.

Inspectors also found the service has no specific strategy for delivering activity to ethnic minority service users. More than 222,000 people are supervised by probation services across England and Wales. Around a fifth of people on probation are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “This has been a challenging year for probation staff and I pay tribute to the way they have pulled together to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the service faces other major challenges too – not least, ensuring that every service user, whatever their background, gets proper support and supervision.

“In this inspection, we found very little evidence of probation officers speaking to service users about their race, ethnicity or experiences of discrimination. Some officers – by their own admission – avoided talking about these issues altogether.

“Data about race, ethnicity and religion was missing in almost one in 10 inspected cases. Sometimes staff met with individuals who had experienced discrimination or trauma, but no issues were recorded on their file.

“These are disappointing findings. We have concerns about every stage of probation supervision from the quality of pre-sentencing reports – we found 40 per cent were insufficient in considering diversity factors – to the way that ethnic minority service users were involved in their assessment and sentence plans.

“Probation officers need to find out as much as possible about individuals to support their rehabilitation. How can you help someone if you don’t know what their life is like?”

Some individuals cited that it was difficult to engage with probation because of previous negative experiences with the police, prison staff or with white people in other positions of authority. Some service users reported their probation officers were kind and well-meaning but did not understand their heritage, culture or religion.

Links with local community organisations are poor and culturally-appropriate services are rarely commissioned. There are also few programmes to address racially-motivated offending.

The report also explored the experiences of ethnic minority probation staff. Key findings include:

·         inspectors heard distressing stories of inappropriate behaviour towards ethnic minority staff including instances of stereotyping, racist and sexualised language, and false allegations

·         ethnic minority staff were not always consulted or supported to work with individuals who had committed race-related offences

·         many surveyed staff did not feel it was safe to raise issues of racial discrimination at work and lacked faith that complaints would be handled appropriately. Inspectors heard serious complaints had been repeatedly downplayed, ignored or dismissed

·         of the 30 staff from our survey who had raised an issue of racial discrimination, only two felt the process and outcomes had been handled fairly

·         some ethnic minority staff felt recruitment and promotion practices were not open and fair.

The Inspectorate’s report includes 15 recommendations for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the National Probation Service (NPS).

Mr Russell said: “In a little over 100 days, probation services will be unified in England and Wales. This is an important opportunity to reset and raise the standard of work with ethnic minority service users and staff.

“At a national level, we want to see a strategy that sets out how the unified service will work with ethnic minority service users. Data should be gathered and published to identify and address trends, for example if particular ethnic groups are breached or recalled to prison at a disproportionate rate.

“Training gaps across all grades need to be addressed. Training senior leaders and managers will lead to improved understanding and behaviour change. Training probation officers will ensure they understand the impact of racism and discrimination on service users’ lives and on their own practice.

“There is also an urgent job to do to rebuild trust with ethnic minority staff. It was painful to hear stories of discrimination and this was made worse by the fact that staff did not feel heard or believed and were considered ‘trouble-makers’.

“There is a critical need to review the complaints and grievance process and train managers to deal with discrimination confidentially and sensitively.”

In an unusual move, Mr Russell announced his intention to reinspect this work again in two years. He concluded: “HMPPS and the probation service are now paying attention to this issue but need to keep up the momentum. This work needs to be taken forward at pace, and real and rapid progress to further race equality in probation.”

Sandwell Council has been recognised at the Children and Young People (CYP) Now Awards for their outstanding work with children in care. The Sandwell Virtual School and Connexions services teams saw off competition from seven finalists to win the Children in Care CYP Now Awards 2020.

They work together to help children in care into education, employment or training when they finish school. Children and young people are supported throughout secondary school and given careers advice to help them choose the path that’s right for them. The programme - Sandwell Careers Guarantee - has resulted in nearly all young people being in either education, employment or training at the age of 16.

Figures for those not in education, employment or training have come down from 24% in 2017 to 6% in 2021. The outcomes for Sandwell’s children in care have been rapidly improving. Sandwell Virtual School helps children in care get the very best education possible.

Councillor Joyce Underhill, cabinet member for best start in life, said: “We are thrilled to gain national recognition for the amazing work we are doing to rapidly improve outcomes for children in care.

"Sadly, children in care are often less likely to do well at school and we are very pleased that here in Sandwell we are bucking that trend. There are 559 children in care who are currently in education and latest data has shown they are all doing better from nursery right through to GCSE and A level results.”

Cllr Maria Crompton, deputy leader of Sandwell Council, added: "Getting recognition at such a high level is a wonderful achievement and our teams and young people have done an amazing job to improve so much since 2017. We want to continue to support children and young people in care in every way we can, by raising aspirations to help them achieve their full potential and thrive.

