Colors: Purple Color

The latest research from lettings and estate agent, Benham and Reeves, has revealed the huge number of homebuyers that have already benefited from the current stamp duty saving and the money they’ve saved. Benham and Reeves analysed sold price records across England from the Land Registry between the launch of the stamp duty holiday on 8th July and August 31st (latest available data). The research shows that there have been some 20,238 transactions since the holiday was launched with a sold value of £6.7bn.  


As many as 85% of these transactions have fallen below the £500,000 price threshold and paid no stamp duty as a result.The resulting saving for homebuyers at all price thresholds of the market has been considerable. In regular market conditions, £189m would have been paid in stamp duty. With the holiday in place, this has fallen to £80.8m, a total of saving of £108,126,686 in just two months.


Based on the current average saving, the total saved come March could be an enormous £524.9m over the 267 day holiday.Southampton, Plymouth, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham have been amongst some of the major cities to see the biggest benefit for homebuyers. 98% of all transactions in these cities since the stamp duty holiday was implemented have been at £500,000 or below; with no stamp duty paid as a result. In fact, the other more affordable major cities have seen between 84% and 97% of transactions pay no stamp duty. Oxford and Cambridge have seen 59% and 52% of transactions pay no stamp duty.


London is home to the lowest number of stamp duty exempt transitions as a percentage of all transactions at 48%. However, the capital has seen homebuyers save the most by far.


Since the stamp duty holiday started, London homebuyers have saved nearly £25.2m alone.Wandsworth is the London borough with the biggest saving to date, with homeowners saving £1.7m in stamp duty. Bromley (£1.5m), Croydon (£1.2m), Barnet (£1.1m) and Richmond (£1m) have also seen the stamp duty saving exceed £1m. In terms of the most stamp duty-free property purchases, Barking and Dagenham ranks top with 100% of transactions falling within the holiday threshold. Newham (83%) and Bexley (75%) have also seen a considerable amount of transactions complete without stamp duty owed.


Director of Benham and Reeves, Marc von Grundherr, said: “Given the fact that the holiday has only been in place for a few short months, the money saved by homebuyers as a result is quite astounding.


“Of course, it has caused demand to go through the roof and so you could argue that in ‘regular’ market conditions the saving wouldn’t be quite as considerable.However, it has helped the housing market bounce back from pandemic uncertainty at an alarming rate, helping to avoid a property price crash, while benefiting thousands of homebuyers in the process.It will be interesting to see the final scores on the doors once the holiday ends but at this rate, the money saved is going to be huge. 


“You could argue that the tax should be abolished completely as it’s nothing more than an archaic money grab from the Government, to the detriment of those who are already stretching to afford the most expensive purchase in life. Based on these figures, you wouldn’t be the only one and it does highlight just how much is paid to the Government via stamp duty tax.” 

 A string of businesses and young professionals from across Solihull have been shortlisted in Solihull Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 annual awards.The shortlisted firms are vying to win one of eight sector awards at the online ceremony, taking place from 7pm on 15 October.


Headline sponsors for the awards include Solihull College and University Centre, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Gymshark.One of the sector award winners will also be named Solihull Chamber Business of the Year, sponsored by 1TcA.


Esteemed business leaders judged this year’s awards, including newly appointed Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber president Joel Blake, former Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce president, Katie Hale, founder of Prescient Business Consulting, David Thomson and employment law and HR solicitor, Neelam Afzal.


The judging panel was chaired by Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s chief financial officer Helen Bates.


She said: “We’ve had yet another bumper year of superb award applications from across Solihull.“Our judges had a tough time judging, as everyone was deserving of an accolade.


“However consistent winners shone through in every single category, including the overall Solihull Chamber Business of the Year.”


Those shortlisted include:


Large Business of the Year (Sponsored by Prescient Business Consulting)
Evac + Chair
MAN Commercial Protection
Sydney Mitchell


Small Business of the Year (Sponsored by Few Marquees)
Digital Innovators
Plum Personnel
Wadsworths Solicitors


Start-up Business of the Year (Sponsored by Gymshark)
Home Dine
HR Dept Solihull
Magma Legal Services
The Business System People
The Dietologist


Charity of the Year (Sponsored by Claridge Place)
Adoption Focus
Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid
St Basils


Contribution to the Community (Sponsored by TOA Taxis)
Eric Lyons
Phoebus Software
Solihull Hospital Charity


Business Person of the Year (Sponsored by Rational FX)
Brad and Spencer Parkes from Specsavers Solihull
Kim Hulse from K Hulse Consulting
Meric Bekin from Bistro Viola


Young Achiever of the Year (Sponsored by Evac + Chair)
Hannah Elsy from Hannah Elsy Productions
Michael Rutherford from ALM Translations


Apprentice of the Year (Sponsored by Performance Through People)
Fran Leonard from Arup
Alexandra Sheldon from Phoebus Software
Chloe Osborne from XOServe
Christopher Kennedy from Digital Innovators
Hannah Brown from XOServe


The business community is in a state of shock, confusion and despair following a week of government announcements that leave as many questions as answers, according to Frank McKenna, the boss of private sector lobby group Downtown in Business.


