Colors: Purple Color

A state of the art club, the biggest indoor bouldering centre in London, and the number one producer of kale crisps in Europe are just some of the businesses reaping the rewards of the Opportunity Investment Fund.

The £3.65m loans programme, jointly funded by Haringey Council and the Mayor of London, is encouraging businesses to invest in Tottenham. So far a dozen, diverse businesses and start-ups have taken advantage of the fund to spend on such essentials as refurbishment, expansion, creating new jobs or paying for more machinery.

On Wednesday 25 October an event is being held for interested businesses to find out more about the fund and to meet those who have already benefitted from it. The only initial criteria being that the business must be based in Tottenham or is planning to move there.

“It will be a good chance for people to hear details about the loan fund and how it can help their business grow,” said Keith Trotter, Tottenham Town Centre Growth Manager at Haringey Council. “Tottenham has become a great place to move to and is that sweet spot combining excellent transport links and an easily accessible location that is still relatively affordable.”

The event will be hosted at Five Miles in Markfield Road N15; a new bar, club and brewery that used part of the loan to pay for the custom-made club space and equipment.

“The club is a world-class performance and dance space which will help put Tottenham on the map,” said joint-owner Mark Shaffer. “We’ll be open seven days a week with events most nights and we see this as a cultural hub for the area. Dealing with the council on the loan has been a breath of fresh air and the support we’ve received has been brilliant.”

“More businesses should take advantage of it if they are intent on growing their business,” added Dominik Schnell, co-founder of inSpiral Visionary Products. “At the moment we produce about 200,000 bags of kale chips a month but we hope to double that in the next five years.”

The Coalition for Marriage, (C4M) has appointed a new Campaign Director.

Thomas Pascoe, a former journalist and senior manager of one of Britain’s largest international development projects, will take up the role on Wednesday 20th September, although he has been advising the organisation for several months.

C4M is the UK’s largest pro-traditional marriage organisation with hundreds of thousands of supporters. It was set up in 2012 to oppose Government attempts to redefine marriage and promote the traditional definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others and for life.

Colin Hart, the outgoing Campaign Director who will remain as Chairman, commented: “I am delighted to pass the baton on to Thomas to carry on our work of supporting those who believe in traditional marriage and are concerned about politically correct state interference in this ancient institution.”

Mr Pascoe added: “Traditional marriage and its supporters remain under attack by an army of politicians and activists. No institution does more for the wellbeing of children or society than traditional marriage, and I promise to do all I can to protect it against the assaults of those who would rather sound good than do right.”

C4M has set out ambitious plans for the coming year in a brochure for supporters, which will be issued at the same time as Thomas’ appointment. The Coalition will concentrate on a range of initiatives across education, transgenderism, press fairness and freedom of speech. Later this month it will publish new polling it has commissioned.

Before joining C4M, Thomas ran a major international development programme in Nigeria for four years. He has also worked as the assistant comment editor for the Daily Telegraph and as an underwriter in the Lloyd's of London insurance market.

He read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University and is also a Chartered Insurer. He is married with one child.

Mr Pascoe concluded: “Five years ago we warned that same-sex marriage would lead down a slippery slope. Now even the idea of man and woman is seen as offensive in some public bodies, lawyers are pushing for no-fault divorce and a sexual free-for-all is being encouraged in our classrooms. In response we are preparing for our biggest campaigning year since the Same-Sex Marriage Act became law.  We will stand up for those who believe in traditional marriage and provide a voice for those left voiceless in the current debate.”

With over 70 businesses exhibiting and approximately 500 delegates in attendance, the Black Country Chamber of Commerce were delighted with the success of their Annual Exhibition.

Having taken place on 28th September at Wolverhampton Racecourse, the event marked the culmination of Wolverhampton Business Week and offered the local business community an insight into a range of innovative technologies. In addition, a series of seminars took place that shared knowledge on a variety of business related topics, including skills, international trade and competitiveness. Also new for 2017, there was a funding marketplace on-hand to offer businesses support and advice on how to maximise their growth potential.

