Sunday 09th May 2021
Home Weekly Business<br />E-newsletter ebusiness weekly news 30/04/2021

Need to retain 'talent' set to drive shift to hybrid working

Only a small minority of mid-market businesses in the East of England - just four per cent - expect to return to the office full time and most expect to adopt a mix of remote and office working after the pandemic, according to a survey from Grant Thornton UK. With ‘talent retention’ set to be a key driver for the shift, nearly three quarters of firms in the survey said that employees will expect flexible working options to be available. Most are also set to invest more or the same in ‘employee wellbeing' services over the next six months. A majority also said that a hybrid of remote and office working would be most effective for their people and many expected employees to spend more time working remotely than in an office. But the survey also highlighted concerns over employee mental wellbeing, managing the work of junior staff and a reduction in productivity from hybrid working. James Brown, partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton UK in the region, said: “It’s clear that remote working will play a much bigger role than ever before in the way we work, following the profound disruption of the last 12 months. The role of the office is set to change for many businesses in the East – reducing in its importance for a significant proportion. For some this will be driven by the chance to reduce overheads. But for others, the switch to a remote-first model is likely to be motivated by the battle for talent, as they look to maintain a competitive edge in a new climate where choice of employer is no longer restricted by location in many sectors.”

Business confidence jumps as lockdown restrictions ease

Business confidence in the East of England rose 12 points to 24 per cent in April, the highest level since the Covid-19 lockdowns began, according to a survey from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. Firms in the region reported slightly higher confidence in their own business at 17 per cent but their optimism on the overall economy rose dramatically; up 23 points to 31 per cent. The business barometer survey also showed a net balance of 5 per cent of firms in the region expect to recruit staff over the next year. As lockdown restrictions ease, overall UK business confidence surged 14 points in April to 29 per cent, the highest reading since September 2018. Dave Atkinson, regional director for the East of England, at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “It’s encouraging to see confidence increase in the East of England for the third consecutive month, boosted by the easing of lockdown restrictions and reopening of non-essential businesses. The region’s hospitality sector, in particular, will be enjoying its first taste of a well-earned return to normality and there’s hope we’ll see this trend continue as indoor gatherings resume in May."

Separately, the UK’s brighter economic prospects have prompted a significant upgrade in the EY ITEM Club’s spring forecast. It now expects the economy to grow 6.8 per cent this year, up from growth of 5 per cent which it was forecasting in January.

Developer buys Suffolk site for major warehousing and industrial scheme

Property developer Jaynic has bought a redundant 20-acre site at Little Wratting on the A143 near Haverhill for a major warehousing and industrial scheme to be called Stour Business Park. Six acres of the site, acquired from Karro Food, is allocated for employment and Jaynic is seeking an extension over the other 14 acres, which may also include land for sport and open space. Jaynic managing director Nic Rumsey said: “We have bought the Karro site because we are seeing substantial demand for warehousing space at our other sites in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket and believe that this location will prove attractive to potential occupiers.” He added: “We would expect to have a planning application in by the summer and in the meantime, we will offer the site for open storage,” added Rumsey. The site has the potential to house a single facility of up to 250,000 sq ft.”

Separately, Jaynic has secured outline planning permission on appeal for up to 155 homes on a 13.6- acre site, at Haverhill Research Park which will include 30 per cent affordable housing. The planning inspector accepted the developer’s case that there is insufficient demand for a research park on the site.

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Farmland in demand from lifestyle and green buyers

Demand for farmland in the East of England has remained strong this year particularly from buyers looking for residential and amenity properties and from environmental investors seeking green assets. But with a continued shortage of supply, there were just 578 acres of land openly marketed in the East of England in the first quarter, down 57 per cent on the period a year earlier, according to Savills quarterly farmland survey. However, privately marketed sales of farmland have been increasing. Christopher Miles, who leads Savills rural agency teams in the region, said: “…those who have brought land to the market early this year have been rewarded with strong sales as buyers’ momentum from 2020 continues. Consequently, average values have shown marginal improvements and in some cases conservative guide prices have been well exceeded.” Savills predicts that annual supply will soon rise back up to the 10-year average. “We are expecting some farmers to take advantage of the government’s lump sum exit scheme to retire, while others may find it difficult to adapt to the new post-subsidy and Brexit environment.”