"We will continue to work hard with giving extra support to children, our wonderful foster carers and schools to make sure these vulnerable children are able to achieve their potential and thrive."

Plans to build five new council homes on two sites in West Bromwich have been given the green light with the awarding of a building contract by Sandwell Council. The £1.09 million scheme will see the much-needed homes built on two council-owned sites by J Harper & Sons Ltd.

Two four-bedroom houses and a bungalow adapted for wheelchair use will be built in Bull Lane, with another two two-bedroom bungalows being built at Albion Road. The Albion Road development replaces a block of three one-bedroom bungalows – which previously had to be demolished due to subsidence issues – and will be repositioned to avoid the poor ground conditions. The scheme is part of the authority’s three year plan to invest £70 million in building 650 new council homes across the borough.

Councillor Keith Allcock, Sandwell’s cabinet member for homes, said: “It’s good news that we have awarded this contract and we can get on with building these new council homes which will add to the council’s stock of affordable housing. There is a continuing demand for affordable homes, especially family houses and bungalows in Sandwell.

“The development will also provide job and training opportunities and result in improvements to the local area.”

Cllr Maria Crompton, Sandwell’s deputy council leader, added: “We’ve invested around £70 million in the past three years as part of our ongoing programme to build hundreds of new council homes and invest in affordable housing for local people.

“In the past 12 months, despite the pandemic, we’ve continued to work closely with our contractors – following strict Covid-19 guidelines – building 110 new council homes, with another 106 on site and due to be completed in the next six months and a further 97 in the pipeline.”

Work is expected to start on the West Bromwich sites in May this year, with the homes set to be completed by the end of the year.

Leaseholders could miss out on billions of pounds of funding to remove unsafe non-ACM cladding, as new figures reveal less than a quarter (22%) of applications to the Building Safety Fund (BSF) are currently proceeding to funding.

According to analysis by cladding remediation specialists Cladding Consulting, of the latest figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communiities and Local Government (MHCLG)1 just 624 out of a total of 2,820 registrations to the BSF, have been assessed as eligible to proceed with an application for funding. And with the deadline to submit eligible applications for funding the end of June 2021 - which is just over three months away - thousands of leaseholders are in danger of missing out on funding, and could be forced to pay for the cladding remediation works themselves.

Even more worrying, the updated MHCLG figures also reveal that 891 registrations to the Building Safety Fund haven’t even progressed beyond the ‘registration of interest’ stage. 

Applicants had to register interest to the BSF by 31st July 2020, which means more than seven months on, almost a third (32%) of registrations, basic information hasn’t been submitted to the BSF team to assess whether they are eligible for funding.

MHCLG figures also show that of the remaining BSF registrations, 354 were ineligible for funding, 349 have been withdrawn, 238 - information has been provided and eligibility is being checked, 364 - some but not all evidence has been provided to allow verifications. The £4.5bn Building Safety Fund (BSF) has been set up by the Government to pay for the removal of non-ACM cladding from high-rise buildings 18m or above.

Cladding Consulting are the UK’s first specialist cladding remediation service, helping and supporting leaseholders, landlords, Right to Manage (RTM) companies and property managers applying for both ACM and non-ACM cladding funds.

Steven Truman, managing director of Cladding Consulting, comments:  “It’s worrying that with just over three months to go before the deadline for completed BSF applications passes, less than a quarter of registrations are currently proceeding, while a third of applications haven’t even submitted information to assess eligibility for funding.

“Thousands of leaseholders could miss out on billions of pounds of life-changing funding to remove unsafe cladding from their buildings, and will be forced to dig into their own pockets to pay for the remediation work. The Government needs to address this problem urgently. The entire BSF application process is proving too complicated and time-consuming for leaseholders, and it’s hard to see how many applications will meet the deadline if more support is not provided.”

According to new research from leading digital marketing agency, AccuraCast, both men and women are still missing out on pension knowledge and pension savings. The survey asked 1,000 respondents how they felt about their pension pot and the results found that many people were still not paying into a pension and more worryingly did not understand their pension. 

The survey shows the gender pension gap still exists, with overall less women paying into a pension than men (8.5 percent of women surveyed said they did not currently pay into a pension fund compared to 5 per cent of men.) 

However, the survey found that twice the proportion of men aged from 35-44 years don’t currently pay into a pension compared to women the same age (20.5 per cent of men compared to 9.6 per cent of women). This could be an impact of COVID or the current economic climate. In consumers aged 45-54 years it was the opposite, with 8 per cent of men not paying into a pension, compared to 15 per cent of women.  

