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Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 08/10/2019

Confidence improves amongst firms with ‘positive mindset’

Companies in the East of England appear to have been largely unfazed by the recent political upheaval with confidence in their own business prospects rising to 17 per cent in September, up from 10 per cent in August, according to a business barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Overall confidence remained stable at 4 per cent in September. However a net balance of 24 per cent of businesses in the region said Brexit was having a negative impact on their expectations for business activity, up 14 points on a month ago. David Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s encouraging that businesses in East Anglia are just as confident this month as they were in August, despite the current economic uncertainty. It’s easy for businesses to retreat during more testing times, but firms seem determined that they can achieve their full potential and management teams are looking towards the last quarter of the year with a positive mindset.” Nationally, overall confidence rose one point to 2 per cent as firms’ confidence in their own prospects climbed five points to 13 per cent.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Chamber’s third quarter economic survey points to an overall decline in business activity and sentiment, particularly at service companies. Nineteen of the 30 main indices saw a decline whilst 11 improved. Falls were seen in key long term criteria such as training investment, confidence in improving profitability and turnover and employment expectations. But most of the criteria are still in positive territory. Suffolk businesses are also more robust than the East of England average, where 26 of the 30 criteria saw declines.

Construction firms warned to plan for potential shocks from no deal Brexit

The region’s construction sector has been urged to have robust plans in place after a warning about the impact a no deal Brexit could have on its workforce. At a construction and development briefing hosted by Ellisons Solicitors, immigration partner Sohan Sidhu warned of potential shocks in the sector if the new short-term work visa comes into place in 2021. Around 16 per cent of construction workers in the East of England are from outside the UK, the highest of any region outside London. He said: “Immigration law is changing quickly. Things are happening on an almost daily basis and it will have a huge impact on the construction industry in the region. If the Government’s proposed reforms are introduced as anticipated in 2021, then a new visa route for temporary lower skilled, short-term workers will come into play which will only enable them to work in the country for a maximum period of 12 months at a time.  There will be a 12 month cooling off period once their visa expires in order to prevent people effectively working in the UK permanently. This could result in very little consistency for construction businesses and make strategic planning incredibly difficult.” Held at Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester, Ellisons’ third Construction and Development Briefing was chaired by Ian Seeley, senior associate at Ellisons. Other speakers also included Tim Bacon, partner at Ellisons and Adrian Fisher from insurance brokers JW Lear.

Separately, Ellisons Solicitors has appointed Naomi Ogo as an immigration law specialist, joining the firm’s immigration team based in Bury St Edmunds. An experienced solicitor, she has been nominated in the Legal 500 list between 2015 and 2018 and is well versed in dealing with the Home Office for clients which have included blue chip corporations, high net worth individuals and renowned entrepreneurs.

Photo (l-r):Ian Seeley, Tim Bacon, Adrian Fisher and Sohan Sidhu.

MBO at healthcare group

Essex-based Healthcare Homes Group has completed a management buyout of Healthcare Homes Holdings by three members of the group’s executive team: CEO Gordon Cochrane, chief operating officer Helen Gidlow and group finance director Matt King. Existing founders David Bates and Graham Lomer will remain as non-executive directors, while Philip George remains as chairman. The group operates 37 residential and nursing care homes across East Anglia and the South of England. Its Manorcourt Homecare division also has 13 homecare branch locations which undertake more than 1.5 million visits per annum to people requiring home-based support and care services. Gordon Cochrane said: “As a group, we are continuing to invest in our homes and people to ensure we provide the best care possible to our residents and clients. Helen, Matt and I look forward to continuing our work with the team and building on the upward momentum we have already established.” The group has over 3,000 staff.

Ipswich PR agency wins top award for second year running

Ipswich-based PR agency Genesis has won the gold award for Overall Outstanding Public Relations consultancy for the second year running at the Anglia, Thames and Chiltern regional PRide Awards. The judges said: “In a strong category, Genesis PR really stood out. With clear business objectives, incisive analysis against budget, and a well-thought-through plan for both their business and their people, it was no surprise to see that they’ve experienced such impressive growth.” The regional PRide Awards organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in Cambridge, recognise the work of leading PR teams who demonstrate commitment to excellence and best practice in nine regions across the UK. In June, Genesis was a finalist at the CIPR’s national Excellence Awards for Outstanding Small PR Agency and last year was listed by PR Week magazine as a Top 40 Outside London agency. This year the firm was also listed in the Top 10 nationally for public sector PR. Penny Arbuthnot, director at Genesis, said: “We’re thrilled to have won this award for the second year running. It is testament to the hard work of our team here at Genesis who are all committed to delivering the very best for our clients.”

