The growing appetite for electric vehicles has led bright sparks One Way Electrical to start up a new EV charging business. EV Smart Charging aims to resolve the major issue holding back householders and companies from buying green, electric cars – a lack of charging points. The new business will generate a new role as a business development manager at the Longton-based company, with additional jobs predicted as demand grows.

Wayne Bennett, owner of Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, based One Way Electrical, has invested in EV installation training for half of the 12-strong team and has developed a new EV Smart Charging website, see http://evsmartcharging.co.uk

Wayne said: “EV Smart Charging is targeting both the domestic and commercial market. More car manufacturers are now producing electric cars and vans and the public demand is there. A recent survey by the AA showed that the main barrier to purchasing an electric vehicle is the fear of not being able to charge it and we believe that’s where our new business can help.

“One Way Electrical has a UK-wide reach, working to manage the supply of electricity for large infrastructure contracts across England and Scotland in recent months. We will bring that know-how and business knowledge to the EV Smart Charging, working with companies to fit multiple smart charging points at business parks, large companies, hotels, leisure centres and in the public sector across the country.

“And we are also geared up to provide home charging systems within the Midlands and North West. Our newly trained staff have OLEV approved installer status. This gives access to government grants for customers, with funding of up to £350 towards the purchase and installation cost on a home smart charging unit.

“Grants are also available in the commercial market for companies looking to install smart chargers for use by staff and customers.”

Wayne said that One Way Electrical’s reputation in the commercial and industrial sectors will give EV Smart Charging a competitive edge, adding: “Quality is at the heart of our offer. We will only use top-rated car charging stations at every location. Prior to installation, we will assess each premises unique requirements, so that  we can ensure we provide a cost-effective, quick charging and tailored solution, The types of car charging stations that we are able to provide, range from standard 3-pin plug-in systems for residential properties, through to entire networks for large corporations, public spaces or shopping centres.

The Government has now brought forward the date when petrol or diesel cars will stop being sold, from 2040 to 2035, and has suggested that this could even be accelerated further, to 2030. Currently, the number of charging points lags behind demand and, unless installation is stepped up, the UK will fail to meet its targets.

The EV Smart Charging website has been built in collaboration with Norton, Stoke-on-Trent based Graphix.

Baba Baboon has welcomed award-winning journalist Adam Gratton and PR expert Jamie Summerfield to their editorial team.

Since 2018, Baba Baboon has been reporting and publishing local news from Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and has fast become the go-to place to find out what’s going on in and around the area.

This latest move will see major developments in the online news service provided by the Newcastle-under-Lyme company with both Adam and Jamie helping to create a multi-media platform dedicated to local news.

Sonya Farrall, Creative Director at Baba Baboon, said: “We have been capturing the positivity in the lives and communities of the people living in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire since 2018 and this is a priority in how we look to deliver local news.

“However, we want to go further to represent the people and region we are proud to call home. More now than ever the need for local media is paramount in representing day to day happenings and shining a positive light on our communities.

“Therefore I am absolutely delighted Adam and Jamie are joining our Baba Media team – I have known both of them for a long time – and I’m looking forward to working with them on this next exciting Baba chapter.”

Adam, who has also recently worked with Staffordshire University to create community podcast series – Keep Talking About – during lockdown, said: “There is a real change happening in the media, which has gained momentum in the past nine months due to the unprecedented times we are living in. It’s apparent that today’s consumers want their media and news to be more transparent, to the point, accessible in all formats and inclusive of the people and communities they live in, and to feel represented and listened to while showing the positive aspects and good being worked toward, and achieved.
“In the face of such difficult and distressing times shifting the focus to the positive can only help to support the people of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and I’m really excited to be part of the Baba Media team – who will be delivering that daily dose of positivity and championing the voice of our local communities.”

Jamie – who founded the award-winning community news site A Little Bit of Stone, which is now run by someone else, and is also a music artist – will be covering the local music scene. He said: “It’s more important than ever that we shout about the good and the positive in the area. Baba Baboon is a positive platform for all that’s happening in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and I’m looking forward in helping to put the local music scene in the spotlight via Baba Media.
“Music has always been a hugely important part of the Potteries’ and surrounding areas, cultural life, and I’ll be championing the bands, venues, producers and promoters who are creating a thriving, dynamic scene here.”