Amongst those businesses showcasing their technological prowess, Stone's Throw Media demonstrated a drone over the racecourse, whilst Atmos VR invited delegates to try out a virtual reality headset, and VOiD Applications offered an insight into smart factory applications. Matt Weston, Director of Stone’s Throw Media, commented: "We have had a lot of interest in our video production services and have had meaningful conversations with a range of companies."

From a delegate perspective, Kevin Rogers, CEO of Paycare, commented: "It has been a fantastic Exhibition. There have been more people than I have seen here before, and there is a real feeling of enthusiasm around the place and lots of positivity. There is a genuine feeling that despite this being a time of political uncertainty, there is a need to get on and grow. No one can afford to wait around."

Following the Exhibition, the Black Country Department for International Trade team ran a Trading with Europe Live event, whereat companies were able to Skype with traders in nine countries to discover export opportunities and get advice on growing their business.

Corin Crane, Chief Executive at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: "This year, we have endeavoured to offer a more diverse and holistic experience for our Annual Exhibition. The business insight seminars have proven to be a resounding success, as too have the technology demonstrations that we’ve had taking place throughout.

"In essence, our Annual Exhibition is a great opportunity for local businesses to show just how good they are. Furthermore, with it taking place during Wolverhampton Business Week, there is a real collective energy across the region of the business community coming together."

The U.S. Virgin Islands is getting back to the business of welcoming visitors to its shores following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck the Territory last month.
Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty reported that the airports on St. Croix and St. Thomas are now open to commercial flights, and one of the flagship hotels on the island of St. Croix, The Buccaneer, has announced it is accepting reservations for leisure guests arriving on or after November 1, 2017.
The historic property received minimal damage to its infrastructure and has remained open to accommodate relief personnel. The resort team reports that while availability is limited due to many rooms being occupied by federal relief teams, the hotel will be fully operational and ready to welcome vacationers starting November 1. Key facilities and amenities, including Mermaid Beach, the golf course, tennis courts, pool, the spa and Mermaid Restaurant will be available for guests.
Additionally, the resort will host the annual St. Croix Coral Reef Swim on November 5. Now in its 22nd year, the race attracts fitness swimmers and world-class athletes who compete in various swim courses, culminating at The Buccaneer's Mermaid Beach.
As discussions with transportation partners continue, the Department of Tourism reports JetBlue Airways has resumed commercial service to the Territory. This service is in addition to American Airlines operations at both the Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas and the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, as well as Delta Air Lines and Spirit Airlines service to and from St. Thomas. Inter-island flights by Air Sunshine, Cape Air and Seaborne Airlines are also operational. As conditions improve, airline schedules are likely to normalize. In the interim, passengers are encouraged to check with their airlines for flight times.
"We are working closely with our airline partners to ensure there are commercial flight services to meet the needs of our residents, businesses, visitors and the numerous professionals who are supporting the hurricane recovery," said Commissioner Nicholson-Doty. "We will continue to advocate for expanded service as more of our hotel properties reopen and demand begins to grow in the marketplace," she said.
In order to assess overall readiness of the destination to welcome visitors, the Department of Tourism has met with business leaders in the St. Croix and St. Thomas/St. John districts, and is in the process of conducting an assessment of hotels, attractions and other visitor-related businesses to determine the extent of damage, availability of power and water, and anticipated reopening dates.
The storms' impact to the Territory's hotel inventory was not as extensive in St. Croix as it was in St. Thomas and St. John. In addition to The Buccaneer, Caravelle Hotel & Casino and Tamarind Reef Resort in St. Croix are currently housing relief workers.
Seaport facilities are open, and businesses and attractions are looking forward to welcoming cruise visitors in November.
While the clean-up process is underway in the town of Frederiksted on St. Croix, many dining establishments, stores and activities are up and running in Christiansted on the eastern side of the island. Similarly, shops, restaurants and attractions are ready to welcome customers in St. Thomas. The downtown Charlotte Amalie shopping area, including businesses on Main Street and at Havensight Mall, is ready to open, with power and water already restored. On St. John, efforts are ongoing to clear debris, restore infrastructure and reopen the Virgin Islands National Park.
Many of the Territory's beaches are getting set to reopen in the weeks ahead, pending the completion of water quality testing by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.