The business community is in a state of shock, confusion and despair following a week of government announcements that leave as many questions as answers, according to Frank McKenna, the boss of private sector lobby group Downtown in Business.


Welcoming some of the measures Rishi Sunak announced in his ‘winter economy plan’, Mr. McKenna says that the Prime Minister’s further restrictions this week leave businesses feeling like they have been hung out to dry.


“If the hospitality sector is responsible for a 4.6% increase in infection rates, why is it taking 90% of the pain in terms of the new restrictions that Boris Johnson has introduced? If it is pubs and clubs where individuals are most likely to come into close contact, why adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach and impose the same guidelines on restaurants and hotels? And having encouraged workers back into the office three short weeks ago, with companies investing millions in creating Covid-secure office space, why is he now telling us to work from home – hence sending our city and town centres into further crisis?


“Against this backdrop, it has obviously been difficult for the Chancellor to deliver a comprehensive business support package that can give us confidence that most jobs will be protected.


“Although his revised ‘furlough’ scheme will help some sectors, many will not be able to take advantage of the initiative because it does little to encourage retention or recruitment.


“A much simpler move would have been to cut employer National Insurance contributions for recruiting new staff or retaining them. We would have also liked the Chancellor to amend his Kickstart programme away from having to recruit at least 30 new starters, so that SMEs can take on just a few more young people.


“If you are an events business, you literally have no business, so this new wage subsidy is of little use. Many hospitality venues are now on the precipice and are telling me that they will either go to weekend opening only or close their doors completely.


“The failure to address the significant challenges experienced by the aviation industry – not least because of the Government’s ‘hokey-cokey’ approach to international travel – and the cultural, sports and arts sectors, is also hugely disappointing.


“I appreciate the Chancellor must feel like he is operating with one hand tied behind his back, given his boss’s flip-flopping, but the reality is the ‘winter economy plan’ is bleak and last orders will be called on many businesses and millions of people’s jobs.”


Mr. McKenna concluded: “It is not too late for the Government to change course. They need to review their latest guidelines, be more flexible with closing times in the hospitality sector and stop its ‘work from home’ mantra, which not only kills cities, but creates a divide between blue and white collar workers.”


With nearly 100 different events in the programme – all run by local businesses and organisations - the 2020 Black Country Business Festival is now just around the corner with an exciting fortnight of business events.

Many of the events are digital, making it easy for people to join more – and they are all free to attend, whether in-person, digital or hybrid (where there are limited delegates and the event is simultaneously live-streamed).Tickets must be booked in advance through the website and this can be done right up until the day before the event.


Events include everything from recruitment and up-skilling staff; dealing with long term illness, diversity and mental health in the workplace; green energy and carbon reduction; to funding for culture and arts projects; the future of manufacturing and many useful professional services, digital marketing, branding and PR events. The Festival was initiated by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce three years ago.


Chief executive, Corin Crane, said, “There are some fantastic events in such a diverse range of different subjects, in this year’s programme. I am overwhelmed by the response from our businesses - not only in terms of the sheer number of events, but also how so many are effortlessly embracing the digital way of working that we’re now becoming accustomed to.


“I am truly looking forward to the Festival - and our entire team here at the Chamber will be attending as many events as possible to support the brilliant Black Country businesses that are involved.”


Gecko Programmes, a Black Country training company that is one of the Business Festival supporters, is running three different events in the Festival. Managing Director, Patrick Cross said, “Being a solid Wolverhampton-based business, we are delighted to be supporting the Black Country Business Festival.


“This fantastic two weeks of business events provides us with multiple opportunities to show how we might be able to help Black Country SMEs and self-employed businesses deal with changes in their organisation, processes or systems or with their staff and personal development.”


Gecko’s events along with the rest of the programme are listed on the Business Festival website, along with more information.


The BCBF relies on sponsorship from organisations in the Black Country. As well as the Chamber and Dudley Business First, other 2020 Partners include: University of Wolverhampton, Talbots Law, the Black Country Growth Hub and LEP. Sponsors are: Wolverhampton Racecourse, Thomas Dudley, Casino36 and M6toll. The Festival is also supported by Gecko Programmes, Sandwell Council and Walsall Council with media partners, Elonex, Bauer Media, Greatest Hits Radio, Metro and app partner, Infonote. The Festival is managed by Associate Events.