Sonya added: “We will be working closely with Adam and Jamie and looking to provide access to video, podcasts, blogs, photos with the ability to access that content through multiple channels. We at Baba aim to make sure the positive accomplishments and journeys of where we live are never missed and most importantly represents the voice of the people who live in the region. Our next chapter is just beginning and our media team will be continuing to grow in the coming months.”

The government has acted swiftly with a raft of measures to help business, following the PMs announcement on tightening of restrictions to curb the spread of Covid19, at a pivotal time for the UK economy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak was quick to unveil his Winter Economic Plan, including measures to support businesses and the economy as the pandemic continues.

Chambers of Commerce have consistently called for a new generation of support to protect livelihoods and ease cash pressures faced by firms as the Job Retention Scheme winds down and we head into a challenging and uncertain winter.

The Chancellor has taken steps that will help preserve jobs. The new Jobs Support Scheme will help many companies hold on to valued, skilled employees.

The Chancellor has also listened to our consistent calls for an extension of business lending schemes, more flexible repayment terms for loans, and tax forbearance measures. With many firms reporting a shortage of cash reserves, this will lessen the immediate pressure and provide reassurance for many.

A summary of the main points of the Winter Economic Plan:

  • A new Jobs Support Scheme will be launched for employees working at least a third of their normal hours, who are being paid for that as normal. The government and employers will jointly increase their wages to cover two-thirds of their lost pay and the employee will keep their job
  • All small and medium-sized businesses are eligible, but larger businesses must show their turnover has fallen during the crisis. Employers can use it even if they have not previous used the furlough scheme it replaces
  • It will run for six months from November
  • The existing grant for self-employed people is being extended on similar terms to the Jobs Support Scheme
  • A “pay as you grow” scheme was announced for businesses, allowing them to extend their bounce back loans from six to 10 years, reducing their payments
  • Businesses can also move to interest-only payments or suspend repayments for six months if they are “in real trouble”. Credit ratings will be unaffected
  • The government guarantee on Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans will be extended to 10 years and a new successor loan guarantee programme will be announced in January
  • The temporary reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% for some sectors will remain in place until 31 March 2021

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) will continue to lobby the government to take additional action to support parts of the economy facing unprecedented challenges over the months ahead.

If you have any immediate concerns or issues you would like us to raise via BCC, please let us no by email to info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Finally, I just wanted to let you know that we are keeping our Members’ Lounge at Commerce House open for business. We have all the necessary hygiene and distancing measures in place. So, if you need somewhere safe to work or meet, we would be delighted to see you.  You can view the facilities here: https://bit.ly/2NL3Ooa

If you want to talk to us about any business issues, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

 

The British Chambers of Commerce has published a critical update of its Brexit guidance dashboard containing 26 key questions that remain unanswered with just 98 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period.

 The leading business group published the document alongside new research which suggests business preparation for the coming changes is low due to the unprecedented challenges facing them.

  • 26 unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of business operations, including UK/EU customs checks and rules of origin
  • Just 38% of firms have done a Brexit risk assessment in 2020, compared to 57% in 2019
  • BCC seeks clarity for businesses and an immediate resumption immediate resumption of weekly business preparedness summits with senior ministers

 

Unanswered questions

 The BCC’s Brexit guidance dashboard compiles 35 questions most frequently raised by businesses, many of which apply in a deal or no deal scenario. The BCC gives just 9 a green status, indicating there is sufficient information available to plan. 19 are amber, indicating some information is available, and seven are red, indicating there is inadequate actionable information.

Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate. Among other things:

  • firms do not know what rules of origin will apply after the transition period, preventing them and their customers from planning and potentially creating unprecedented new administration and costs;
  • there is no clarity on how food and drink due to be sold in the EU and Northern Ireland is to be labelled;
  • very limited guidance on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland; and
  • no information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, key to ‘levelling up’ the regions and nations – despite years of calls for clarity.

Low levels of business preparedness

 The lack of information for firms is compounded by new BCC research released today, which found that just 38% of firms had completed a Brexit risk assessment this year, compared to 57% in 2019 and 35% in 2018.

