Chamberlink July August 21

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The official publication of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

CHAMBER July/August 2021

Free to Members l £5.00 where sold


Pride of Brum...

...stadium in good shape with 12 months to go COMMONWEALTH GAMES SPECIAL - SEE INSIDE

Picture: Marc Kirsten

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Contents July/August 2021 39 Commonwealth: Boosting trade with Australia 40 Transatlantic: US-UK taskforce is established 41 Future Faces: Midlands Air Ambulance Charity join as patrons 42 Cannock Chase: Amazon to invest in creative apprenticeships 43 Burton & District: Town urged to back library move


44 Lichfield & Tamworth: New office welcomes TV legend for opening

Business News

45 Sutton Coldfield: Chamber president to take on marathon


Editor’s View Excitement across city as countdown begins


Games to score a huge economic boost


Transformation at stadium

48 ABCC: India film festival helps bring back audiences


NEC prepares for Games

Sector Focus


UCB to host Team Scotland

60 Business Travel: Major funding boost for 5G transportation projects


University in line for 20,000 visitors a day


Bringing volleyball to Birmingham

46 Solihull: New Moors manager appointed

62 Finance: Local economy set to rebound 12 President’s Focus Steve Allen, president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

64 Technology: Partnership to deliver cyber security


67 Retail: The road to recovery will be long

14 Cannock Chase to host mountain biking

68 Legal: Pandemic fails to dent law firm growth

15 Games can bring new wealth to the region

70 Property: Convention centre to be added at Wasps’ stadium

16 Where do you fancy? Adian’s Dining

73 Manufacturing: Output predicted to bounce back

18 Expanding regional opportunities 74 Sport: Match is Test for crowd too 19 Temporary boss takes over at local authority

Member Section

20 The Griffin Report Martin Green, chief creative officer of the Commonwealth Games

75 Member Profile Ayesha Rees, UVA UK 76 New Members Chamber welcomes new members

22 Firms back on the road to recovery 23 Patron manager joins Chamber


24 UK economy shows signs of bouncing back

78 …any other business News from Chamber businesses

27 Small firms unaware of net zero impact 28 Aston Hall set to reopen 29 Broadband speeds set to triple


30 Survey highlights the popularity of remote working

Chamber Patrons 34 Barriers faced by older women in business

1813 Club and Premier Members 36 AFL Architects to redevelop stadium

Workforce development

Connecting The Midlands

51 The skills agenda post-Covid

57 Infrastructure scheme will have a rail impact

Chamber Group 38 International: Exploring the state of the global economy

54 Five ways to get your employee wellbeing strategy right July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 3

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The official publication of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Editor’s View By John Lamb

Cannock Chase

Chamber of Commerce

Sutton Coldfield

Chamber of Commerce

Greater Birmingham

Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce

Greater Birmingham

Transatlantic Chamber of Commerce

The pride of Birmingham: GBCC chief executive Henrietta Brealey and Joel Blake, president of Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, catch up on progress at the Alexandra Stadium, centrepiece of the Commonwealth 2022 Games in Birmingham. See special reports on following pages. Editor John Lamb 0121 274 3237, 0797 1144064 Deputy Editor Dan Harrison 0121 274 3239, 0797 1144052 Reporter Jessica Brookes 0750 8317356 Reporter Claudia Congrave 0775 7798567 You can now read the latest issue of CHAMBERLINK and view back issues online at: Published by

Kemps Publishing Ltd Unit 8, The Courtyard, 707 Warwick Road, Solihull, B91 3DA 0121 765 4144 Managing Editor Laura Blake Designer Lloyd Hollingworth Advertising 0121 765 4144 Printers Stephens & George Print Group PRIVACY NOTICE: Kemps Publishing Ltd process personal information for certain legitimate interest purposes, which includes the following: • To provide postal copies of this publication to Chamber members and Kemps' customers; and • To offer marketing and promotional opportunities within this publication to Chamber members and prospects. Whenever we process data for these purposes, we always ensure we treat your Personal Data rights in high regard. If you wish to, you can visit to view our full Privacy Notice and to learn more about our legitimate interests and your rights in this regard. CHAMBERLINK is produced on behalf of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce by Kemps Publishing Ltd and is distributed to members without charge. The Chambers and the publisher are committed to achieving the highest quality standards. While every care has been taken to ensure that the information it contains is accurate, neither the Chambers nor the publisher can accept any responsibility for any omission or inaccuracies that might arise. Views expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of the Chambers. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced, transmitted or stored in print or electronic format without prior written permission of Kemps Publishing Ltd.

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Excitement across city as countdown begins nly a year to go – and yet it seems like yesterday that we were announcing Birmingham was to stage the Commonwealth Games. There have been many ups and downs and disappointments imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic but chief executive Ian Reid and his Games team have stuck with it, aiming to ensure the event in July next year will be a global spectacular. We devote a large amount of space in this issue of Chamberlink to the Games and one of the outstanding features to emerge is what a warm welcome visitors to our city can expect. The Commonwealth has always prided itself on staging ‘the friendly Games’ and competitors, their families, supporters and friends can look forward to fulfilling that experience in Birmingham. You only have to listen to Elaine Limond, from University College Birmingham (see page 7). The university will be hosting Team Scotland and their deputy dean at the School of Sport and Food speaks of the pride for all that the university has achieved in attracting Team Scotland to their home in central Birmingham. And she wants the experience to be remembered as one of their proudest achievements, adding: “We have a lot of plans around logistics, staffing, and making a drive for volunteers from our student body. “Our preparations are in a whole host of areas. It’s definitely not limited to sport at all. There’s scope for hospitality, hair and make-up with the cultural events going on and opportunities for our business, media and marketing students around promoting the Games.” We reported when the Games were awarded to


Birmingham that they would mark a sea-change in the city’s history. And that golden opportunity to showcase ourselves to a global audience on behalf of the city and the region will not be lost. Sporting endeavours will be paramount but all of the city region – its hotels, restaurants, bars, its attractions and its businesses of all shapes and sizes - can play their part. And no doubt that will be reflected in the important opening and closing ceremonies. They are being masterminded by chief creative officer Martin Green and the skills he applies will set the tone and lasting impressions for the whole Games. Martin is the man who went to Buckingham Palace on a mission to persuade the Queen to ‘leap’ out of a helicopter on film for the 2012 London Olympics. He has now turned his attention to Birmingham (see the Griffin Report, pages 20 and 21). He will not, of course, reveal what he has got in mind for Birmingham but we can expect something spectacular after his experience of working with artistic director Danny Boyle, who directed ‘Trainspotting’, on the London Olympics opening ceremony. Numerous private and public bodies are playing their parts and credit goes to them all as we create a splendid new Alexander Stadium in Birmingham and a magnificent aquatic arena in Sandwell. With that sort of attitude applied to all visitors in July next year we can ensure that they will leave a city that has demonstrated its pride in hosting the Games and one that has shown true Brummie hospitality. • Chamberlink is taking a summer break and returns in September.

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

Business News

Business News Latest news from Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Games will bring huge economic boost to city By Jessica Brookes irmingham’s 2022 Commonwealth Games is set to bring more than a £1bn boost to the West Midlands economy, according to the Games’ chief. Ian Reid (pictured), chief executive of the Organising Committee, the team putting together the major sporting extravaganza arriving next year, has highlighted the enormous economic opportunities that the Games will bring. The Games take place between 28 July and 8 August, attracting a global TV audience of 1.5 billion and more than one million spectators and welcoming competitors from 72 nations and territories. Other iterations of the Games in Manchester in 2002, Melbourne in 2006, Glasgow in 2014 and the Gold Coast in 2018 have provided huge economic uplifts for host cities, according to a Commonwealth Games Federation report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) last year. Mr Reid, who worked on the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games as chief financial officer, says that the business case for the Birmingham Games stacks up. He said: “Over the last three or four iterations of the event, the economic benefit to the region has been in the range of £800m to £1.2 bn from each. If you think about the local investment, the Games is funded from three sources primarily local government, through Birmingham City Council and partners, secondly through national


government through DCMS and thirdly through the private sector through our ticketing, sponsorship, merchandising and broadcast programme. “The vast majority of that benefit will go to the West Midlands economy. If you take the likely economic benefit based on previous games, the return on investment from local investment could be five or six times more. “The business case absolutely stacks up, and we should be seeing and aiming for well in excess of that £1billion of economic benefit to the West Midlands here as well.” One of the routes to economic benefit from the Games is the plethora of supply chain and business opportunities that the Games provides and there are many for business to access, says Mr Reid. He said: “The best way to get involved is to register your business on the Commonwealth Games business portal. You only need to register your business there once and it will proactively send you notifications of opportunities.” The Games has already attracted big business names as partners and supporters, including Longines and University of Birmingham as partners, and Gowling WLG, Gi Group, North, Severn Trent and PwC as supporters. Official providers include Sunset + Vine as host broadcaster, CSM Live as provider of look, wayfinding and signage, NVT Group as IT services provider and Incorporatewear as workforce uniform provider.


2022 Commonwealth

Games Only one year to go… It’s 12 months until the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. In this issue of Chamberlink we look ahead to what we can expect from a business point of view at the biggest sporting event staged in the city. Aside from athletic endeavours, the region’s businesses are set to benefit enormously after one of the most difficult economic times known to man. Exclusive features include: • Interview with the Games’ creative director, who persuaded the Queen to ‘jump’ out of a helicopter. • Chamber president on the potential for exports. • A unique opportunity to attract investment. • Universities acting and ‘home away’ for visitors …read all about it in this issue of Chamberlink.

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Business News

Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

A symbol of pride for the region… Stadium helping to shape the pandemic recovery – GBCC chief Greater Birmingham Commonwealth

Works to revamp Alexander Stadium are also Chamber president Joel Blake and Greater continuing at pace in Perry Barr. The stadium is Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief receiving a £72m makeover, which will increase executive, Henrietta Brealey, take a look at permanent capacity of the stadium to 18,000 as the works to revamp Alexander Stadium well as installation of temporary seating which will accommodate 40,000 spectators at Games time. A 400m six-lane track, improved public realm and parking provisions, landscaping, signage, lighting, practice throwing field and a new access road are also being installed as part of the development. It will be the centrepiece of Games time action, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games alongside six days of athletic sporting action. The roof liner sheets on the new stand have been finished, pre-cast terracing, the concrete support for seating, and the metal decked concrete floors for the new West Stand have been completed, and the feature steps for the northern plaza have been installed. Henrietta Brealey, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive, said that the development at Alexander Stadium is a symbol of just what the Commonwealth Games represents in the city-region – a chance for investment and celebration. She said: “The Commonwealth Games are helping shape regional recovery - and the Alexander Stadium is just one visible part of this. This £72m development is a symbol of just what the Commonwealth Games represents in the city region, a chance for investment, celebration and a confident new post-Covid era. From the aquatics centre in Sandwell to the mountain biking trails of Cannock Chase in just a year’s time the region will be The Sandwell Aquatics Centre A significant milestone was buzzing and beamed across the reached at the Sandwell Aquatics will host the swimming and para country and the world. Centre, under construction in swimming competition at the “Even now, the momentum is Smethwick, as the tiling of the Games from 29 July to 3 August building as announcements on main competition pool for the and the diving competition from 4 developments, contracts, sports Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth August to 8 August. programme, ticketing and Games began. The total cost of the centre, volunteering ramp up. Nigel Huddleston MP, minister for which is on schedule and on “I would encourage businesses in sport and tourism, and Ian Reid, budget, is £73m. Sandwell Council the city to grasp the opportunity be chief executive of Birmingham is contributing £27m with £38.5m it through applying for procurement 2022, made their first visit to the coming from the Games budget. opportunities, engaging with site since February last year to volunteering opportunities or inspect the impressive progress entering the ticket ballot and and to help work experience bringing colleagues and guests to students from Sandwell College the Games themselves. It truly is a and representatives from Sandwell once in a generation opportunity.” Council lay the first tiles.

…and Sandwell makes a splash too

• Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber president, Joel Blake, is urging the West Midlands to seize the opportunities being offering by the Games, to create a new ‘Global Narrative’ and forge new links with Commonwealth Countries. Read more on page 15 6 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Mr Huddleson said: “Fantastic progress has been made on the Sandwell Aquatics Centre since I was last here in February 2020. “Not only will this amazing facility help put Sandwell on the map during Birmingham 2022, it will also become an outstanding new leisure centre for the community.”

On the tiles: Sports minister Nigel Huddleston lays the first tiles at Sandwell Aquatics Centre.

AQUATICS CENTRE STATS • 90,000 tiles will be used at the centre altogether, with 41,500 in the competition pool, 32,500 in the dive pool, 10,000 in the studio pool and 67,000 in other areas of the facility. A further 39,000 tiles will be used when the centre is converted to a community leisure facility after the Games • With 66 medal events in total set to be held at the facility, it will be the stage for more medal moments than any other Birmingham 2022 venue. • The seating capacity for the Games will be approximately 5,000 seats (the leisure facility post Games will have 1,000 permanent seats) • The project has helped to create jobs for local people and local apprentices. Local businesses have also benefitted by being part of the supply chain • The state-of-the-art facility will include a 50m Olympicsized swimming pool as well as a 25m diving pool and a community swimming pool it will be a fantastic community leisure facility for years to come.

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

Business News

NEC is ready for the international stage By Jessica Brookes Visitors watching action-packed sports during the Commonwealth Games will provide a ‘poignant moment’ for the live events business, according to Phil Mead, NEC Group head of Commonwealth Games. The NEC Group is one of several iconic competition venues dotted around Birmingham which will host sporting events during the Games. Boxing, badminton, weightlifting, para powerlifting, table tennis, para table tennis will be held at the NEC, netball at the NEC Arena (Resorts World Arena) and gymnastics, both artistic and rhythmic, at Utilita Arena Birmingham. Hotels located on the NEC campus will also host more than 1,600 athletes and team officials in three ‘campus’ villages. Phil said: “It is an honour for the NEC Group venues to play host to what will be an historic event. To have a global audience of up to 1.5 billion, including thousands of new visitors through our doors to watch the sessions in person, will be a poignant moment for us as a live events business. It is no secret that the past 16 months have been

extremely difficult for our industry, so to have this to look forward to and help deliver at such scale is incredibly exciting. When the lights of the opening ceremony rise, I can imagine it will be quite moving for all of us involved in the delivery.” The work in the build-up to the sporting extravaganza has been full steam ahead since it was announced in 2017 that the city would be hosting the Games.

“This included project and event management, operations and security to marketing, catering, traffic management and everything in between. “The idea behind this was to have a conduit for all those associated with the Games, to filter into the Group so we can provide

‘The idea behind this was to have a conduit for all those associated with the Games’ Phil explained: “Following the announcement that Birmingham had won the Games towards the end of 2017, we knew there would be a plethora of enquiries into our venues in terms of technicalities, logistics, from world governing bodies, the media etc, so we straight away created an NEC Group Commonwealth Games Delivery Unit that represented the expertise we have across the Group.

Honour: Phil Mead

outstanding support to the Birmingham 2022 team. “While we’ve been in the midst of Covid, work has continued to progress to meet what has been a short lead time for an event of this nature.” Phil, like many others in the business community, is extremely optimistic on how the Games will help propel the Midlands onto an international stage. He added: “The Midlands has so much to offer, whether it be culture, tourism or inward investment opportunities, and the Games will provide the perfect platform to showcase the region domestically and internationally. It will generate huge legacy benefits. “Most notably an enhanced profile for the region, but also encourage further events, it’ll positively impact the culture, technology, improve transport and infrastructure and support more community cohesion. My hope and my belief is that all those involved will come away with positive experiences and unforgettable memories, and I’d encourage all those reading this to engage in this great festival of sport.”