Six months after its introduction, businesses remain in the dark about how best to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy, according to a survey released today (Friday) by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in conjunction with Middlesex University London.

The annual workforce survey of over 1,400 businesses found that nearly a quarter (23%) of levy-paying firms have no understanding of the Apprenticeship Levy or don’t know how their company will respond to it.

Businesses with a pay-bill of less than £3m fall under the levy threshold but can still apply for apprentice funding, yet the findings of the survey show 66% of these companies haven’t taken any direct action to use the funds or don’t know about it.

For over half of levy-paying businesses, it represents an added cost, with 56% not expecting to recover any or only a portion of their payment, compared to 36% who expect to recover all or more of their payment.

The findings reinforce the need for clearer guidance and support for businesses wanting to utilise the Apprenticeship Levy. Firms, both above and below the levy threshold, are uncertain about how to use the funds to find and train the skills they need, undermining the purpose of the system.

Martin Dudley, Chief Executive of Thomas Dudley Ltd, commented: “Uncertainty leads to procrastination, and the implementation of the levy has led to a drop in apprenticeships in the short term. Neither businesses nor providers know what is going on. However, training was not previously seen by businesses as a high enough priority and providers were not talking to businesses about their needs. The levy has the potential to change this.”

Vikki Haines, Careers Enterprise Co-ordinator at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: “As a Chamber, we feel that communication has been inconsistent and businesses have found it difficult to find answers. Therefore, we are calling for robust channels of communication to be made available. In essence, businesses require greater flexibility on how they can utilise their levy monies and a system that is fully operational as quickly as possible, is simple and efficient, and that enables them to access good quality training.”

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) are spearheading a drive to create more business with Turkey.

A delegation from the GBCC has been on a lightning visit to Bursa, about 100 miles from Istanbul and met businesses who are thirsting to establish business with UK SMEs.

This was made obvious with visit to several companies, including a textile giant and huge manufacturing plants.

Paul Faulkner, the GBCC’s chief executive, said: “This was an extremely productive and insightful trip. There is so much potential in Turkey and one that West Midlands companies must take a close look at.

“It is obvious that many UK companies are fearful of even getting into export markets, but they do need to understand that there is huge potential out there.

“And it may not be obvious, but there are many countries like Turkey that UK businesses do not take seriously as potential partners.

“To drive this new understanding, the Chamber has agreed to promote a huge Bursa International Summit beginning at the end of November which is being led by Bursa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BTSO).

“This will be a great opportunity for inquisitive and ambitious businesses in Greater Birmingham to start to explore and develop relationships with Bursa firms, and BTSO have made it clear that they will welcome us back with open arms and do all they can to facilitate the opening up of new relationships.

“And there are easy links with Bursa via Istanbul with 12 direct flights a week with Turkish Airlines from Birmingham Airport. I urge anyone with any interest in joining us and attending to reach out as soon as possible.

Chamber Commerce membership in Turkey is compulsory and the BTSO demonstrated how effectively they can support their 40,000 members.

Cuneyt Sener, vice president of BTSO, said: “We really want to establish serious contact with UK companies and urge them to come here to see what we do.

“Bursa is a city of huge potential and we will shortly be opening a shopping centre in Moscow to sell goods from our region. We have plans to do similar exercises throughout the world.

“It is really important that UK companies come here and push themselves. They should tell us what they want from Bursa and we will be very happy to help them.”

The GBCC delegation included president Paul Kehoe, chief operating officer Russell Jeans and Professor Alex De Ruyter, Director of the Centre for Brexit Studies at Birmingham City University.

Mr Kehoe said: “Understanding this area is just an eye-opener and we need to spread the word on the success business out here are having. We need to be their allies.

“Between us we can provide links between Asia in the east through Bursa and through towards the west and the United States.”

