Wednesday 08th July 2020
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 29/06/2020

Unemployment set to soar in Norfolk and Suffolk as furloughing ends

Unemployment across Norfolk and Suffolk is set to peak at 120,000 as the government’s furloughing scheme comes to a close over the autumn, according to a new report. Consultants working for New Anglia LEP believe that this ‘middle case’ scenario is most likely, involving a U-shaped recession and a slow return to economic growth. A ‘best case’ scenario with a quick return to growth and a V-shaped recession would involve nearer 50,000 job losses according to the estimates from Metro Dynamics. A worst-case would involve a lingering L-shaped recession. Currently around 183,400 staff are furloughed across Norfolk and Suffolk, some 27 per cent of the total workforce of 680,000. Chris Starkie, chief executive of New Anglia LEP, said: “There is little doubt that significant numbers of redundancies will be announced over the coming months as businesses find their ‘new normal’ and national support schemes come to an end. The impact of the pandemic across our economy has been profound and many of our region’s key sectors – including tourism, culture and health and social care – will have been severely affected.” He added: “We will work with our local partners to support businesses to restart and rebuild, help people to find the training and guidance they need and continue to support our further and higher education establishments.”

Lifestyle buyers add to pent up demand for farmland in the East

Potential buyers are increasingly looking at residential farms for a change in lifestyle and an escape to the country. An analysis of Savills website traffic has shown that interest in rural property is up 50 per cent on pre lockdown levels. Meanwhile the amount of farmland being publicly marketed across the UK looks set for another record low in 2020, after virus restrictions took their toll on the usually-busy spring market. Oliver Carr of Savills Cambridge rural agency team, said: “… pent up demand is evident across the market, with buyers increasingly frustrated with a prolonged period of limited supply. Here in the East, commercial farms for sale or let have received strong interest, indicating fresh confidence in the sector. Those with environmental benefits or potential also remain desirable, while many new applicants are also looking at residential farms for a change of lifestyle.”  Savills said there was just 19,100 acres of publicly marketed farmland in Britain to the end of May this year, 68 per cent below five and ten year averages.

Ownership of Essex-based fleet management firm transfers to staff

The founder of a fleet management specialist, Knowles Associates based at Great Bentley in Essex, has transferred the ownership of the business to its 54 staff in a move thought to be a first for the industry. Colin Knowles made the transfer through an employee ownership trust (EOT) and the transfer also included the acquisition of Ensure UK, a fleet insurance mediation and accident management services business. Founded in 1990, Knowles Associates provides fleet management and benefit services to over 115 NHS and public sector organisations. Colin Knowles, who made the change on Employee Ownership Day, said: “Establishing an EOT means Knowles Associates can maintain its all-important independence and, therefore, its impartiality and strong values, whilst creating the opportunity to pass the company on to the next generation of business talent.” EOTs were introduced in 2014 to encourage more companies to follow the John Lewis model. EOTs bring tax incentives for the business and staff can receive up to £3,600 as an annual bonus, tax free. Around 430 UK companies have made the move to EOTs including Essex firms Tiptree preserve makers Wilkin & Sons and Hockley-based training firm, Seetec.

Photo: The Knowles Associates management team (l-r) : corporate services director, Ryan Knowles; managing director Lee Walker; chairman Colin Knowles; procurement director, Dan Howard; customer service director, Wayne Knowles; IT director, Ria Turner; sales director, James Hawkins and contract management director, Dan O’Neill.

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Suffolk businesses re-open

The latest Suffolk Chamber survey points to a widespread re-opening of businesses and a broad degree of support for the government’s longer-term approach to the Covid-19 virus. Out of 104 replies some 51 per cent of businesses have now fully re-opened, with a further 19 per cent of firms saying that there is nothing stopping them from trading. Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of communications & campaigns, said: “It is clear that whilst considerable concerns remain, a majority of Suffolk businesses are confidently moving forward and adapting their trading practices to the new conditions. He added: “Suffolk Chamber was pleased that well over half of respondents to this survey are broadly supportive of the government’s approach, not least as business confidence will be key in boosting economic performance, investment and job prospects over the longer-term."

