More people are asking for their savings to be invested responsibly and ethically, according to North Staffordshire pensions and savings experts Richard Jacobs Pension & Trustee Services.

With awareness of issues such as climate change rising, Emily Small says questions from investors about which companies pension funds invest in, are now becoming much more common.

In response, Richard Jacobs Pension & Trustee Services is looking to add more responsible and sustainable investments into their portfolios and have specific investments for those with strong ethical views.

Emily, a Director, at Newcastle-under-Lyme based Richard Jacobs Pensions and Trustee Services, said: “We’ve noticed an upward trend of people seeking ethical investments and it is something that is now being catered for by fund managers.

“For most people with a private pension, their pension contributions are the biggest opportunity that most people have to influence investment portfolios. Traditionally people would put money in their pension and the primary objective was to maximise returns, within an appropriate level of risk, however, we are all more aware about issues such as climate change, experiments on animals, arms sales, modern slavery and human rights.

“Pension funds can use voting rights to try to influence how a company behaves. They can also tailor investment portfolios to reflect your concerns.”

In one example, Royal London Asset Management Limited (RLAM) has committed to being a responsible investor. They state: “Greater public awareness and concern has resulted in us as investors being asked more and more challenging questions about how we are being responsible stewards of our clients’ capital,” said the company’s head of responsible investment. “Fundamentally, we believe that considering environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in the investment process can help us deliver better returns for our customers and clients.”

 

Richard Jacobs Pensions carries-out pension audits to ensure their clients’ investments are working well. They then search the markets for suitable investment opportunities.

848 Group, one of the midland’s leading IT providers has appointed a new Head of Project Management Office (PMO) to enhance the existing strategic relationship between the business and sales.

Justine Slade joins 848 with over 10 years’ experience in the IT industry and has worked with clients across many sectors including telecoms, retail, financial services, legal, engineering, manufacturing and automotive.

Heading up the PMO which Justine describes as “a company’s command centre for projects” means she will be focussing on project portfolio management at a strategic level. She said: “I’m looking forward to managing cross functional resource planning and project portfolio management as well as enhancing 848’s strategic relationship between Sales and PMO.”

Justine’s impressive portfolio includes successfully delivering multiple large-scale transformation programmes, including an 18-month warehouse migration programme for a leading Network Provider, and a 24-month implementation project of a new global platform for the EMEA (Europe & Middle East) territories. These projects came with significant budgets that had to be managed tightly through the business and third parties.

Group Technical Director David Burn said: “Justine is already proving to be an asset to the team and is drawing on her wealth of experience. She has delivered multimillion pound global programmes as well as key strategic projects. The knowledge and skills she developed over the past decade are perfect for the increasing demands of the business and we’re looking forward to driving the growth of the business together.”

Justine said: “I am excited about joining 848 group during a period of massive growth and I can’t wait to be part of the momentum. Process is key to both myself and 848 so I’m thrilled to be a part of an agile and forward-thinking company.

“I’m eagerly anticipating the challenge of growing professionally with 848 and supporting a team that drives growth and facilitates success with Business Changing IT.”

If you’re interested in working in partnership with an IT provider, contact 848 Group on 0344 9848 848 or info@848.co

For more information visit 848.co

Earlier this week, members of the HS2 Community Engagement Team gave a presentation to the Chambers’ Council about engaging with local businesses to support the development of HS2.

Work is already well underway on phase 1 from London to Lichfield, and Staffordshire based businesses can benefit from a good proportion of around 400,000 supply chain opportunities.

Over 80 Staffordshire businesses, including several Chamber members, are already involved with HS2, which has a policy of ensuring that more than half of the suppliers are local to the route and over two thirds of all suppliers are SMEs.

Opportunities are available in the following sectors: accommodation; food and catering; creative; transport and logistics; employee services; site services and trade and construction.

There are various ways in which you can find out about opportunities including visiting the national public contracts website www.competefor.com/hs2 You can also register your business on the HS2 map at www.hs2.org.uk/local-business

There will also be seminars and other events run by HS2 in partnership with the Chambers and other organisations which we will publicise through our channels as they arise.

HS2 is one example of new job opportunities in new sectors offering hope for the future which leads into the Office for National Statistics (ONS) labour market statistics for March 2021, which were published on Tuesday.

There was a glimmer of hope as, despite unemployment rising slightly, the continued uptick in the payroll employment data indicates that the UK jobs market is becoming more resilient.