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Business News

Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games Birmingham is looking forward to putting on a welcoming face for all visitors to the Commonwealth Games. University College will host Team Scotland and the University of Birmingham the squash and hockey. Chamberlink reporters JESS BROOKES and CLAUDIA CONGRAVE spoke to them about their plans.

Jessica Brookes

Pulling out all the stops for Team Scotland

Claudia Congrave

By Claudia Congrave n August of last year, University College Birmingham (UCB) announced that they were to be the home away from home for family, friends and team supporters of Team Scotland during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Situated in central Birmingham, UCB is home to more than 7,500 students and offers both vocational and academic education at undergraduate and postgraduate level. As the countdown begins, the university has just one year to go until 300 Team Scotland athletes and staff descend on their site. Having taken a tour of UCB’s new base for flagship sports facilities, Moss House, it is clear to see the heavy investment and attention to detail that has gone into refining their amenities for both their students and guests.


‘This is the first time the team have used a university site as their home base for a Games’

Proudest moment: Elaine Limond 8 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

With more than £100m already spent on the university’s renovation in the last six years, UCB is well placed to provide Team Scotland with a range of new, high quality equipment as well as the sports physio facilities needed to prepare the athletes pre and post competition. Elaine Limond, deputy dean for the School of Sport and Food at UCB, has been instrumental in liaising with Team Scotland regarding their upcoming partnership. She explained: “This is the first time the team have used a university site as their home base for a Games, so we offered them a little bit different. I know they’re really keen to engage with young people within our location, so we were able to give them that direct link to the legacy of the games. “We already have a lot of plans going on as part of our renovation, for example the opening of this

building and Macintyre House, which opened a few years ago. “Summer Row, our main site, is also getting a lot of renovations over the next 12 months but, of course, we are keen to get it all finished by the time the Games come around so that it can benefit the team. It’s expected that pretty much all of our site will be in use.” UCB’s main site, Scotland House, will be open to the friends and family of the team and will also host a range of events leading up to the Games. The university’s student accommodation will also undergo its annual rejuvenation and is set to host the Team Scotland Youth Programme, which will see the young athletes come along to shadow the event. Nevertheless, UCB’s focus is not entirely on their infrastructure, having already made plans to ensure that their students and staff are able to take full advantage of the exciting opportunities headed for their campus. Elaine said: “We have a lot of plans around logistics, staffing, and making a drive for volunteers from our student body. Our preparations are in a whole host of areas, it’s definitely not limited to sport at all. There’s scope for hospitality, hair and makeup with the cultural events going on, opportunities for our business, media and marketing students around promoting the Games.” Speaking with pride on all that the university has achieved in attracting Team Scotland to their home in central Birmingham, Elaine explained why their hosting will be remembered as one of their proudest achievements. “As a smaller, vocational university we are very good at what we do in our areas, but we aren’t necessarily nationally known for things outside of our specialisms. I think it’s about getting that recognition and looking at how far we’ve come in the last 10-20 years. To have Team Scotland come here, see what we have and be blown away by it is probably our proudest moment and now we have a chance for other people to see that.”

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

Business News

University in line for 20,000 visitors a day By Jessica Brookes ne of Birmingham’s most historic and iconic institutions could welcome 20,000 visitors a day during the Commonwealth Games. The University of Birmingham (UoB) is set to host 11 days of fastpaced hockey and squash competition as part of the Games, and reinforced its support of the Games by signing up as an official partner. Last September, the University of Birmingham announced that it is an official partner of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Birmingham 2022 Queen’s Baton Relay – International Leg. The partnership, dubbed one of the “most comprehensive university partnership agreements in Commonwealth Games history” means more than 3,000 athletes being hosted at the university’s world-class sporting facilities. And Birmingham 2022, working closely with the university, is to offer volunteering opportunities for staff and students.


The idyllic and expansive campus will be a buzz of activity at Games time, with the university being told to expect 20,000 visitors to different hockey and squash events each day. Cathy Gilbert, director of external relations and university lead for Commonwealth Games at the UoB, explained: “We’re expecting the university campus to be vibrant and alive.

‘We will have 3,000 athletes that we need to feed, operate the transport hub and get them where they need to be on time’ “Nearly 50 per cent of our graduates stay in the region and over a quarter of our students come from within the region. They will still be around in the Birmingham area during the Commonwealth Games, we don’t have a mass exodus of students.

Vibrant campus: Cathy Gilbert

“The campus is alive and working all the way through the summer, so we expect it to be a real hub of activity. “We’ve been told to expect about 20,000 visitors to the different hockey and squash events everyday, so logistically that will be really interesting, but it will be great to have that many visitors to showcase our really beautiful campus. “We will have 3,000 athletes that we need to feed, operate the transport hub and get them where they need to be on time and in their top performance so that there is no hassle for them. In addition to that, the campus will be open. The campus is always open to the public, we’ve got great cultural assets and we are anticipating high visitor numbers for that.” As well as the huge number of visitors that will visit the campus and other Games venues across the region, Cathy says that the Games

is an opportunity to showcase the university, and the city, at its very best. She said: “As a global university being part of a really vibrant, dynamic, successful city is important to us, the growth in inward investment this should bring and our ability to deliver to that skills and jobs agenda, to help support that, is really important. “As well as having the leading academics who are bringing thought leadership, world leading research - and we’ve seen that through our Covid research - make it really important for us to be part of the Commonwealth Games. “It is for many people in the region a once-in-a-lifetime, and I think something that we’re really proud to be involved in and contribute to, not just for an individual’s own personal agenda, but in terms of what we’re doing to showcase the city at its very best.” July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 9

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Business News

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

Business News

Beach sport set to be an unlikely Games highlight If you were under the impression that beach volleyball was something you did in your Speedos on a Spanish beach, think again. Twins Javier and Joaquin Bello will be among the leading contenders in the Commonwealth Games event being staged at the former Smithfield Market site in Birmingham. Chamberlink deputy editor DAN HARRISON spoke to the twins about their hopes in a competition that couldn’t be further from the sea. By Dan Harrison s one of the most landlocked parts of the UK, Birmingham would seem an unlikely venue for an international showcase of beach volleyball. But Commonwealth Games hopefuls Javier and Joaquin Bello believe a wave of youngsters from the second city could be inspired to take up the sport on the back of next summer’s spectacle. The Bello twins are the highestplaced English team in beach volleyball’s world rankings and hope to go for gold on the purpose-built sand court at Smithfield in 12 months time. The former Smithfield wholesale markets site, in the shadow of the iconic Bullring and Rotunda buildings in Birmingham city centre, will also host the Games’ basketball and wheelchair basketball competitions. Born in Madrid, the Bello twins moved to London at the age of 10 and have been at the vanguard of the English volleyball effort since their teens, cleaning up at national tournaments, as well as claiming gold at the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas. For the duo, who turn 21 this month, Birmingham 2022 presents an opportunity for personal glory and to pique interest in a sport that only made its Commonwealth


Games bow three years ago on Australia’s Gold Coast. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase our sport,” said Javier, “to have people watching, to have people being inspired to play and to leave some kind of legacy. “That’s one of our goals – not just to compete but give a good image of our sport.” Beach volleyball remains a minority sport on these shores, with England some way behind traditional powerhouses like Brazil, Germany, the United States and the current No.1 team from Norway. Joaquin points out: “Since London 2012 beach volleyball hasn’t had much exposure, so Birmingham 2022 is a great opportunity for it to be seen again in the UK and for it to grow.”

Dan Harrison

Team England: Javier and Joaquin with other members of Team England Lauren Huggins and Victoria Palmer

‘Birmingham could be a new hub for beach players’ With Volleyball England yet to determine its selection criteria, the Bello twins must wait to learn of their prospects for Birmingham 2022. Nevertheless, they are excited by the impact the Games could have on Birmingham, in terms of increased participation and new facilities. “There are some volleyball clubs in the area – just not beach volleyball courts,” adds Javier.

“This will provide a chance to build some courts in the area after the games. After London 2012, they used the sand and some of the equipment to build facilities around London – we train in one of those now. “So I think the Games could have a similar effect in Birmingham and help to spread the sport around England a bit more. “At the moment, most of the players live in London and the south. Birmingham could be a new hub for beach players.”

All action: Javier rises to the challenge

Focus: Joaquin in action

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Business News

Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

President’s Focus Steve Allen, president of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, examines the importance the Commonwealth will play in the growth of UK exports and looks ahead to how the Birmingham 2022 Games can play a vital role

Steve Allen

n June, the UK hosted the G7 leaders’ meeting in Cornwall. In addition to the world’s seven largest advanced economies, which includes Canada, this year Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia and Cyril Ramaphosa, the President of South Africa, attended as guests. Indian Prime Minister Nahendra Modi also attended virtually because of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in his country. It can be argued that with China and Russia absent, the G7 is an outdated institution and this year fell short of what was required on climate, aid and vaccines. However, the fact that five leaders of Commonwealth countries were involved is testament to their strategic importance and a recognition of their growing importance as economic powerhouses. These nations, part of the 54 nations that make up the Commonwealth, provide an opportunity for a UK looking for a new post-Brexit role in world affairs and, of course, the all-important need to increase international trade. The Commonwealth’s combined gross domestic product tops $10tn or about 14 per cent of global GDP. Currently, it can be argued that the UK is not doing enough to harness its longstanding and unique relationship with the Commonwealth to forge new trading opportunities.


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The UK’s exports to the Commonwealth are worth approximately £64.4bn annually. However, this accounts for only 9.1 per cent of the UK’s total trade which is comparable with the UK’s trade with Germany alone. It is of no surprise that Australia, Canada, India, Singapore and South Africa accounted for 72 per cent of UK exports to the Commonwealth. This may also provide a clue as to why the UK, who chaired the G7 summit this year, invited many of the leaders of these countries as guests.

‘The Commonwealth Games next year will provide an important platform for our city region to promote our key sectors to Commonwealth countries’ More has to be done therefore to unlock the potential of global Commonwealth trade. One of the earliest post Brexit deals was with SACUM, the South African Customs Union which consists of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique. However, the Covid-19 crisis in the UK and in Africa has meant that little

has come of this relationship to date. Bilateral deals with the Commonwealth’s big players appear to be the focus for now with the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement signed earlier this year and a new Australia-UK trade deal in the offing later this year. It is to be hoped that these deals unlock more of an opportunity for the UK to export to these countries. Currently, an Australian trade deal would add only 0.01 to 0.02 per cent to our GDP over 15 years. There is clearly, therefore, more to be done and more opportunities to trade with the Commonwealth’s big players. The Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber was established to help our members develop trade links with Commonwealth countries. The Commonwealth Games next year will provide an important platform for our city region to promote our key sectors to Commonwealth countries. I would urge our members to take advantage of the Commonwealth Chamber’s major events programme focusing on knowledge transfer and trading opportunities in the lead up to the Games. Increasing our exports to these countries can only help to drive much-needed growth, productivity and prosperity to our region as we bounce back from the impact of the Covid pandemic.

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Sponsored by: South Asian Cricket Association

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Comprehensive and realistic solutions Mattia Group are performance management consultants in education, business and sport. With a particular interest in cricket, we work with professional cricketers, before, during and after their careers in areas including elite performance, mental health and career management. In addition, we work with educational providers, businesses and sporting organisations to develop and implement performance and business strategies. Finally, we continue to give our time, free of charge, to help young disadvantaged people from all cultural backgrounds improve their lives through sport. Chairman Roger Newman is a recognised expert in performance management in education, business and sport. He turned down the opportunity to play professional cricket to pursue a career in education and then business. Having sold his businesses in 1997, he returned to cricket as director of cricket at Oxford University and then academy director at Warwickshire. During that time players like Jim Troughton, Ian Bell, Kabir Ali, Chris Woakes and Moeen Ali all progressed into the professional game and Andy Flower, the England coach, once said: “When we worked together at Warwickshire and Oxford, Roger’s cricket knowledge and man-management skills ensured our success and enjoyment. These qualities are founded on openness and honesty not often seen in any walk of life and will, in my view, always guarantee a positive influence on individuals and teams he is working with.” We are pleased to discuss our range of services with potential clients and can always assure them of a positive return on any investment they make with us. Whether you are involved in education, business or sport, Mattia has the expertise and experience to help you. Contact: Roger J Newman, chairman, Mattia ltd. Email: Call: 07399 887503

14 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

On your bike! Bikers are due to enjoy the new bike trail in Cannock Chase Picture: Birmingham 2022

Cannock Chase gears up to host mountain biking As Birmingham takes to centre stage to host events as part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, other venues across the West Midlands are gearing up to host other events. Cannock Chase District in Staffordshire will entertain the men’s and women’s mountain biking competitors during August, 2022. The Birches Valley site in Cannock Chase Forest, managed by Forestry England, will be the Games’ most northerly venue. Councillors have already agreed to contribute £50,000 to a new, blue-graded mountain bike trail which is currently under construction by Forestry England and will form part of the Games’ course. They are also considering spending a further £40,000 to £50,000 allocated to upgrading the interpretation and way marking for the existing 10mile Cannock Chase Heritage Trail. The trail links Cannock, Rugeley and Hednesford and takes in the new McArthurGlen Designer Outlet. The council’s portfolio holder for heritage and

leisure, councillor Adrienne Fitzgerald said: “While the mountain biking event will be staged for one day only, we recognise that being a host district during the Games will present significant legacy opportunities that can last for years beyond the event in August 2022. “The Heritage Trail is a great way for people to explore our district and appreciate its history and keep healthy at the same time. It takes in many local attractions including going past the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet and the Museum of Cannock Chase.” A further £8,000 will be spent on local volunteering plans – in addition to Birmingham 2022’s own Commonwealth Collective volunteering programme - and £2,000 allocated towards hosting Birmingham 2022 Roadshows in the district. With local businesses in mind, the council will be taking part in the Commonwealth Games Business and Tourism Programme (BATP). In addition to the Games, there will also be a local programme of events and activities taking place.

Rallying call for Games volunteers More than 13,000 volunteers are being sought for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. The volunteers – known as the ‘Commonwealth Collective’ – will be a dedicated and dynamic group that will reflect the diversity of the West Midlands as well as the modern Commonwealth. The majority of volunteer roles don’t need any formal experience or qualifications, with full training provided. Volunteers will be used as drivers, first aiders, meet and greeters, venue preppers, kit carriers, courtside assistants, amongst other roles. The 13,000 volunteers who form the Commonwealth Collective will receive approximately 250,000 hours of training and complete one

million hours of volunteer time. Twenty-five thousand shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview at the Volunteer Selection Centre between September and December 2021. To mark the launch of volunteering applications, Birmingham 2022 enlisted the help of para swimming legend and Birmingham 2022 board member Ellie Simmonds, Team England rugby sevens player Heather Fisher and Commonwealth gold medalwinning boxer Galal Yafai to encourage applications. Ellie spent the day helping to help clean up Walsall’s canals with litter picking charity ‘World Against Single Use Plastic’. Galal spent the day disguised as a volunteer at the 5UP community

boxing gym in Handsworth, a project supported by the United By Birmingham 2022 community programme. Heather helped set up a training session at Birmingham Moseley Rugby Club, before surprising young players with some coaching tips. • Coleshill-based Incorporatewear Ltd has been appointed by Birmingham 2022 to design, produce and supply the uniform to the entire Games workforce. As Official Workforce Uniform Provider for the Games, the business will also be responsible for delivering the uniform for technical officials, for Batonbearers during the Queen’s Baton Relay and the Commonwealth Collective.