Mr Jeans said: “We were all impressed with the tremendous enthusiasm here from businesses that have great synergies with the UK.

“The GBCC’s International Hub will be driving greater links with Turkey and Bursa in particular and we are happy to facilitate any company that wants to look at doing business there.”

The Birmingham delegation visited a textile manufacturing giant, Ilay Textile, who are planning to open a UK office to cope with a growing market here, currently running at 10 million dollars annually. Part of those sales is a yearly contract to supply Marks & Spencer with dress materials.

Durmazlar, established in 1987 as Turkey’s first sheet metal company now employing 1,500 people with lazar-cutting machines and the complete production of trams, largely for the city of Bursa but with world-wide ambitions.

Yepsan, an archetypical metal-bashing company that supplies components to Fiat, Bentley, VW, Audi and Volvo among others also  have a huge defence and aviation division based in Turkey’s capital Ankara with customers like Boeing and Airbus. They also specialise in manufacturing helicopter simulators and seats

As ART Business Loans celebrated 20 years of lending to small businesses in the West Midlands at its AGM, Chief Executive Steve Walker said: “We are ready, willing and able to do more to fill the gap in the market for small business loans left by the banks.  Both research and our experience on the ground show this gap to be bigger than it was in 1997, when we were set up to tackle the issue.”

Offering his congratulations on ART’s achievements over 20 years, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, who was guest speaker at the AGM, described ART as one of the unsung heroes of the local business finance scene, saying: “I first met Steve Walker when I became Chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and was impressed by his knowledge, enthusiasm and determination when it comes to finance for enterprise.  Access to finance was always a key issue raised with the LEP and ART was always there – from long before the LEP came into being – persistently working, even through difficult times, to ensure that businesses could access the finance they needed to survive and thrive.  ART has made a big difference to hundreds of businesses and a huge contribution to the local economy over the past two decades.  In some ways the access to finance situation has improved in recent years, but there are still issues to tackle.”

Steve Walker believes the issues remaining include the tendency for new initiatives led by the public sector to focus on larger, high growth, businesses.  “Some businesses are finding it easier to access finance,” he says, “but those which are smaller and don’t fit the credit scoring criteria of either the banks or some of the new alternative finance providers, still need ART.  We lend up to £150,000 to any type of business, for any business purpose.  Our aim is to support local jobs for local people, remaining true to the mission set out by our founding Chairman Sir Adrian Cadbury.”

Sir Adrian’s son Benedict and daughter Caroline attended the AGM along with over 60 ART members, borrowers, introducers, partners and supporters.

Nick Venning, the recently appointed new Chair of ART, said: “ART has £7.5m to lend over the next three years, which is extremely good news.  We are set to increase our loan book and are actively seeking additional funding to enable us to support even more businesses.  ART’s approach is inclusive.  We will continue to help any business in need of funding that in turn supports jobs and the local West Midlands economy.”

Müller will invest £100m over the next three years to develop, manufacture and market a new generation of branded and private label yogurt and desserts products, made from milk produced by British farmers.

Already the UK's favourite yogurt and desserts brand picked from supermarket shelves 208 million times each year*, Müller aims to strengthen its leadership in parts of the category where it is already ever-present whilst introducing exciting new branded and private label products where it is currently absent.

The company plans to further grow and innovate brands including category leader Müllerlight, Müller Corner and Müller Rice, and aims to broaden their usage occasions and availability. Müller will also build on its successful licensing agreement with Mondelez to develop its range of Cadbury products, including entry to new segments of the desserts sector.

To accommodate its plans, capacity and capabilities at its three sites in Shropshire will be further upgraded, including doubling the size of the Telford facility by 2020.

Müller will also increase its marketing spend by almost 25% over the next three years, ensuring that its growing portfolio of branded products benefit from sustained and focused support in line with the company's ambitions.

Plans for its yogurt and desserts business are guided by a category vision which identified a potential £233m of yogurt and desserts category growth by 2020, to be delivered by bringing excitement, innovation and game changing new products to the market.