Ongoing wage support through the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, greater clarity provided by the government’s roadmap and the adaptations made by some small firms to operate under lockdown restrictions, all helped to support higher payroll employment in February.

Whilst it is likely that extending furlough will limit job losses, the damage done by cash flow problems is still inflicting a heavy toll on business and this is likely to keep unemployment levels rising well beyond the full reopening of the economy.

The extension to the job support schemes will protect millions of jobs and livelihoods, but we will continue to lobby through the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to make sure that those businesses and individuals who remain excluded from government support get the assistance they need to navigate a difficult period.

And looking longer term, we will continue to hold the Government to account on there promise of delivering on new jobs in sectors as outlined in their 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. https://bit.ly/31gvBn3

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 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

In response to the changing world of work, two local businesses have joined forces to create a suite of bespoke workshops to support businesses as they reopen and explore new ways of working with their teams following the pandemic.

Sue Green of Evergreen HR and Mary Walker of ELM People have extensive experience within both blue chip, SME and charity organisations and have track records of delivering support which have helped organisations to grow and to maximise the performance of their teams.

Mary said: “Sue and I recognise that these are challenging times for organisations with the unpredictability of this pandemic and having to keep organisations running and the challenges of
managing and keeping engaged remote working teams both during and after this lockdown. We are passionate about supporting the SME community in Staffordshire to access the best quality, bespoke learning solutions to help organisations to both support, manage and to help their teams to thrive.

We work with the Growth Hub and Skills Hub to help businesses access funding to support training and ensure they can libertate the potential of their teams which means that organisations can
receive training from us with potential to access 48% grant funding towards our training”

Fully funded training and HR consultancy may also be available for businesses who express an interest before Friday 26th March, with Skills Hub grants topped up to 100% by the Staffordshire Means Back To Business initiative. For more information view the flyer here.

Evergreen HR provides range of Human Resource consultancy services including the fantastic cloudbased HR software, hrpulse.co.uk which has been designed to specifically support SME’s ELM People focussing on learning and development and business coaching. ELM work with a range of businesses and the volunteer sector.

To find out more about how we can help your business contact Sue at sue@evergreenhr.co.uk or Mary at mary.walker@elmgroupltd.com

It is sad, but hardly a surprise, to see just how bad the pandemic has hit retailers, as illustrated in new research from PwC compiled by the Local Data Company (LDC).

According to the research 600 shops opened and 1,468 closed in the West Midlands in the last 12 months, a net decline of 868. Nationally, there was a net decline of 9,877.

Worryingly, PwC says, the real impact of the pandemic is yet to be felt as some stores ‘temporarily closed’ during lockdowns, are unlikely to return.

Retail parks have fared better than the other retail locations with net closures of 93 in the West Midlands, compared to shopping centres (285) and faring worst of all high streets (487).

But let’s stop the negativity there. Locally Burton-upon-Trent, Kidsgrove and Newcastle-under-Lyme are set to benefit from several million pounds the government’s Town Deals, as announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick in October.

They will have the opportunity to invest in their local economies at this critical time, implementing proposals submitted to the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund, which is designed create jobs and drive growth across the country, forming a cornerstone of this government’s levelling up agenda to help reshape our towns and cities into places where businesses and communities can thrive.

Stafford town centre has also been allocated more than £14 million from the £830 million Future High Streets Fund. The funding will help Stafford transform its high street into a vibrant hub whilst protecting and creating many jobs.

Our largest shopping centre, The Potteries Centre has hatched a plan to ensure that the centre survives and adapts to a new era for the town and city centre retail experience.

Online shopping has risen exponentially, and we have seen years of profit warnings and many business failures from the more traditional bricks and mortar retailers. The pandemic has just accelerated retail business failure and store closures.

The Potteries Centre plan puts a focus on local businesses to support the centre and the high-street.

The centre’s wider strategy includes the recruitment of two new letting agents in Barker Proudlove and BWD Retail, which will be working alongside The Potteries Centre team to ensure a diverse mix of local independents alongside its existing brands over the coming months.

Rather than getting downbeat the centre has identified an opportunity to regroup and reposition, by increasing support for local independents, who they see as playing a big part in its future.

Smaller towns have been faring better in recent years because of the variety and innovation of independent retailers and hospitality businesses who offer something unique and work hard to build customer loyalty. They are also not so exposed as they don’t rely on so many large chain ‘anchor’ businesses who leave a big hole when they close.

Landlords and local authorities also have a role to play, keeping rents and rates at levels which encourage growth, whilst being flexible to allow businesses to ride out any unexpected disruptions to trade.

