Wednesday 12th August 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 14/01/2020

Firms speed up recruitment as outlook for 2020 brightens

Business sentiment jumped to its highest level in 20 months in the region in December as the outlook for activity in the year ahead improved and the rate of new job creation quickened, according to a key survey of purchasing managers. The East of England PMI showed business expectations strengthening to the joint-highest since April 2018 and workforce numbers continuing to rise. Firms linked their optimism to reduced uncertainty and hopes of improved demand and higher sales. The NatWest future business activity index rose from 59.3 in November to 66.7 in December. However the survey showed business activity fell fractionally in December as new orders declined for the third month running and firms focused on tackling backlogs of work. A 'fractional uptick' in service sector activity contrasted with a fall in manufacturing output. John Maude, NatWest Midlands & East regional board, said: “December data did highlight some tentative signs of a recovery...with private sector firms recording back-to-back jobs growth and improved output expectations.” Nationally, order book volumes rose for the first time in five months and the rate of charge inflation was the fastest for five months although it remained modest.

Rural economy outlook seen as 'positive'

Despite regulatory change, a strong Conservative majority will mean more continuity for agriculture and the rural rural economy is more likely to ‘perform positively’ in the five years ahead –  once the first Brexit hurdle is passed, according to Savills. Adrian Wilson (right), of Savills Cambridge’s rural team, said: “With uncertainty expected to ease over the short to medium term, landowners will be reassessing growth options. The likely restructuring of agricultural payments will put pressure on returns from farming and force the hand of some sellers who are unable to invest or restructure. This is expected to bring a variety of land types to market.” On farmland values, Savills predicts that  location, quality, infrastructure and potential for alternative income streams will remain the main influences in 2020 and beyond. “The prevailing low cost of funds and a volatile global trade market may also attract a greater number of buyers, providing other investment objectives are met. In all situations, upside potential is predicted to be greater than any downturn,” he added. “Quality land at large commercial scale with suitable buildings will invariably be in greatest demand, as will properties suited to diverse cropping with good water storage and areas within close proximity of the Cambridge–Oxford arc where development and economic activity may provide potential outside of agriculture.” Overseas investors may also seeking to take advantage of the  favourable exchange rate.


Law firm advises on major employee buyout at public services provider

Law firm Birketts has advised Essex-based Seetec Business and Technology Centre founder and 80 per cent shareholder, Peter Cooper on his sale of 51 per cent of the company into a trust for the sole benefit of the company’s 2,500 employees. It makes Seetec, based in Hockley, the ninth largest employee-owned company in the UK and the largest to provide public services. A new employee council will be set up to manage and represent the interests of employees and contribute to the future direction of the business. Peter Cooper said: “For a transaction of this importance to me personally and to the business I had no hesitation in asking Birketts to help us achieve our objectives. As always, we had exemplary technical and transactional advice and support from Birketts’ multidisciplinary team.”

Lisa Hayward (photo, right: legal director, head of employee incentives) said: “We have been working on building awareness of employee ownership with the EOA for many years now and have supported several businesses to move towards employee ownership via EOT structures. This particular transaction marries the benefits of employee ownership with the delivery of public services and we are delighted to have been involved.” The Birketts team was led by Nigel Thompson, (partner, corporate) and Lisa Hayward supported by Devreaux Gravell, (legal director, banking), Kimberly Sayward, (senior associate, private client) and John Kahn, (senior associate, tax).

Separately, Birketts has been shortlisted for the Managing Partners’ Forum Awards 2020 for best community programme. Grace Kerr, chair of the CSR committee at Birketts, said: “We are delighted to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award. Selected by the rigorous peer led panel at the Managing Partners’ Forum alongside a host of other impressive nominees, this is further proof that Birketts’ commitment to charitable causes is being recognised externally."

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Employment law changes in the pipeline

Employers are being urged to prepare for a raft of employment law changes in 2020. As well as changes affecting contracts of employment, pay and tax, they will also have to grapple with the Brexit political uncertainty created by Brexit and the impact of the General Election. Paula Bailey (right), partner and employment law specialist at Howes Percival, said: "While some of the proposals aimed at strengthening workers' rights outlined in the Good Work Plan have fallen - because they had not completed the legislative process in time - there are still plenty of legislative changes employers need to prepare for. In addition to updates in statutory pay rates in April, a raft of amendments including changes to contracts of employment and taxation are expected to come into force.”