Already this year, Müller has successfully introduced a range of 'Big Pot' yogurts, its first ever whipped fat free Greek style yogurt and its first branded shareable dessert.

It has announced the arrival of Müller White Velvet, injecting new excitement into the plain yogurt sector in the UK, and two Müller Corner SKUs with spoons to target the growing food to go market.

And most recently, the company introduced Müller Rice 5 Grains which includes white rice, barley, spelt, millet and wheat, a perfect on-the-go snack for hungry consumers, whether that's after the gym or the rush hour commute.

Müller has also extended its successful partnership with British Athletics so that it has branding and activation rights for six major athletics events in 2018 and 2019.

Bergen Merey, Managing Director of Müller Yogurt & Desserts said:

“This unprecedented level of investment will ensure that we can offer an increasing portfolio of great yogurt and desserts products made in Britain with milk from British farmers, which meet the needs of our customers.

“Müller's approach in the UK within the yogurt and desserts and milk and ingredients sectors, is to grow our capabilities so that we can reduce the UK's dependence on imported dairy products, and build a vibrant future for the British dairy industry.”

A senior Sandwell councillor has been appointed a SCAMbassador and joined a national campaign to reduce fraud and criminal financial abuse, referred to as scams.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for health and public protection, is backing the council's involvement in the national Friends Against Scams initiative and urging people to become SCAMfriends.

The scheme aims to tackle the lack of scams awareness by providing information about scams and those who can fall victim to them.

People can become SCAMfriends by attending a short 40-minute session locally or by competing an online learning session.

The council’s trading standards team has been busy recruiting eight SCAMchampions – people who run short scam awareness sessions, resulting so far in 200 SCAMfriends - as well as two SCAMbassadors.

SCAMbassadors such as Councillor Costigan, use their influence to highlight the problem, change people’s perceptions and make the fraud and financial abuse a local, regional and national topic of conversation.

Recent scam cases in Sandwell have included a Tipton woman in her eighties who was conned out of £150,000 and had been targeted over several years, and a Great Barr man in his nineties, who lost more than £300,000.

Councillor Costigan, said: “Scams affect the lives of millions of people. People who become victims often experience loneliness, shame and isolation.

“Sadly our own trading standards team hear of far too many heart-rending cases where Sandwell people have been cheated by these fraudsters with the elderly and vulnerable often being systematically targeted.

“Since joining up with the National Trading Standards Scam Team in 2013, the council has supported more than 500 residents including some who have been repeat victims of scams, and in some cases have recovered some of the money they have lost.

"Through the campaign, we will continue to raise awareness by creating SCAMfriends. Information is the scammer’s enemy and by raising awareness we will continue to work against them.”

Joining Councillor Costigan in taking a stand against scams is director of prevention and protection Stuart Lackenby, who has also become a SCAMbassador.

He said: “Anyone can become a SCAMfriend  by attending a Friends Against Scams awareness session in person or completing online learning. They can learn how to identify different types of fraud and how to spot and support a victim.

"With their increased knowledge and awareness, they can then make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours helping to protect themselves and others.”

Awareness sessions are being run by SCAM champions who are trained and supported by the National Trading Standards Scams team.

Sessions will also be run during Sandwell's Safer 6 campaign which runs from Saturday 23 September to Sunday 5 November.

An exciting line-up of brave business individuals have been coerced into performing a live, five-minute original stand-up comedy routine in front of their colleagues, clients, friends and family in a bid to be crowned ‘Wolverhampton Stand Up Challenge Winner’.

The daring, unwitting participants that have already signed up to months of secret preparation and training to boldly take on the 2017 Stand Up Challenge are:

  • Andy Cox, Managing Director at Cox & Plant
  • Jan Denning, Commercial Sales Director at Wolverhampton Racecourse
  • Dawn Owen, Director at Bodykraft
  • Kevin Rogers, Chief Executive at Paycare
  • Malcolm Wright, Business Entrepreneur

Jan Denning, Commercial Sales Director at Wolverhampton Racecourse commented, “My tummy is already doing flips at the thought. That aside, I’m looking forward to learning about this art and feeling proud that we did it - a group of local business people working together, having lots of fun and raising some money along the way. I just hope security do bag searches for any rotten tomatoes!”