The Black Country Business Festival kicks off on Monday October 5.


Ministers and senior officials have called on the international community to reform the financial system and the ways it offers support to small states in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Representatives of Commonwealth member countries met in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss the urgent need for improved access to financial resources and debt relief to secure small states’ economic resilience and maintain progress on their sustainable development goals (SDGs) and Nationally Determined Commitments (NDC) for tackling climate change. 


The virtual event, co-hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), saw small countries call for a concerted effort towards a reassessment of the criteria for debt relief, especially given the vulnerabilities of many states exposed by the pandemic.


The IMF estimates that due to the far reaching economic and social impacts of COVID-19 the real output of small states could fall by 3.1 per cent with GDP potentially declining by about 8.6 per cent, twice that expected in larger countries.


Debt to GDP ratios in some Caribbean states are already past 100 per cent while Commonwealth small states debt ratios are expected to rise from 57.4 per cent to 70.6 per cent, surpassing the IMF's 60 per cent benchmark. 


For many small states who rely on tourism, the outlook is dire. With an estimated contraction in tourism of about 20-30 per cent, revenues are at stake and close to 70 million jobs could be lost.


Coronavirus has further weakened small states’ ability to respond to natural disasters and climate change. On average, Caribbean countries suffer yearly losses due to storms equivalent to 17 per cent of their GDP. The IMF estimates disasters cost small states about two per cent of GDP, more than four times that of larger countries.


The pandemic has also exposed how some small states as countries without special access to concessional resources fall into a middle-income trap and struggle to make their case for international assistance.  These countries are not eligible for the G20’s debt service suspension initiative (DSSI) and do not qualify for other forms of relief including that provided through the World Bank International Development Association and OECD countries official development assistance.


Speaking at the meeting, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said:“Given the wide ranging impact of COVID-19 we need a new set of criteria for the financial support we offer to vulnerable small states and we must urgently reassess the methods we use to classify countries for official support.


“Many small states are facing an existential threat with the impact of the pandemic coming with huge economic ramifications alongside the ongoing and devastating effects of climate change. If we are to be able to meet the very real and urgent needs of these small states we must redefine economic vulnerability and as regional and multilateral institutions, we must agree on the appropriate definitions and measurement of economic vulnerability.


“This is not a crisis we can ignore or wish away and a failure to fully tackle these issues will put economies, livelihoods and communities at real risk. We must act and act now during these times of crisis.”


The Commonwealth Secretariat and AOSIS have called on the UN General Assembly to:


  • Encourage G20 and G7 members to widen access to Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) as well as to consider outright debt relief for highly vulnerable and indebted small states.  Additionally, to consider all forms of innovative financing – for example, debt for development swaps to improve small states access to affordable financing; to fight the effects of COVID-19; and to help them attain economic resilience.
  • Consider systematic debt restructuring options to improve solvency conditions for small states in the medium to long term. 
  • Motivate increased partnership between multilateral and regional institutions, particularly towards an agreement on the definition and measurement of economic vulnerability, and the consideration of the metric as a criterion in international concessional financial instruments. 
  • Recognise work on the development of multidimensional and dynamic vulnerability indices being done by the Caribbean Development Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat.

Yes, you read that correctly. The time wasted in a single year due to property transactions falling through equates to 14m days for the 225,000 UK home sellers impacted as a result.


This is according to homebuying platform, Yes Homebuyers, who also found that homesellers are out of pocket £607.5m a year due to property transactions falling through.

According to the Advisory, it takes an average of nine weeks or 63 days between the point of listing your home for sale and accepting an offer. Unfortunately in the 11 weeks it then takes for a sale to complete, there’s nothing stopping a sale from falling through due to a number of reasons such as mortgage issues, gazumping, issues with a survey or a chain breaking, to name but a few.  


At this stage, home sellers have already incurred a number of costs including legal and conveyancing fees, survey costs, legal search costs and more, with the average cost of a fall through costing £2,700 according to the Homeowners Alliance.


Latest figures show that while over a million transactions completed last year, 225,000 additional sales fall through before reaching the finish line. 


Based on the average cost of £2,700 per fall through for these 225,000 sales, it’s costing home sellers £607,500,000 a year.  


Not only this but with the 63 days between listing and accepting an offer equating to little more than wasted time, the 225,000 home sellers impacted are potentially losing a huge 14,175,000 days a year collectively, due to sales failing to complete. When you consider many fall throughs don’t happen immediately after accepting an offer, the time wasted is likely to be even greater. 


Matthew Cooper, Founder & Managing Director ofYes Homebuyers, commented:  “While we can arguably boast one of the most attractive property markets in the world, the lack of certainty that plagues the actual process of transacting is unacceptable, to say the least.