Work set to start on speculative Newmarket warehouse

Construction work is set to start this month on a large speculative warehouse unit in Newmarket following the granting of planning permission last year. When completed by the middle of this year, the new unit on Plot 200 on Willie Snaith Road in Newmarket’s main business district will have a footprint of 16,423 sq ft with an eaves height of 7.5m allowing for a mezzanine level and will be ideal for trade counter, showroom, high-tech and other hybrid warehouse users. Plot 200 is being marketed to let or for sale by Barker Storey Matthews as  sole agent. Nearby occupiers include Wickes, Travis Perkins, Ridgeons, Screwfix and Howdens Joinery. Ben Green, director, Barker Storey Matthews, said: “Market conditions are favourable for this type of speculative development with the industrial property sector characterised by good demand and a low supply and a real shortage of high quality, well located units. Barker Storey Matthews’ early marketing of the unit has already generated a number of enquiries.”

Partnership launched to boost employability and skills of young in Ipswich

Financial services firm Scrutton Bland has formed a partnership with The Careers & Enterprise Company to become a ‘cornerstone employer’ which involves working with other employers to develop employability and skills in schools and colleges and act as an ambassador for social mobility. Also working with the New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network, Scrutton Bland will provide young people in the Ipswich Opportunity Area with access to engagement with employees and work experience to help them make informed choices about their futures. Ipswich ranked 292 out of the 324 local authority areas in a nationwide ‘social mobility index’ in 2017 and the town was selected as one of 12 ‘opportunity areas’ in England to receive an equal share of a £72 million pot to help build the skills and knowledge of young people and give them the best advice and opportunities. Part of the programme will focus on greater collaboration between education and employers. Sue Gull, corporate services partner, said: “In 2019 Scrutton Bland celebrated it’s centenary year, and it is fitting that we partner with New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network in a local initiative which aims to develop a range of skills in the next generation of  young people, whether that is traditional business knowledge, or confidence and resilience in the workplace.”

Photo(l-r): Sue Gull, Jordan Holder and Caroline Cotterell of Scrutton Bland

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New rail service from Port of Felixstowe launched

A new daily rail service has been launched from the Port of Felixstowe to Maritime Transport’s newly-opened East Midlands Gateway at Castle Donington in Leicestershire, close to the M1. It caters for growing demand for rail at Felixstowe and follows the launch of two new rail services to iPort Rossington and Hams Hall from the Suffolk container port in late 2019. Clemence Cheng, CEO at the Port of Felixstowe and executive director of Hutchison Ports, said: “The Port of Felixstowe has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Maritime Transport; initially as a road transport operator and more recently as a fully-fledged multi-modal logistics provider. As one of the largest privately owned transport businesses in the UK it is fitting that they (Maritime Transport) have introduced the first regular service to East Midlands Gateway from the country’s largest container port and intermodal rail hub.

John Williams, executive chairman at Maritime Transport, said: “We believe this Felixstowe to East Midlands Gateway service will be a huge benefit to our customers. The movement of freight from the Port of Felixstowe continues to increase as does the demand for a greener solution for our customers. This service is the latest to be introduced as part of our intermodal offering and we look forward to announcing further rail services into this new terminal over the coming months.”

Resort shortlisted as one of country's best conference venues

Wyboston Lakes Resort has again been recognised as one of the best conference venues in the country. It has been chosen as one of six finalists as Best UK Conference Centre at this year’s Meeting & Incentive Travel Industry Awards. It comes after a £3m transformation of Wyboston Lakes Resort’s conference and events venue to create The Woodlands Event Centre was completed in spring 2019. Managing director Steve Jones (right), said: “ It’s superb testimony to the marvellous contributions of the whole team and the tremendous quality of the facilities at our recently transformed Woodlands Event Centre.” The venue between Cambridge, Bedford and Milton Keynes is fully equipped with the facilities and technology to meet the needs of the latest generation of delegates and event organisers and has the capacity and flexibility to suit every type of event and the latest event trends. The results of the awards will be announced in London on Friday 28 February.

New year's honour awarded to Norfolk business woman

Business woman Yvonne Mason (right), joint founder of Norfolk-based Future Marine Services and Safe STS, has been awarded an OBE in the new year honours list in recognition of her services inspiring and empowering young people in Norfolk and Suffolk. Since its foundation in 2008, The Mason Trust has sent just under 1000 young people from Norfolk and Suffolk to 50 countries across the globe. As a DIT regional export champion, the companies founded by Yvonne Mason and Captain Bob Gilchrist in 2010 (Future Marine Services and Safe STS Ltd) are thriving across East Africa, Middle East, Asia and South America. She is also one of the founding members of the University Technical College Norfolk and is chair of its industry liaison group.