The research also found that more than half (51%) of firms surveyed had not taken any of the eight steps recommended by the government to prepare for changes in the movement of goods between the UK and the EU. This includes fundamentals of operation for trading businesses such as checking on the need for customs declarations and assessing the possible impact of changes on existing customers and suppliers.

The lack of information with which to plan and potential deadline fatigue presents further challenges to firms up and down the UK that have faced reduced demand, ongoing government restrictions and sustained cashflow challenges due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Demanding action

The leading business group – which represents 75,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK employing nearly six million people, and works with over 30,000 companies that trade internationally each year – has written to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove seeking action for businesses and urgent discussions to help firms prepare.

BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:

 “With just 98 days to go, business communities face the triple threat of a resurgent Coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period.

“Significant unanswered questions remain for businesses, and despite recent public information campaigns, base levels of preparedness are low. Many firms say they’ve heard talk of deadlines and cliff edges before, and others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic and have little cash or information with which to plan.

“While we recognise that some of the questions facing businesses are subject to ongoing negotiations between the government and the EU, other matters are within the UK’s own hands. The government must ramp up engagement with business urgently – to the levels seen prior to previous ‘no deal’ deadlines – to ensure that the real-world issues facing firms get tackled immediately.

“The ‘Check, Change, Go’ campaign gives the impression that Brexit-related changes are like getting an MOT – whereas the reality is that for many businesses, they’re more akin to planning a moon landing. Businesses need honest communication about the complexity of the changes they face – and stronger encouragement to act.”

Houses of Parliament

The “winter economy plan” includes:

Job Support Scheme

  • Businesses will have the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours, rather than making them redundant.
  • Workers must work a third of their usual hours, paid by their employer as normal.
  • For the time they are not working, the government will pay a third of their usual pay, and the employer will pay a third of their usual pay.
  • The scheme will be targeted at businesses that need it most – all small and medium-sized firms – but only for big companies if turnover has fallen by a third.
  • The scheme will run for six months starting in November.
  • Firms can claim both the jobs support scheme and the jobs retention bonus.
  • A grant for self-employed workers will be extended on similar terms.

VAT Deferral

  • Businesses who deferred their VAT will no longer have to pay a lump sum at the end of March next year. They will have the option of splitting it into smaller, interest free payments over the course of 11 months.
  • Any of the millions of self-assessed income taxpayers who need extra help can also now extend their outstanding tax bill over 12 months from January.
  • The Government has also extended the 15 percent VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors to the end of March next year

Bounce Back Loans

  • The application deadline for all coronavirus loan schemes – including the future fund – has been extended to 30 November.
  • Struggling businesses can choose for interest only or up to six months suspended payments with no credit rating impact.

Pay as you Grow

  • More than one million businesses that have borrowed under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme will be offered the choice of more time and greater flexibility for their repayments.
  • Lenders have been enabled to offer CBILS borrowers more time to make their repayments where needed.

Self Employment Income Support Scheme

  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme extension will support viable traders who are facing reduced demand over the winter months, covering 20 percent of average monthly trading profits via a government grant (extended to 30 April, 2021)

Staff in Burton and South Derbyshire College’s (BSDC) Sign and Print Academy recently used laser cut technology to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers in local care homes. Andy Tipper, Teaching and Learning Technician and Bill Moorley, Course Leader for Art and Design/Product Design created PVC and Polypropylene face shields using laser cutting machinery, producing up to 90 per day. It took approximately 40 minutes to cut each sheet which produced 10 headbands. Then they had to be separated and cleaned before the PVC visors were hole-punched and assembled to the headbands.

The College’s Sign and Print Academy in partnership with Hardy Signs links design with high specification printing and 3D rapid prototyping equipment. The Academy enhances the College’s graphics and creative curriculum and was launched to help fill the skills gap in the sign making and product design sector. Over 800 face shields were donated to local care homes and charities between May and July to help them limit the spread of Covid-19. While the shields are not surgical visors, they provided much sought after PPE to staff in care homes with limited supplies.

The College has established links with all of the care homes and charities it donated PPE to as they have previously worked with the College to provide work placement and industry placement opportunities for health and social care students. These include, Castle Court Care Home, Oakland Village and Community Care Centre, Far Fillimore Care Home, Charlotte James Care Home and Bladon House School Children’s Home.