Recruitment starts at innovation centre

Jaynic and Oxford Innovation have started a recruitment drive for their new EpiCentre innovation centre at Haverhill Research Park due to open in November 2020 with six permanent full and part-time positions available. They are: a business support-focused innovation director; a commercially-focused centre manager; an operationally-focused assistant centre manager; two customer experience assistants and a laboratory technician. Gareth Scargill, commercial director, at Oxford Innovation, said: “This is a great opportunity for those looking to join this growing company working in a brand-new business park environment on the edge of Haverhill." These roles are now available to receive applications. The details and how to apply can be found at https://careers.oxin-centres.co.uk/

Award for Cambridge ‘law firm of the year’

Ashtons Legal has been named ‘Law Firm of the Year’ at the Cambridge Law Society Legal Excellence Awards and the firm also won the accolade for ‘Private Client Team of the Year’. Meanwhile Natasha Adams, who will be qualifying with the firm shortl, won the ‘Trainee of the Year’ award. Ed O’Rourke (right), CEO at Ashtons Legal, said: “It was fantastic to see the firm, a niche team and a talented young individual all being recognised for their achievements by the Cambridge Law Society.  We were awarded a similar accolade in late 2019 as Law Firm of the Year by national network LawNet UK, so I am reassured that the firm is consistently setting itself apart from others in a positive way. The firm’s private client team, led in Cambridge by Lynn Wicks and Jennie Pratt, has a strong track record in all aspects of estate and capital tax planning complemented by a specialist ulnerable client niche. Natasha Adams stood out for her proactivity from the start of her career and now leads the firm’s diversity and inclusion committee."

See Profile Ashtons Legal

Steel stockholder invests in solar panels

AJN Steelstock has installed 1,386 individual solar panels covering nearly 4 000 sq m on its steel processing warehouses at its Kentford site near Newmarket. The company, which supplies high-grade steel for construction project, says it has cut its reliance on traditional energy consumption by 55 per cent as a result of its solar investment. In 2019 the firm was recognised as one of the fastest-growing companies in the UK and listed in The Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250 league table.

Government urged to pump-prime economy

The Institute of Directors is calling on the government to use its upcoming economic statement to ‘pump-prime’ the economy and support employment. The IoD warned of potential job losses as the furlough scheme winds down, and urged the government to act now to reduce the cost of employing people, for example by increasing the Employment Allowance and raising the threshold for Employers’ NICs.

Careers hubs expand

All secondary schools and colleges in Norfolk and Suffolk will have the chance to join a Careers Hub in a move aimed at transforming careers education and supporting skills for the Covid-19 recovery. New Anglia LEP delivers the Careers Hub for the region and the expansion means it will increase from 32 secondary schools and colleges in Ipswich and Norwich and along the A140 corridor to 130 across both counties.

Cambridge college wins green award for second year

A Cambridge college has won a gold award for the second year running for its performance in reducing its impact on the environment. Murray Edwards College has been rated ‘gold’ in the Cambridge University Green Impact Awards for its success in achievements ranging from making the most of produce grown in the grounds – including vegetables, fruit, nuts and herbs – to sharing vegan and vegetarian recipes served at formal halls. A green impact team at the college has promoted ‘greener’ meetings with less paperwork, reusable ‘KeepCups’, vegan and vegetarian menus and encouraged delegates to use sustainable travel. Teri Byrne (right), catering operations manager who led the initiative, said: “The team is totally committed to improving sustainability across all areas within the college and I’m so pleased their hard work has resulted in this accolade.”

Jessica Haskell, environmental engagement coordinator, University of Cambridge, added: “The auditors commented particularly on how the team had succeeded in getting the whole college into the spirit of sustainability and making it a core element of people’s jobs, involving both the college and local community in all things environmental.”