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

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:

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)

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

Despite the disruption to the business calendar caused by Covid19, the show will go on and Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards ceremony, originally scheduled to take place in July, will now take place at a glitzy virtual ceremony on 19th November with a celebrity host.

This is a fantastic opportunity to let the business community know that your business has come through lockdown and how you are positively embracing the challenges ahead and capitalising on new opportunities.

A special Chambers Awards platform is now live and will remain open for entries until 5pm on Friday 9th October after which judging will commence. We are grateful to main sponsor HSBC and all our other sponsors for their generous support of the awards.

All the categories and sponsors are listed at the easy to use portal where you can apply for as many categories as you like: For more information email:

The Chambers has only ever been as good as its members whose enthusiasm and drive give us the focus and the mandate to carry out our mission of being the complete business support and representative body for business in Staffordshire.

We are looking for active, influential members who would like to take their involvement to the next level by joining Chamber’s council, board of directors, or one of the local area boards for Stafford and the Staffordshire Moorlands.

Serving on our council, board of directors or a local area board is a great way to keep abreast of what is going on in business and the wider economy. As a businessperson you can get directly involved and influence by representing the views of businesses in your community right up to the highest level.

In addition, you will make new contacts within your peer group and forge valuable business connections.

We welcome applications from all business people from all backgrounds from self-employed to large businesses in any sector.

If you are interested in becoming a council or board member, or would like to chat about what is involved please contact Vicki Hardie

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.

It cannot have escaped your notice that the government have launched the Kickstart Scheme which provides 100 percent funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24-year olds.

This £2 billion fund was set up to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.

The benefit of upskilling this generation of workers is priceless as we look to recovery from the pandemic and to making the Staffordshire economy fit for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

The job placements are designed to support the participants to develop the skills and experience they need to find work after completing the scheme. Hopefully, many participants will prove their worth and become valued employees of their host companies.

Funding is available for 100 percent of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. There is also £1,500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.

To help you fully understand the Kickstart Scheme and its associated benefits we are hosting a webinar at 11am on Thursday 17 September.

The webinar, presented by the Chamber’s project manager Tom Nadin will explian how the scheme works, what types of jobs are on offer, how to apply for a placement and will explain the funding model. You can book on the webinar here:

If you are interested in a Kickstart placement and can’t attend the seminar you can contact us at

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.

With Rob Lawley – Head of International Trade at the Chambers.

Our borders are changing, the rules of the game are shifting, and traders need to build or reset their customs processes.

From 31 December 2020, the number of customs declarations made by traders is forecast to increase from 55 million to well over 300 million every year. Businesses that import or export goods will need to complete a lot more administration when clearing goods through UK Customs in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Staffordshire businesses who import/ export will need to get up to speed quickly to comply with the new customs declaration requirements.

To help with this there is a brand-new service, ChamberCustoms is a customs advisory, training and brokerage service operated by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which will help exporters do just that.

It is different from other brokerage services in that it harnesses the reach, expertise, and knowledge of the British Chamber network to offer a fast, reliable, and compliant service. All with the aim of helping our businesses maintain their competitive edge.

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is proud to be part of ChamberCustoms which is the only customs broker in the country to offer a ‘one stop shop’. We have direct links to all sea, air, rail and road ports and terminals in the UK. Businesses have enough to do operating in these unusual times which is why ChamberCustoms has been designed to help you stay in control whilst we do the hard work.

To find out more about Customs Declarations call 01782 202222 and speak to one of our team who can make Customs Declarations on your behalf. Alternatively click here to visit the ChamberCustoms website.

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 Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create job placements for 16 to 24 year olds.

The government has introduced a new Kickstart Scheme in Great Britain, a £2 billion fund to create hundreds of thousands of high quality 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long term unemployment.

You can use the Kickstart Scheme to create new 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The job placements should support the participants to develop the skills and experience they need to find work after completing the scheme.

Funding is available for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. There is also £1,500 per job placement available for setup costs, support and training.

Application must be for a minimum of 30 job placements. However, if you are unable to offer this many job placements, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce can act as an intermediary to apply on behalf on a number of businesses.

As the economy gathers pace following the effects of the pandemic and lockdown it is more important than ever that businesses are ready to grasp all the opportunities to capitalise on the upturn.

This means that firms will need to be geared up in all areas including finance, innovation, skills, new markets, product development, customer satisfaction and marketing strategy and research to name but a few.

I am delighted that we now have a specialist Business Growth Advisor, Richard Brace, based at the Chamber as part of the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire Growth Hub team.

Richard will be helping businesses to define their growth strategy by offering advice and free business growth diagnostic support. Richard has over 30 years’ experience of business consultancy in the UK and overseas covering most business sectors and has 20 years’ experience as director of a market research company.

If you are looking to grow your business, or re-establish your position after the Covid-19 lockdown, Richard can meet with you and offer advice and an objective diagnostic of your business to help your company on the road to growth and success. To speak to Richard call 01782 202222 or email:

As a governor of Staffordshire University, I want to help to reassure prospective students that September 2020 is still a great time to start their higher education journey with Staffordshire University.

Due to the uncertainty surrounding 2020 results, this has been an incredibly challenging few weeks – not only for Staffordshire University but, most importantly, for their prospective students. They are in the process of making one of the most important decisions of their lives – one that will impact their future careers and long-term prospects. The added complications surrounding grade assessments and results have only served to exacerbate their feelings of confusion and uncertainty.

I know as well as our wonderful business community do, that Staffordshire is a great place to study, live and work. Additionally, there is fantastic assistance and encouragement available to any graduates setting up a business.

Staffordshire University sees potential, not just grades. For all courses still available through clearing, they will consider experience and passion – as well as results.

There are limited places for September 2020 still available and if you know of anyone still looking for a place they can do so at: or by calling the 2020 clearing hotline on 0800 590 830.

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.