Enhancing the high-street experience will increase visitor engagement. There is a real opportunity now for all town and city centres, to work smartly and collaboratively with all stakeholders including national chains and independents, food and drinks businesses, local authorities, education and community organisations to create centres with a board and exciting offer that engender pride and make visitors want to return.

If you would like to discuss any issues raised here please contact my personal assistant Vicki Hardie vicki.hardie@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

A proposed development partnership between Aspire Housing and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council will see a huge boost to housing and regeneration in North Staffordshire town.

Aspire Housing’s Development and Regeneration Report, which was approved by the Council Cabinet this week, proposes a closer working relationship between Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and the 9,000-home housing association, with a vision to increase benefits for local residents.

The arrangement will increase delivery of modern, high-quality homes, revitalise neighbourhoods and communities, create employment and training opportunities for local people, and provide a more sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to development in the area.

Sinéad Butters, Group Chief Executive at Aspire Housing, said: “We have a long and successful history of partnership working with the Borough Council, and we’re delighted to further expand this relationship with the proposal for an exciting development and regeneration partnership.

“With plans on the horizon for aspirational development opportunities at the Zanzibar and Ryecroft sites in the town centre, this closer working relationship will allow us to combine our resources, skills, and shared passion for the local community, to help create a brighter future for Newcastle-under-Lyme.”

The relationship would also explore potential future opportunities for commercial growth in Newcastle-under-Lyme, with an aim to enhance the town’s role as a centre for services, leisure, retail and living, and its connection to local residents.

The Leader of the Council, Simon Tagg, said: “As we come out of the lockdown we are all looking to the future of the Borough, its businesses and its communities.

“The pandemic, and the way we were able to pull together so strongly to help and support our communities during this unprecedented time, has shown us that we can achieve more by working together in future.

“The Council will seize these new opportunities – and our shared vision with Aspire – to grow our communities and our places, to improve the town centres, and to build back better across the Borough.”

Earlier this week International Women’s Day celebrated the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, whilst also marking a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Things have certainly moved on since I started my career and many more women now hold senior positions in business and in the public and third sectors.

I am proud to be a part of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) network which boasts 70 per cent women employees in half of its 123 member Chambers and a female chief executive in 40 per cent of those Chambers.

I know many successful women in Staffordshire, and it is great to see them making such a positive difference to our daily lives.

Whether it be International Women’s Day or any day of the year, what we aim to do at the Chamber is to encourage and enable all women to realise their full potential and make a positive contribution to business and to society.

The Chamber network is full of women who have achieved success, from running their own lifestyle business to holding the position of chief executive in a large organisation and they are constantly giving their time to encourage others through events, networking and mentoring.

In addition, Staffordshire Chambers offers support, encouragement and confidence building through our Women, Work and Wellbeing Network.

The Network engages with women facing barriers to progression and operates through a series of events, workshops, keynote speakers and one-to-one sessions.

Sessions are intentionally relaxed and informal and Chamber staff and participants make it a welcome forum for first time visitors, providing a safe space to build confidence and connections. If you would like to find out more about Women, Work and Wellbeing visit https://bit.ly/3vbVLFq

Additionally, if you are a woman and are considering starting your own business, you can contact our business start-up advisor Aly Davidson for an informal chat: aly.davidson@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

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 or email: info@staffordshirechambers.co.uk

Klarius Products has proved that having a UK-based manufacturing operation and dedicated logistics infrastructure can give customers a competitive edge. The business is using this advantage in 2021 to further expand its range of aftermarket exhaust systems while supporting the country’s ever growing and diversifying car parc.

Continued growth in the Klarius range has been achieved thanks its robust new-to-range programme that develops emissions control solutions to fit the vast majority of vehicles on the road today. With its extensive in-house engineering, testing and manufacturing resources, Klarius is making a fast start to 2021 with a wide range of new parts released in Q1.

Doug Bentley, Head of Research and Development at Klarius, explained: “Our capabilities have given us a great advantage recently. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 we added over 150 new parts covering 3.7 million vehicles in the UK and a further 11.4 million across Europe – further widening our range advantage over other UK suppliers and manufacturers. All in all, our range now meets the replacement needs of 30 million vehicles on UK roads, which covers 83% of the total national car parc. We closely monitor the remaining 17% of vehicles, for newer applications where there is not yet any aftermarket emissions control requirement, and launch development in time for when the parts are needed. This illustrates that we have the most complete range in the UK, backed by a very active new-to-range programme, which identifies the future exhaust replacement needs of our customers to ensure the right parts are available at the right time.