Mortgage issues, chains collapsing, gazumping, survey problems and conveyancing delays are all rife in the home selling process. Not only do fall throughs cost home sellers a considerable amount of money, but they also waste a huge amount of time each and every year. Not to mention the additional stress they bring to a process that is already extremely stressful, to begin with.


A large degree of the sellers that come to us, do so due to a sale falling through as they simply want a concrete timeline in which they can transact and move on with their lives. Home buying platforms are light years ahead in this respect, and although we purchase for a marginally lower price than you might achieve going down the traditional route, the speed and certainty we provide is far more appealing to many when selling their home. 

It’s quite remarkable that we are yet to address the failings of the current property selling process given our obsession with buying and selling homes and until changes are made, transactions will continue to fall through at the expense of the nation’s home sellers.” 


MoneyGram International, Inc., a global leader in crossborder P2P payments and money transfers, has announced the launch of a new international online money transfer platform in partnership with Tesco Bank. The platform allows MoneyGram and Tesco customers to set up their transactions online and then pay by cash or card at Tesco stores.

This new service allows customers to easily send money abroad, reduces the process time and eliminates the need to complete paperwork in-store. This is being introduced at a time when an increasing amount of money is being digitally transferred from the UK to overseas destinations. The launch of this new capability is an important milestone for the partnership between MoneyGram and Tesco Bank, which was formed over seven years ago.

The new service has now been introduced to 129 Tesco Express stores across the UK, adding to the existing 810 stores that currently offer the service. Full roll-out to around 1,500 Tesco Express stores is expected over the next 18 months.

“We are continually evolving our customer proposition through our leading digital capabilities and customer-centric solutions,” said Richard Meredith, Head of UK Key Partnership at MoneyGram.

“This solution is a key milestone in our ongoing collaboration with Tesco Bank in being able to offer a seamless, digitised experience for customers.”

Sigga Sigurdardottir, Chief Customer Officer at Tesco Bank added: “There are millions of people across the UK sending money abroad to help loved ones with everyday needs or in times of emergency.

“Our goal is to help Tesco shoppers manage their money a little better every day, and this enhancement to our partnership with MoneyGram lets customers send money overseas even more efficiently than before.”

For more information and to start sending money through the platform, visit

Businesses in the West Midlands are being urged to sign up for the second phase of a training programme designed to help build the capacity and capability of businesses who are seeking global growth opportunities. 


The Inclusive Commonwealth Legacy Programme (ICLP), which is fully-funded by Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), supports SMEs from within diverse communities to accelerate their growth. 25 companies have already benefited from the scheme and a second cohort of businesses are set to begin the programme from October 2020.


One of the businesses to take part in the first instalment of the programme was Great Barr-based Green Sisters, founded by sisters Geeta and Reena Salhan. The business produces award-winning ‘free-from’ Indian food.  


Geeta Salhan, Green Sisters, said: “While helping us access advice and funding, the programme has also helped us develop our entire philosophy of our food being ‘free from compromise’, which means working with like-minded individuals and companies to take our products forward in the way we want to. 


"If you're passionate about growing your business and you're a small business owner I would encourage you to apply for the next cohort of the Inclusive Commonwealth Legacy Programme." 


The ICLP is an innovative partnership delivered in collaboration between the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, CRÈME (Centre for Research for Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship) and the Legacy Centre of Excellence Birmingham.  


The programme provides six months of peer to peer learning and development, where business owners will complete a series of interactive modules of action-learning, training and support facilitated by leading industry experts, in an inclusive and supportive environment.


The sessions were originally delivered face to face; however they have been adapted to be delivered online whilst social distancing measures are in place.  


An additional benefit for businesses involved is a fully-funded bilateral trade membership to the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, which offers additional support through events, training and opportunities to export to commonwealth countries. 

Joel Blake OBE, award-winning businessman and ICLP Lead said: “The first phase of the ICLP Programme has seen some real success stories and has provided businesses in a variety of different sectors and from all parts of Greater Birmingham with free access to business experts to help them accelerate their global growth potential.


“The first cohort of businesses not only benefitted from picking up new skills to help them expand and adapt their models for future growth, but from sharing their experience with fellow business owners. A real sense of camaraderie has been developed within the cohort, with many collaborating with and supporting each other throughout Covid-19, whether it be providing their services, sharing premises or experience to help where possible. 


“The word has spread about the ICLP programme and diverse businesses from Leeds to Hampshire joined our online workshops but only those in the GBSLEP region can have access to funded help. 

“This is an immensely challenging time for SMEs, and this programme has shown how a truly inclusive approach with positive action can add tremendous value for our businesses, here in the region and abroad. For those who could benefit, we would urge them to sign up as soon as possible to ensure they don’t miss out.” 


The final deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 30th September 2020.  