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

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Showpiece events can attract new wealth By Jon Griffin Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games has been hailed as a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity to attract key investment into the region – and provide a new working model for future generations. Birmingham entrepreneur Joel Blake says next year’s showpiece sporting extravaganza can bring vital new wealth to the West Midlands and help shake off ‘old and stale’ working methods for tens of thousands of ambitious Millennials. Joel, who has carved a successful business career after growing up on the ‘other side of the fence’ in inner-city Birmingham, said the Games could provide a lasting legacy for young workers across the city and wider region. But he warned that the West Midlands had to seize the opportunities offered by the Games to create a new global narrative forging key new links with dozens of countries throughout the Commonwealth – or risk seeing a global sporting event simply “come and go.” Joel, who is president of the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber of

Games ‘a catalyst’: Joel Blake

‘My focus is how do we leverage the opportunities that the Games will provide in the region and how do we do that in a way that creates a legacy?’ Commerce and runs companies specialising in finance and diversity and inclusion, said: “My focus is how do we leverage the

opportunities that the Games will provide in the region and how do we do that in a way that creates a legacy? “There is not really a global narrative that connects our region across the Commonwealth. You think England, you think London. With Birmingham, it is kind of like ‘Who?’ “The Commonwealth Games are an anchor – they can be a catalyst for real change but I am just worried that it will be seen as a nice thing that happens, and may just come and go. If you look across the Commonwealth, 60 per cent of the demographic population are under 30. “If you think about the next generations in 20 years, they are going to have a different mindset, a Millennial mindset. If we invest in our young people here, that will bring a new way of working and new ideas for the future. “If you have got young talent with new ideas, do not see differences as a problem, there is more of a cultural collective – you put that type of person into the market and that will change traditional environments, which will become obsolete. They will disrupt industries in a way we cannot imagine.”

Joel said the Games could help inspire future investment – and encourage greater inclusion and diversity across the West Midlands. “I am born and bred in Birmingham, there are no airs and graces about me, I have lived on the other side of the fence in the city. “Someone on the back streets of Shard End and Handsworth should have the opportunity to be the best that they can be, even if they didn’t go to university. If I have got my venture capital hat on, I want to see more venture capital investment into the region. There are some real opportunities for life sciences, fintech – our creative sector is flying. “If it is normal and traditional, it is old and stale. If they (industries) are not evolving, they will become obsolete because things change so quickly.” Sports fan Joel, who was awarded the OBE in 2016 for business support and enterprise and has played semi-professional football for Sutton Coldfield Town, said he was looking forward to ‘being in the crowd, cheering’ at the Games. “I love the competitive nature of sport, man versus man, woman versus woman.”

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Aston-based Adian’s Dining offers modern, innovative fusion cuisine in a colourful, warm, stylish restaurant. Diners should expect food brimming with personality and flavour, an extensive, tasty wine selection and welcoming service.

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Breakfast, lunch or dinner… Restaurant description Adian’s Dining, established in 2016, aims to take away the stereotypical outlook of ‘Jamaican’ cuisine, by offering an a la carte tropical fusion dining experience. The restaurant takes inspiration from India and South East Asia whilst keeping traditional Caribbean elements at its heart. Adian’s Dining combines fresh, quality ingredients and modern culinary methods to execute exciting and innovative dishes. The restaurant has won a string of awards including Birmingham Prestige Awards Contemporary Restaurant of the Year 2019, Lux Life Food and Drink Awards Best Upscale International Restaurant 2019 and Lux Life Food and Drink Awards Most Unique Caribbean Restaurant 2020.

Menu description Produce Locally sourced Birmingham Markets, Dunwood Farm Butchers

Lunch/Dinner Fridays - Sundays from 1pm same as a la carte menu Dietary options Vegetarian, vegan and Gluten-free options available

Address 144 Potters Lane, B6 4UU

Wines Price range - Bottle £16 - £25, Glass from £4, Champagnes and Prosecco from £6 - £80. Range of white, red and rose from various countries, including Italy, France and Argentina.

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16 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Adian’s Dining

1. Chamberlink July Aug 1-30.qxp_Chamberlink 29/06/2021 11:53 Page 17

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Providing beautifully designed and expertly installed flooring and soft furnishing solutions to commercial properties throughout the Midlands and beyond since 1946. Clients include retail, hotels, pubs, offices, airports, leisure centres, nursing homes, hospitals and public holdings.

July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 17

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Chamber Festival – it’s good to talk By Claudia Congrave Sustainability, business opportunities and expanding local areas dominated discussions that took place throughout the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Festival of Business campaign last month. Taking place throughout June, the five-week-long campaign allowed businesses across all sectors to network, learn and celebrate the wider business community represented by the Chamber group. Supported by headline sponsors Aston University, the events informed attendees of the plans to revive the region post-pandemic and heard from regional councils, the Staffordshire Local Enterprise Group, as well as Chamber members Air IT, Thornton and Lowe, Inspired Energy and more. As part of the campaign’s second, Solihull-focused week, an event titled ‘In Conversation with Tony Elvin and Jason Wouhra’ saw the two Chamber presidents (Solihull and Asian Business) outline their plans to shape two of the biggest business communities during their respective tenures. Mr Elvin, also general manager of Touchwood shopping centre, said he wanted to continue extending Chamber support to local businesses. Closely aligned with these plans were his aspirations to establish Touchwood as a leader in the borough’s journey towards Net Zero by 2041, having been the first

Green ambitions: Tony Elvin

Scaling up: Jason Wouhra

UK shopping centre to achieve the ISO 50001 certification for energy management. ABCC president Jason Wouhra discussed plans to reach out to the many Asian-owned businesses across the country. He said: “Most Asian businesses, I’m sure, would say that the Asian Business Chamber of Commerce has served our community very well in the last 30 years. My aim in the next couple of years is to really look at the nationalisation of our brand and building up our long standing reputation.” Looking ahead to a future of opportunity, the event outlined a number of upcoming events that would put the region at centre stage, including the construction of the HS2 railway and the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Job seekers across Solihull were told to expect the creation of 400 new apprenticeships and 1,100 placements, targeted at the unemployed and recent graduates, as a result of HS2. This was in addition to the 43,000 roles available during the Commonwealth Games, due to be held in Birmingham next year. Claire Barker, head of communications and engagement at the Urban Growth Company, said that Solihull and surrounding areas will also see the building of 5,000 new homes this year, as well as 650,000 square metres of commercial space, which will be bigger than Birmingham’s Paradise, Arena Central and Brindley Place combined.

Tourism plan needs tax-free shopping A new plan to drive recovery in the tourism sector has been welcomed, but business leaders have expressed their disappointment over a lack of reference to the importance of tax-free shopping for international visitors. The Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan sets out how domestic tourism can recover to prepandemic levels by 2022, and international tourism by 2023. As part of the plan, a £10m voucher scheme is due to be launched by the National Lottery, whereby players will have the chance to claim vouchers to redeem at tourist attractions in the UK. A rail pass for ‘staycationers’ will also be launched later this year, helping to make it easier and more sustainable for domestic tourists. The new pass will build on the success of the BritRail pass, which is sold through tourism outfit VisitBritain and currently gives international visitors flexible travel across the country, as well as providing discounted entry to tourism attractions. Before the pandemic, England looked set to hit 100 million domestic overnight trips in 2020. In 2019, 41 million international visitors came to 18 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

the UK for business or leisure, spending more than £28bn. Henrietta Brealey, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said that the tourism industry had been ‘rocked to its core’ and the plan make sensible suggestions on how to boost hard hit sectors. She said: “It’s fair to say the tourism industry has been rocked to its core by the pandemic and it’s reassuring to see that the Government has a blueprint in place to revitalise the sector.

‘Inbound tourists make a huge contribution to the West Midlands visitor economy’ “The plan contains a number of sensible options which will offer a boost to the hospitality, retail and events sectors among others – we also welcome the offer on rail passes for staycations which will not only drive up consumer demand for travel but also help to reduce congestion on the roads. "The Government is currently reviewing its policy on Air Passenger Duty for domestic flights

and reducing this onerous tax would also compliment the broader objectives of the plan in spurring domestic demand for travel. “It was also pleasing to see specific focus around maximising the benefits of the 2022 Commonwealth Games – the project is expected to create thousands of jobs in our city and will play a vital role in stimulating an economic recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.” But Ms Brealey added that Government may wish to revisit its policies on ending tax-free shopping for tourists next year. She said: “Nevertheless, it’s disappointing to see a lack of reference to the importance of taxfree shopping for international visitors – a policy which was inexplicably jettisoned by the Treasury last year. “Inbound tourists make a huge contribution to the West Midlands visitor economy and tax free shopping served as a huge incentive to international visitors. “We would urge the Government to revisit this policy as it would not only enhance the appeal of our region but also the reputation of the UK as a global tourist destination.”

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Business News

Interim boss takes over at local authority Laura Shoaf (pictured), managing director of Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), has been appointed interim chief executive of the West Midlands Combined Authority. She joined the authority when it was formed in 2016, having previously worked at the West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority and as director of transport for the Association of Black Country Authorities. She has more than 20 years’ experience in delivering regeneration projects and is currently responsible for delivering a multi-billion transport investment package.

‘We’ve come so far in five years and I want to build on those successes’ Laura said: “The WMCA is a fantastic organisation, committed to making a difference to the lives of everyone in the West Midlands. I am thrilled to be leading us through some exciting times including our first virtual summit on climate change, a summer of skills events and recovering from the impact of Covid. “We’ve come so far in five years and I want to build on those successes by growing our national platform and taking the West Midlands from strength to strength. We can only achieve this together as a region so a key focus will be about making the WMCA a great partner to the people and institutions of the West Midlands.” West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “We had some very strong applicants for the role, but I am pleased to appoint Laura as our new interim chief executive.

“The West Midlands has been badly impacted by Covid, and we are now at a pivotal point in our region’s recovery and I look forward to working with Laura on that recovery. “Laura already has a fantastic track record of successes that makes her well-suited to the role. “Her experience in managing complex, multi-million pound projects, and shaping government policy will be a real asset as we look to bounce back from the pandemic and work together to build more homes; expand the transport network; upskill workers for the jobs of the future; and attract more investment into the West Midlands.”

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games

The Griffin Report The man who went to Buckingham Palace on a mission to persuade the Queen to ‘leap’ out of a helicopter on film for the 2012 London Olympics has now turned his attention to Birmingham. Martin Green is chief creative officer of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and Chamberlink’s Jon Griffin talked to him about his outstanding record and how he will show the world what a ‘great creative city this is’.

Counting the days: Martin Green with the digital clock in Brindleyplace that is counting down to the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

t’s a glorious image that came to define one of the UK’s most memorable sporting and cultural events – when the Queen ‘jumped’ out of a helicopter to launch the London Olympics. Nearly nine years later, Martin Green, head of ceremonies at the 2012 global spectacular, recalls one of the truly great Royal moments, the day Her Majesty left an entire nation open-mouthed... “I got Danny Boyle to be the artistic director for the opening ceremony and it was his idea that


20 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

‘I got Danny Boyle to be the artistic director for the opening ceremony and it was his idea that the Queen should arrive by being collected by James Bond’ the Queen should arrive by being collected by James Bond (Daniel Craig) at Buckingham Palace, jump out of a helicopter and release a great big Union Jack parachute. “I went to the Palace with Danny – she was the one who was going to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’... no-one said

yes or no for her. We went to her staff, they took it to her and she said she would do it. The film was in the can before the opening ceremony and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw it. “I met her on the night just before the ceremony was due to

start and said: “Thank you for doing this”... she was very pleased with it. It endeared her to the nation. A lot of young people said: “She is really cool, how cool is that?” Today the man who, with the help of the director of ‘Trainspotting’, managed to land a truly authentic Royal world exclusive, has turned his attention away from the capital and is concentrating on Birmingham – as chief creative officer of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

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Chamberlink special: 12 months until the Games It’s a role to which he seems perfectly suited after a distinguished career as producer of a string of high-profile international events, from the London Olympics to the opening of the O2 in London as well as a stint as head of events in London during Ken Livingstone’s Mayoral tenure. An Essex-born graduate in Theatre Studies, Martin says he is happiest pulling the strings backstage. “I have always been much more confident behind the scenes as a producer. I have no discerning artistic or musical talents. I am permanently in awe of artistic or creative people. “Back in my schooldays I found myself sitting behind the lighting desk at a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The drama teacher said: “It looks like you have got nothing to do – go and do that... I was 13 or 14 at the time.” Shining the spotlight on Bottom, Puck and Titania was just the start for Martin. “I found myself working in the events industry, bringing people together, working with creative types. I ended up working with Ken Livingstone and by the time I left I was head of events for London. “Ken was very passionate about London, using events to promote the city internationally. We would do things like the St Patrick’s Day

‘The softer legacy is pride in the place, of inspiration and the effect on people of seeing their city in the spotlight’ Parade, Gay Pride, Diwali, the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Display... I learnt my trade there.” After the extraordinary success of the 2012 Olympics, Martin found himself at a crossroads in his career. “You think, what do you do now? You have just done the biggest event on earth. One of the options is to join the travelling circus going around the world from Games to Games but I didn’t want to do that.” Martin landed the job as director of the UK City of Culture in Hull for 2017 – “it was amazing and exhausting, the hardest thing I have ever done” – but now his strategic creative talents are firmly focused on Birmingham – and next year’s Commonwealth Games. It’s a role he is clearly relishing. You do not have to be directly involved in the Games to benefit from it. In my mind, Birmingham is just about to go through this extraordinary period in its history, bookended by the Games and HS2 in 10 years' time. It will go through a similar process to Manchester and Liverpool. “Next year the world will be watching and taking in this city.

Because of its geography it has lived in the shadow of London for too long in a way that Manchester, Glasgow and Liverpool have not. I think this is Birmingham’s time.” Martin foresees ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ legacies from a global event he describes as ‘the biggest thing in Birmingham’s recent history’. “There is the hard legacy of bricks and mortar, the magnificent new stand at the Alexander Stadium, the swimming pool is nearly finished. The Government has put £700 million into the Games, and a lot of money comes into the area. “The softer legacy is pride in the place, of inspiration and the effect on people of seeing their city in the spotlight – we have already recruited 12,000 volunteers.” Martin is also optimistic that the Games can help symbolise the world’s long-awaited recovery from Covid-19 – and herald a brighter future after the nightmare of a global pandemic without precedence in modern times. “In 12 months’ time the world will be a different place and we can celebrate that. It looks increasingly

Business News likely that this will be the first globally-managed event to happen normally post-pandemic, with people in venues, demonstrating that the world is finally coming out of the pandemic. This can be a flagship event for the world.” Meanwhile, he is hopeful that Birmingham can use the Games to bang the drum for the city and the wider West Midlands region. “Birmingham can be a bit selfdeprecating – it is in its character – and mega-events like this are a good chance to show off. We want to show the world what a great, creative city this is. “There is a real, positive energy about this place and I think the Games will provide more confidence and energy to go forward. This is about telling the story of this place to the world.” The man who went to Buckingham Palace on a mission to persuade the Queen to leap out of a helicopter on film is not revealing who will open next year’s Commonwealth spectacular – but his track record and CV would suggest Birmingham could well have plenty of surprises in store for the world next summer. Or as he puts it – with just a touch of Brummie-style self-deprecation – “I get paid to do what I love. It is not bad for a gay kid from a comprehensive school in Essex.”