Andy Tipper, Teaching and Learning Technician at Burton and South Derbyshire College said: “We were delighted to be able to use our equipment and know-how to produce PPE equipment for care homes when they needed it most. These are unprecedented times with high demand for face shields for all front line health and social care workers. The visors we donated have assisted key workers with the important job of supporting and protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Nicola Yeomans, Registered Care Home Manager at Far Fillimore Care Home said: “We would like to thank the staff at Burton and South Derbyshire College for thinking of us and providing essential protective wear that will help to keep our residents and care team safe.”

North Staffordshire’s Rydale Roofing has signed a partnership with a training company which will give young people a pathway into the trade. With an ageing workforce, roofing is facing a skills shortage while, at the same time, there’s no formal pathway for school leavers to start a career in the industry. But Silverdale-based Rydale Roofing has joined forces with Juniper Training to launch the Building Futures, Stoke-on-Trent Roofing Hub. It is hoped the pathway – only the second to be launched in the West Midlands – will create job opportunities for youngsters not only at Rydale, but with building companies across North Staffordshire and beyond. Rydale Roofing’s Directors, Mick and Julie Mirowski are calling on roofing and building companies to register for an introductory webinar on Wednesday, 7 October, at 10.30am.

Julie said: “The Roofing Hub will give 16-year-olds an introduction to a trade. Rydale Roofing, working with Juniper Training, will give trainees taster sessions in skills such as slating and tiling, fitting waterproof membranes, sheeting and cladding, manual handling and working at heights. They will work with us for 24 weeks, both out on the job and in our training room at Rydale Roofing on the Silverdale Business Park. The first cohort is expected to start in January and, by the end of their time with us, which will include site visits to other local companies, they will have worked towards their CSCS site card. We think this new scheme is ideal for both construction companies and young people looking for work.  The trade needs an influx of young roofers and there’s work available, even at a time when the economy is slumping due to the impact of Covid-19. Once they have completed the course with the Roofing Hub, trainees will be in a fantastic position to go on to complete apprenticeships with companies in North Staffordshire. The hub will produce new workers for Rydale Roofing but also for several other companies. The whole trade in our area can benefit from this.”

Currently, there’s a £1,000 incentive from the Government for companies taking on apprentice sand and if Construction Industry Training Board apprentice levy payers there are £7,000 worth of grants available. Juniper Training has run a successful scheme with the SPV Group, a building and roofing company based in Walsall.

The Chartered Institute of Building has quoted that the construction Industry needs 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with demand but currently the rate of recruitment into the sector is far lower than the retirement rate within the sector. With the industry now experiencing rates of growth, particularly in housebuilding, this is putting further strain on an industry which has already been facing skills shortages.

The first step is for companies to join the webinar on 7 October. To get involved or for further information, please contact Lisa Jenkins on lisa.jenkins@junipertraining.co.uk or call 07923 209239 to book your place.

Driver risk management consultant and trainer Adrian Hide had to rapidly change his business model as Coronavirus swept the globe.  When lockdown put an end to face-to-face meetings, workshops, and client training sessions, Adrian moved swiftly to find other ways to deliver his business.

Adrian said: “Entering lockdown was a concern to me, and it made me realise that I needed to adapt to the new normal and to embrace technology more.  “A big part of what I do involves face-to-face meetings and training. Having recognised this will be a long time returning, I made sure I had the means to communicate to both existing and new clients via a stable video conference platform.  For the training side of my business I invested in an online learning and development platform and immediately began to create interactive e-learning content.”

Adrian, who lives in the Staffordshire Moorlands, set up Adrian Hide Consultancy in 2018 having developed his passion for road safety in 1986 when he began a driving training company.  This was followed by another 13 years as a Road Safety Manager for Staffordshire County Council and six years in the private sector in driver risk management.

He said: “I’ve loved all of my roles but working for myself means I can now help businesses, small and large, to understand and overcome the challenges associated with work-related road safety. As a business, you have a duty of care to those employees who drive on company business. If the worst happens and there’s a fatality and the company is found to have failed in their duty of care, the business owner can face a corporate manslaughter charge under health and safety law and, at the least, a hefty fine.”