New research from E.ON has revealed that almost nine in ten (89%) prospective homeowners have become more interested in finding homes with sustainable solutions such as solar panels and efficient boilers over having a garden (80%), en-suite bathroom (50%) and a walk in wardrobe (27%).


Following the introduction of temporary stamp duty relief earlier this year, over three quarters (78%) of those surveyed also said they’d be willing to use these savings to invest in sustainable solutions in their new home. More than a third (38%) said solar panels would be the feature they’d be most willing to invest their money in. Of those surveyed, almost half (49%) of prospective buyers say that spending more time at home during the past few months has led them to consider buying a home that’s more sustainable. The main reasons are wanting to lower energy bills (65%), being more conscious of the environment that they live in (52%) and wanting to reduce their impact on the planet (50%).


Two thirds (66%) claim their current home has few sustainable solutions (i.e. solar panels or intelligent heating) but say this is something they’d definitely consider when moving home (62%), as the majority (87%) say it’s important their new home is sustainable.  With lockdown playing a big part in prospective homeowners considering sustainable updates at home, more than three quarters (77%) of those questioned admitted they’re more likely to buy a property that has sustainable solutions over one that didn’t.


Broadcaster & Architectural Designer Charlie Luxton comments: "The research from E.ON is encouraging because it highlights how we’re prioritising sustainable solutions in and around the home.


“People are naturally becoming more aware and conscious of their impact on the environment. They've spent more time at home than ever before and have inevitably become more aware of how they’re using energy and of sustainable changes they can make.


“The key tip I would give to anyone looking to make their home more sustainable is to first take a look at the basics such as correctly insulating your home and upgrading to energy efficient appliances, as these changes can be easily implemented. However, if you’re wanting to see a more instantaneous effect whilst exploring the steps above, consider the likes of installing solar PV panels to your home and combining them with battery storage. This is a fantastic way to provide sustainable low-cost energy for your home, something which E.ON’s research has highlighted ranks highly on Britain’s agenda.”


Scott Somerville, Head of Brand & Marketing at E.ON UK, said: “At E.ON we’re proud to be leading the energy revolution by providing all our customers’ homes with 100% renewables-backed electricity3 and a range of sustainable home solutions. By installing solar panels or energy efficient boilers, we’re helping households lower their carbon footprints as well as their energy bills.


“We believe in a smart, personalised and sustainable energy future for our customers which is why we continue to offer innovative solutions that help homeowners become more sustainable and take control of their energy.”


The research also highlighted a shift in opinion since lockdown:


  • Before lockdown more than one in ten (11%) would never have considered making their home more sustainable.
  • But now, more than two thirds (38%) of Brits admit they’re considering making their home more sustainable since lockdown.
  • Interestingly, a third, (33%) also said they’re more interested in home solutions such as solar panels than they were six months ago.
  • These findings are further supported by new research4 showing that having solar panels can increase the value of homes across the country by £30,000 on average.


When asked which features they’d look for to keep energy bills low in their new home, over half of prospective homebuyers (52%) said a new boiler, followed by nearly half (47%) selecting solar panels and 37% saying intelligent heating.


To demonstrate how sustainable home solutions can be implemented while also being aesthetically pleasing, a new image highlighting the simple ways to make your home more sustainable has been revealed by E.ON.



Scrap Car Comparison, the scrap vehicle comparison site, is delighted to raise £6,123 for NHS Charities Together, thanks to their Donate a Car Scheme.


Scrap Car Comparison is committed to supporting charities through their charity partnership scheme and made NHS Charities Together its featured COVID-19 organisation during the national lockdown.

Customers who scrap a car or van through Scrap Car Comparison’s Donate a Car scheme can choose to donate some or all of their profits to charity.


NHS Charities Together is a membership organisation that brings together more than 250 NHS charities from around the country and accepts charitable donations on their behalf. The work of this collective includes a national COVID-19 Urgent Appeal to support NHS staff and volunteers caring for patients with coronavirus.


Dan Gick, founder and owner of Scrap Car Comparison, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be able to give NHS Charities Together such a substantial sum through the generosity of our customers and our Donate a Car Scheme.

“All NHS staff continues to work tirelessly to keep the country safe, and the team at Scrap Car Comparison are really proud to be able to support them.”  


“A huge thank you to all who chose to donate some, or their entire scrap car profits to this amazing charity and to all NHS key workers for their selfless efforts.”


Scrap Car Comparison are urging any owners who are thinking about scrapping a vehicle to help support their chosen charity partners.


Scrap Car Comparison remains open for business and is operating a strict no contact quotation, booking and collection service in line with government guidelines.


The latest research from lettings and estate agent, Barrows and Forrester, has revealed which areas of the property market are currently the most first-time buyer (FTB) friendly based on current price, annual change and cost compared to the broader average in each area.