Almost one third (30 per cent) of women aged under 44 years and a quarter of men (25 per cent) in the same age category said they did not understand their pension. 

The gender pay gap is widely talked about, but we hear less about the gender pension gap. There are various figures online about the gender pension gap, but some reports suggest that women save on average £100,000 less in their pension pot compared to men – a staggering two-thirds less. This could be down to the lack of knowledge or understanding, along with difference in average pay and the fact women can miss out on pension contributions whilst taking time out to have a baby or look after their family. 

In people heading to retirement there was a disparity between men and women's understanding of their pension pots – 6 per cent of women aged over 56 said they were retired and understood their pension, as opposed to 10 per cent of men. 

Farhad Divecha, founder and managing director of AccuraCast said: “Our research has sadly shown that the gender pension gap is still very much real and there are gaps in knowledge between men and women’s understanding of their pension pots. Our research also follows the national trend about less women paying into their pension than men, but also showed some interesting findings about men paying into pensions. There is a real opportunity for brands to build on this and ensure products are clearly explained.” 

Justin Harris, managing director of Chase Belgrave, an independent financial advisory company, said: “When planning for your future, it is important that you have a clear understanding of your pension, what the terminology means and how much you need to be putting away to have a comfortable retirement.” 

Representatives from some of the construction industry’s biggest names have been added to the board of Constructing Excellence Midlands.

Kier Group, SCAPE and Tilbury Douglas Construction – formerly known as Interserve - are just some of the companies represented on industry body’s 25-strong board, which oversees its activities in promoting innovation and best practice for construction industry across the Midlands.

Matt Talbot from Tilbury Douglas Construction, Adrian Hill and Mike Salter of SCAPE and Chris Stevens of Kier Group have all been elected, alongside Ben Hole of Faithful+Gould, Peter Richardson of Mott MacDonald and Nikita Badesha from Rider Levett Bucknall. In addition, Hole, Richardson and Badesha have been elected as the Midlands region’s co-chairs for Constructing Excellence’s Generation 4 Change group, which is aimed at enhancing collaboration between young professionals and industry leaders, creating an open forum to share knowledge, experience and opinions.

The public and education sectors are also well represented in the group, with Simon Delahunty-Forrest and Dr Amrit Sagoo speaking for Birmingham City Council and Nottingham Trent University respectively. Sophie Chater from Totally Modular, and Chris Hall of Acivico Group complete the additions to the board.

Adrian Hill, acting deputy managing director at SCAPE, said: “SCAPE has been a proud member of Constructing Excellence for many years. The work and support that Constructing Excellence provides is essential, and in particular as the industry looks to recover following the events of last year.  I am delighted to take over Scape’s representation on the board and look forward to playing an active role.”

Preconstruction director at Tillbury Douglas, Matt Talbot, said: “I am delighted to join the Constructing Excellence Board and look forward to making an active contribution in sharing best practice and innovation across the industry.”

Andrew Carpenter, chief executive of Constructing Excellence Midlands, said: “We are delighted to add so many talented, insightful individuals to the board. We’re always keen to have as many different elements of our diverse industry involved as part of Constructing Excellence, so to have representation from the likes of top tier contractors such as Kier and Tillbury Douglas, right through to SMEs such as Totally Modular, as well as local authorities and academia, is really encouraging.”

Charities and good causes in the West Midlands are being urged to take advantage of AnyVan’s ‘Magic Van’ and give free moves to good deeds moving more donations or other items to where they are needed in the local community.

AnyVan, the UK’s leading online network of delivery vehicles, has pledged to provide the use of a free van for worthy causes who support the community in and around the West Midlands.  All organisations or individuals that want to nominate a good cause have to do is simply get in touch on Already running for the past decade across the UK, the AnyVan ‘Magic Van’ programme has assisted more than 19 local charities who strive to make a difference in the community. 

Angus Elphinstone, CEO, AnyVan, says: “Now more than ever, it is important that communities pull together in support of those less fortunate than us.   We have been running the AnyVan Magic Van scheme for over a decade and it has been brilliant seeing the positive impact it has had on many communities as charities have taken up the offer of free use of our Magic Van.

“We’ve seen everything from pianos to toys and food transported by the Magic Van over the years, but now that charities are struggling more than ever we want to accelerate the programme.” As a specialist in all aspects of transportation logistics for home removals, furniture and car deliveries to the home, as well as the manpower to make moving home effortless, AnyVan has the expertise to coordinate cost effective and efficient delivery services for a range of businesses and consumer clients.