Photo: Some of the Genesis team

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Norwich-Cornwall air link to launch

Loganair is launching a new service from Norwich Airport to Cornwall Airport Newquay from next Spring. The 80 minute flights will operate from April 2020, with fares from £59.99 one way which include a free checked baggage allowance, allocated seating and in-flight refreshments. It will operate Monday and Friday services in the summer with extra Sunday services from May to September and a Wednesday flight in July and August. Loganair managing director Jonathan Hinkles said: “In addition to leisure users, we believe that economic links between East Anglia and Cornwall will also mean a healthy level of business demand. Although we’re initially launching the Norwich-Newquay route with summer services, we’re keen to look at maintaining flights year-round if it proves viable.”

Growth potential from tech corridor

Research suggests the Cambridge Norwich tech corridor could bring an additional £2.75bn to the region’s economy by 2031 and create 26,000 more new jobs, a sector event in Norwich heard last week. Ruben Davis, senior technology recruitment consultant at Pure, said: "To ensure this happens, one of the core aims of the Tech Corridor team is to ‘show the world that we have the people, companies and culture to match any of the leading tech clusters’. Leadership development, people strategy and company culture are all things we are extremely passionate about here at Pure and this is where we felt we could add real value and support.” He was speaking at Held at Open an inaugural tech leaders event hosted by professional recruitment specialists Pure with Barclays Eagle Labs, Tech East, and the Institute of Directors.

Call for devolution framework to ‘ignite prosperity’

The government is being urged by the CBI to publish a framework to devolve powers and 'reignite a new era of economic prosperity'. The business lobby group believes it will help to boost productivity and help close the gap on regional inequalities. Its proposals include an East of England ministerial champion, an independent board to decide devolution deals against a published framework and a ‘council of mayors’ chaired by the prime minister to steer priorities ahead of the budget and shape future devolution.

Fit out specialist wins projects worth £5 million in Cambridge

National office fit out and refurbishment specialist, Overbury, has been appointed to deliver four new projects worth £5 million at an office building in Cambridge. Overbury has been hired by global law practice, Eversheds Sutherland and three other organisations in the tech and financial services sectors to deliver CAT B office fit outs at CB1’s flagship 50/60 Station Road development in the city centre. The fit out specialist will transform over 48,000 sq ft of new office space into modern workplaces, through design and build and traditionally procured office projects. Work on the four projects  is expected to be complete by early 2020.

Eastern companies on growth track

Eight companies headquartered in the East (compared to 14 in 2018) featured in the 15th annual Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 league table ranking Britain’s private mid-market growth companies with the biggest sales. The companies increased combined sales by 14% to £2bn and operating profits 20% to £275m and they employ more than 6,600 people. They were: Peterborough-based BGL Group (insurance and household financial services), ProCam Europe (crop protection), Mick George (construction), Burgess Farms, Weston Group (housebuilder), Lindum Group (construction), Hopkins Homes and AJN Steelstock. Tim Taylor, partner at Grant Thornton UK, said: “Whilst the headwinds of political and economic uncertainty have been a consistent feature of the UK economy over the past year, mid-market firms have continued to prove their resilience. They’ve demonstrated their adaptability to uncertain times and found opportunities for growth, both at home and abroad.”

Corporate finance adviser sets up team for growth

Cambridge-based corporate finance adviser, PEM Corporate Finance has made changes across its team to support a strong transaction pipeline and set it up for growth. Ned Brown has been promoted to manager. A chartered accountant who trained at Deloitte, he has been at PEMCF for 18 months, working with a variety of clients and providing lead advisory on corporate sales. Anna Tindall (photo, right) joins the team as analyst and trainee. She is a first-class honours economics graduate from Lancaster University and will be studying for the corporate finance qualification. Lake Falconer, partner at PEMCF, said: “We have a strong deal flow and we’re growing the team so we can continue to deliver practical timely insight to our clients, and to help them achieve their goals.”