The research shows that both the average price paid by FTBs and the average price paid across the broader market have both increased by 2.9% in the last year. However, at a current average of £198,513, FTBs are still getting on the ladder at a lower cost to the wider average of £238,414. 

When it comes to overall affordability, Inverclyde is home to the lowest price paid by FTBS at £72,435. East Ayrshire (£74,876), the Western Isles (£76,122) and North Ayrshire (£87,447) are also amongst some of the most affordable FTB areas of Britain for outright house price.  

In England, County Durham (£90,488), Tyne and Wear (£121,976), Lancashire (£122,721) and Merseyside (£124,725) are home to some of the lowest prices paid by FTBS, while Blaenau Gwent (£95,729), Merthyr Tydfil (£99,995), Rhondda Cynon Taf (£105,380) and Neath Port Talbot (£116,805) are the most affordable markets in Wales. 

In contrast, the average FTB is paying £924,576 in the City of London although this drops considerably to the next most expensive county, with the cost coming in at £335,933 in Surrey.

18 areas of Britain have seen the average FTB house price drop or remain static over the last year.

13 of these areas are located in Scotland, with the Western Isles (-24.8%), Inverclyde (-12.7%) and East Lothian (-9.3%) seeing the most considerable reductions.

Gwynedd (-3.5%) is the only area of Wales to see the average FTB house price drop in the last year. In England, County Durham (-0.5%), Cambridgeshire (-0.4%), Hertfordshire (-0.1%) and Bedfordshire (0%) have remained largely flat.

When it comes to the most significant FTB discounts when comparing the average FTB house price with the wider average in each area, Perth and Kinross is currently the best place to buy your first home. The average FTB house price of £140,886 is -26.1% more affordable than the wider average of £190,758 in the area.

In England, FTBs can find the biggest relative discounts in Surrey (-25.3%), Bucks (-25.2%), Herefordshire (-23.1%), Hampshire (-21.8%) and Rutland (-21.5%). Monmouthshire (-22.3%), Vale of Glamorgan (-16.8%), Flintshire (-15.7%) and Anglesey (-15.6%) are home to the biggest FTB discounts in the Welsh market.

Managing Director of Barrows and Forrester, James Forrester, commented: “Buying your first home is a huge mile marker in life, and finding the right property can be a daunting process.

For many, affordability will be the deciding factor and the price paid by first-time buyers varies dramatically across Britain, with the majority of areas seeing this cost of getting on the ladder increase over the last year.  

However, while Scotland is home to the greatest wealth of first-time buyer affordability, those house hunting at the other end of Britain are unlikely to up sticks and move that far from their desired area.

The good news is that all but one area of Britain is home to a lower price paid by first-time buyers when compared to the wider market. With this relative discount ranging from around five to 25 per cent.  

While first-time buyers may have a location in mind, expanding their search to the surrounding areas could mean a much more affordable property or a more significant saving.”

Kevon Chisolm, Esq. founder and president of Black Wallstreeter Consultation Services, is teaming up with his wife, Kim, and their 13-year old son, Kamari, to launch a weekend series that teaches African American families financial literacy skills and how to invest in the stock market. The weekend series is geared towards encouraging families and individuals to build generational wealth together while also learning about African American history and culture.

The goal is to continue the success that they had with the Junior Wallstreeters Summer Camps. One parent wrote: “I just wanted to thank you for the educational and impactful experiences you provided through the Jr Wall Street camp. I appreciate the tools used to empower our children through the convergence of African American history while teaching strategies and the importance of building future wealth.”

Kevon comments, “In addition to topics like budgeting, establishing and maintaining good credit, banking, and investing in the stock market, the weekend series teaches generational wealth building through investment clubs.”

Saturday’s series is titled: ‘Empowering Youth & Parents with Financial Wellness’. The Sunday’s series is titled: ‘Empowering Youth & Parents with Financial Wellness and African American History and Culture’. Both sessions will provide life-long financial education and resources, which can be applied to address the lack of generational wealth in the African American community.

“Our goal is to teach financial knowledge to eliminate the wealth gap by showing young people and their parents how to properly use money as a tool,” he adds. The online series will primarily be taught by Stanley Anderson and Isaiah Cromwell, a high school teacher who helped Kevon develop the curriculum.

The weekend series will be held every other Saturday (11am-1pm EST) and Sunday (1pm-4pm EST), starting on October 3rd and 4th.

All ages are encouraged to attend the series, but youth under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Participants must have a computer with Internet access. The cost of the Saturday series is just $250. While the cost for Sunday’s series is $350 because it is an hour longer and includes additional materials. This fee includes course materials such as an electronic student handbook, Junior Wallstreeters Envelope Budgeting System with tracking sheets, and a Stock Tracker Lite Notebook.