Entrepreneur, Malcolm Wright known locally for his management role at the Wolverhampton Ramada Park Hall Hotel & Spa and his subsequent impact on the region, commented on his forthcoming participation, “I feel sick to my stomach about doing the Stand Up Challenge, but I have agreed to do it to take myself out of my comfort zone. It’s one thing I’m particularly poor at: telling jokes and being in front of an audience with lights shining down on me like something out of Shawshank redemption.”

The evening will be hosted by comedian, Jarred Christmas, and it promises to be a night of extreme entertainment, whilst raising funds for local community interest company, Creative Black Country - who work with local people to discover, explore and grow an exciting and meaningful programme of arts activity in the Black Country.

Sajida Carr from Creative Black Country said, “This is a great new initiative for the Black Country and one which I am confident will go down extremely well. Creative Black Country is very excited to be involved in such entertaining projects which make the most of the Black Country through arts and culture.”

The Stand Up Challenge, sponsored by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and the Black Country Business Festival, also forms part of the Funny Things – a new Festival to celebrate Black Country humour that runs from 23rd October to 5th November 2017.

Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said, “The Black Country has a strong history in comedy and continues to thrive throughout the region today. Initiatives like this bring this sector to the forefront even more. The business community spends its 'life' being serious, so this is its chance to have a laugh in aid of a good cause.

“The Chamber is proud to support innovative ideas such as this and the Black Country Business Festival. As well as bringing the business community together, they raise the profile of the Black Country by highlighting what a fantastic place it is to live, work and do business. It’s even better that we can show we have a sense of humour at the same time!”

The underlying strength of the rental market has been emphasised once more by new statistics that show rental prices are continuing to rise, despite more property stock becoming available to tenants.

Rightmove’s most recent Rental Price Tracker shows asking rents outside London in the second quarter of 2017 were 2.8 per cent up on the previous quarter. While some may expect a rise in rents to be at least partially a result of low supply, the opposite was in fact true with property availability up by seven per cent in comparison with Q2 in 2016.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Some experts believed the supply of rental properties would fall this year due to economic and political concerns, but this has certainly proved not to be the case.

“In fact, supply is growing in all regions across the country and high tenant demand for all types of properties means rental prices are also on the up, providing landlords with a golden opportunity to benefit from more people looking for rented accommodation and a booming market that allows them to enjoy a significant return on investment.

“This trend is also good news for tenants who are faced with more choice on the rental market and a greater chance of finding their perfect home.

“We expect rents to continue to rise through the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, making buying to let a lucrative investment that will deliver low voids and high yields.”

Rightmove’s research identified the most in-demand areas of all, with Oldham, Stirling, Folkestone, Stockport and Welwyn Garden City attracting the highest tenant demand outside London.

It also found the greatest annual increase in rents has come in the north-west, where prices are three per cent higher than in 2016. This was followed by the East Midlands, which has witnessed a 2.3 per cent hike.

 

More grandparents than parents are helping first-time buyers make their first move on to the housing ladder, independent research shows.

The nationwide study shows more than a third (34%) of estate agents have seen a rise in first-time buyers being helped by grandparents compared with 26% who report an increase in parents helping out children. Around a fifth (21%) of estate agents say first-time buyers are being helped by parents and grandparents.

Mortgage experts are warning the growth rate of first-time buyer numbers will slow this year after hitting record levels in 2016 although the Council of Mortgage Lenders says the number first-time buyers was up 8% in the past year.

Equity release referral service Key Partnerships study shows estate agents share the concern – half (49%) of those questioned say they are worried about the withdrawal of Government schemes to help first-time buyers. The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme funding lenders offering higher loan-to-value loans ended at the start of the year but equity loans and Help to Buy ISAs continue.