Angus Elphinstone continues, “The consequences of the pandemic have made us refocus our attention on helping where we can and using the expertise we have in coordinating our national network to help those in need. I would urge charities and other community groups in the West Midlands to seriously consider our Magic Van offer and get in touch if we can be of help. With so many people struggling at this time we want to do more to help out where we can.”

Legendary laundry brand Dr. Beckmann changed its name and its iconic brand colour to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Dr. Beckmann, beloved by domestic gods and goddesses everywhere, rebranded to Dr. Beckwoman, for the second year running, to commemorate the day – with a limited-edition purple run of the UK’s number one washing machine cleaner, Service-it Deep Clean. The brand revealed that the winner of Dr. Beckwoman of the Year for 2021, and cleaning champion of the year, is the inspirational cleaning guru, loved by the nation, Mrs. Hinch.

Mrs. Hinch, aka Sophie Hinchliffe, retains the award for the second year running after being named as one of the Dr. Beckwomen of the Year in 2020. The bold change from Dr. Beckmann to Dr. Beckwoman acknowledged the special day and paid tribute to gender equality worldwide.

Susan Fermor, Dr Beckmann spokesperson, said: “We sent love and respect to the incredible women around the country on what was a special day by rebranding as Dr. Beckwoman in their honour.

“We’re delighted that our fans and customers have also named Mrs. Hinch as cleaning champion and Dr. Beckwoman of the Year for 2021. Her award is thoroughly deserved as she’s inspired so many women (and men) across the UK throughout lockdown to take joy in keeping our homes as clean and fresh as possible.

It’s the second year running that she’s been nominated – this time she wins the title on her own, after sharing it last year with Stacey Solomon and Vicky Pattison.” Dr. Beckmann has also partnered with Women’s Aid - a nationwide charity established to end domestic violence against women and children and agreed to make a donation, as part of its International Women’s Day campaign, to help the charity’s hugely important work.

On partnering on the campaign, Women’s Aid Fundraising Manager, Faye Connelly, said: “We’re delighted to partner with Dr. Beckmann on this year’s IWD campaign. The success of our work very much depends on funds generously donated by companies and individuals across the UK – so to get this donation from Dr. Beckmann is a real boost.

“International Women’s Day was the perfect platform to remind everyone that violence against women is still a huge issue – and has been especially so during lockdown. We’ve lots of work still to do.”

This year, International Women’s Day’s mantra was ‘#ChoosetoChallenge’It challenges everyone to call out gender bias and inequality.

The Black British Business Awards (BBBAwards) have launched the Enterprise Academy, a membership community providing support for UK Black entrepreneurs. The BBBAwards will launch the Enterprise Academy with a virtual event on 11th March 2021 to discuss how Brexit and Covid-19 are impacting Black owned businesses. Paul Scully MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will give a keynote speech and take audience questions at the event with Chair and Co-founder of the BBBAwards Melanie Eusebe moderating.

Ethnic minority entrepreneurs and businesses contribute at least £74 billion a year into the UK economy (Minority Businesses Matter, OPEN 2021). However, according to a report published by the British Business Bank (BBB) and Oliver Wyman, Black entrepreneurs report lower turnovers and profits than their white counterparts and ethnic minority entrepreneurs face ‘persistent disparities in business outcome’ due to a myriad of factors including different access to finance, lack of representation in senior ranks and discrimination. Despite the fact that ethnic minority businesses have provided major contributions to combatting the coronavirus crisis, research shows these individuals are two to three times more likely to die from Covid-19. As a result, minority ethnic businesses face disproportionally more pressure during the pandemic and in the economic fallout it brings with it.  

To help boost Black business and level the playing field in the UK, the BBBAwards have launched the Enterprise Academy which will provide Black entrepreneurs access to expert-led workshops, practical seminars and have negotiated discounts on essential resources and tools to build, scale-up and accelerate their businesses while being part of a formidable community for advocacy and change.

Melanie Eusebe, Chair and Co-founder of the Black British Business Awards said: “The impact of Brexit and the ongoing pandemic have exacerbated pre-existing socio-economic inequalities. Whilst furloughing has helped big business, many small business owners are struggling to stay afloat. The Enterprise Academy will equip Black entrepreneurs with the necessary tools to navigate the right business support, build connections within a community and maximise their scope and commercial impact. As we emerge from the crisis, we must ensure that SMEs are provided with support and investment to play their leading role in the UK’s economic recovery”.

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Black entrepreneurs will have a key role to play in our national effort to build back better from the pandemic, and in ensuring everyone is empowered to use every scrap of their drive, their initiative and their talent to forge the future we all want for ourselves and for each other. I’m excited to be involved in the launch of the Enterprise Academy which, alongside Government support including Start Up Loans and mentorship programmes, will help level the playing field and provide a real boost to Britain.”