Limited spaces are available.


Aston Manor Cider has unveiled their latest multi-million pound investment – a move that has increased employment and extended the capacity and capability of the business. The Birmingham-based drinks producer has spent a further £6m in recent months to reconfigure their Aston production site and add a state-of-the-art new packaging line.

This follows investment in excess of £30m in the last five years and a further commitment that is likely to exceed £50m over the term of the long-term contracts agreed with farmers to supply apples from new orchards planted in Herefordshire.

Part of the most recent investment has been to develop the research and development capability to create new products. In order to bring these and other drinks to market meant millions to install a whole new packaging line that has enabled new formats to be produced.

Now commissioned, this and previous investment means Aston Manor’s portfolio of ciders can be packaged in bag-in-box formats, in mini-kegs, and in different sizes and shapes of cans.

Having the ability to expand the availability of cans directly responds to changing consumer preferences as three-quarters of growth in cider sales in the take home sector is from that format.

Gordon Johncox, chief executive at Aston Manor said: “We have a track record of being responsive to consumer trends and having the flexibility and agility to deliver great products in different styles and formats.

“It is for this reason we are recognised as having a broad portfolio to delight every consumer and on every occasion – from value and mainstream to the most premium.

“This is by design. We consistently invest significant sums and support our people to build our capacity and capability. It is vital to our approach and our ambition to offer new products and develop new markets.”

This work has also supported the growing demand from major drinks businesses and brand owners to work with Aston Manor as a specialist contract packer. Increased demand from growing sales has meant in the first seven months of this year nearly 127 million products have been made across production sites in Birmingham and Tiverton in Devon – over 8 million more than in the same period last year.

Johncox added: “I pay testament to the great work being done by our people – during a period of exceptional disruption they are delivering products of quality that people are enjoying as evidenced by award success, assurance from independent audits and customer care levels that exceed industry standards.”

In the latest international cider competitions, Aston Manor’s ‘Malvern Gold’ brand scooped the prize as the World’s Best (still) Cider for the second year running – after claiming top spot in the year this stunning cider was launched.



Youth skills development has received an encouraging shot in the arm after it was revealed that a Birmingham engineering firm has provided innovative pre-apprenticeship spots for 60 young people over the past five years.


Leading engineering business, adi Group, has celebrated the achievements of students on its pre-apprentice scheme since 2016, with this year’s graduation evening over the now-familiar Zoom format due to COVID-19.


Proud parents and students gathered online, as senior adi personnel and programme mentors revealed that all twelve pre-apprentices in the Class of 2020 passed the rigorous course, with four distinctions and eight merits among the esteemed group.


“This was really encouraging news given the current economic climate,” said adi CEO, Alan Lusty. “Businesses of all shapes and sizes have had some difficult decisions to make over the course of the  past few months, not least our own, but we are pleased to be strengthening our commitment to young people and the engineering sector at a time when many youngsters are desperate to get their foot on the careers ladder.


“I started in the industry as an apprentice myself, so I know the importance of giving back to this really inspiring and talented bunch of students that will hopefully go on to have successful careers in our sector and beyond.”


The adi pre-apprenticeship scheme began life in 2016 as a link was forged between nearby North Bromsgrove High School and the engineering company, aiming to help foster youth skills development across the Midlands. This partnership with the school is truly mutual, with both parties achieving opportunity via the students taking up one of the annual 12 pre-apprenticeship places.


It was launched by then Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden and has since gone on to receive a number of plaudits, not least from former Prime Minister, Theresa May, who visited the company’s headquarters for a tour of the facilities and programme in 2018 and praised adi Group during PMQs. Fully 50% of the scheme’s first and second year intakes are still with adi today and the business remains committed to youth skills development with its sign-up to the 5% Club, an initiative designed to raise the number of apprentices on formal programmes to five percent of the total workforce within five years.


“What we’ve done at adi is continue to shine the spotlight on the importance of inspiring the next generation of engineers,” added Group strategic account director, James Sopwith. “The services and the skill sets we’re inspiring provide support to the manufacturing sector, which is only in rising demand as the UK looks to bounce back from the current economic crisis.


“More closely, what we feel is most important is fostering a sense of connection at a local level between businesses and educational institutions, so that each feels the reward of building a sustainable pathway to the engineers of tomorrow.”


News of adi’s pre-apprenticeship milestone comes as the government recently announced its new Kickstart scheme designed to get disadvantaged youngsters into working roles. With adi having developed its own starter pack for other businesses to replicate its pre-apprenticeship programme, it is hoped such schemes can help the UK turn the tide on bleak unemployment forecasts and begin to bridge the STEM skills gap.