July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 21

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By Claudia Congrave Firms across Greater Birmingham have positivity ‘coursing through their veins’ and are back on an upward trajectory as a result of lockdown restrictions continuing to ease, a new survey reveals. The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) second quarterly business report of 2021, sponsored by Birmingham City University (BCU), has shown that many businesses across the region are now on the road to recovery after struggling to stay afloat amidst the uncertainty of the Covid pandemic. GBCC chief executive Henrietta Brealey attributed the report’s upward trends to the influence of the Government’s vaccine rollout, as well as the gradual easing of restrictions which have allowed businesses to resume trade. She said: “Positive sentiment is coursing through the veins of many businesses in Greater Birmingham. The optimism is reflected in the results of our latest survey with domestic demand soaring to a level not seen since the onset of the pandemic, a steady climb in international sales and an upturn in recruitment levels. “It was also pleasing to see that both turnover and profitability

projections continued to rise this quarter. Business investment in training and capital investment also continued to tick upwards.” In terms of domestic demand, the balance score increased by 21 points this quarter to a figure of 68 – the highest score on record since Q4 2018. Hoping to maintain this upward trajectory, 49 per cent of businesses were confident that this increase would continue.

‘Positive sentiment is coursing through the veins of many businesses in Greater Birmingham’ Scores for export demand emerged from negative territory for the first time since the beginning of 2020, with 32 per cent of firms across manufacturing and service sectors noting an increase in nonUK sales. Recruitment figures showed that that 22 per cent of businesses had reduced the size of their workforce this quarter. However, this was counterbalanced by the rise in businesses scaling up their headcount (32 per cent) and levelled the score to a figure of 55. Despite the general sentiment of

Crowdfunding helps India Birmingham Commonwealth Association has responded to the Covid crisis in India by launching a crowdfunding page to help the country. Money raised is being used to purchase medical equipment, including PPE, ventilators and oxygen, as well as offering advice and mentoring support to those who need it. Keith Stokes-Smith, honorary chairman of the Commonwealth Chamber and chairman of the Birmingham Commonwealth Association, said the Covid-19 pandemic was the worst global health crisis most people had ever faced, and India was still one of the worst affected countries. He said: “The Covid pandemic has hit every country in the world but clearly, for a variety of reasons, some more than others. “The latter is sadly the case for our top bilateral commonwealth trading nation, India. With nearly 30,000,000 confirmed in June, representing 16 per cent of total global cases and 377,000 deaths, and nearly 10 per cent of the world total, clearly any help we can give them will be appreciated.” “India is a key Commonwealth partner and seeing the dreadful images on the television as to the countries challenges in dealing with the pandemic spurred me on. “Hence setting up a ‘Just Giving’ site aiming to raise as much money as possible towards the purchase of medical equipment, including , PPE, ventilators and oxygen, advice and mentoring support. It is open to the public to react as they see fit. “Clearly any donation, large or small, will make a difference. Every pebble makes a beach.” To make a donation go to:

Optimism: Henrietta Brealey

optimism, Ms Brealey noted the Prime Minister’s recent decision to delay lifting the last set of nationwide restrictions and also acknowledged Birmingham’s designation as an area in need of enhanced support as the country bids to return to normality could have an impact on the rate of recovery moving forwards. As a result of these delays, she recognised the number of firms under pressure to raise their prices due to concerns around inflation, resulting in an alarming price index balance score of 66. Professor Julian Beer, deputy vicechancellor at BCU, said: “Further recovery in the third quarter can be anticipated given increasing consumer confidence and a further loosening of domestic restrictions. Major downside risks predominantly relate to policy – the withdrawal of fiscal and monetary stimuli needs to be handled with considerable care – and international shortages and price increases.” • Balance scores above 50 indicate growth, as opposed to below which indicates loss.

Fight to keep offices open Around 100 MPs are fighting to prevent the closure of up to 20 overseas offices run by the British Council. It is believed that the charity – which focuses on international cultural and educational opportunities – is being forced to consider the cuts after their income was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. A UK national Sunday newspaper reported that around 100 MPs have written to Boris Johnson saying that any closures of overseas offices run by the British Council would make a mockery of his statements about ‘Global Britain’, and could also lead to some other foreign power stepping in to fill the gap.

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Business News

Patron manager joins Chamber Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) has appointed a new patron manager to work with businesses in its top tier of membership. Jason Simpson joins from the renowned Hampton Manor in Hampton-In-Arden where he worked as a relationship manager. After achieving a degree in hospitality management at the University of Wolverhampton, Jason held a number of sales, marketing and management positions. Jason takes the reins as patron manager from Vicky Osgood, who is leaving to take up a new role with HS2 Ltd. He has worked for TGI’s, Esporta Health Club and was sales manager at Hotel du Vin in Birmingham – a current patron of the GBCC. Jason said: “I’m thrilled to appointed as the GBCC’s new patron manager and look forward to supporting the Chamber’s top tier of membership. “I’m a huge fan of the city and working with the businesses that sit at the heart of it, is what makes it such as great place to work. “It is a real privilege to join this talented team here at the Chamber. It’s a proud institution

Thrilled: Jason Simpson

with a long history of helping to connect, grow and support local business. “I am excited to take up this opportunity and strengthen our bond with some of Birmingham’s most influential employers.” Patronage is the GBCC’s top tier of membership offers a limited number of companies the opportunity to connect with some of the most influential figures in Greater Birmingham. Each patron receives strategic support tailored to their most pressing objectives, as well as gaining unrivalled access to Birmingham’s highest profile business leaders and their networks. More patrons’ news - pages 34 and 35

High honour for air cadet A student from King Edward’s School, Birmingham has been named the Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet for the West Midlands region. One of the highest honours a cadet can achieve, Year 12 student Cadet Sergeant Zain Aslam was appointed to the role at a virtual investiture ceremony. Zain is one of eight cadets, drawn from across the military cadet forces and other youth organisations, to become a Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet for the county for the forthcoming year. During this time he will assist the LordLieutenant and deputies at parades and events such as Remembrance Sunday, and at Royal county visits. Zain completed his first duty, greeting HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall as part of their visit to celebrate Coventry being the UK’s City of Culture 2021. Zain, from 2030 (Birmingham Airport) Squadron Royal Air Force Air Cadets, said: “I’m delighted to have been selected to serve as one of the Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadets. It was an honour and privilege to greet The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall on my first duty at Coventry Cathedral. “I never envisioned myself doing this when I first joined the cadets, so it just shows the unbelievable experiences air cadets has to offer and how you can achieve Unbelievable anything.” experience:

We help our clients make applications under the Point Based System, EEA/EU applications, spouse/fiancé visas, student visas, family permits, naturalisation, British passport or citizenship, indefinite leave to remain, bail applications, appeals, and so forth. We help employers obtain Sponsorship Licences that enable them to sponsor migrant workers and issue Certificates of Sponsorship to the employee. We also have an Indian desk with qualified Indian Advocate here in the United Kingdom helping Non-Resident Indians (NRI) and corporate firms to solve their legal disputes in India. We have a professional approach with a commitment to client service.

Our trusted senior legal advisers have more than 40 years of relevant experience together and can deliver tailored expert legal advice for all of your individual and com mercial needs. We are responsive and resultsfocused and aim to work in partnership with you to ensure that issues are dealt with as swiftly, amicably and as economically as possible.

We aim to play a real part in the growth of Birmingham business community while looking forward to connecting with and supporting business in the region.

T: 01902 618488 W:

Zain Aslam July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 23

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Business News

UK economy shows signs of bouncing back The UK economy grew by 2.3 per cent in April - its fastest monthly rise since July last year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed. Customers spent more on the high-street as non-essential shops re-opened and people bought more cars and caravans. The ONS said there was also more spending in pubs, cafes and restaurants as restrictions eased. But the UK economy is still 3.7 per cent below its pre-pandemic peak. The service sector grew by 3.4 per cent in April 2021, at the same time as restrictions on hospitality eased across England. Output in the production sector fell by 1.3 per cent in April 2021, the first fall since January 2021, as well as total exports of goods, excluding

Raj Kandola: Consumer spending will fuel recovery

precious metals, which also fell slightly by 0.6 per cent in April 2021 after two consecutive months of growth.

‘No doubt consumer spending will continue to fuel a recovery’ Raj Kandola, head of policy at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “It’s reassuring to see that economic output continued its upward trajectory throughout April as we saw nonessential retail businesses reopen, schools stay open for the whole month and an easing of restrictions for hospitality businesses. “Clearly, we are now seeing a release of that pent up demand and

no doubt consumer spending will continue to fuel a recovery especially if the good weather stays in place and the country enjoys a good run at the Euro 2020 championships.” More figures released by the ONS also indicated a welcome boost in job vacancies in accommodation and food services. The total number of job vacancies between March to May

2021 was 758,000, only 27,000 below its pre-pandemic levels recorded in January to March 2020. Between March and May 2021, accommodation and food services vacancies grew by a staggering 265.5 per cent. Figures also showed a slight bump to the employment rate in the West Midlands by 0.3 per cent from November to January 2021, to 74.2 per cent.

Geoff Thomas

Mike Hopkins’

Trio win awards in Queen’s Honours list South & City College principal Mike Hopkins, ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas and LoveBrum co-founder and chair Tim Andrews have both recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. Mr Thomas, a blood cancer survivor and now a Cure Leukaemia ambassador, has received an MBE for his work in raising money for charities. Mr Hopkins has also been awarded an MBE for services to education. Mr Hopkins and Mr Thomas are both part of the Tour 21 team who are completing all 21 stages of the Tour de France ahead of the professionals. They are planning to raise more than £1m for Cure Leukaemia, the first official charity partner of the tour in the UK. Cure Leukaemia recorded a £1.7m fundraising shortfall in 2020 due to the pandemic and The Tour 21 team have already raised more than £753,000 towards their target. All funds will be invested in the national Trials Acceleration 24 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Programme (TAP) which has been solely funded by Cure Leukaemia since January 2020. Mr Hopkins was born in inner-city Birmingham and went to school and university in the city. He became the principal of South Birmingham College (SBC) in 2007, prior to which he was the vice principal for three years. Mr Hopkins has worked with the West Midlands Combined Authority to secure millions of pounds worth of funding to provide construction training to unemployed people across the region and recently invested over £2m in a new engineering centre and a National Express Training Academy, in direct response to the region’s skills priorities. Mr Hopkins said: “I feel very humbled and honoured as I have never sought any such personal recognition, I have simply done the best I can throughout my career. My focus has always been our students and staff and my recognition is really a recognition of what our staff and students have done.”

South & City College Birmingham is a patron of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. Chamber CEO Henrietta Brealey said: “Mike is a wonderful ambassador for the region who has dedicated his career to improving the lives of young people. He is also a fantastic supporter of the Chamber and the wider business community. “This honour is richly deserved and the Chamber team send him our congratulations. “We also send our congratulations to all those across the region who were recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.” Alongside the cycling duo, Mr Andrews has been awarded an MBE for his services to charity and the community of Birmingham. As well as his charity work, Mr Andrews is chairman of Hollywood Monster, a graphics firm that is the largest in its sector, with 70 employees and a turnover of £10m. He is also a non-executive director for digital agency Lightbox, is shareholder at Work From Here and was previously CEO of Birmingham City Ladies Football Club.

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Business News

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Quality Assessment and Qualification Framework (QAQF) ‘Alone you carve your own path BUT together we provoke the difference in shaping your future’ AQF is an innovative training organisation, helping health professionals across the globe to meet overseas standards to obtain their licence to operate in countries like the UK, Canada, New Zealand, USA and Australia. We started amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and had no idea that the impact of this would make our project so important, with organisations such as private care, nursing, residential and hospitals all benefitting from our services. Since last year we have trained and placed over 100 overseas nurses across the UK (London, Plymouth, Cornwall, Croydon, Lancaster and Harrogate). Our blended training took place on our eLearning platform and our face-to-face practical training is conducted at Crowne Plaza Hotel in London. Recently we have trained over 50 overseas nurses for their OSCE Exam. During their training, we also conducted a welfare assessment to measure their level of wellbeing. A significant number of the trainees were very appreciative of how their employers have treated them. They were also grateful that they were given the greatest opportunity to serve during this challenging time. Lots of them have left their friends and family back home to dedicate their lives to caring residents and patients in the UK.


Testimonials Cynthia Kaguah, from Ghana, says that she is so fortunate that she recently secured her NMC PIN and is now a qualified nurse. Kelsy Manyi Nijiwaji, from Cameroon, says this country has given her a unique identity and she wants to dedicate her career to the residents in her Care home in Lancaster. She passed the OSCE exam in June. Anu Tamang, from Nepal, is willing to give whatever it takes to make a resident smile in Croydon London. Alisha Baidhya, from Nepal, finds the UK to be an amazing place to learn more on how to improve her talents. She is a preregistered nurse in Doncaster. 26 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

All of these nurses are overseas qualified health professional and have a lot of experience to share here in the Care sector – however working with the elderly, dementia and challenging behaviour residents was, for most of them, a first-time experience. Nonetheless, within a short period of time they have quickly learned how to navigate and adapt in the care sector, keeping all the standards and regulations in place. Indeed, they are fast learners. Over 100,000 health professionals are needed in the UK market and QAQF endeavours to train a huge number of overseas candidates to the UK standard so as to feed the needs of the market shortage. We train them to adapt swiftly to the job market. We closely work with many employers in the health sector to fulfil their needs, as well as to bridge the gap between the candidates and the requisite skills, so that we can reduce the shortage of labour efficiently, not only in the UK but in other countries such as New Zealand and Canada.

Together we empower people and communities to thrive through education, innovation, and experiences.

To find out more about the full range of courses available please contact us on Tel: 07856592518 Email: or visit:

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Business News

Small firms unaware of net zero impact, says report Though the vast majority see sustainability as important, millions of the small businesses could be struggling to understand and meet the demands of achieving net zero goals, according to research by Lloyds Bank. According to new research, nine out of 10 SMEs (91 per cent) see sustainability as an important consideration, and almost half (45 per cent) say that the Covid-19 pandemic has made them think more about its role in their business.

‘Demand from Government, customers, and suppliers to be ethical, and sustainable will only increase’ However, just a third (36 per cent) of ‘nearmicrobusinesses’, which employ 10 to 19 employees, admitted to not being aware of the Government’s net zero commitment, whereas among the largest SMEs that figure falls to just a quarter (27 per cent). So-called near-microbusinesses have limited understanding of how net zero policies will impact them. Just a third, 33 per cent, understand its impact on them, compared to 76 per cent among the largest SMEs. In 2019, legislation passed requiring the government to reduce UK net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 100 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. Achieving this will make the UK a ‘net zero’ emitter. Most SMEs say that they are aware of this commitment to ‘net zero’, with just one quarter (25 per cent) admitting they do not.

Glenn Bemment (pictured), head of ESG, SME and mid-corporates at Lloyds Bank, said: “The larger a business is the more likely they understand and grasp the opportunities that come from net zero. “Their size affords them greater flexibility within their business model and workforce, greater choice and influence over suppliers, and can mean more customers and clients directly questioning their sustainability credentials. “For the smallest of SMEs, many of which will be focused on their immediate needs and recovery from the impact of the pandemic, it’s important not to lose sight of the value they themselves recognise in sustainability. Demand from Government, customers, and suppliers to be ethical, and sustainable will only increase and eventually become expected rather than a unique selling point. “The good thing is that there is still time for them to act, and there are many resources available to help them understand, plan and change their business for the better.”

