Thursday 22nd April 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 07/04/2021

Bank launches drive to boost SME productivity in the region

Small and medium sized firms in the East of England face big challenges on productivity and sustainability, according to a wide-ranging survey from NatWest. It shows that SMEs ‘often struggle’ to find a support programme that is tailored to their needs and that only one in twenty enjoy a significant productivity boost by changing their business after taking part in a programme. The bank argues that better-targeted and personalised support for SMEs could unlock economic growth worth £140 billion nationally. It says productivity among the region's 140,000 SMEs lags that of larger firms by 15 per cent and the country’s numerous entrepreneurial programmes has not brought any overall impact on productivity. To help small businesses, the bank has made a funding commitment of £6bn to support SMEs to scale up and grow - with £4bn outside London- and created 30 local 'enterprise managers' and 20 'entrepreneur acceleration managers'. It is also forging new partnerships with Business in The Community, Hatch and Digital Boost. John Maude, chairman of NatWest’s regional board for the Midlands and East of England, said: “The findings of this report have shown us that SMEs are not a homogenous group, and that support available across the East of England and the wider country need to be more closely tailored to their specific needs. We’re also seeing a continued disparity in the allocation of support and funding by gender, location and ethnicity. It’s the responsibility of our entire industry to help reset this balance to help all SMEs and by extension the UK economy to thrive again."

Region’s cultural venues applaud £21 million from government recovery fund

Firstsite in Colchester, The Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe and Ely Cathederal are among the beneficiairies of awards worth £21 million for East of England organisations under the latest funding round from the government’s culture recovery fund. The art deco seafront venue Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe received £746,000 in the first round of funding and is set to receive another grant of £572,305. Ely Cathedral will receive an award of £119,300 in addition to a grant received in round 1, to allow work to continue to adapt the cathedral following the pandemic. Local cinemas, including The Regal Theatre in Stowmarket, will receive £590,081. Firstsite, the cultural venue in Colchester has been awarded £692,625 from the fund to help face Covid challenges and to ensure it has a sustainable future. Firstsite director Sally Shaw said: “The Culture Recovery Fund grant really is an immense relief for Firstsite for the year ahead - whatever it may bring. It is a financial life raft which will help us across very tricky waters.”

Survey points to ‘fragile’ recovery underway in Suffolk

Services companies in Suffolk enjoyed a better quarter than manufacturing firms in the county during the first quarter according to Suffolk Chamber’s quarterly economic survey. But the upturn is fragile and most measures used by the survey remain in negative territory compared to the period last year, suggesting  that a sustained economic recovery is still many months away. However Suffolk’s manufacturers reported quarterly improvements in various forward-looking indices such as export orders, investment in plant and machinery, and turnover and profitability forecasts. The balance of service firms reporting an increase in domestic sales rose to +3 ( up 12 percentage points on Q4 2020), and domestic orders were up by 17 percentage points. Consumer-focused services companies affected by lockdown faced tougher conditions than business and professional services firms. Paul Simon, Suffolk Chamber’s head of policy & communications, said: “The marked improvement in business confidence about the future has certainly been boosted in the first three months of 2021 amid the strong vaccine roll-out and the government’s roadmap providing some ability for companies to forward plan.” He added: “However, the economic scarring from Covid19 may mean that the recovery is dramatically uneven across different sectors, locations and cohorts of people. That is why Suffolk Chamber will continue to press our MPs and the government for a longer-term economic recovery and renewal plan covering the remainder of this parliament.”

Separately, two-thirds of East of England businesses are ready to operate at close to full capacity when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted from next Monday and most support the pace of easing, according to a Lloyds Bank survey. Dave Atkinson, regional director for the East of England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “This data shows the positive impact that the roadmap out of lockdown – and the clarity it provides – has had on local businesses. It’s fantastic to see many firms are putting plans in place to re-open at full capacity when lockdown eases." The bank's business barometer survey showed business confidence in the East of England grew 20 points between February and March to 12 per cent, the first net positive result for a year.

Briefly...

Environmental consultancy acquired

Lucion Services, a private equity-backed environmental services group with a base in Gateshead has acquired multi-disciplinary Delta-Simons Environmental Consultants, which has an office in Norwich. The firm says the deal creates a market-leading group offering a wide range of environmental regulatory services across the UK and a significant force internationally. It will have revenues of around £50m, serving 1,500 clients across 20 sectors including utilities, real estate, nuclear, technology, marine and government and more than 500 employees. Delta-Simons operates from a head office in Lincoln and has offices across the UK.

Ride-hailing service launches in Peterborough

Bolt, which is London’s second largest ride-hailing app, is launching its service in Peterborough. The firm says it is eyeing a long-term plan to help build a greener transport network as the city strives for major economic growth under the government’s Oxford-Cambridge Arc plans. The local council also recently declared a climate emergency, committing to not operate any fossil fuel-powered vehicles beyond 2030. Bolt says it is the fastest growing mobility platform in the world, with over 50 million users globally. It has also been launched in Milton Keynes.