“These future needs include replacement parts for popular hybrid vehicles, with our team currently developing components to fit the Toyota Auris and Lexus CT200. Additionally, we are providing more and more replacement parts for light commercial vehicles, which are covering big miles during this lockdown period. In addition to this, we pay attention to the latest vehicle models released by manufacturers, with new replacement exhausts soon to be in range for the Audi A1, Toyota Verso TR and many more.

“In 2021, we are aiming to provide new components that cover an additional 7 million UK and 16.2 million EU vehicles. This ambitious plan will extend our market-leading position in terms of available range, strengthening the offering of our motor factor and distributor customers. We will continue to be the go-to supplier for quality replacement emissions control components, delivered next morning enabling customers to carry lower inventories.

Klarius offers a range of over 11,000 products designed to fit vehicles of almost any class and age. This is thanks to its expert in-house development and testing facilities, where Klarius engineers use vehicles of correct make, model and production year to prove the performance and legislative compliance of components.

Doug adds: “It is a huge speed to market advantage for us to be the only UK emissions control component supplier to have an integrated site with manufacturing, new product development and our own test track. Furthermore, we independently test and certify our new exhaust products with the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA), to ensure they meet or beat OE standards – an investment our competitors in the UK choose not to make as Government regulations regrettably do not require such standards.”

Every Klarius component features a 2-year standard warranty and a Fit First Time guarantee as standard. All applicable components are legislatively compliant. Next morning delivery is available for any product in range across the UK.

You can see every new-to-range parts list here.

Leading digital agency, Netbiz Group is delighted to announce that they have launched a new branding service.

Currently offering website design and development, hosting and support, search engine optimisation, social media, PPC, digital marketing and PR, the new branding services are a welcome addition.

With offices in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham and Inverness, Netbiz Groups’ 22-strong team that encompasses branding and creative design professionals, will offer bespoke branding services to strategically brand and transform businesses across the UK.

The businesses new branding services include brand identity and strategy development, logo design and updates, branding, re-branding, brand guidelines, product / service branding and brand implementation.

Forming a key element of their growth strategy, this announcement showcases Netbiz Group’s commitment to expand in order to offer clients multiple services to support their businesses.

Jessica Oliver, Brand Manager at Netbiz Group commented: “Introducing branding as a service in its own entirety is super exciting for me. Having worked on branding projects in the past, it’s great to be able to bring my knowledge and expertise to help more clients in this area.

Jessica continues; we’ve got a fantastic team of people passionate about branding and design, and we’re currently going through the process of re-branding Netbiz Group, so we can’t wait to showcase just what we can do for businesses”.

This new move also poses the opportunity to increase the size of the business moving forward.

Will Hayes, Managing Director at Netbiz Group said, “Branding is a service area that we’ve wanted to offer at Netbiz Group for a while now. We feel that it fits perfectly into our current service offering and ensures that we can provide both current and prospective clients the best expert support for their businesses.

Will finalised; adding a new service to our portfolio enhances the Netbiz Group experience for clients whilst enabling further business growth”.

Businesses can find out more about Netbiz Group and their new Branding services by visiting their website: https://www.netbizgroup.co.uk/branding or by emailing: info@netbizgroup.co.uk

An exclusive offer to members of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce has been launched by a professional cleaning company.

Best Kept Cleaning Services is offering a 25% discount for a ‘one-off’ thorough clean of an office or public space. Plus for any new regular clients the company is offering a free initial deep clean.

Geri Carey, owner of Newcastle-under-Lyme based Best Kept Cleaning, said: “Regular cleaning is as important as ever and as a lot of businesses will be looking to welcome back staff, or members of the public in the coming months, we want to help them to ensure their premises are as clean and safe as possible – and at the same time help to put a sparkle back to workplaces for when people return.

“The 25% discount we are providing is suitable for businesses who may even do their own cleaning, but just want a thorough clean through before re- opening to staff or the public.

“Any new regular clients who book our services for a minimum of two hours per week will receive a free deep clean. Both services included in the offers are ideal for those hard to reach areas, kitchens, desks – anywhere – which may have not been touched for a while.”

Best Kept Cleaning Services cover the Stoke-on-Trent and Cheshire areas and can provide tailored packages to suit a business requirements.

For more information about the offers available please contact Geri Carey at Best Kept Cleaning on 01782 901064 and visit https://www.bestkeptcleaning.co.uk/