Transforming: Funding boost will revitalise The REP’s public space (credit – Ross Jukes)

Cash boost to transform theatre Birmingham Repertory Theatre (The REP) has received a £1.47m cash injection from the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) to transform and revitalise its public space. Starting next month, the ‘Open House’ project at one of Birmingham’s iconic cultural institutions coincides with the theatre’s celebration of 50 years on Centenary Square. The works are expected to be completed early in the New Year in time for the city’s cultural

programme which is running in parallel with the Commonwealth Games and harnessing the once-ina-lifetime opportunity to put Birmingham and the West Midlands on the global sporting and cultural stage. The GBSLEP’s funding from its Growing Places Fund will enable The REP to create new public spaces, with enhanced café and restaurant facilities. As a result of ‘Open House’ The REP will be able to generate additional revenue, which will be reinvested in making world-class theatre, delivering

impactful education and community programmes and nurturing the next generation of artists and theatre-makers. The REP’s executive director Rachael Thomas, said: "The GBSLEP’s funding will help us attract new audiences and income streams, allowing us to move towards a more sustainable and resilient future and play our part at such an important moment for the city and region.” The REP’s 'Open House' is one of many projects that the GBSLEP has funded in the last 10 years.

On the dotted line Dr Andrew Hardle (top), chair of the Lapal Canal Trust, virtually signing the contract with Kevin Kirkland

Contract to restore canal The Lapal Canal Trust has awarded Land & Water Services Ltd with a £300,000 contract as part of a canal restoration project. The business will build the first Selly Oak section of the Dudley No2 Canal, known as the winding hole, to enable boats to turn and enter the restored canal. It is the first stage of a fourpart plan to restore the canal passing Sainsbury’s in Selly Oak. The Dudley No 2 Canal was built to carry coal from Dudley to London. Work started in 1794 and the route was opened in 1798. The new section completes the development of Whitehouse Wharf and forms part of the Selly Oak Shopping Centre, owned by M & G Real Estate. The area includes a bridge linking the new shops to Selly Oak town centre, the remains of a lime kiln and a new public square. Kevin Kirkland, construction director at Land & Water, said: “We are very much looking forward to working with the Lapal Canal Trust and getting started on building the first section of the Dudley No2 Canal and at Land & Water, we pride ourselves on maintaining and enhancing the UK’s waterways for years to come and this is a perfect example of how the canal can be used to benefit surrounding communities and boat lovers.”

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Business News

Sponsored by: National Business Register

Magnificent: The Long Hall at Aston. Picture: Birmingham Museums Trust

The importance of protecting your Intellectual Property In April 2021 we all had ring side seats to the battle royale of teatime treats – Colin vs Cuthbert. Not often do we see such a high-profile case in the news illustrating how important brand protection is for your business. So, as we wait to find out which way the cookie will crumble, here at NBR, we have been cooking up the sweetest recipe for success when it comes to protecting your business’ Intellectual Property (IP). Firstly, make sure your Marketing Manager has Twitter worthy puns up their sleeve at a moment's notice and secondly, it is essential to get an expert’s advice when it comes to protecting your company’s valuable and individual assets. At NBR we have nearly 40 years’ experience in business name and brand protection and understand that trade marking your companies IP can do more than simply protect you from copycat(erpillars). Research shows investors use trade marks as a key driver when valuing a company; enhancing their market value and improving their chances of obtaining venture capital - even more effectively than patents. This encompasses all marks including marketing innovations, such as your firms branding, logo and name, unique advances in your products or services and new technologies you may have developed. To review whether a trade mark, or our other brand protection services, could benefit your business get in contact today 0800 069 9090 or email

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Iconic Aston Hall reopens following year-long closure Aston Hall, one of Birmingham’s most iconic buildings, is set to welcome visitors from 7 July after being closed for more than a year. The Grade 1 listed mansion reopens its doors with new displays that explore the fascinating lives of the Hall’s residents and its colourful past. Full of architectural and historical delights - from its Long Gallery to the battle scars of the Civil Wars Aston Hall is one of Britain’s finest treasures steeped in 400 years of history. The new displays focus on the key players and periods of Aston Hall’s history, illustrating enthralling stories of family rifts, royal visits and pitched battles. There are over 30 rooms to explore, including King Charles’ Chamber and the elaborate Great Stairs. Visitors can also see paintings spanning four centuries, including Peter Lely’s famous official ‘warts and all’ portrait of Oliver Cromwell, as well as portraits of the people who lived at Aston Hall painted by some of the most famous artists of their day, including Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Godfrey Kneller and George Romney. Highlights from Birmingham’s collection of Dutch paintings will also be displayed at Aston Hall

while Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is closed. Plus, there’s a new family trail and a new menu on offer at the Stable Yard Café. Kimberley Biddle, museum team manager at Aston Hall, says: “The past year has given us the opportunity to consider how we retell, reimagine and redisplay the four centuries of Aston Hall’s history. “Nowhere else in Birmingham can you explore such a magnificent and iconic building. It’s a must-see destination this summer.” Also opening at Aston Hall in July is Black is Beautiful, Black without Apology - a transformation of Aston Hall’s Boudoir into a young Black girl’s contemporary dressing room. Featuring an imaginative combination of contemporary and 18th century items, the display celebrates black women and the rich diverse culture within the Black diaspora. The narrative for the display springs from Sarah Newton, Lady of Aston Hall’s involvement in the enslavement of Black people during the 18th century. It has been created by local young people as part of Don’t Settle - a collaboration between Beatfreeks and Birmingham Museums Trust.

Birmingham ballet appoints board trio Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the appointment of three new board members. They are Marverine Cole (pictured), Shireenah Ingram and Christine Ondimu. A radio and television presenter and news reporter from Birmingham, Marverine Cole is currently the director of the BA (Hons) Journalism course at Birmingham City University and also part of the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity. Originally from Birmingham, Shireenah Ingram is an actor, presenter and songwriter who began her performance career in 2012. Shireenah founded her own company ‘Red Lens’ in 2021 which offers acting classes to increase personal performance confidence.

Shireenah’s relationship with BRB began as the youngest participant in and star of Channel 4’s ‘Ballet Hoo, Ballet Changed My Life’ and now she comes full circle to take her place as the youngest member on the Board. Christine Ondimu is an experienced banking professional

who is passionate workplace inclusion. She was co-chair of the HSBC UK Compliance Diversity and Inclusion Network. Christine is a qualified lawyer and works as a Diversity & Inclusion Manager at HSBC UK Network leading 6,000-plus colleagues on diversity and inclusion. Her career spans the financial services sector where she has worked in four countries – United States of America, South Africa, Kenya and now United Kingdom. Chair of the board at BRB, David Normington, said: “These new appointments complete the work we have been doing over the last two years to rebuild the skills and knowledge of the Birmingham Royal Ballet board to support the transformation of this company.”

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Business News

Lightning fast fibre broadband speeds to benefit thousands of firms Broadband speeds are set to triple for businesses in Birmingham. Working with its infrastructure partner Openreach, BT’s Enterprise business is it boosting the speed of its full fibre broadband service, with nearly 8,500 micro businesses able to access speeds of up to 900Mbps through the provider. Openreach is a wholly owned subsidiary of the BT Group, which maintains national telephone and broadband infrastructure. Telecommunications provider BT is also offering enhanced support for businesses alongside boosted broadband connections, via a new unit launching in Birmingham offering discounted full fibre packages for thousands of micro businesses.

‘The availability of our fastest business broadband speeds yet will grow over time as Openreach continues to expand’ The SoHo (Small/Single office, Home office) unit to focus on their digital and connectivity needs. The unit will provide dedicated support for small and micro-businesses buying its new Halo for business broadband bundles, with free expert set-up of equipment and advanced UKbased remote IT support.

Boosted broadband: BT is tripling speeds for business

A 4G back-up service will also be offered if there’s a problem with the fixed line, to ensure uninterrupted business connectivity. BT is also trialling new online tools which will make it easier for firms to run their own digital advertising campaigns. Sarah Walker, BT Enterprise business director for the Midlands, said: “By setting up this new unit we’re investing in the future of Birmingham’s smallest firms and start-ups which are the lifeblood of the local economy. I’m really proud that we’re creating this new unit at a time when their success has never been more important in securing the city’s future as it rebuilds after the toughest economic crisis in a generation. “In addition, we’re tripling the speed of full fibre broadband for businesses in Birmingham, with nearly 8,500 of the city’s smallest firms now able to access speeds of up to 900Mbps through BT. The availability of our fastest business broadband speeds yet will grow over time as Openreach continues to expand its full fibre footprint across the city.” BT says nearly a third of Birmingham small businesses (28 per cent) planned to move more of their operations online following lockdown restrictions easing, while 67 per cent would be more likely to adopt new technologies if they knew the technology industry provided training or support.

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Business News Jane Gratton: Many firms have learned how to motivate staff from home

Remote working gains popularity – surveys indicate The popularity of remote, hybrid and agile working is on the rise, according to new surveys and reports released by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and BDO. A BCC survey of more than 900 UK-based firms has revealed that more than two thirds, 66 per cent, of businesses are now offering remote working to employees. Data from the survey also shows that nearly three quarters of businesses, 72 per cent, expect to have at least one employee working remotely over the next year. A staggering 80 per cent of B2B services firms are able to offer working from home opportunities to staff, compared to 61 per cent of manufacturers and 54 per cent of B2C services firms. Locally, according to the latest BDO LLP Rethinking the Economy survey of 500 mid-sized firms, 20 per cent of Midlands companies intend to adapt their office space, with more than half (55 per cent) looking to introduce agile or hybrid working on a permanent basis.

BCC head of people policy, Jane Gratton, said that although businesses will benefit from remote working, barriers to virtual work life still remains. She said: “During the pandemic, many employers have learned how to manage and motivate people working from home. They’ve also experienced the advantages of an agile workforce, in terms of diversity, skills and productivity. “These results show that nearly three quarters of firms will now continue to benefit from a remote working option during ‘Nearly three quarters of firms will now the coming year. But it’s clear that some firms and individuals continue to benefit from a remote are facing barriers to remote working with many employers concerned about the impact on team morale and employee working option during the coming year’ wellbeing.” Tim Foster, partner at BDO LLP in the Midlands, added that A third admitted that they expect the majority of staff to work agile or hybrid working will take precedence in the Midlands, from home for at least two days a week once offices reopen. but will impact city centre firms which rely on footfall. More than a third of Midlands businesses (35 per He said: “It’s clear that agile, or hybrid working, will cent) plan to create permanent remote roles. take precedence in the regional workplace over the When asked what they considered barriers to coming months, as companies continue to respond and implementing remote working in their businesses, react to the valuable lessons of 2020. according to the BCC survey, 55 per cent of firms “Interestingly, remote working will be the biggest cited staff morale or mental health and well-being. driver in boosting economic recovery, according to Businesses also cited monitoring productivity (28 the survey, with 30 per cent of Midlands businesses per cent), poor internet connectivity (26 per cent) saying that the region will benefit from workers and issues with IT (24 per cent) as barriers to spending more money locally in towns, suburbs and implementing remote working. rural economies, rather than commuting into city There were further sectoral divides in the centres. Of course, this will impact the health of responses. Unsurprisingly, 53 per cent of some city centre businesses which rely on footfall, manufacturers required a physical presence to but we are starting to see places rethink the way operate equipment, while in B2C service firms they will attract people into our cities to enjoy the Agile working will take precedence the proportion was 35 per cent and B2B service in regional workplaces: Tim Foster cultural, hospitality and leisure offering.” businesses just 16 per cent.

Children’s hospital to benefit from funding A £1m donation to Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity from Children with Cancer UK, in partnership with Kwik-Fit, is set to bolster improved genetic testing. The donation has enabled the charity to purchase the NovaSeq 6000, a state-of-the-art DNA sequencing machine which has enabled the rapid expansion of cancer genetic testing at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory. Initial forecasts provided by NHS England and NHS Trusts across the West Midlands, Oxfordshire and parts of Southern England suggest that approximately 560 children and young people per year could benefit from large cancer panel genetic testing following the installation of the NovaSeq. 30 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Home to one of the largest children’s cancer centres in the UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital cares for more than 200 patients with cancer, leukaemia and brain tumours every year, from the West Midlands and beyond. Over the last decade large scale sequencing projects have identified pertinent DNA changes, which have enabled scientists to develop improved cancer treatments to target these variations. Sequencing all possible DNA changes in a single test gives scientists the best possible chance of detecting the genetic changes driving a child’s cancer, and knowing the genetic makeup of a child or young person’s cancer, or tumour, allows clinicians to offer a more tailored treatment.

Investment: The NovaSeq 6000

Chairman of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and its Charity, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, former medical director of the NHS in England, said: “The NovaSeq 6000 has dramatically enhanced our ability to identify diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers for childhood and young people’s cancers, thereby enabling our expert scientists and doctors to quickly optimise and develop more-effective and less-toxic treatments for children and young people with cancer. “We’re thankful to Children with Cancer UK and all the employees at Kwik-Fit for enabling us to expand our cancer genetic testing capability in this way. It will make a difference to thousands of families.”

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Business News

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Working to



Tackling the decarbonisation of transport with University of Birmingham research and regional business support t the University of Birmingham, we are challenging the transport sector’s existing technologies, processes and practices, changing how transport is designed, delivered and used for future generations. Our research ranges from vehicles, fuel and recycling to how we design and construct our cities and their transport routes. An outline of the work being conducted at the University of Birmingham, and how our projects and researchers are supporting local engagement to help the UK achieve reductions in its carbon emissions goals, is evident in our work to date. The University of Birmingham was recently listed in the top 10 per cent of universities for its impact on local growth and regeneration, and top of the Russell Group in England’s Knowledge Exchange Framework.


Our cities and roads How we design and construct our cities, and manage and maintain infrastructure, enables us to adapt to our ever-changing lifestyles. By monitoring our infrastructure above and below the ground using both remote sensing technologies and embedded or attached sensors, we are able to reduce operational costs in transport and civil engineering. Sensor technologies will allow us to map what lies beneath our feet and detect a variety of hidden infrastructure including mineshafts, sinkholes, pipes and tunnels. This will revolutionise how construction takes place; we

are currently unable to pinpoint sources of problems such as the bursting of underground pipes, which is why roadworks can be so extensive and disruptive. By showing the exact location of problems underground, our research will reduce disruption on the nation’s roads and will reduce emissions.

Supporting regional business: About ARLI Our Alternative Raw Materials with Low impact ERDF project supports businesses in developing cost-effective products and processes that provide energy-efficiency gains in the use of raw and waste materials. The project identifies waste streams, or other materials that could be transformed into higher value goods for construction and other manufacturing industry applications to address acute raw material deficiencies, which are crippling industrial supply chains.

Construction Innovative uses for waste materials in construction is a large part of ARLI’s research collaborations, as waste management remains an issue within the industry. The reinforcement of soil and concrete has become an important area of investigations. There are potential applications for the use of waste glass reinforced plastic, carpet waste, crumbed rubber and other nonconstruction wastes in both geotechnical and construction applications.

September 2020: HydroFLEX becomes the first hydrogen train to run on the UK mainline railway

We have also looked at the geotechnical and construction applications for crushed eggshells. We are currently undertaking soil/structure analysis for a new rapid mini-piling system for temporary structures that should be recoverable and reusable.