Now that the UK has left the EU single market, small business-owners want to know what the implications are and how they can adapt to the new arrangements. This is especially important for ethnic minority SMEs who will play a crucial role in boosting exports in a post-Brexit environment. The Enterprise Academy event tomorrow (March 11) will focus on the consequences Brexit for Black-owned business, including the implications on importing and exporting goods with the European Union, what financial support is available, how to avoid trade delays and what the government is doing to support small businesses hit by the pandemic.

On March 31, the BBBAwards will co-host an online event with OPEN, a London-based think-tank, to discuss the findings from Minority Business Matters, a new groundbreaking report on the contribution and challenges ethnic minority businesses face in the UK. Melanie Eusebe, Kanya King CBE, Founder of the MOBO Awards and Peter Oakden, Founder of CaveFit were spotlighted in the report. The event will feature Martyn Fitzgerald, senior researcher for OPEN, Mayank Shah, founder of MSDUK, Philippe Legrain, founder of OPEN as well as established entrepreneurs featured in the report.

Additional upcoming events and initiatives include bespoke PR support for Black businesses, a masterclass course in marketing strategy, training on how you perfect your elevator pitch and interactive workshops on customer relationship management and the secrets behind raising business capital led by leading venture capitalists and finance experts.

The Enterprise Academy will also host workshops on how to raise capital for your business, creating a successful digital sales and marketing strategy and as well as media training and support on becoming the face of your company.

Rull service content marketing agency, HDY Agency, has strengthened and expanded its senior team after appointing its first Chief Operating Officer, Andy Herbert.

Bringing more than 15 years of executive management experience, Andy joins the fast growing content marketing agency to support its managing directors and co-founders with their vision of expanding the agency. HDY Agency was co-founded by Global broadcaster Ed James and accomplished marketeer Angel Gaskell in 2018.

The award-winning Birmingham-based agency, which boasts an international portfolio of clients, is set to celebrate its best financial year on record after securing £1 million worth of new business during the first UK lockdown. The agency now plans to expand with Andy Herbert joining the team to strengthen HDY’s proposition. Prior to his role at HDY, Andy held a number of high-profile executive roles including Operations Director at McCann and Head of Creative Services and Talent at Cogent.

Commenting on his appointment, Andy said: “Joining a rapidly growing agency like HDY that’s already making waves in the Midlands and beyond is a fantastic opportunity.

“I’m passionate about the success of agencies and know that agency structure and operations is the core of business performance. I’m looking forward to working with the team and supporting Angel and Ed as they look to attract and retain outstanding creative talent.”

Beauty industry veteran and HDY’s non-executive chairman, Geoff Percy said: “Appointing our first Chief Operating Officer is a big milestone moment for us as an agency. I’m delighted to welcome Andy to our dynamic and diverse team of creatives as we look to drive the business forward.

“In just two and a half years, we’ve grown from a small team of one full-time employee to 25 of some of the best creative minds in the country. We’re now focussed on our next phase of growth and strengthening our senior management team is the best way to futureproof our success.”

Specialising in developing creative campaigns, amplifying social moments, crafting killer strategies and making stand-out content, HDY spans a full spectrum of services and expertise including digital, social media and email marketing, design, brand development, PR, experiential, influencer marketing and search engine optimisation.


With plans set to start televised daily press conferences, Downing Street has spent more than £2.6m on fitting out a new media briefing room, it has emerged.

To be set out like those held at the White House in the US, the Cabinet Office declared the spending to be in the public interest and would be increase public accountability and transparency. The Cabinet Office issued a breakdown of spending on the briefing room, which totalled £2,607,767.67 as a response to a Freedom of Information request made by the Press Association news agency.

The Cabinet Office said that the money had been spent to allow various news organisations to broadcast from No 9 Downing Street. A spokesperson said: "This will necessarily require one-off capital works, including audio-visual equipment, internet infrastructure, electrical works and lighting. Spending on maintenance and technical facilities reflects that 9 Downing Street is a Grade I listed building." Labour said: It reflected Boris Johnson's warped priorities".

Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner contrasted the spending to the government's proposed 1% pay rise for NHS nurses.

It comes as further details emerged about plans to renovate Mr Johnson's Number 10 flat, including possibly asking the public to donate to it. "It would take around 100 years for a newly qualified nurse to get paid this kind of money,” she said. "It sums up Boris Johnson's warped priorities that he can find millions for vanity projects, while picking the pockets of NHS workers.

"Our NHS heroes deserve a fair pay rise after all they have done for us."

The new briefings were expected to begin in the autumn, but have been delayed because of the pandemic.