Thousands of people across Staffordshire and Cheshire are enjoying a happy, affluent retirement thanks to pensions expert Richard Jacobs.

2019 sees Richard reaching 40 years as a Chartered practitioner in the pensions business, but at the age of 69, Newcastle-under-Lyme based Richard has no intention of penning his own retirement letter.

“I don’t work full time hours anymore, having gradually handed over the business management reins to my fellow company directors, Emily Small and Kate Barnard, but I still gain real fulfilment from ensuring clients get the best available advice,” said Richard.

Richard has been a pensions specialist since 1973 and achieved the gold standard as a Chartered Insurance Practitioner in 1979. He has gained a reputation as a leading expert on pensions and has authored many articles advising on pensions for national newspapers and the BBC. He founded Richard Jacobs Pensions and Trustee Services in 1992 and has presided over continuous growth, from a sole practitioner firm to a team of nine, based in modern offices at Brindley Court, Lymedale Business Park.

“I am proud to say I have retained my Chartered status for 40 years, renewing and refreshing my professional qualifications regularly. I have recently retaken the examinations again and have been confirmed as a Chartered Institute member in 2019.

“Chartered status is an important badge of confidence for our industry and is backed by a Royal Charter. The pensions industry supports people with one of the most important decisions they are likely to make; that is, how do I ensure my future in retirement? Chartered status can give clients reassurance and peace of mind.”

“I see expertise and trusted advice is as important now than at any time in my career as there’s a lot for clients to consider due to recent pension reforms, new legislation and ever-more sophisticated scams.

“The good news is that more people are now saving for their pension than ever before, largely due to the success of auto-enrolment. This means that employers have to enrol staff in a workplace scheme and this has revolutionised the way we save in the UK.

“Workers have to make a contribution, but this is supplemented by the company they work for and the benefits are clear. As people live longer, retirement can last for decades and saving for retirement is becoming ever more important. But than 10 million people are now auto-enrolled and have more security for later life.”

The Richard Jacobs team work with many companies in Staffordshire and Cheshire on auto enrolment, with clients from micro-businesses to large companies.

Said Richard: “Typically, we will provide a service to a company and the directors and senior managers may then also ask us to support their personal pension plans.”




A Stoke-on-Trent retirement village has been awarded Gold in a national award for the quality of its accommodation.

West End Village, ran by Staffordshire Housing Association, scooped the award at the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) National Awards, which celebrates the best specialist housing providers for older people across the UK.

The older people’s housing scheme, which provides independent living from over 55’s, was up against 300 other providers from across the UK and won one of the 9 gold awards awarded on the night.

Both residents and staff attended the awards and were delighted when they won as resident Elaine explains: “Winning the award is brilliant, we know it’s a lovely place, we know it’s the best!”

West End Village’s Scheme Manager Gina Cooper said: “It means the world to win the National Gold Award and it’s so nice to see that the hard work we put in is paying off. We love to have fun here at West End Village and it’s that which makes people feel so welcome. We’re so happy we’re going to celebrate with a party!”

John Galvin, EAC’s Chief Executive, explains the importance of the awards: “Specialist housing for older people plays an enormously significant role in helping them stay independent for longer. The security, support and great communities have a positive impact on individuals and reduce the need for NHS services.”

Earlier this year, West End Village won gold in the EAC regional award, where residents and visitors also voted. As well as accommodation, the scheme also provides communal facilities such as a gym, hairdressers and restaurant and hosts social events for both residents and the local community.

Experts are lining up to showcase two significant business growth opportunities available to Staffordshire businesses at Let’s Do Business, held at Uttoxeter Racecourse on Thursday 27th June 2019.   According to the Chamber of Commerce, exporting and securing funding are two of the best ways to create exponential growth and experts from the Department of International Trade and Chamber of Commerce will be revealing how at the event.

The region’s largest business exhibition, jointly organised by Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce and Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, offers the perfect opportunity for visitors to meet a number of experts for FREE to discuss funding and exporting opportunities that are available to offer fresh solutions for business growth.

Robert Lawley, Head of International Trade for Staffordshire, at the Department of International Trade said: “Even with Brexit negotiations still ongoing, we believe it is a very good time to be exporting goods and services while the playing field is still level for the UK and sterling is low. We are currently in the busiest period ever in the Chamber securing export deals, with North Staffordshire alone having processed £250million worth of export invoices in 2018. The UK has an enviable reputation around the world for high quality products and services; we can help businesses in Staffordshire and across the Midlands, steer a course through their plans with confidence!

“Let’s Do Business is a fantastic opportunity for businesses to access free advice from my team, who will be on hand to share their wealth of knowledge and experience on creating and implementing export strategies whether they create ceramics, manufacture auto parts or offer a professional service.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming people on to the Department of International Trade truck where we can share detailed information about exporting. And for businesses who want to look into exporting further, we can meet up after the event and help to create and implement a strategy.”

Chris Plant, Director at Greater Birmingham Chambers spoke about the opportunities: “Our Let’s Do Business expo has grown year on year attracting the best businesses in the region with top class speakers, business growth experts, networking sessions and exhibition halls.

