Thursday 21st November 2019, a cold morning in the heart of the picturesque Derbyshire countryside – the perfect day to plant some trees.

JG Fenn Ltd took part in the Carbon Capture tree planting day with the Woodland Trust and Premier Paper in Derbyshire. Joined by TV’s Julia Bradbury and the Outdoor Guide, the 300 plus tree planters met at the Woodland Trust’s Heanor site in Derbyshire and were greeted with fresh breakfast sandwiches, hot coffees and teas. After a series of brief introductions, the intrepid eco-warriors took to the fields armed with spade, wellies and determination, despite the bitterly cold November air.

The tree planting took place near Heanor in Derbyshire. Previously the site of a former opencast mine, the area has been transformed into a haven for wildlife and people. The Woodland Trust plan to develop the site further, creating the Young People’s Forest – a giant classroom for children and young people aged 10-20. They’ll be planting trees, learning about nature as well as designing, delivering and taking in part in activities.

As the day came to an end the final number of trees that had been planted totalled an impressive 13,000. Amongst the saplings that were planted were maple, oak and silver birch, hawthorn and hazel – all of which are broadleaf trees native to the UK.

JG Fenn’s Managing Director Louise Harris said: “This one-day event has meant that these 13,000 trees will grow to capture 3,250 tonnes of CO2. That’s the equivalent weight to 722 female African elephants! We are extremely grateful to all our customers who have taken part to support us”.

Carbon Capture is the market leading environmental initiative. Through the Carbon Capture programme J G Fenn offer their clients the opportunity to mitigate the CO2 emissions from their product purchases by planting new native woodland in the UK with the Woodland Trust and the Woodland Carbon scheme.

Lightning fast fibre-optic connectivity with Gigabolt has now landed at Beacon Business Park in Stafford, making it the first full-fibre business park to offer the next generation of broadband technology in Staffordshire.

Beacon Business Park has always embraced technology at the forefront of its vision to provide diverse and innovative manufacturing and working spaces for business in the area.

In this latest stage of development, the park created a set of 16 new office suites in a range of sizes, most of which have already been let. Recognising that the current internet speeds in the area were unimpressive, they teamed up with Internet Central to offer the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) fibre in conjunction with the government’s gigabit voucher scheme.

Scott James, Enterprise Solutions Manager at Internet Central, commended the owners of the business park, ISE Estates Ltd, on their forward planning to meet the needs of local business:

‘ISE are bringing this park into the future to enable faster growth, valuing the internet as a vital asset to the success of every business.’

Businesses on the park will be able to enjoy full end-to-end fibre connectivity, providing the stable higher-speed internet needed to support cloud-based applications, along with next generations telephony, ultra HD video and conferencing facilities.

Gigabolt promises an average speed of 900Mb/s compared to the UK average of 48Mb/s (Ofcom data May 2018). This completely new infrastructure is perfect for use with the latest generation of WiFi with an IC core network uptime of 99.997% in the last five years.

For more information about commercial property in Staffordshire, contact ISE Estates on 01785 256098 or email info@espleys.co.uk.

A Stafford accountancy firm has more than doubled in size in the past two years as it responds to a significant upturn in clients. Their latest recruit is Vikki Miles who has joined from another Stafford practice and brings with her a wealth of experience, not only in standard compliance work but also in the more complicated tax areas, such as capital gains and inheritance taxes.

The family run firm now has an 18-strong team and will look to make more strategic recruitment as the business continues to grow.

Rupert Carthy, Managing Director, said: “We embarked on a growth strategy in 2016 when we expanded our offices in Eastgate Street. Since that time, we have consistently expanded our services and grown our team at all levels in the business.

“We are both responding to business trends and creating capacity to take on further clients. The employment picture has changed in recent years, with the launch of record numbers of small businesses.

“We have seen an upturn in enquiries and have built in capacity to take on even more clients, from start-ups to established businesses. At the same time, we have responded to the Government’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ (MTD) initiative which has added new complexities for clients, and these will only grow as the number of people and businesses affected by the MTD initiative increases from April 2020”

Added Vikki: “I was delighted to join the Carthy team as it was clear they are a firm who have a clear vision about the future, have developed a strong customer focused ethos and offer an excellent working environment. From past experience I knew I wanted to work in an environment where I can focus on supporting clients across their whole range of accountancy needs.”

