Colors: Purple Color

With climate change high on the news agenda, and reports showing that there has been a 53% reduction in single use plastic in the last year*, we are more mindful of our energy consumption and contribution to the carbon footprint than ever before. But what steps are UK businesses taking to become more eco-friendly?

Whether you are already making steps to become a zero waste office, or are a startup that wants to play its part in reducing emissions, the UK’s biggest independent tech retailer Ebuyer has five top tips on simple changes every office can introduce to create a greener office.

Be mindful of paper use

Excessive paper use is something that most offices will be guilty of, but is one of the quickest changes to implement. It is becoming more common for offices to implement a zero printing policy to keep the paper waste down, but asking employees to be mindful of what they are printing and reserving it for important documents only should see a drastic reduction in the amount of paper used each week.

Another easy way to reduce paper consumption is by ensuring employees are not printing personal documents in the workplace - recent research conducted by Ebuyer found that over three-quarters (77%) of office workers regularly print personal documents while at work, with an average of thirteen pages being printed per person, per month - a substantial amount of paper use that can easily be avoided.

Update the recycling options

Recycling isn’t just for the home, and offices should be set up to let workers easily recycle - whether that be plastic bottles from a lunchtime meal deal, to completed documents that are ready to be shredded. Setting up seperate bins in communal places such as kitchens and near printers will encourage employees to think about what they are throwing away. For workplaces where workers can make their own lunch, providing employees with cutlery, plates and mugs will help reduce the amount of single use plastic that needs to be thrown away each week.    

Update your technology

Technology is a necessity for many businesses, but simple changes to technology and habits can reduce your carbon footprint. New computers and monitors are more energy efficient than machines that are a few years old, so ensure you are monitoring this and replacing where necessary. If your technology is being updated, many businesses now offer the option to safely recycle your old appliances in line with the WEEE regulations.  

Standby mode is one of the most wasteful uses of energy, so make sure that when they are not in use, machines are shut down completely and multi-plug adapters are switched off by the mains. Not only will this ensure power use around the office is minimal, but it will save you money on your energy costs in the long run.

Make the most of the environment

If your office or work space allows it, making the most of the environment can not only help reduce energy emissions, but can create a better working environment. Ensure artificial lighting is turned off in meeting rooms and spaces with plenty of natural light, and encourage employees to open windows to manage the room temperature, rather than relying on the air conditioning.

Go green with office supplies

From 100% recycled paper to eco-friendly cleaning products, making smart choices when it comes to your office supplies can make a huge difference to the environmental impact of your office. The majority of common stationery, from Post-it Notes to mouse mats, now have a sustainable option, so spending some time choosing the best option for you will pay off in the long run - both environmentally and financially.

To find out more about Ebuyer’s business offering, visit:

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, is proud to report that its Chief Executive Officer, Christine Ourmières-Widener, has received the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) first-ever Inspirational Role Model Award. It is the most prominent of three categories featured in the organisation’s inaugural Diversity & Inclusion Awards which, sponsored by Qatar Airways, attracted 68 nominations.

Christine was presented with the prestigious Award and US$25k in prize money jointly by Alexandre de Juniac, IATA Director-General and Qatar CEO Akbar Al Baker, during the influential aviation trade association’s Annual General Meeting being held in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

In thanking IATA and the sponsors for their insight in proactively progressing the agenda relating to diversity and inclusion, Ms Ourmières-Widener said: “I am very honoured to be the first woman to receive this Inspirational Role Model Award. I am passionate about diversity and inclusion. Although significant strides have been made towards addressing the issue of gender imbalance across the general workforce, the aviation sector remains very male- dominated.

“I’d like to see more women at all levels - as pilots, in operations and engineering, and in management roles. There needs to be a clear push to get women to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics from an early age. Young women cannot be what they cannot see.”

Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, H.E. Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Congratulations to Christine Ourmières-Widener, a key aviation figure and colleague for receiving IATA’s inaugural Inspirational Role Model Award. This award reflects Ms. Ourmières-Widener’s charismatic and outgoing character, which has positively impacted the aviation industry as a whole.