Law firm advises on acquisition

Law firm Birketts has advised YFM Private Equity’s £80m Buyout Fund II (YFM) on its acquisition of an Essex-based specialist property services company, RGE Services. The buyout was led by RGE managing director, Scott Craig, who remains in place supported by incoming chair, Stuart Black and finance director Matt Aspinall.  Company founder Roger Greene will remain as a shareholder and investor. Founded in 1982, YFM has over £300m of funds under management and specialises in facilitating MBOs and securing growth capital opportunities for businesses across all sectors. RGE has an 80-strong workforce, a turnover of over £8 million pa and customers across the public sector including local authorities and housing associations. The Birketts team acting for YFM was led by Adam Jones, along with Tom Utting (corporate), Karl Pocock (tax), Matt Grindley (commercial property) and Jon Insley (employment).

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International trade secretary quizzed by Norfolk & Suffolk businesses

A Norfolk and Suffolk chambers virtual event last week saw international trade secretary Liz Truss (right) questioned by businesses on topics such as how to get visas for EU citizens and support for SMEs, changes to import controls on goods into the UK, infrastructure investment at ports and simplifying EU red tape. Businesses taking part included Lotus Cars, Cogent Technology, Fountain Fresh, Merxin and Claydon Yield-O-Meter Ltd LV Shipping Cory Brothers and Wallis Shipping Services. Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore said: “Suffolk and Norfolk are key UK gateways to the country’s international trade success – something well understood by Liz Truss. As the UK’s trading gateway with the rest of the world and Europe, Suffolk and Norfolk businesses can help meet the government’s ambitious imports and exports programme as well as help with the vision of global Britain….”

Peterborough set to join UK’s ‘fastest growing cities’

Peterborough will be among the cities which will see one of the fastest-growing local economies post-lockdown although its jobs market will remain sluggish, says a UK Powerhouse report by Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic and Business Research. It forecasts Peterborough will see its gross value added grow by 7.4 per cent year-on-year by the end of the fourth quarter. But the total employment headcount across the city will be 500 lower in than in the last three months of 2020. Vicky Brackett, head of Irwin Mitchell’s business legal services division, said: “Peterborough has big plans for expansion in the next few years and this report suggests the city is on track to see output increase by the end of 2021 and be among the UK’s fastest growing cities.”

Plans for new Travelodge in Ipswich

Plans have been submitted to build a 99-bed Travelodge hotel next to Ipswich Town FC by Burney Group, working with Penn Commercial. Construction work on the four-storey, multi-million pound project could start in August at the 2.6-acre site on the town's Russell Road, with completion by August 2022. “We are excited because it will be a great project for Ipswich, revitalising and modernising part of a regenerated area of the town, as well as providing good employment,” said Daren Burney, founder of Burney Group. Penn Commercial has also arranged the sale of a 6.2-acre plot of undeveloped green field land at Stanton Europark - a prime site on Freshfields Road, Harwich, Essex - to Burney Group, as joint agents.

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Ipswich-based software company passes customer milestone

Ipswich-based Inform Direct has passed a major business milestone – with more than 200,000 firms now managed using its award-winning company secretarial software. Inform Direct launched its innovative software in 2013 to help accountants and business owners comply with company secretarial requirements and make the process simpler and more accurate. Since that time, the number of users has escalated and the team at Inform Direct has expanded and now totals 16 specialists who offer technical support to new and existing customers. Inform Direct CEO Henry Catchpole (right) said: “Achieving 200,000 companies on the platform is a major milestone and it is particularly heartening to celebrate such good news as we continue to navigate the challenges of Covid-19. This is welcome proof that our software is benefitting a growing number of accountants and business owners and, as we continue to enhance the features and functionality of our product to meet new requirements, we look forward to welcoming more new users.” www.informdirect.co.uk

Office accommodation a ‘top priority’ as new tenant signs up at energy hub

Lowestoft-based OrbisEnergy has signed up Tyneside company Mactech Engineering & Inspection to its “hub for clean energy” as businesses across the region consider returning to the office. The innovation and incubation facility says that the provision of first-class office accommodation, networking space, meeting rooms and conference facilities is still a top priority for many businesses – especially those involved in the growing energy sector. OrbisEnergy business development manager Ian Pease said: “A key component as to why the region is leading the way in terms of decarbonisation is collaboration, and we have found that many of our tenants value physical office space, including access to our unrivalled conference facilities and networking support, in order to facilitate this vital face-to-face communication.”