To find out more about Carthy Accountants please visit http://www.carthyaccountants.co.uk/index.html

Aspire Housing has invested in positive mental health, becoming the first housing association in the country to commission Big White Wall, the leading online support community.

Colleagues of Newcastle-based we are aspire, as well as over 20,000 Aspire Housing customers, more than 1,000 PM Training learners and a number of Realise charity beneficiaries, will have free 24/7 access to Big White Wall’s online mental health support thanks to the investment.

Will Nixon, Deputy Group Chief Executive of Aspire Housing, said: “We recognise that there’s a high proportion of people in our region with mental health issues and we also understand that many of our colleagues, particularly frontline staff, can be exposed to extreme situations as part of their work.

“Big White Wall offers a fantastic online mental health support community, with a wide range of benefits to its members. As a community-focused organisation, we felt that we could make a huge difference not just to our colleagues, but to our customers, apprentices and learners, by offering a proven route for people to get support when they need it most.”

At its core, Big White Wall provides an online community of members who support each other in a clinically moderated and anonymous environment. The service offers 24-hour access to trained professionals who monitor forums and activity within BWW, 24/7. In addition to this, members also have access to a range of courses, self-help materials, assessments and resources to self-manage their mental health. The service is anonymous and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 365 days a year.

Henry Jones, CEO of Big White Wall said “Securing a home is often one of the most stressful periods in a person’s life. We’re proud to be working with Aspire Housing, who are the first housing association to offer widescale, 24/7 mental health support to their customers. Not only are they investing and demonstrating commitment to the communities they serve, but they are rolling out our service to every member of staff. I hope this is the start of a long-term partnership and provides a gold standard level of care across the sector.”

The mental health support launched for we are aspire colleagues, customers and learners from Sunday 1st December 2019, with the businesses signing up to Big White Wall for three years.

Langley Foxall are hosting a huge Christmas Giveaway where they are giving you the opportunity to win over £3,200 worth of development time towards your business. Whether that’s a new website, a customer portal or part of a larger ERP project the development time is yours to do what you please.

Closing time for the giveaway is at 12pm on 20th December 2019. The winners will be announced that afternoon.

To enter visit: www.langleyfoxall.co.uk/christmas-giveaway

Karen Lowe, a Director at Geens Chartered Accountants, takes you through the tax rules around giving your staff a festive treat.

It is Christmas party time, but do you know the rules when it comes to giving your staff a festive treat?

HMRC allow limited tax relief for company social events, but you have to ensure you don’t overdo it – and we’re not talking about how much you have to drink!

A company’s social functions qualify as a tax-free benefit if:

• They don’t cost more than £150 a head/per year

• Its primary purpose is for entertaining your staff

• It is open to all employees or all employees at a branch/department.

The cost per person is the total amount, including VAT for the event, and any transport or accommodation provided.

The money does not have to be spent on a single event, for example, you could have three parties at £50 a head.

In terms of recording the event, the amount spent should be recorded in company accounts as staff welfare.

Of course, an extremely generous employer is allowed to spend more. However, this will be classified as a benefit in kind and staff will have a tax and National Insurance liability to pay.

The employer can settle a tax charge arising on behalf of their employees, using a HMRC PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA).

Importantly, this tax concession is only for entertaining employees. The full cost of an event will be disallowed if the staff party is incidental to an event where a company is entertaining its customers.

In summary, if you want to get festive with a staff event this Christmas, you can. Have fun and dance the night away.

Prism’s mince pie mingle

Help Prism give a warm Christmas at the annual Prism Mince Pie & Mingle event supporting Manna House homeless drop-in charity

This year they are supporting Manna House to help the homeless and vulnerable to have a warm and safe Christmas.

Join them at their annual ‘Mince Pie & Mingle’ event to enjoy an afternoon of delicious mince pies with your business community.

There will be mulled wine, hot chocolate and tombola prizes up for grabs too!

Date 13th December 12.30 – 15.00
Price Tickets are £10* all proceeds to the charity.
Location Congleton Tennis Club
(Off West Street Car Park, West Street, Congleton CW12 1JR)

To RSVP, search ‘Prism Mince Pie & Mingle’ on http://www.eventbrite.co.uk to reserve your ticket.

See the great work that Manna House do at http://www.mannahouse-hanley.co.uk

The Community Foundation meeting room is an excellent value and quality space, for hire to all. They can cater for anything from meetings to interviews to teambuilding. The room comes fully equipped with a projector, laptop, whiteboard, flip-chart and wi-fi. It comfortably seats 14, with a pleasant bright spacious outlook over Staffordshire Technology Park, with plenty of nearby parking. It also includes tea and coffee.