New managing partner appointed at property agency

Property agency Fenn Wright has made two new senior appointments; Joseph Hall takes on the role of managing partner from Alan Williams, who becomes senior partner. Meanwhile, after more than 35 years in the commercial property and development sectors, former senior partner, Roger Hayward, retires from the partnership and becomes a consultant. Since joining Fenn Wright in 2015 to head up the residential lettings division, Joseph Hall (left) has played a major role in the firm’s development, building up a substantial lettings portfolio and winning numerous instructions. He said: "Becoming managing partner of a firm with a 250-year history is an honour. However, we are very much a modern, forward-thinking business and I look forward to developing our growth strategy to take Fenn Wright to the next stage of its evolution.”

As head of residential agency and with a background in land and new homes, Alan Williams (right) now takes up the position of senior partner, after 16 years as managing partner. He said: “This transition of roles has been planned for a couple of years now and I am delighted that, in Joe, we have a managing partner well equipped to handle the challenges and opportunities of the technological revolution.” Roger Hayward joined Fenn Wright in 1990, becoming a partner in 1992 and was managing partner from 1996 to 2004, a period of significant growth and modernisation for the firm.

See Profile Fenn Wright

Partner at corporate transactions team appointed

Regional accountancy and business advisory firm, Larking Gowen, has appointed Jack Minns (right) as a new partner to its corporate transactions team based in its Norwich office. A chartered accountant who grew up in Beccles, he joined Larking Gowen in 2013 and has  wide experience of corporate transactions including business sales, acquisitions and management buy-outs across deals ranging in value from 500k and £20m. Jack Minns said: "Primarily, our aim is to help businesses in East Anglia with their growth and succession plans." He is also looking to contribute to the firm's expert witness and forensic accountancy work. Corporate transactions and business advisory partner James Lay said: “Jack has earned a well-deserved reputation for advising numerous business owners on buying, selling and valuing private businesses. We’re proud to have Jack in our firm, and I’m sure he will continue to advise on many more successful deals in the years to come.”

Separately, series one of Larking Gowen's tourism business chat podcast - where tourism & hospitality specialist Chris Scargill interviews business owners and leaders from the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector throughout Norfolk, Essex and Suffolk- is now wrapped up. Each episode and insights from guests on the last 12 months and on how to succeed in the sector can be be found here.

See Profile MHA Larking Gowen

Promotion to associate partner at chartered accountants

Ensors Chartered Accountants has promoted Zoe McLaughlin to associate partner. She joined Ensors in 1998 as a student accountant, qualifying as a Chartered Certified Accountant in 2002 and now has responsibility for a busy portfolio of audit clients and manages a team of over 20 members of staff. With specialist expertise in the pension and local authority trading company sectors, Zoe McLaughlin also leads these two very busy and successful teams that service clients from across the region and UK. In 2018, she led the Ensors Pensions team to win the Pensions Age ‘Pensions Accountancy Firm of the Year’ award. David Scrivener, Ensors managing partner, said: “The partners are delighted to announce Zoe’s promotion.  Well-deserved recognition for all her hard work and dedication to the firm.”  He continued: “Zoe is a highly valued member of the team, not only for her accountancy expertise, but also for her service-orientated approach, professionalism and excellent communication skills.”

See Profile Ensors Chartered Accountants

Solicitor promoted to partner in firm’s private client department

Law firm Cozens-Hardy has promoted Claire Nelson (right) from associate to partner in the firm’s private client department. She has been with the firm since 2014 when she joined as a trainee solicitor. Having qualified as a solicitor two years later, she was promoted to associate in 2019. Claire has wide experience in all aspects of private client work and recently qualified as a full member of the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners (STEP). Jane Anderson, senior partner, said: “She is a fantastic lawyer with an excellent academic record, having recently completed her STEP qualification with outstanding results. Claire is popular with both clients and colleagues and she will be a great asset to the firm, both now and in years to come.” A graduate of the UEA law school, Claire’s areas of expertise encompass will drafting, lasting powers of attorney, declarations of trust, dealing with the administration of estates, setting up trusts and inheritance tax planning.

See Profile Cozens-Hardy

Law firm commits to injury law with new recruits

Ashtons Legal has recruited four new lawyers to its fifty-strong regional personal injury team and made an internal promotion to partnership in its medical negligence team. The new recruits, joining from a range of firms across the region and beyond, are Andrew Wilson, Graham Heywood, Paul Sadler and Sophie Robson who between them have many years’ experience of personal injury claims at all levels. Meanwhile, Ben Ward becomes a partner in the firm’s medical negligence team. Michael Wangermann, who heads the firm’s injury services group, said: “Ashtons has been a go-to firm for many years for those in East Anglia needing legal help with any type of injury claim and is recognised as such by independent reviewers at Chambers UK and the Legal 500. We are delighted that while a number of other firms in the region have recently chosen to give up providing this type of legal advice, we continue to have this as a core area of our business and attract experienced additional talent into our team."

Photo (l-r): Andrew Wilson, Sophie Robson, Michael Wangermann (head of injury services), Graham Heywood, Sharon Allison (partner) and Ben Ward (partner).

See Profile Ashtons Legal