Last year, Christine spearheaded the launch of Flybe’s widely-acclaimed FlyShe programme. With its own dedicated website,, it is a series of initiatives designed to change aspirations and create opportunities for women, providing educational materials, visiting schools, offering training and organising events to raise the sights of young girls everywhere. It has received extensive coverage for its potential to help address the future skills’ shortages facing aviation.

A Birmingham freelancer, Oliver Jamin, has been shortlisted for the Freelance Project of the Year at the UK’s biggest freelancer awards, the IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards. Oliver impressed the judges with his achievements and social impact.

Commenting on the shortlisting, Chief Executive at at IPSE, Chris Bryce said: “Freelancing allows people to be innovative, following their dreams to start businesses that could grow into a great success that benefits us all. Oliver hugely impressed us against a very strong field with his brilliant artistic work and advocacy for disabled artists.”

Freelancer of the Year award nominee, Oliver Jamin, said: ‘’I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the final of the Freelance Project of the Year Award, 2019. This really is a dream come true and not only supports me to show other deaf and hard of hearing and Disabled freelancers out there that they can aspire also to achieving successes in their chosen business; but also highlights my own profile, potentially opening doors to a new and wider audience who have yet to see my work.”

The Awards, now in their sixth year, recognise and celebrate the innovation and excellence of freelancers across the UK. Applicants are judged on a range of criteria including the strength of their portfolio, their passion and commitment to freelancing, business acumen, creativity and the distinctiveness of their work.

The number of freelancers in the UK has risen rapidly over the last ten years with the self-employed now adding £275bn to the economy.

Olivier is an award-winning artist who has been involved in successful projects including public arts events. Working with Posca pens on card and fabric, he specialises in hand drawn multi-coloured art and create stencil graffiti art, mixed media arts, time-lapse videos and photography. He produces work which combines colours & patterns, raising imagination & awareness. Olivier also sells products via his website and direct to customers.

His art reflects what it means to be a Deaf artist; non-Deaf related art; patterns and colours. Many of my influences are inspired from the world of art, digital media, travel and every day issues. He aims to share his love of art with mainstream communities. Olivier’s artwork is expressive and reflective of his life journey which he feels communities/clients will appreciate and even relate to.

Olivier said: ‘’I am really pleased to have been shortlisted for the final of the Freelance Project of the Year Award, 2019. This really is a dream come true and not only supports me to show other deaf/hard-of-hearing and disabled freelancers out there that they can aspire also to achieving successes in their chosen business; but also highlights my own profile, potentially opening doors to a new and wider audience who have yet to see my work.

"Freelance work is not easy and is very different to employed work. Hats off to all the other freelancers out there.’’

He was also recently invited by Deaffest (Deaf film and arts festival) to be one of three judges for an art competition for young people to create a character to feature on the posters for Young Deaffest 2019.

The IPSE Freelancer of the Year Awards takes place on June 13 at Kings Place in London.

Nationwide Building Society have announced that it has invested in Ordo, an innovative payment request service launching later this year that connects billers to payers using apps and secure messaging, putting billers and their customers back in control of their payments.

Ordo protects businesses and their customers from invoice and payments fraud by allowing businesses to simply and securely send payment requests (known as ‘smart requests’) directly to their customers via the Ordo app. The customer is immediately notified they’ve received a smart request which they can view, and when they are ready, quickly and easily make payment through the app. Ordo uses Open Banking and Faster Payments to make the payment, bank account to bank account, meaning businesses get their money instantly and customers know where they are with their finances in real time.

Ordo’s design means that there is no need to share any bank account details between billers and customers, and the biller always gets back the reference they provided with their received payment. Ordo will also allow businesses to include an invoice attachment as part of the end-to-end encrypted message.