“With over £25m new government funding now available and a range of exporting channels to explore, we want visitors to make new contacts and seek out opportunities to grow their businesses. While Brexit remains a daunting prospect, it could also provide lots of opportunities for many businesses to grow and expand and we want to encourage people to have a positive outlook. Attending Let’s Do Business is the perfect opportunity to gather new ideas and make new contacts to make good things happen!”

Beswicks Legal has announced the promotion of their head of family law to the position of associate. Sarah Jones has worked at the Festival Park-based firm for two years, cementing her reputation as an outstanding family lawyer and team manager.

Associate status at Beswicks Legal is recognition of the highest levels of professionalism and expertise in a particular area of law.

Beswicks Legal managing partner Nick Phillips said: “Sarah has done a tremendous job leading our family law team. She has a wealth of experience and works incredibly hard to deliver an outstanding service, winning high praise from clients and colleagues.


“At Beswicks we believe strongly in offering an exciting career path to those who demonstrate the right personal and professional qualities and it is always immensely satisfying to see talented people succeed and progress.”


Top 50 Law firm, Freeths LLP Stoke office announces another year of continued growth with the office exceeding budget by 10% for the financial year 2018/2019. This comes off the back of significant instructions from local, national and international clients of the office.

The Stoke office cover HR and employment law (which includes pensions and immigration law), corporate and commercial law services, dispute management, commercial property, insolvency and commercial debt recovery.

One of the most significant instructions saw James Boulton, Corporate Partner in the Stoke office lead a cross-office team advising US headquarters BrandSafway on its acquisition of Lyndon Scaffolding PLC. Not only was this deal significant for the office, but it was also one of the largest deals by value within the wider West Midlands region during 2018/2019.  James joined the firm in December 2017 having trained at a Magic Circle firm and having also spent 10 years in the London office of a US law firm.

Acting for a multi-national group the Stoke Dispute Management team recently settled a long running dispute concerning national infrastructure on the first day of a trial in London. The team also acted in cases involving a local listed landmark, recovering cars and cash from a fraud involving Supercars – Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches, obtaining a court order to restrain the use of confidential information and acting on behalf of a local charity in a boundary dispute as well as its usual mix of commercial, corporate and property disputes, professional negligence and contentious probate claims.

Peter Gavin, Managing Partner of Freeths’ Stoke office commented: “Our record year has been especially pleasing given the current challenging economic circumstances both locally and more widely. The office’s performance and the quality of work that we have been doing across the office shows that there is a high demand for good quality, practical legal advice at realistic rates from lawyers who know the challenges faced by our clients whether that be local businesses, a national client or a multi-national client”.


Staffordshire based full-service digital marketing agency, Kanuka Digital, are set to celebrate their one year anniversary in June after a successful 12 months helping businesses of all shapes and sizes evolve and grow their online presence.

Having blossomed from the digital marketing team of parent company and long established eCommerce experts, iWeb, Kanuka Digital have worked continuously to grow their client profile as well as their in-house team of skilled marketers.

Alongside gaining a host of new clients and helping them grow online through the wide range of digital marketing services they offer, Kanuka Digital have attained a number of other achievements.

From becoming Google and DotDigital partners, hosting networking events and growing their team to ten members of staff, Kanuka Digital have certainly achieved a lot in just 12 months.

The first event was held in the summer of 2018 to help get the Kanuka Digital name out there. Hiring an ice cream van and giving out hundreds of free Mr Whippy’s with SEO site audits thrown in paid definitely paid off. The event generated plenty of sign ups to their upcoming marketing conference and a number of business leads in the process.

The news that British Steel is entering into insolvency endangering 5,000 jobs directly at its Scunthorpe plant and up to 20,000 jobs within the supply chain is disappointing, despite efforts to save the UK’s second largest steel producer yesterday.

British Steel currently operates a distribution network centre in Stoke-on-Trent and will inevitably supply a number of manufacturers based in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.

Commenting on the news that British Steel has entered into insolvency, Sara Williams, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, said:

“It was only 19 years ago that Shelton Bar steelworks closed its doors after 159 years of successful iron and steel manufacturing. In its heyday the works stretched across Etruria Valley and employed around 10,000 people, cementing Stoke-on-Trent as a world leading producer for the steel industry.

Despite the Shelton Bar steelworks no longer being a dominant presence in the city, its successes fuelled generation after generation of manufacturers to choose to operate here. Creating numerous supply chains and on-going employment for steelworkers and the local community.

Steel production is embedded into the very foundations of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and the loss of jobs at British Steel is terrible news bringing with it a period of great uncertainty for employees affected, primarily in Scunthorpe but also to those based nationwide.

We are currently speaking to members about this announcement as we gauge its immediate effect on Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire. Any company of this size going into administration will have ramifications across numerous supply chains and we will be supporting our members through this difficult time.

We know that manufacturers are facing a range of issues at the moment, from continued uncertainty over Brexit, rising costs of doing business and persistent difficulties in recruitment. It goes without saying that Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce will be on hand to help firms and employees affected by this sad news. Anyone needing help, guidance or support should get in touch and we will do our utmost to assist them.”