Estate agents are increasingly aware of the role of equity release plans in helping grandparents release money to help first-time buyers – 60% of those questioned know it can be used to support first-time buyers and more than half (54%) are interested in finding out more.

Around half of estate agents (49%) believe equity release plans are a solution for first-time buyers and 52% say they would highlight them as a solution if they had a relationship with a specialist adviser.

Will Hale, director at Key Partnerships, said: “The financial pressure on first-time buyers to raise the money for a deposit means grandparents are starting to play a bigger role than parents.

“Grandparents however need to think carefully about how they will fund grandchildren and plan ahead so they are not doing so at a cost to their own financial well-being in retirement. That should include looking at releasing equity from their homes.

“Estate agents are valued as a source of financial guidance and those who can discuss equity release as a potential alternative fund-raising solution will be able to benefit from an additional revenue stream by referring potential clients to a specialist.”

Key Partnerships is increasingly focussing on customers referred by introducers including estate agents and has allocated a number of dedicated Key Retirement advisers experienced in dealing with the complexities of interest-only.

Key Partnerships is a B2B referral service providing a whole of market equity release solution for introducers and their clients, through parent company Key Retirement; leading specialist provider of financial solutions to the over 55’s. Over 7,000 introducers encompassing IFAs, mortgage brokers, accountants, solicitors and estate agents are registered to refer business to Key Partnerships. In return for the referral, intermediaries earn on average £1,319 on completion of the loan.

City of Wolverhampton’s Business Week flagship event will this year be hosted by one of TV’s shining lights.

Broadcaster and journalist Steph McGovern will also be the keynote speaker at the annual Business Breakfast on Wednesday, September 27.

As one of the country’s most-esteemed business reporters, she has reported on business and finance from around the world, from international finance summits to small business success stories.

During the financial crash, Steph was a lead producer of business news, at the forefront of the award-winning coverage of the credit crunch and banking crisis.

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “We are delighted to have captured such an eminent figure to host the city’s annual Business Breakfast.

“This event is invaluable to businesses of all sizes in Wolverhampton to exchange ideas and I’m sure Steph will provide a hugely interesting insight based on her experiences.”

Business Week is a week-long programme which aims to support the city’s economic growth.

It will run from Monday, September 25 to Friday 29 and incorporates a range of events, activities and workshops for businesses, shaped by business representatives in the city.

The full programme of events can be viewed at www.investwolverhampton.com/bizweek and offers something for businesses of all types and sizes.

There are plenty of opportunities to tap into free business support and get help with developing workforce skills. Businesses can book now to join in ‘live’ advice on trading with Europe or find out about future contracts and tendering opportunities.

There are also drop in events to discover how technologies can enhance businesses and tap into information on business security.

A tour of Europe’s largest Construction Centre of Excellence at the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield Campus is available.

There is even the chance to develop team work by entering a team of four in the ‘It’s a Knockout’ Teamwork Challenge’ with WV Active

The resilience of the property market has once again been highlighted by new figures that show asking prices are continuing to rise.

Rightmove’s latest House Price Index reveals the average price of a property coming to the market this month is 3.1 per cent higher than in August 2016. It comes after statistics for July noted a 2.8 per cent annual hike in asking prices.

The index highlights a number of regional variations, with several counties identified as currently enjoying an annual hike in house prices of more than double the national average. The three most prosperous markets are named as Northamptonshire (a 9.1 per cent increase in the last year), Derbyshire (7.9 per cent) and Norfolk (7.4 per cent).

They are followed by Nottinghamshire (7.1 per cent), Bedfordshire (seven per cent), Worcestershire (seven per cent) and Leicestershire (6.9 per cent).

In terms of wider regions, the East Midlands (6.8 per cent) and West Midlands (5.8 per cent) led the way.

Kevin Shaw, national sales director at estate agents Leaders, says: “These figures, which are backed up by our own findings, clearly demonstrate the resilience of the housing market after last year’s historic Brexit vote.