New head and promotions at professional services firm

KPMG’s Norwich practice has strengthened its management team with the promotion of three new directors and new leadership for its office at Dragonfly House. Joe Faulkner, head of business development for East Anglia, takes the lead role in the management of the firm’s Norwich office, succeeding Steve Muncey who is retiring. Matt Evans, a corporate tax specialist, who joined KPMG’s East Anglian tax practice 19 years ago has been promoted to tax director alongside David Johnson who has been with the firm since 2006 and is now audit director. In all, 20 staff were promoted across the firm’s two offices in Cambridge and Norwich.  Joe Faulkner said: “These promotions reflect the investment the firm continues to make in the region and are a reflection of the talent in our business and the growing demand for our services locally. Our local practice has had a very busy year, as the region continues to attract and support new and growing businesses. These promotions reinforce our commitment to be part of that growth story.”

New client wins for communications agency

Suffolk-based communications agency Pier has secured a raft of new client wins. They include 'free from' food spread Pure, East Cambridgeshire District Council and global beverage producer Finlays. Cold-pressed raw sauce producer The Saucy Affair and charity Re-cycle have also joined the books. Pier is an integrated agency known for its work in the renewables, professional services and food and drink sectors. Managing Director Kate Bowden Smith commented: “We are increasingly finding that clients prefer to work with an agency with several different strings to its bow, and our design division is blossoming.” Pier has also been briefed on a new electrical infrastructure campaign for existing client, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.

Photo: Pier account manager Chrystal Flavin

Record year and three accreditions for Suffolk business

Rapidly growing Suffolk company Portable Space, which provides accommodation and storage units to a wide range of sectors, has completed the best year in its history with turnover up 16 per cent. The team has also expanded in line with business growth and now totals 41. Earlier this year, the Bacton-based company’s in-house transport fleet was increased and now has ten state-of-the-art specialist vehicles equipped with cranes to deliver units across the UK. It has also had successful audits for three ISO accreditations: ISO14001 for environmental compliance; ISO9001:2015 for quality management systems; and ISO45001 for health and safety achievements. Managing director Mark Dolman attributes the record year to sustained growth across all areas of the business. He said: “We have diversified our product range to meet customer demand, particularly in the area of our flatpack units which are ideal for locations where access is restricted. We have also seen our large customers remain busy, strengthening our long-term relationships with new projects." Hire revenue has increased and the firm's conversions business has been very strong. The firm has also reviewed its supply chain to improve lead-times. In line with growth, Portable Space has also expanded its geographical reach which now extends to Birmingham and the M40.

Photo: foreground, Mark Dolman, managing director of Portable Space with team members at its Suffolk headquarters.

Full fibre construction starts in rural Essex

Construction work to bring full fibre broadband to rural Essex has started after 30 villages gave the go-ahead to specialist internet service provider County Broadband this summer. Residents and business owners in rural communities in the Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree areas will have new hyperfast gigabit-capable networks built – putting them in the top 8 per cent of the UK for digital connectivity. Eight Ash Green and Dale Close, near Colchester, are the first villages where work has started. Aldham, Wakes Colne, Chappel, Fordham and Mount Bures will see the rollout over coming weeks. County Broadband’s new network, which can provide speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps, is backed by a £46 million pound investment to upgrade rural villages. Lloyd Felton, chief executive of County Broadband, said:“Building next-generation full fibre broadband is vital for rural residents, businesses and economies to thrive in our digitally connected world. By joining our network, we believe residents and businesses have made a wise investment in their long-term prosperity by getting future-ready.” The new networks in the 30 Essex villages are set to be fully operational by early next year. More villages are also expected to be announced to be built by Christmas with 140 in total being targeted across Essex and Norfolk. The roll-out is funded by a private investment from Aviva Investors.

Cambs farm recognised for innovative agricultural business

Papley Grove Farm in Cambridgeshire has been recognised as among the most innovative agricultural businesses in the UK in a Barclays report ‘Formidable Farmers’, which champions diversification success stories in the sector and its contribution to the economy. One in four UK agricultural businesses bank with Barclays and the bank has chosen Papley Grove Farm for its use of technology. This includes using GPS to work out which land is best to use and returning areas with poor soil quality to wildlife. Martin Lines, owner of Papley Grove Farm, started farming in 1989 and as well as seeing positive results on his own land from GPS, he has hired out the service to other farm businesses to generate a new source of income. Martin Lines said: “Our aim is to have a prosperous, profitable farm that has a positive effect on the landscape. That means being conscious of the impact of the work we do on the local wildlife.”