About AMTECCA AMTECAA (Advanced Manufacturing Technologies to Create, Activate & Automate), an ERDF-funded project, can support companies looking to apply advanced manufacturing technologies across a wide range of manufacturing sectors including automotive, aerospace, oil and gas and electronic. Working with key industrial organisations MTC, Lasea, Laserlines, HMK, Mazak and Keyence a range of business support has been developed to provide physical equipment demonstrators and deliver workshops to local manufacturing businesses. UK manufacturing is experiencing the biggest shake up to the sector in decades. Having access to support and advice from the University of Birmingham to navigate throughout is vital for business survival.

Digi-Rail – transforming our railways

HydroFLEX: Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases 32 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

The use and need for digital-systems in the railway is growing to help make smarter, costeffective and sustainable decisions. Digi-Rail is an ERDF-funded project; it brings together researchers and businesses that have collaborated on projects with a focus on: traffic management; sensors; big data management; safety equipment, track development and application of wireless networks; station information systems; and future railway operations and control.

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Data and transport Passenger behaviour impacts demand, usage and mobility in the transport sector. The use of big data can help unlock the trends and create a path for new ideas and developments. Digi-Rail have worked with a business to create and implement a semantic text processing architecture using a basic machine-learning model. This prototype is able to classify text pulled from the internet and social media platforms for product specific feedback. In return, this data can help businesses make smarter and sustainable decisions to consider new ideas for products and services with new trends and demands in mind.

Cleaner, greener trains We are working to integrate hydrogen and battery power to the country’s rolling stock to transition the railway sector to cleaner fuel. HydroFLEX is the first-ever hydrogen-powered train to run on the UK mainline. Unlike diesel trains, hydrogen-powered trains do not emit harmful gases. Instead, they use hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. The team are now developing the first prototype production version of HydroFLEX. The ground-breaking technology behind the trains will also be available by 2023 to retrofit current in-service trains to hydrogen, helping decarbonise the rail network and make rail journeys greener and more efficient. The project aims to roll UK-produced hydrogen trains out onto the rail network in the near future, further exploit the hydrogen technology, and develop the supply chain to support the technology.

‘BRAVE View’ Example of BRaVE – the Birmingham Railway Virtual Environment, an easy-to-use railway simulation software developed by The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham

Our vehicles The reduction of fuel consumption is currently the number one priority in engine and vehicle development. We are working closely with UK industry in engine architecture and advanced engine technologies, helping to design the engines and fuels for the future.

Fuel The Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent against 1990 levels by 2050 cannot be achieved without transitioning all segments of the transport system to cleaner fuels. The country also plans to remove all diesel-only vehicles by 2040. We are driving both the technology and thinking required to solve some of the challenges facing the UK as it seeks to develop sustainable solutions for energy and transportation. From sustainable production and hydrogen storage to commercial utilisation, as well as the efficient provision of electricity and heat from fuel cells, our researchers are making a full hydrogen economy a reality.

From the vehicles we use to the spaces we occupy, we are working to reduce the transport sector’s emissions both in the region and beyond. We will continue to drive these changes so that people can live healthier, happier lives.

Talk to the Business team today: W: T: 0121 414 4002 E: To find out more about the University of Birmingham’s research, visit:

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Chamber Patrons

Chamber Patrons Greater Birmingham Chambers’ leading supporters

Barriers faced by older women in business Women in ‘later life’ face greater disadvantages than their male counterparts when it comes to setting up their own business, new research has revealed. A study carried out at Aston University by businesswoman Dr Isabella Moore, found that older women had greater responsibilities as carers and looking after grandchildren, and demanded that further work should be done by industry to help women launch businesses. Dr Moore, who completed a doctorate in Business Administration at Aston and became and entrepreneur at 60, discussed her own experiences in the first episode of the fourth series of ‘Aston means business’, presented by Steve Dyson.

‘Many business support organisations don’t take women in later life who might be thinking to set up in business seriously’ She chairs the board of Comtec Translations, a specialist languages company she founded in the 1980s before selling it in 2002 and then buying it back “for a lot less than I sold it”. She said: “What struck me was that I remembered issues I had when I started in business in my 30s and I realised there were now some very different issues I had to contend with.” Those issues included being a grandmother, with some responsibility to support her daughter with the grandchildren, and having a mother who was now over 100. “But above all at that age what I found was a drop in confidence in myself and the feeling that somehow society saw me as somebody that has

Contact: Henrietta Brealey T: 0121 274 3266

Isabella Moore: Industry must do more to support women in business

done something, achieved something, but it’s time to retire. That was an identity that I had to struggle with.” Dr Moore developed an interest in women's entrepreneurship in her earlier career which saw her in a variety of roles, including the first female president of the British Chamber of Commerce. Dr Moore, who dislikes the term ‘older’ or ‘senior entrepreneur’, began her study by interviewing an equal number of men and women and looked at the research from three perspectives, starting with ‘societal attitudes’ against setting up in business in later life. She discovered that society did not see people who retire as potential entrepreneurs, despite having skills and experience. Dr Moore said: “The perception is they ought to be thinking about playing golf and looking after grandchildren. But they agreed that many business support organisations don’t take women in later life who might be thinking to set up in business seriously. They felt society assigned to them certain roles that it's very difficult to get out of. As a result, society regards women in later life as not potential material for entrepreneurs. “I also think the media need to portray women in later life in a different way, and Government policy needs to be refined around welfare, around pension, and make it easy for them to set up in business rather than put up hurdles.”

Support on offer for Black law students A new scheme designed to support better access to the legal profession for Black students has been set up by the University of Birmingham and Gowling WLG (UK). The Black Talent in Law Bursary scheme will see Gowling WLG (UK) Charitable Trust - a registered charity funded entirely by donations from partners of Gowling WLG - support the studies and future careers of Black students at Birmingham Law School (BLS). Students on the scheme will be provided with work placement opportunities at Gowling WLG, ongoing mentoring support from lawyers at the firm, and also paid financial contributions in their second and final year of their studies at BLS. Three students will be the first to enrol on the scheme in September. 34 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Paul McConnell, head of Careers and Employability at Birmingham Law School, said: “Birmingham Law School is strongly committed to supporting the future careers of our students, and also enhancing diversity within the legal profession. We are delighted to be partnering with Gowling WLG (UK) Charitable Trust. The bursary will make a real difference for our students, providing both invaluable career development opportunities and also financial support for their studies.”

Support: University of Birmingham and Gowling WLG (UK) are working together to provide better access for Black students

‘Black lawyers are under-represented in corporate law firms and we are committed to doing our part to address this’

Andy Stylianou, chair of Gowling WLG (UK) LLP and the firm's lead on diversity and inclusion, said: “The scheme will offer the students a fantastic opportunity to gain invaluable experience working within a busy international law firm while completing their studies and to be financially supported along the way. “Black lawyers are underrepresented in corporate law firms and we are committed to doing our part to address this and to promote the progression of black students. “We look forward to working closely with Birmingham Law School to offer a rounded experience for all the students taking part in the scheme and welcoming the future lawyers joining us to develop their experience of a career in law.”

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Chamber Patrons

£370m HS2 station seeks bids Construction contractors are being urged to bid for the £370m Interchange Station contract, being built as part of the new high-speed railway, HS2. Bidders are asked to put themselves forward for the station contract by HS2, which the firm says could support up to 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction, as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs. Interchange Station, in Solihull, will be one of the best connected stations on the new high speed network in the Midlands, and is set to pave the way for huge growth plans around the site being led by the Urban Growth Company, that will include 30,000 jobs, up to 3,000 new homes and 70,000m2 of commercial space. These will form part of the UK Central Hub’s plans for 70,000 jobs, 5,000 new homes and 650,000m2 of commercial space, generating £6.2bn GVA per year and bringing 1.3m people to within a 45-minute public transport commute of the station.

The station is the first railway station globally to achieve the BREEAM ‘Outstanding’ certification at the design stage – a measure of sustainability for new and refurbished buildings – putting it in the top one per cent of buildings in the UK for eco-friendly credentials. HS2’s stations director Matthew Botelle said: “The start of the search for our construction contractor is a significant step in the journey to build HS2’s Interchange Station in the Midlands. We’ve worked closely with our multi-disciplinary design team Arup to design the station to be net zero in operation, which is a key part of our strategy to reduce carbon and build the most sustainable railway in the world. “The wider regeneration around Interchange Station is an even bigger prize, with thousands of jobs, new homes and commercial development set to transform the economic potential for people and businesses in the region.”

Place your bids: An artist’s impression of what Interchange Station will look like once complete

Reduce, reuse, recycle: Darren Andrew with donated items

Airport donates surplus stock Birmingham Airport marked World Environment Day by donating 2.7 tonnes of surplus stock to local charities. The airport’s on-site shops and restaurants donated goods and foodstuffs to local charities who were able to repurpose the products, worth an estimated £16,000 at retail prices. Items including sweets, snacks, soft drinks, bottled water, gift sets, t-shirts, books, stationery, games, toys and travel accessories were kindly donated to support three local charities Unite4homeless, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Home Start. Senior corporate sustainability manager Darren Andrew said: “It’s great to be able to deliver a project that positively impacts the local community.”

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1813 Club and Premier Members

1813 Club and Premier Members

Premier Membership Contact: Gary Birch T: 0845 6036650

Greater Birmingham’s leading companies

Architects to revamp football ground International sports-specialist AFL Architects has been appointed by Wrexham AFC to redevelop the club’s famous Racecourse Ground. The non-league club – which has fallen on hard times in recent years - was taken over recently by Hollywood stars Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, who aim to return it to soccer’s big-time. Part of this involves sprucing up the Racecourse Ground, which can trace its history back to 1807. Wrexham have played at the Racecourse since 1864, but since 2011, both the stadium and associated training grounds have been owned by Glyndwr University. The football club signed a 99year lease on the ground, which also left it with operational control. The stadium is in Mold Road, Wrexham, and has four stands, including the all-standing Spion Kop, currently not in use. Once upon a time it was claimed that Kop was the largest all-standing terrace in the English Football

Promotions at Clarke Willmott National law firm Clarke Willmott LLP has promoted two of its Birmingham-based lawyers. Mark Scotney, a solicitor in the construction team who specialises in resolving construction and engineering disputes, has been promoted to partner. And family law solicitor Caroline Young has been promoted to senior associate. She specialises in resolving issues arising from relationship breakdown, divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships. Across the firm’s seven regional offices three lawyers were promoted to partner, seven to senior associate and 11 to associate. Clarke Willmott CEO, Stephen Rosser, said: “Developing our people is absolutely fundamental to us as a business and the great service that we can provide to our clients is only possible due to the great people we have within the firm.” 36 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Famous stadium: The Racecourse Ground (Picture by Mark Barnes)

League – however, its 5,000 capacity is a long way behind other famous Kop ends, including Villa Park’s Holte End, which held 28,000 fans before it was redeveloped. AFL’s contract with Wrexham has begun modestly, with the

installation of new pitchside LED boards, sourced from Wembley Stadium. The next stages will build on an initial audit and review project carried out by AFL, which has an office in Birmingham. The AFL team will be identifying

opportunities to improve spectator experience throughout the concourses and maximise the value of recent major changes at the club, namely the involvement of Canadians McElhenney and Reynolds. The latter is best known as the wisecracking mutant superhero ‘Deadpool’, and McElhenney for comedy series ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’. The pair have vowed to invest in Wrexham AFC and among their plans is to redevelop the Kop end at the Racecourse. AFL director John Roberts said: “This is an exceptionally exciting time for the club. I am always thrilled when AFL is commissioned in my home country, so the prospect of working for the oldest club in Wales is a welcome one. “The team therefore fully understand and respect this club’s heritage and will be working sensitively and closely with them to revitalise their home.”

Drive to improve social mobility A survey by PwC has found that people living in the West Midlands want businesses to do more to help disadvantaged communities, in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. Two thirds of those surveyed say that businesses should step up and support social mobility in the areas where they operate. PwC’s said its ‘Driving Social Mobility’ research had found that Covid-19 was making it harder for people to achieve better opportunities in life, including women and those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. More than half (59 per cent) of people across the region say the pandemic has made social mobility more difficult with women more likely to feel this (65 per cent) compared to men (56 per cent). Over half (55 per cent) of people surveyed in the West Midlands said that those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have been further disadvantaged by the virus. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of people surveyed in the West Midlands think the Government should work with local businesses to offer more hands-on experience as part of the pandemic recovery process, as well as providing greater investment in apprenticeships and skills.

Laura Hinton: Barriers to opportunity need to be removed

Laura Hinton, chief people officer at PwC, said: “Quite rightly there is a clear expectation for the Government and businesses to work together to remove barriers and provide greater opportunities to make sure people are getting on based on their potential, and not on their background. “We are committed to doubling down on our social mobility commitments, including our paid work experience placements for people from less privileged backgrounds and helping disadvantaged young people and young people in social mobility ‘coldspots’ develop workplace skills.”

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1813 Club and Premier Members

Fitting tribute to Armed Forces breaks ground at Arboretum A new tribute to NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes) personnel is to be created at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. NAAFI was established by the Government in 1920, to run the recreational establishments needed by the Armed Forces, and to provide goods to servicemen and their families. The new memorial will commemorate the NAAFI personnel who died during the Second World War and recognises the ongoing contribution of the organisation to the UK’s armed forces.

‘The memorial at the Arboretum will be part of the organisation’s centenary celebrations’ Lt Gen James Swift, chief of Defence People, performed a groundbreaking ceremony at the Arboretum to prepare for the installation of the memorial. At the outbreak of the Second World War, NAAFI managed some 10,000 trading outlets and saw its workforce grow to 110,000. After the war, the organisation was scaled back but has continued to support British Armed Forces at home and abroad, including during the conflicts in The Falklands, the two Gulf Wars and Afghanistan amongst many others. The memorial at the Arboretum will be part of the organisation’s centenary celebrations, and its chairman,

Fitting tribute: Lt Gen James Swift performs the groundbreaking ceremony for the NAAFI memorial, watched by Lt Gen (rtd) Richard Nugee

Lt Gen (Rtd) Nugee, said: “For the last hundred years the NAAFI has been an integral part of the Armed Forces. The ground breaking for a memorial to those NAAFI employees who have lost their lives in their service, is a vivid example of how NAAFI, through the dedication of its employees, supports the Armed Forces whenever and wherever they’re needed.” The memorial will be installed at the Arboretum ahead of a planned dedication ceremony in October.

College names new principal BMet has appointed Pat Carvalho as its new principal and chief executive, taking over from Cliff Hall. She will be moving back to the city after 30 years in London, and is joining BMet from Harrow College, where she was also principal. She said: “I am excited about our future and looking forward to working with students, staff, governors and stakeholders to lead the college into the next stage of its growth and development. “I feel I have come in at a good time to build on solid foundations to continue to build a truly inspirational learning environment. “My first focus will be to get BMet the recognition that it deserves and to establish it as a college that Birmingham can be proud of.” Sir Dexter Hutt, chairman of the governors at BMet, said: "The board are pleased to have secured the appointment of Pat Carvalho. Her significant wealth of knowledge and experience will be a major asset.” .”