PM Training has secured two contract extensions with Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s housing repairs and maintenance company Unitas, which will see it continue to provide services for another 12 months.

The contracts will see the Staffordshire-based training provider delivering void clearance and adaptations services across 19,000 city council properties. The services, which will be carried out by PM Training’s Homeworks division, will include home clearance, garden clearance and valeting to prepare rental properties for new tenants, as well as providing ramps and accessibility alterations to properties that require them.

Neil Holmes, Homeworks Contracts Manager at PM Training, said: “We’re excited to be working with Unitas. It provides a great opportunity to link with a local partner to create sustainable employment and social inclusion for young apprentices.”

PM Training will allocate four vans to the void clearances, which will create positions for four new supervisors and four horticulture apprentices. Homeworks will work with Browns Waste supply chain to carry out the works.

The adaptations will also create an opportunity for an apprentice to gain trade skills and experience. Around 150 to 200 learners go through the Homeworks scheme each year, with over three-quarters of learners progressing into full-time employment, apprenticeships or further education.

Steve Wilson, Unitas Operations Director, is delighted that PM Training has been successful in securing these works. He said: “Unitas has an excellent relationship with PM Training,  sharing their social responsibility ethos and fully supporting the excellent work they do in creating employment opportunities for local people.”

The new contracts extend the partnership that was due to end in June this year. Both contracts will now continue until April 2020.

Trentham Monkey Forest is thrilled to announce the first babies since 2017 have been born.

The staff at Monkey Forest spotted females showing signs of pregnancy in recent weeks and have been eagerly awaiting these special arrivals. The park is happy to reveal they have welcomed not 1, not 2, but 3 new additions, 2 baby boys and a little girl.

The Barbary macaques living in Trentham will usually give birth up in the trees at night, just as they would in the wild. When it comes to new arrivals, it isn’t until the following morning that staff spot the tiny bundles clinging to their mothers. The team are bystanders, as they watch the new mums get to grips with their babies. It’s then a waiting game, which includes a lot of observing from the team until they can finally confirm the ‘big gender reveal’.

“It’s such an exciting time in the forest and one all staff and our visitors look forward to. These new arrivals are the forest’s first babies since 2017 so we have been very excited for them to make an appearance” Commented Monkey Forest director Matt Lovatt.

The Barbary macaques are an endangered species with only an estimated 8000 surviving in the wild; therefore, every birth is crucial for the species and a fantastic addition to Monkey Forest.

“Each birth is important to us and the species, considering it’s endangered status. With the challenges that wild Barbary macaques face, through deforestation and the illegal pet trade, we hope that the new babies will help us to tell their story too.”

Staff at the leading Staffordshire attraction are pleased to report all babies and mums are doing well including a first-time mum, who despite being a little shy, is a natural. Being part of a large family has given her the experience of looking after other babies in the past and the new Grandma has stayed close by, grooming and reassuring her daughter.

Make the most of the sunshine and take a trip to Monkey Forest to catch of glimpse of the newest arrivals to join the 140 monkeys already living in freedom in the 60-acre forest. Take your camera and get ready for some baby spotting!

Employment growth in Stoke-on-Trent is the fourth fastest in the country – ahead of rival cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham.

The latest UK Powerhouse figures also forecast that Stoke-on-Trent will continue to be among the best for employment growth by the final quarter of 2020 – with a predicted ranking of fourth.These findings are based on a study by experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

For the final quarter of 2018, the study puts Stoke-on-Trent’s employment levels at 114,500 and year-on-year expansion at 1.6%. It also forecasts that by the end of 2020, the city will have employment levels of 118,300 and year-on-year growth of 1.7%.

These figures put Stoke-on-Trent ahead of major cosmopolitan areas such as London, Manchester and Birmingham, as well as nearby cities including Nottingham and Derby.

A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman said: “We’re working extremely hard to ensure this area is the first choice for businesses to invest. The Make it Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire team provides a tailor-made service for organisations, including help to find locations, advice on incentives and details about recruitment.

“The city is attracting multi-million-pound schemes which are leading to local job creation. There is one million square feet of employment space in the pipeline and substantial, increasing demand for both housing and employment land. This is also supported by other developments, existing businesses, the university, and the city’s prime, strategic location at the centre of the country – which all add to Stoke-on-Trent’s positive, competitive profile both nationally and internationally as a great place to invest.

The UK Powerhouse report also shows that Stoke-on-Trent, like a large number of other cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham, is forecast to see growth for the economic measure of GVA – gross value added – slow by the end of 2020.

Major new development schemes in Stoke-on-Trent include the East-West Precinct; the Swift House scheme next to Stoke-on-Trent Railway Station; Smithfield which includes new office accommodation, build-to-rent apartments and a Hilton Hotel; and the Ceramic Valley Enterprise Zone.

The positive news from the UK Powerhouse report also comes after Stoke-on-Trent was named as the sixth best city in the UK to start a business in 2019, beating areas including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham in research conducted by card payment solutions provider Paymentsense.