The latest research by leading property recruitment specialists, Rayner Personnel, has revealed which UK cities are currently proving the most competitive where the ratio of estate agents to listed properties is concerned.

Rayner looked at the number of residential estate agents operating across 23 UK cities and compared this figure to the number of properties currently listed for sale online to find the average number of listings per agent.  

The research shows that Aberdeen is currently the most competitive market to be an estate agent. Based on the number of estate agents currently listed on Zoopla (39) and the number of residential properties listed for sale (511), there is just an average of 13 properties for every estate agent in the city.

Cambridge ranks as the second most competitive city to be an estate agent, with an average of just 15 properties for every one agent operating in the city, while Edinburgh and Leicester complete the top three with an average of 16 properties per agent in each city.

Oxford (18), Manchester (21), Glasgow (21) and Bristol (22) also rank in the top 10.  

While London is home to by far the most abundant level of available stock (98,637) there are also some 4,041 agents battling it out to sell it.

This results in an average of just 24 properties per agent in the capital, with Southampton and Newcastle home to an average of 25 properties per agent, while Bournemouth (26) and Cardiff (27) complete the top 10.

In contrast, Newport (46), Liverpool (41), Plymouth (39), Sheffield (37) and Leeds (36) rank as the least competitive in terms of the stock available to the volume of agents trying to sell it.

Founder and CEO of Rayner Personnel, Josh Rayner, commented: “The market has exploded back to life in recent months and many agents will be relishing the chance to get stuck back into work after the boredom of lockdown and the industry restrictions imposed as a result.  

Estate agency has always been an incredibly competitive profession, and in fact, it’s one of the things that drives the best agents to perform day in, day out. 

While we’ve highlighted the most competitive cities based on the ratio of agents to stock, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and agents across the UK must ensure they are on the top of their game if they want to succeed.  

This means having the best team around you, providing above and beyond service and, in more recent years, embracing technology to help improve performance. By doing so you can further your reach and list properties outside of your traditional operational boundaries which can also help you to remain profitable.

If you build a business based on a mixture of great technology and great people, there’s no reason you can’t succeed in today’s sector, even in the most competitive of spaces.” 



Residential Estate Agents

Number of Properties Currently for Sale

Average listings per agent

















































































































Data sourced from Zoopla and correct as of 4th September 2020. The number of properties includes those already marked as under offer or sold subject to contract.

A fundraising campaign aimed at supporting Wolverhampton’s most vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis has raised an incredible £90,746.Organisations across the City of Wolverhampton joined forces at the start of the pandemic to launch the crowdfund initiative to support struggling families and individuals throughout this difficult time.

A total of four campaigns were run under the One City Fund umbrella, each with a particular focus - people facing severe financial hardship as a result of Covid-19, raising vital funds to support the increased demand on the city’s food banks, supporting the homeless and helping people who have no access to technology to access important services or information.

The initiative was a collaboration between City of Wolverhampton Council, the Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council (WVCS) and local organisations.Over 250 individuals and businesses contributed to the fund; their donations have gone directly to over 15 local, not-for-profit organisations supporting people in need throughout the city, so they can get the help they need during this difficult time.

The final campaign, ‘Stay Connected’, concluded last month (August 28), raising over £15,000 for local charities supporting individuals facing isolation as a result of digital exclusion, including the Refugee and Migrant Centre, Wolverhampton Samaritans, Gazebo Theatre and Wolverhampton Learning Platform. 60% of the funds raised will be distributed to partner organisations. The remaining 40% is available as small grants to grassroots community groups supporting local people during the crisis. 

Leader of the Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, said: “The One City Fund was created, in response to the spirit of generosity shown throughout the city, to give people a simple way to contribute to the city’s efforts to support vulnerable residents during the pandemic and make sure no-one gets left behind.

“I’d like to thank everyone who donated to the One City Fund campaigns, the organisations the fund is supporting provide a vital lifeline for people across our city. I’m delighted to say that each of the campaigns exceeded their individual targets, demonstrating the resilient, caring and community-spirited nature of our city.”

Deputy Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, Saffi Price, added: “Wolverhampton’s One City Fund has shown, once again, how kind and generous the people of Wolverhampton are. Voluntary and Community Sector organisations have come together to help make the most of this crowdfunding campaign as they continue to support citizens in Wolverhampton who have felt the greatest impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

WVSC are very pleased to have played a part; working alongside other VCS organisations and statutory agencies. I know that we will all continue to work together as a city to ensure that no-one is left behind.”

Spacehive, the crowdfunding platform powering Crowdfund Wolves, waived its 5% fee for all projects created during lockdown, which means all monies raised will go directly to local third sector organisations.

The Leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Councillor Ian Brookfield, and some of the charities supported by the One City Fund campaigns, have also put together this message to thank everyone who donated to the campaigns.