“With the London market now well beyond the reach of many buyers, we have seen a definite ripple effect to the more affordable regions that have good transport links to either the capital or other large cities and towns. Many also benefit from infrastructure initiatives, such as HS2 and other urban regeneration projects.

“Birmingham is a notable hotspot, rivalling Manchester for second city status. Most crucially, unlike London and the south-east, house prices are within the reach of first-time buyers.

“Demand for rented property in these areas is also exceptionally high, enticing buy-to-let investors looking for inexpensive opportunities to invest. All these factors have driven demand and above average asking price increases over the last 12 months.”

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham say a freeze in inflation should not deflect from underlying problems that exist in the economy.

The Consumer Price Index measure of inflation remained at 2.6 per cent for the second consecutive month, despite forecasts that it would go up.

The Office for National Statistics said the largest downward pressure last month came from a fall in fuel prices.

This was offset by smaller upward contributions from a range of goods and services, including clothing, household goods, gas and electricity, and food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “Today’s inflation results confounded predictions as the rate stayed the same for the second consecutive month.

“Much of this was down to a fall in petrol prices (a trend which started back in March) which countered upward pressure from increases to food, gas and electricity prices.

“The latest figures suggest that UK inflation might peak at a lower level than previously predicted and it remains to be seen whether today’s results will impact the Bank of England’s thinking around potentially raising interest rates in the near term.

“Despite the positive news, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that wage growth is still lagging behind the rate of inflation and this will continue to have an impact on consumer spending power, a key driver of economic growth in the UK.

“Next week sees the start of surveying for our latest Quarterly Business Report and it will be interesting to see whether local businesses are still showing resilient levels of growth despite ongoing concerns around inflationary pressures and fluctuating exchange rates.”

With the return of GBBO in just a few short weeks, baking fans across the UK are dusting off the weighing scales, donning their aprons and hoping for some brilliant bakes. Ahead of the 12 week baking marathon, here Sainsbury's predicts five top food trends expected to hit our screens from episode one.

Alternative sugars; Those in the know are opting for alternative sugars such as coconut and date syrup, experimenting beyond the traditional caster sugar to achieve different results. Sainsbury's, whose baking aisle features an extensive range, has seen products such as Organic Rice Malt Syrup up 148% and Date Syrup up 32% since they arrived in store.

Boozy baking; 2016 saw contestants adding a ginny twist to their recipes for a more grown-up bake. Expect to see more of this in 2017 as contestants look to their take boozy bakes to new levels with tipples such as Prosecco, Gin & Tonic and Rum.

Garnishes and glitter; The recent launch of Edible Blossoms in Sainsbury's saw packs flying off the shelves, with the demand surpassing sales expectations. Now widely available, they're a beautiful way to give cakes a show-stopping quality, whilst adornments such as edible glitter, shimmer pearls and luxurious gold leaf nod to this year's beauty trends.

Autumnal tones; As summer turns to autumn, rainbow and unicorn bakes will become a thing of the past. This year's bakers will be channelling more muted and neutral tones in the style of Chetna Makan's favourite shade of mustard

Botanical and herb flavourings; Already popular on restaurant menus, expect to see contestants experimenting with botanical flavours in both sweet and savoury bakes, such as angelica root, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, saffron and fennel.

Former Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Chetna Makan says: “Every year baking trends change and evolve, often reflected within Great British Bake Off. In my experience, what was trendy and current in the baking world definitely influenced my recipes and baking decisions on the show. This year, expect to see a lot more neutral icing shades and unusual decorations such as edible flowers in both the show-stoppers and signature bakes.”

Sioned Read, Sainsbury's buyer for home baking added “Bake Off always has a huge impact on customer behaviour which we see reflected in sales from the baking and food aisles. For example, in 2016 after the contestants created Jaffa cakes, searches for Orange Jelly increased by 150% overnight on our groceries website. I'm always on the lookout for the signature ingredients of the season and aim to deliver an exciting range that allows customers to recreate the challenges at home. Based on recent baking trends, I expect our new Prosecco flavouring, alternative sugars and edible gold leaf will be firm favourites for 2017.”