The Foundation Meeting Room is available for hire from Monday to Friday between the hours of 08:00 – 17:00. There is free parking available opposite the office on a hilltop car park as well as a number of spaces on the roundabout outside of the Foundation offices. You can find information on their booking rates below:

Morning session: 08:00-12:00: £25.00

Afternoon session: 13:00-17:00: £25.00

All day session: 08:00-17:00: £50.00

To make a booking, please visit their website and use the online calendar: https://staffsfoundation.org.uk/roomhire/

Round 3 of the EAFRD Growth Programme opened for expression of interest applications on 4th November 2019.

This funding opportunity is primarily aimed at developing rural businesses and partners delivering tourism Infrastructure projects and is the last opportunity to secure grant funding under the EAFRD programme.

To help promote the funding opportunity, gauge interest and identify potential eligible projects, a briefing event is being held on the morning of Monday 16th December at Rodbaston College near Penkridge, Staffordshire at 10.00 am until 12.00 noon. The event is aimed at rural businesses and partners interested in submitting an expression of interest application before the bidding window closes on 16th February 2020.

The event will start at 10.00am with tea/coffee on arrival and those attending will be able to find out the latest criteria and bidding timeline for the Fund, as well as get expert advice and guidance from DEFRA’s Growth Team.

This funding opportunity has been achieved through agreement with LEP areas to establish an EAFRD Growth Programme National Reserve Fund (NRF). The new call will focus on the three themes of Business Development, Food Processing and Rural Tourism Infrastructure, as was the case in the previous EAFRD calls. As this is a national call, all three themes will be available in all 36 LEP areas, that have had an EAFRD allocation, and therefore competition for funding is expected to be high.

Further details on the call can be found via:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rdpe-growth-programme

The total grant available under the call will be a minimum of £35 million and successful bids will need to demonstrate how they will boost the rural economy and create local jobs across rural areas. For this final funding round, the minimum value threshold for grants has come down from £35,000 to £20,000, meaning that more small or micro-businesses can be eligible for grant support. If there is a significant response to the call and the quality of applications is high, the overall budget for the fund could be increased to up to £50 million.

Attendance at the event is free of charge, but places are limited. To reserve your place please complete the EAFRD Growth Programme Briefing event 16th Dec 2019 Booking Form and return to chris.read@staffordshire.gov.uk by 9th December 2019.

 

intu Potteries is one of the first shopping centres in the UK to back the sunflower lanyard scheme to provide more help to visitors with hidden disabilities.

People with invisible conditions can collect and wear a lanyard from the popular destination’s customer service desks to signal that they may need more support during their visit.

It will act as a discreet sign to staff that the wearer could require help or a little extra time with things like finding their way around the centre or a store and getting access to a quiet space or close-by toilet facilities, due to conditions such as autism, dementia or diabetes.

Demand for the initiative has soared since it was first introduced by Gatwick Airport, with more than 10,000 sunflower lanyards collected from there following its launch three years ago.

intu has worked with Gatwick Airport to roll out the scheme at its popular shopping and leisure destinations across the UK and has also introduced a sunflower dog lead sleeve that will allow staff to easily recognise and support anyone bringing the animal into an intu centre.

It is one of a number of measures to create more accessible shopping and leisure experiences for intu Potteries’ visitors.

Free sensory backpacks, which contain several different items to help autistic children enjoy their shopping experience, are also available to hire from intu Potteries’ customer service desk from this month. Designed by parents of autistic children, the bags include ear defenders, egg timers, sunglasses, fidget toys and an autism friendly guide to the centre.

Rachael Jackson, general manager at intu Potteries, said: “We want to ensure that intu’s retail and leisure destinations are accessible and inclusive destinations for everyone. Nobody should feel excluded. The measures we are introducing will help every visitor feel welcome to enjoy a fantastic experience at intu Potteries.”

intu visitor Charley Ann said: “Having two children on the autistic spectrum and attempting shopping is difficult for many reasons. They may act in a way that seems strange to others, but the lanyard may help them understand why. It’s also great for staff members to identify that we may need extra assistance.”

intu Potteries also runs regular quiet hours the first Monday of each month between 4pm and 5pm and its staff are trained to support people with autism and dementia. The Entertainer runs a quiet hour every Saturday from 9am until 10am.