Adrian now has several e-courses in the development stage, including ‘eco-safe driving’ and ‘driving an electric car for the first time’ to name just two.

He added: “With the huge rise in van usage fuelled by the increase in demand for home delivery, I’ve created a Safer Van Driving e-Learning course designed for people driving a van for the first time.  It is also useful to the more seasoned van drivers who just want a refresher and for businesses, who have a fleet of drivers, and want to ensure they are appropriately trained to meet their duty of care obligations.”

The entirely online ‘Safer Driving for Van Drivers’ course takes less than 90 minutes to complete and covers everything from pre-drive safety checks to defensive driving techniques. Other benefits to businesses who can demonstrate their employees have completed a van driver safety course include cost savings through increased fuel efficiency and reduced insurance premiums.

Adrian added: “As a member of the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce, I’ve been grateful for their help, support and guidance during these uncertain times. I feel confident about the future. It is important that we dust ourselves down, take stock, embrace change, think outside the box and futureproof our businesses. That’s what lockdown has taught me most of all.”

Adrian is a Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire approved training provider which means any business that pays business rates to a Staffordshire authority can reclaim 48 percent of the cost of his courses. For information about the van driver safety and e-learning courses call Adrian Hide on 07973 337251 or go to www.adrianhideconsultancy.co.uk/e-learning/

Leading Chartered Accountancy firm, Mitten Clarke, has boosted its team to provide extra support and advice to clients as they navigate the Covid-19 storm. Twelve appointments have been made across the Stoke-on-Trent team, taking Mitten Clarke’s total head count to 73. Throughout summer, new faces have appeared within in the accounts, tax, payroll, audit, client services and marketing teams in order to assist clients in accessing Government furlough, loan and business support schemes. In addition to this, Mitten Clarke have been helping with cash flow forecasts, providing advice around future strategy, assisting clients to ensure they have the right structure to protect their assets and supporting with payment plans or deferrals.

“Our recent appointments reflect the company’s ambitious growth targets and our drive to innovate within the market, plus the demands that the Coronavirus pandemic has generated,” said Operations Director, James Beardmore. “Good financial advice is now more valuable than ever. In the first two months of lockdown, Mitten Clarke supported clients in gaining over £9 million in Government support through the CBILS scheme which helped secure the future of their business and many jobs. Government advice and support for companies is constantly changing and it’s essential that they get guidance to stay afloat. Our clients appreciate us being on the end of the phone and often run most things past us. They value our impartial recommendations and assurances. We pride ourselves on our ability to adapt and develop our services to meet client needs. As a business we saw growth prior to the pandemic and the new appointments will ensure that we continue on this trajectory.”

This news follows the opening of the firm’s Manchester City Centre office earlier this year, prior to the country going into lockdown due to the pandemic. The new office is headed by Lindsey Shepherd, who has more than 15 years experience in accountancy and working with clients across the North West. Whilst continuing to support existing clients in the region, Lindsey’s team seek to support the overall Mitten Clarke development through the acquisition of new clients, particularly in Greater Manchester.

For further information on Mitten Clarke, please go online to www.mittenclarke.co.uk

Rivetwise onsite at Unipres (UK Limited)

Rivetwise were delighted to be onsite with a customer from the automotive sector based in Sunderland last week. Managing Director, Sean Keeley and the Technical Team from Rivetwise attended a site visit at the global manufacturer of press-formed automotive components Unipress, to provide specialist onsite training and assistance with tooling installation of the Pop Avdel Prosert XTN20.

Supplying to global brands like Nissan, Renault and Honda, Unipres UK has established a reputation for excellence from their base in Sunderland. Unipress endeavours to find and create ways of improving manufacturing as a whole through advanced engineering, innovative technology, automation, mobile technology and systems integration.

Working in collaboration with the Stanley Engineered Fastening Automotive Division, the Rivetwise team provided a rivet tool installation service, helped to make adjustments to the robotics and jigs to ensure they were set correctly and offered training and advice to assist with the changes to the manufacturing process.

“It was fantastic to visit such a forward-thinking and innovative company. The site visit allowed us to understand the application process and how they were using the product to allow us to make adjustments and recommendations to ensure a smooth manufacturing run”.

Peter Normington – National Account Manager, Rivetwise