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International Trade T: 0121 725 8994 E:

Demand for carnets goes through the roof Demand for temporary export documentation, known as carnets, has skyrocketed according to new figures released by the Chamber’s documentation team. According to the team, 230 carnets were processed in May 2021, compared to just eight in May 2020. Also, the Chamber processed 25 per cent more carnet documents in May compared to April. Carnets processed by the Chamber have surged due to increased demand for the documentation by the automotive sector and Brexit. Jonathan Crosbie, international documentation manager, said: “We’ve witnessed high demand for carnets, temporary export documents, predominantly from automotive clients. “Ninety-five per cent of carnets applied for are going to Europe, because of the impact of Brexit. “Customers generally understand that they require carnets to temporarily export to European markets, however they are frustrated that the UK Government and the EU has not hammered out a temporary customs agreement in order to ease the process. “Carnets are typically used by businesses that exhibit at overseas shows, those that need to ship goods to take part in events or leisure activities and musical sectors. “Many of these industries are of course, being severely impacted by Covid restrictions. We undoubtedly will see a major upturn in demand for carnets, once these sectors can operate again.”

Exploring the state of the global economy The Chamber’s latest Global Trade Conference heard a number of high-profile speakers give their expert analysis of how the world economy is performing. The digital conference also heard about massive changes to tax regulations in the European Union, which come into force this month. The main focus of this year’s event was an analysis of the global economy following the events of the last 12 months, with discussions around international connections, valuable trade insights, success stories from companies who have benefitted from an international footprint and how to grow sales and client bases.

‘We are extremely proud to have once again delivered a fantastic digital conference’ Among the high-profile speakers were several with connections to Qatar, the host country for next year’s football World Cup. These speakers include British Ambassador to Qatar, Jon Wilks, who took part in a question and answer session on innovation. Mr Wilks took up his posting to Doha in March 2020. He was joined by Gary Kershaw,

Qatar Airways’ country manager for the UK and Ireland, who participated in a session about international travel and its recovery from the pandemic. Those taking part also heard a presentation from the Chamber about the change in taxation rules in Europe, intended to streamline how goods and services bought online are dealt with. The new rules will see Value Added Tax (VAT) charged in the country where the consumer is located, rather than the country of origin. As part of this, those selling goods and services into the EU are being given the opportunity to sign up for OSS (One Stop Shop), which is a system where they can submit just one VAT return, rather than registering in each member state. The Chamber is urging businesses to ensure they know about OSS and are registered for it, if necessary. Chamber international manager Stef Bowes said: “We are extremely proud to have once again delivered a fantastic digital conference. “Over the last year we have stepped up our engagement with so many of our overseas partners as we know there has never been a more important time for businesses to look at new markets and consider their relationships with key international trading partners.”

Nordic trade deal welcomed by Chamber

Mandy Haque

38 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

The Government has struck a trade deal in principle with the Nordic countries of Norway and Iceland, and the Alpine principality of Liechtenstein. The Government said that the deal would slash tariffs on high-quality British food and farm products. The agreement will cut tariffs as high as 277 per cent for exporters to Norway of West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar, traditional Welsh Caerphilly, and Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese. There will also be tariff reductions and quotas on pork, poultry and other goods. UK wines and spirits, including Scotch whisky, will also now be recognised in Norway and Iceland. Reduced import tariffs on shrimps, prawns and haddock will cut costs for UK fish processing. The deal is also the first time these three countries have included dedicated chapters on digital trade, and will mean that when British firms export to them, electronic documents, contracts and signatures will be used, to allow

goods to move seamlessly across borders. The agreement means British businesses will be able to bid for government contracts in partner countries, worth an estimated £200m a year. The deal will allow caps on the charges mobile operators are allowed to charge each other for international mobile roaming. It will also enable high-skilled professionals to enter Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein for business purposes, using faster and simpler visa processes. The deal has been welcomed by the Chamber, and international director Mandy Haque said: “I am pleased to see that UK Government has negotiated a trade deal with Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and this will be good news for sectors where there is a focus in those countries, however there are still many key overseas markets where a deal needs to be struck. “There are a variety of consultations in progress at the moment with opportunities for businesses to help shape future trade deals and Government are asking businesses for their input. Details for these can be found on”

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Commonwealth Commonwealth Chamber Patron

Greater Birmingham

Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Mandy Haque T: 0845 6036650

Australia: Land of opportunity

Boosting trade with Australia By Philip Parkin he Chamber has welcomed last month’s announcement on the UK securing a trade deal with Australia, which will eliminate tariffs on all UK goods. It is the first major trade deal negotiated from scratch since the UK left the European Union. The main elements of the deal were agreed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and mean British products such as cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell into Australia, boosting UK industries that employ 3.5 million people across the country. The UK-Australia trade relationship was worth £13.9bn last year and is set to grow under the deal, said the Government. Mr Johnson said: “This marks a new dawn in the UK’s relationship with Australia, underpinned by our shared history and common values. “Our new free-trade agreement opens fantastic opportunities for British businesses and consumers. “The free trade deal will eliminate tariffs on Australian favourites like Jacob’s Creek and Hardys wines, swimwear and confectionery, boosting choice for British consumers and saving households up to £34m a year.” The Government said that the trade agreement was also a gateway into the fastgrowing Indo-Pacific region and will boost the UK’s bid to join CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership), one of the largest free trade areas


in the world, covering £9tn of gross domestic product (GDP) and 11 Pacific nations from Australia to Mexico. The UK exported £5.4bn worth of services, including £1.4bn of insurance and pension services and £780m of financial services, to Australia in 2020.

‘Businesses will welcome this agreement in principle as a step forward’ Chamber international director Mandy Haque said: “We welcome this agreement in principle. There is still a lot of work to go on behind the scenes, but this is a good step forward, not least because it will eliminate tariffs for UK exporters to this important market. “I would urge the government to work with the business community in the coming months to insure they have the opportunity to shape the agreement.” William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses will welcome this agreement in principle as a step forward. However, there is a long way to go before the signing and implementation of a free trade deal. “Ultimately it is businesses not governments that trade, and this deal with Australia needs to be complemented by providing practical, on the ground, support to help firms maximise the new opportunities the agreement will bring. “It should also be pointed out that trade with Australia represents only around 1.2 per cent of the UK’s total, so while a deal will have

welcome benefits it will not offset the ongoing issues with trade to the European Union.” Among local business that have interests in Australia is the Richardson family, who have multiple investments around the Pacific Rim and is looking forward to a deal which reduces or eliminates tariffs, as it will encourage further investment. Carl Richardson said: “We are for sure actively on the look-out for opportunities in the region to back ambitious management teams who are actively seeking growth capital, and news such as this only strengthens our appetite to invest further. “At the same time, we believe that the importance of the progress with Australia could go far beyond being just another trade deal ticked off the ‘to do’ list, and it can act as a significant stepping stone for the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive TransPacific Partnership (CPTPP) in the near future.” And commenting from the Australian viewpoint, Warren Bartlett, deputy commissioner, Europe, for Trade & Investment Queensland, said: “Queensland is an exportorientated economy. The Aus-UK Free Trade Agreement is likely to present significant opportunities for bilateral trade between the UK and Queensland across a number of industry sectors. “As further details of the trade agreement emerge, Trade & Investment Queensland (TIQ) will assist Queensland exporters to identify specific UK market opportunities and support UK businesses seeking to establish a presence in Queensland in order to service the Australian market.”

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Transatlantic Transatlantic Chamber Patrons

Greater Birmingham

Transatlantic Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Mandy Haque T: 0121 725 8994

US-UK taskforce is established By Jessica Brookes A US-UK taskforce has been established to review how “safe and sustainable” transatlantic travel may resume between the two countries. The agreement was set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and President Joe Biden under the new Atlantic Charter, on the eve of the G7 Summit, which was held in Cornwall. The Charter is modelled on a joint agreement devised by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, which set out their goals after the Second World War. In a joint statement released by the two world leaders, Johnson and Biden said that they look forward to “normalising two-way travel” between the two countries, and the taskforce will share “expertise and provide recommendations to leaders on the return of safe and sustainable international travel”. Currently, the US is listed as an ‘amber’ destination by the British Foreign Office, whereby travellers arriving from the country must self-isolate for 10 days on their arrival into the UK. A presidential decree imposed last year mandated that non-US citizens who have travelled or been in the UK in the last 14 days are not permitted to enter the country. As well as establishing a new travel taskforce, the Charter also committed the countries to working together on defending democracy, furthering bilateral defense and security, strengthening its economic and trading ties, rallying all countries to bolster climate ambitions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

and reaffirming their commitment to Northern Ireland. Under the framework of the revitalised Charter, the UK and US have agreed to develop a landmark science and technology partnership. The partnership will explore a number of areas for cooperation including research, innovation and commercialisation, defence, security, law enforcement and intelligence; and making sure technology is used as a force for good around the world. Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden said: “In the 80 years since the Atlantic Charter was signed, technology has changed the world beyond recognition.

President Joe Biden

“This announcement marks a new era of cooperation with our closest ally, in which we commit to using technology to create prosperity and guarantee the safety and security of our citizens for years to come.” Presidential Science Adviser and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Eric Lander, said: “There are few relationships as consequential as the transatlantic partnership between the United States and United Kingdom in science and technology. “Together, we will seek to set a positive example of how countries can work together to solve the critical and transnational challenges of the 21st Century.”

United add supersonic speeds with new aircraft United Airlines has reached an agreement with Boom Supersonic to purchase 15 planes capable of travelling at twice the speed of modern airliners. The Overture aircraft will be able to fly at Mach 1.7 (1,300mph), potentially halving the transatlantic journey from Newark to London to three and a half hours. Trial flights are scheduled to begin in 2026, with commercial use coming three years later. United also has an option on an additional

High speed: The Overture supersonic aircraft

40 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

35 planes from the Denver-based manufacturer. The initial order will be finalised once the aircraft meet “demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements”. The Overture will carry fewer passengers than existing subsonic passenger jets, with 65 to 88 seats which will initially be priced at business class fares. The firms say Overture will be the first large commercial aircraft to be netzero carbon from day one, optimized to run on 100 per cent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

United CEO Scott Kirby said: “United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today's advancements in technology are making it more viable for that to include supersonic planes. Boom's vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry's most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travellers access to a stellar flight experience. “Our mission has always been about connecting people and now working with Boom, we'll be able to do that on an even greater scale.” Blake Scholl, Boom Supersonic founder and CEO, said: “The world's first purchase agreement for net-zero carbon supersonic aircraft marks a significant step toward our mission to create a more accessible world. “United and Boom share a common purpose - to unite the world safely and sustainably.”

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Future Faces Future Faces Chamber Patrons Contact: Anna Assinder T: 0845 6036650

Award category sponsors announced

Midlands Air Ambulance Charity join as patrons The Midlands Air Ambulance Charity has joined as patrons of Future Faces. Midlands Air Ambulance (MAAC) has been a member of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) for more than 10 years and is also a member of the Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce and Asian Business Chamber of Commerce (ABCC), part of the GBCC Group alongside Future Faces. The charity were was also crowned Charity of the Year and Overall ABCC Business of the Year 2020.

‘As a charity, we value the benefits of being part of the GBCC’ Operating for more than three decades, the MAAC operates and funds three air ambulances covering six Midlands counties including Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands. In addition, the service operates two critical care cars in Birmingham & Black Country and separately, Worcestershire. The charity’s decision to join the young professionals Chamber as patrons is part of their

its own plans to invest further in the future talent across Greater Birmingham. Pam Hodgetts, corporate partnerships manager for MAAC, said: “As a charity, we value the benefits of being part of the GBCC, becoming a patron of Future Faces will not only allow us to deepen our relationship with the business community but it will also help us fulfil our commitment to developing the skills of our talented workforce. “As part of our own corporate social responsibility, we boast a National Curriculumbased education programme allowing us to work closely with schools across the six counties we serve, providing CPR and bleed control training, careers talk’s and Key Stage learning resources. As a patron, we will work collaboratively with Future Faces on projects that will help extend that support to the regions rising stars.” Anna Assinder, head of Future Faces, said: “We are so proud to announce MAAC as our new Future Faces patron. “MAAC’s patronage of Future Faces shows their continued dedication to our region and will be instrumental in ensuring that we can continue to support our young professionals in their career development.”

Pledge of support for hospital Gymshark founder Ben Francis has been announced as Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity’s first-ever patron. The patronage honours the British entrepreneur’s passion for the NHS, his desire to help those in need as well as his love and enthusiasm to promote Birmingham to the world. Over the last 12 months Ben has built a strong relationship with Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity, both personally and professionally, through the fitness community and apparel brand, Gymshark, which pledged to support the charity from the onset of the

pandemic. Last year, Gymshark donated £180,000 to the charity after thousands of people answered the brand’s rallying cry to get their ‘sweat on’ as part of its #NHSSweatySelfie challenge. For every selfie uploaded, of which there were almost 36,000, Gymshark donated £5 to the charity. Ben said: “I’ve long been in awe of the incredible work of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospitals. When the charity approached me about becoming a patron, I accepted without hesitation. I look forward to working with them to continue to raise awareness and funds for this amazing charity.”

Additional award category sponsors have been revealed as backing this year’s Future Faces and Birmingham Young Professional of the Year (BYPY) awards. This year’s flagship event will take place on 27 August and will be a joint celebration of the region’s young professionals following Future Faces’ merger with Business Professional Services (BPS) Birmingham last year. Sponsoring this year’s Future Face of Finance award is HSBC UK, who are current patrons of the Greater Birmingham and Asian Business Chambers of Commerce. Sponsoring the newly created Future Face of Sustainability award is law firm and GBCC patron Squire Patton Boggs Birmingham. Energy consultants Inspired Energy will sponsor the Future Face of Industry award and the Future Face of Technology and Innovation award will be sponsored by Chamber patron and accounting and auditing provider, RSM. To apply for an award, email For sponsorship enquiries, email

New Members George Howard (Gymshark) Ellie Sanders (Gymshark) Gemma Dickens (Gymshark) Beth Armstrong (Gymshark) Naomi Campion (Bibby Financial Services) Thomas McDonnell (Bibby Financial Services) Hareth Naji (Opal Innovations) Alex Kirby (AW Wealth Ltd)

Midlands Air Ambulance Charity Lydia Gill (IPU Group)

Upcoming Events Future Faces Social Netwalking tour of Birmingham Date: 08/07/21 Aston Leadership Series - Pitching and Presentation Skills Date: 20/07/21 Speed Networking Date: 22/07/21 Future Faces professional development Date: 27/07/21 All events are due to be held online For more information and to book a place contact

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Cannock Chase Chase Chamber Patrons

Cannock Chase

Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Chris Plant T: 0845 6036650

Amazon to invest in creative apprenticeships Bridge that gap: David Williams at the Stafford Western Access Route viaduct site

Road project set to complete on time Completion of a multi-million-pound road project to ease congestion in Stafford town centre is on course for completion by the end of the year. Construction of the Stafford Western Access Route construction began two years ago, and as well as improving traffic flow in the town centre, it will enable millions of pounds worth of new housing and business development to take place. The latest phase of the scheme had included strengthening the road over a rail bridge at Doxey, and this followed a new section of the road opening in January, linking Doxey to Castlefields. Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport David Williams said: “The Stafford Western Access Route is a huge project for the town and Staffordshire, and one of the biggest engineering schemes the county council has undertaken in over a decade.”