Meanwhile, Barclays is hosting an additional 100 Brexit clinics in October and November to provide support to customers amidst ongoing uncertainty. The bank’s agricultural and manufacturing experts will focus on topics like trading relationships, subsidies and agricultural policy, migrant labour, and exporting. Mark Suthern, national head of agriculture, Barclays, said: “By championing Britain’s most formidable farmers and bringing them together at our Brexit clinics, we hope to facilitate those discussions that will help enable farmers to navigate the changes the following months will bring, and most importantly, feel supported during this time of uncertainty.

Photo: Martin Lines with his son, Matt Lines.

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Key appointments at law firm's Norwich office

Law firm Birketts has made two key appointments at its Norwich office; legal director Helen Cordingley (photo, left) and senior associate Hayley Pettitt (right), to its private client team. The appointments come as the department in Norwich has retained its status in Chambers High Net Worth 2019 Guide for the third year in a row and partner Lorna Spear has been ranked in the private wealth law category for Norwich and the surrounding areas. The team has grown recently with Emma Rees qualifying in to the department plus the twin appointments of tax and trust executive Janette Chinn and associate Laura van Ree earlier this year. Helen Cordingley qualified in 2006 and Hayley Pettitt in 2008, and between them they have over twenty years’ experience in the private client sector specialising in wills, tax and succession planning, trusts, the administration of estates and powers of attorney. Tim Galloway, head of Birketts’ private client advisory team, said: “With both Helen, Hayley and Laura being known for their legal acumen, as well as their strong people skills, Janette’s well known technical trust knowledge and Emma having excelled as a trainee in the department I have no doubt they will all thrive within our Norwich office and in the firm as a whole.”

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Law firm appoints seven new associates

Ashtons Legal has appointed six new associates from within the firm. The group, who include three support staff, have been promoted to having successfully completed Ashtons’ Becoming an Effective Leader Programme. They are: Tim Burrows, financial controller, Vicki Clover, digital marketing manager and Claire Hughes, senior HR adviser. They are joined in their promotions by Cambridge-based solicitors Jack Burroughs from lifetime planning, Sophie McCadney from commercial property and Phoebe Osborne from personal injury and Bury St Edmunds-based solicitor Amy Hutchinson. Ashtons CEO Edward O’Rourke said: “These appointments demonstrate the commitment we have to investing in the professional development of our staff and take the number of associates in the firm to 39. Together with our 34 partners, they are working to meet a wide range of legal needs across the region and beyond.”

Photo (l-r): Vicki Clover, Sophie McCadney, Jack Burroughs, Claire Hughes, Tim Burrows and Phoebe Osborne.

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Silver Investors in People accreditation for consultants

Property and construction consultants Ingleton Wood has achieved its Silver Investors in People accreditation. The practice, which has offices in Colchester, Cambridge, Billericay, Norwich, London and Oxford, achieved its first Investors in People in 2010 and has qualified ever since for the external assessment that proves the practice is managing and developing its people well. Partner David Cresswell said: “This accolade is really important to us..... Since 2010, the practice has doubled in terms of its employee numbers and this year we welcomed our 200th member of staff. This has meant that instead of being a big small company we are now a small big company. Our practice’s overriding ethos is that we support each other and those around us.”  The assessment involved employees being interviewed by an independent assessor on what it is like to work for the Practice and the judgement was: “It was apparent from the assessment that employees, many of whom are long serving, think Ingleton Wood LLP is a great place to work.”

Separately, students returning to Manningtree High School this term witnessed heavy plant and machinery heralding the expansion of the school and replacement of its dilapidated performing arts block. Ingleton Wood, which has designed and project managed the build, say both projects are due for completion before summer 2020. Ingleton Wood helped secure £1.2m from the government-run Condition Improvement Fund which helps schools prioritise the replacement of dilapidated building stock.

Photo: Ingleton Wood partner John Dixon.

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Wins from course in organisational resilience

With the construction sector the largest contributor to business insolvencies each year in the UK, Mixbrow Construction’s Claire Foreman (right) has taken the NFB’s BeResilient organisational resilience leadership course, funded by the CITB. She said: “Having worked at Mixbrow Construction for 16 years my role has changed drastically; I’ve become more involved in the actual company, focusing on business improvement. When the opportunity to be part of the first cohort arose, I jumped at the chance to attend. It’s been a win-win for myself and the company; sharing the knowledge and techniques I have learnt means that we are stronger and better placed to adapt and successfully manage any changes that could impact our operations.” Clare Formean has also become a construction ambassador under the GoConstruct scheme, inspiring young people to take up a career in the industry.