While many people happily pay their regular bills by Direct Debit or card, these don’t always suit everyone. There are also those one-off payments, such as paying a builder or the window cleaner. Ordo is perfect for these situations. Ordo is simple, swift and secure; it ensures that businesses, especially small and medium businesses for whom cash flow is key, can receive their hard-earned income into their account directly, instantly and cost effectively, but also keeps the payer in control of their bills and payments.

Ordo have applied for funding from Pool D of the Alternative Remedies Package Capability and Innovation Fund, which aims to improve the financial products and services available to UK SMEs. A successful bid will mean that Ordo can accelerate the development and roll-out of it’s financial technology to SMEs, delivering Ordo’s benefits more quickly to UK small business and their customers.

The team behind Ordo have a huge amount of payments, telecoms and networks experience. Most recently, they were part of the leadership team at the Faster Payments Scheme delivering the new access model that doubled the number of institutions able to directly connect to the system, pioneering access for challenger banks and other payment institutions.

The investment is the latest deal from Britain’s biggest building society’s as part of a £50 million Venturing Fund designed to create partnerships in which the Society and the start-ups share knowledge and expertise. As part of the fund, Nationwide is making strategic investments in and partnering with early stage start-ups exploring innovative products and services that could provide real benefits for the Society’s members in the future.

Tony Prestedge, Deputy Chief Executive at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Ordo helps businesses gets invoices paid while at the same time allowing consumers to maintain control of how and when they pay their bill. This seemed a natural fit for Nationwide as a brand who helps its members manage their money and who itself later this year is entering the business banking market to offer an alternative for small and medium size businesses to the big banks.”

CEO and co-founder of Ordo, Craig Tillotson, said: “We are delighted to have an investment from an organisation that shares our vision of making a positive difference to the financial lives and wellbeing of people, businesses, particularly SMEs, and communities. Nationwide’s investment is not just about the money, although that will really help us to make Ordo a reality, but demonstrates the appeal of our innovative proposition. This is a great opportunity for SMEs and their customers, and will deliver significant benefits to the economy as whole.”

The Venturing Fund supports the Society’s recently announced multi-billion pound tech investment, which is designed to put the Society at the forefront of digital innovation. Technology is redefining how members want to be served and the Society is investing to stay ahead of expectations. The Society is investing a total of £4.1 billion in technology over the next five years.

Created by rapper Jay-Z and his mother Gloria, the Shawn Carter Scholarship Fund (SCSF) was founded on the belief that any motivated individual in need should have the opportunity to further his or her education. By removing some of the financial burdens associated with going to, surviving in, and graduating from college, the SCSF plays a vital role in increasing college access and success for many motivated yet underserved youth and young adults.

The SCSF provides individual grants, paid directly to the educational institution, to every student who qualifies and reapplies yearly, from admission to graduation. The grant can be used to cover tuition expenses and related supplemental educational expenses such as books, lab fees, travel and select costs of living.

All Shawn Carter Scholars are required to “give back” by conducting community service and by serving as mentors to younger, aspiring Shawn Carter Scholars.

Eligibility requirements:

* High school seniors, students with GED diplomas, undergraduate (2 year or 4 year) college students, and students at vocational or trade schools

* US citizen or Permanent Resident

* 25 years old or younger

* Minimum 2.0 GPA

The deadline for this scholarship is usually in APRIL, and the award amount is usually up to $7,500.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

St Mary’s Hospice

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

Excellence in Customer Service (Sponsors: Virgin Trains)

Handle Kingdom Ltd

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

Excellence in Hospitality (Sponsors: Quality Business)

Conference Aston

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

Excellence in International Business (Sponsors: Aston University)

AFL Architects

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

Excellence in Manufacturing (Sponsors: Birmingham Airport)

KEP Print Group

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

Excellence in People Development (Sponsors: Wesleyan)

National Express

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

Excellence in Retail (Sponsors: Bullring and Grand Central)

Loki Wines

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

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

Excellence in Technology & Innovation (Sponsors: Millennium Point)

Managed Enterprise Technologies Ltd


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

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

Services for Education

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LPC’s rate recommendations comprised:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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