Cannock Chase Council is spending £1.25m on improving the facilities at Rugeley Leisure Centre. Improvement works include the installation of a new heating, hot water and energy system within the centre, which will be used when the centre’s swimming pool is brought back into use. The pool will be retiled and recommissioned as part of the new pool plant and water treatment systems, and will be ready to reopen at the end of August. In addition, a new outdoor 3G artificial grass pitch with low energy LED floodlights will be installed, along with extended car park facilities, which will include electric vehicle charging points. Councillor Adrienne Fitzgerald said: “Leisure facilities in the district have suffered with closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The full sized all weather 3G grass pitch will be an excellent addition to the current facilities.”

Retail giant Amazon has launched a £2.5m project to help small businesses across England take on apprentices through the levy transfer scheme. The US online retailer says the Amazon Apprenticeship Fund will help create more than 200 new apprenticeships during the rest of this year. The company has already announced the creation of 1,000 new apprenticeship roles in 2021 within Amazon, including 100 degree-level apprenticeships and a further 500 for its employees.

‘We are proud to be creating new opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds across England’ In the new scheme, Amazon will work directly with small businesses selling on Amazon to help boost their productivity, sales, exports and marketing skills for the digital age by taking on apprentices who will undertake training in these areas. These apprentices will receive a mix of on-thejob and classroom training, together with specialist online learning provided by Amazon, which will show them how to build a successful e-commerce business, how to market and advertise products to customers, and how to sell to a global customer base. Amazon has set aside £1m over two years

within the Apprenticeship Fund specifically to support apprenticeship roles in the creative industries, including across the film and TV sectors, music and publishing. Amazon Music is providing apprenticeship opportunities for up and coming talent in the music industry, and Amazon Studios is looking to do the same with the independent production it works with. John Boumphrey, UK country manager, Amazon, said: “We are proud to be creating new opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds across England to gain skills through the Amazon Apprenticeship Fund. “We are committed to supporting the UK’s economic recovery post-Covid, and this fund will give our partners, customers and small businesses in the Amazon ecosystem the opportunity to take on talented apprentices who will help those organisations grow.” The new scheme is being backed by the Government, and Gillian Keegan, minister for Apprenticeships and Skills. Gillian said: “It is brilliant to see Amazon continuing to support apprenticeships within its business and beyond. “Apprenticeships play a key role in helping businesses of all sizes develop the skilled workforce they need and secure their talent pipeline for the future. “As a former apprentice myself, I know the life changing impact an apprenticeship can have. I’d urge as many people as possible to check out the opportunities on offer.”

Improvements planned for Rugeley Leisure Centre

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Burton & District Burton & District Chamber Patrons

Contact: Chris Plant T: 0845 6036650

Town urged to back library move Burton’s Town Deal board is pleading with residents and businesses to back the relocation of the library to the Market Hall as the key proposal in its bid for Government millions. The Government has already indicated that it will give the town £22.8m to spend on regenerating the town centre, and Burton has now got to evaluate seven projects which have been put forward and put a final proposal to the government next March.One of the seven proposals is the plan to relocate the library, in order to create a public services and enterprise hub at the historic Market Hall building, which the Town Deal board says will ‘bring key services together in a prominent town centre location driving footfall around the Market Place area and beyond’. However, there has been a lot of comment in the local media and social network forums, much of it questioning the need to move the library.

The Town Deal board says that the relocation is vital, as it is linked to the six other proposals, claiming: “It is an opportunity to redesign the library space so that it is in keeping with a 21st century library offer, and by bringing the library and other services together under one roof at the Market Hall it becomes a vital piece of the wider regeneration plans for the transformation of the Market Place area.”

‘The Library and Enterprise Hub project is a fantastic opportunity to improve and preserve the heritage of the Market Hall’ The board has warned that if the library proposal is rejected by the local public and businesses, then the cost of preserving the Market Hall would not be covered by the

YMCA Burton board member steps down

£22.8m and further money for this would have to come from elsewhere. The sum currently earmarked for the Market Hall in the town deal proposal is £7.3m, around a third of the total funding. Burton Town Deal board chairman Ben Robinson said: “The Library and Enterprise Hub project is a fantastic opportunity to improve and preserve the heritage of the Market Hall and provide first class community facilities in a more suitable and easily accessible location. “By bringing more people in to this part of town, we can attract more businesses and enhance the Market Square as a visitor destination.” Burton Chamber director Chris Plant said the organisation fully supported the proposals put forward as part of the bid and added: “We are fully behind the Town Deal board and look forward to working with businesses on this project, and making it a success in elevating the town centre and boosting the local economy.”

Stepping down: Jill Lanham

One of YMCA Burton’s longest serving board members has stepped down. Jill Lanham served 32 years as a trustee at the YMCA and as the chairman of the board on two occasions. She has led the charity through major developments in that time, including the acquisition of new housing sites and the opening the four retail stores. Throughout her time as a volunteer, she also mentored new trustees joining the charity. CEO Paul Laffey said: “We have been so blessed to have had Jill serving as a trustee with us for so long. “Jill was also on the board when I was interviewed for my first post at YMCA Burton. Some of my personal highlights, such as visiting Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament and Lambeth Palace have been with Jill. “I want to thank Jill, for everything she has done for us, we will all miss her very much and wish her a very happy retirement.” Ms Lanham said: “It seems a long time ago when I was first invited to observe a Board Meeting with a view to becoming a trustee back in 1989. Little did I realise that I would stay for nearly 32 years. “During my journey with the YMCA I have seen how hard it can be living a fulfilled life if you have had a disadvantaged upbringing. You need significant help and encouragement and that is what we all at the YMCA work together to give.”

Willshee’s appoints new commercial manager Burton-based Willshee’s Waste & Recycling has appointed Simon Lowe as commercial manager. Mr Lowe has specialist knowledge of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) production and has also managed materials recovery facility and household waste recycling centres for Veolia. This involved working with sorting, processing

and production facilities to ensure best practice service delivery and compliance, dealing with all the relevant regulatory bodies as required. He said: “There is great potential for Willshee’s to increase its market share given that so many businesses are putting increasing importance on minimising their environmental impact and

looking for a zero waste to landfill solution.” Willshee’s managing director Dean Willshee said: “Simon has excellent knowledge of the waste and utilities industries. He is skilled in environmental awareness, waste management, waste to energy process as well as operational and project management. July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 43

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Lichfield & Tamworth Lichfield & Tamworth Chamber Patrons Contact: Chris Brewerton T: 0845 6036650

Composer selected for musical project The Lichfield Garrick has announced that Joel Hall will be joining the ‘Your Community Musical’ project as composer. He will work alongside others to compose the music for the production, which is being written, composed, and developed by participants from the community. It will be staged next year. Mr Hall will also be offering a masterclass for those interesting in learning more about the basics of composition, including getting started as well as a whole host of other tips and tricks that participants will be able to use. A composer, lyricist, digital producer and performer, Mr Hall trained at the University of Nottingham and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He is also the director of Stream Park, an interactive digital events platform partnered with the Mixed Reality Lab at the University of Nottingham, Live Cinema UK and Oxfam GB. This year, his musical, ‘The Terrific Treevils’, with book and lyrics by Tom Ling, premiered at the Watford Palace Theatre, performed by West End and UK touring actors. Jonny McClean, the Garrick’s associate director and the project facilitator, says: “It’s incredibly exciting to be working with Composer of Joel’s calibre, he has a fantastic catalogue of work, and I can’t wait to get working with him and the composing group.”

Newsflash: Sir Trevor with Steve Morris and the Mayor of Lichfield

New office welcomes TV legend for opening Britain’s best-loved newsreader, Sir Trevor McDonald, is himself in the news after opening the new offices of Lichfield firm Legionella and Fire Safe Services. The former ITN star, who stepped down from reading the news 13 years ago, was joined by Lichfield mayor Robert Yardley at the opening of the office, in Britannia Way. He told guests: “It is a great, great pleasure to be here in the presence of the Mayor and Mayoress of Lichfield and the people responsible for this enterprise. “It is due, in particular to Kym Darby (business

manager at Legionella and Fire Safe Services) who I worked with some years ago. “It is great to be in the company of people who are doing well. All the stories I seem to hear are about people who are struggling, have gone under or have found it extremely difficult throughout this period. “I wish you every success in your future endeavours.” Legionella and Fire Safe Services has moved to Lichfield from Rugeley, after seeing its revenue more than double between 2018 and 2020, from £1.1 m to £2.6m.

Fowl play as islands set sail

Marketing expert joins committee

Wildfowl, including ducks, moorhens, geese and swans can now make use of three floating islands that have been launched at Stowe Pool in Lichfield. Lichfield District Council’s parks team has installed the three islands at Stowe Pool, which brings the pool’s bird islands to six. However, these three islands are different, having been designed to boost biodiversity. As Stowe Pool is a reservoir the council is required to cut back plants growing around the water’s edge.

Lichfield marketing expert Hannah Montgomery (pictured) has joined the Chamber’s committee. She runs Chapel Lane based Golddust Marketing, and says she is ‘passionate’ about delivering results for clients. She is currently the Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber’s ‘Young Professional of the Year’, and said of her role that she ‘truly collaborates with her clients to ensure all marketing strategy is thought through in line with business goals. There is no point in putting time, money and effort into marketing if it does not deliver.’ She added: "I'm truly excited to be able to work with the passionate and brilliant team already on the Lichfield and Tamworth committee. “My main goal is to ensure all membership businesses utilise the Chamber support to its fullest and ensure the best bounce back for the local economy.”

Island life: One of the islands is towed out to its mooring in the reservoir

‘They will offer a safe haven for birds to nest’ To offset the habitat loss, the council’s ecology team recommended introducing the islands, which are living systems allowing plant roots to grow into specially designed floating grids. Stowe Pool is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so plants were chosen that will be beneficial to native animals, such as whiteclawed crayfish. These include purple loosestrife, flag iris, marsh marigold and reed and rush. 44 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Like the three original islands, the new islands have been grouped together to represent the three spires of the neighbouring Lichfield Cathedral. Councillor Iain Eadie, cabinet member responsible for Parks, said: “I am delighted to see the new living islands in place at Stowe Pool. “They will offer a safe haven for birds to nest, a point of interest for visitors to birdwatch, and will boost biodiversity in the area.”

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Sutton Coldfield

Sponsored by: Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council

Sutton Coldfield Chamber Patrons

Sutton Coldfield

Charity of the Year

Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Chris Brewerton T: 0845 6036650

Chamber president to finally take on marathon The president of Sutton Coldfield Chamber of Commerce is finally set to achieve his goal of running the London Marathon – 18 months later than first planned. Phil Arkinstall, who is also the CEO of video production firm Ark Media, originally planned to run the marathon last April to mark his 40th birthday. But the 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic and the rearranged race in October was only open to professional athletes. Now Phil is stepping up his training for this year’s marathon, which takes place on Sunday 3 October, when he’ll be raising funds for YMCA Sutton Coldfield. Phil said: “I was supposed to be doing the marathon to mark my 40th birthday in March 2020. When I actually do it I’ll be well on my way to 42.” Phil has chosen to run the marathon in aid of YMCA Sutton Coldfield – a charity he has developed close ties with both through the Chamber and his own business. YMCA Sutton Coldfield – which is the Chamber’s chosen charity for the year provides support to vulnerable and deprived young people in the local community, including the homeless. Phil added: “I am running on behalf of YMCA Sutton Coldfield to help raise money for their work with homeless people and disability groups. “I’ve worked with the YMCA for a few years providing video production support including making a documentary about an exchange programme they did in Israel and Palestine. The documentary was nominated for a Midlands Royal Television Society Award.” Phil is inviting sponsorship and sharing updates via his JustGiving page.

Surge in demand for Town Hall live shows Box office staff at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall have reported a surge in customer demand for events this autumn in what is being seen as a show of public confidence in the return of live entertainment. The heritage venue is currently hosting NHS vaccinations and is due to recommence public theatre shows from 3 September, starting with the one-woman comedy show ‘Life Sukhs’ starring Sukh Ojla. Tickets for the rescheduled internet comedy sensation Gary Powndland, on his second visit to the Upper Clifton Road venue, are already sold out. The ‘Live at the Town Hall’ show on 25 September, featuring comics Russell Kane and Darren Harriott, was already 75 per cent sold within days of launch. Comedy Parental Podcast favourites ‘Scummy Mummies’, returning for the third time to the Royal Town on 6 October was also set to sell out within days.

Belfry appoint veteran hotel manager

Marathon man: Phil Arkinstall training in Sutton Park

Relaunch of coaching service A Sutton Coldfield business coach has relaunched a popular service designed to help new businesses thrive. Clare Whalley (pictured), of Meta4, has worked with fellow Chamber members Darren Langley Web Design and Anita Ellis of Lexicomm to create a new look for her ‘Business in a Box’ product. ‘Business in a Box’ is designed to aid start-up owners in all aspects such as planning, business development and marketing. Clare, who is a vice-president of Sutton Coldfield Chamber, said: “With the re-launch of ‘Business in a Box,’ I saw this is a clear opportunity to re-fresh the website and content.”

The Belfry Hotel & Resort near Sutton Coldfield has appointed Ed Richardson (pictured) as hotel manager. Ed has more than 22 years of experience in the hospitality industry, having led teams in luxury hotels and resorts across South East Asia, China, Australasia and the Middle East. He joins The Belfry from Fairmont St Andrews in Scotland. The Belfry is renowned for its leisure facilities and golf courses, having previously hosted The Ryder Cup four times – more than any other venue in the world. Ed is no stranger to high level golf having previously worked at Fairmont St Andrews during the Hero Open 2021, and as part of the team for the Australian PGA Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions Shanghai, China. He said: “My ethos is all about the customer journey, making sure that every guest leaves us having had an experience that they won’t forget, something which certainly holds true at The Belfry. “The demand for staycations is high this year and I am very excited to be working with the team to showcase the world class facilities and service that The Belfry has to offer.”

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Solihull All the latest news, advice and events for the Solihull business community Contact: Samantha Frampton T: 0121 678 7488

Bootcamp to provide business skills boost Young people from across Birmingham and the West Midlands are set to receive a business skills boost, via a new bootcamp running this summer. Solihull based Digital Innovators has revealed details of its first workplace skills summer bootcamp scheme, running from 5 July to 13 August. Based at iCentrum in Central Birmingham, the fun, interactive bootcamps will include 14 to 18year-old participants taking on a live business challenge and pitch their ideas to local businesses, while learning sought-after workplace skills from experienced business mentors. The bootcamps will be run by Digital Innovators, a training provider which has helped more than 650 young people develop workplace and digital skills since the start of the pandemic. Mick Westman, chief executive and founder of Digital Innovators, said: “Our bootcamps will provide young people with a fun, practical and interactive opportunity to develop their skills and gain experience working on their own entrepreneurial projects to boost their confidence and their CV. “We want to ensure that no young person feels left behind as a result of the pandemic, and can develop vital skills to support their next step, whether that’s college, university or getting a job.”

College offers digital course to community Solihull College & University Centre is launching a new ‘Essential Digital Skills’ course to help the local community feel more comfortable using digital technology this summer. The free course aims to provide support to adults who would like to familiarise themselves with basic computing skills. It will be delivered over 15 weeks consisting of one three-hour session per week. Tutor Ahmed Sheikh, who holds a Master’s in cyber security, said: “We are proud to be a pioneering adult education provider and by offering this course we aim to address the gaps in digital skills within neighbouring communities. “Our vision is to offer this course to areas in the wider Birmingham district too. Due to our impressive facilities and our teaching methods, we know this will be a great initiative.” The college has state-of-the-art IT facilities at its Computing Centre at Blossomfield Campus. On completion, students may want to progress onto a range of the college’s computing courses, including CISCO and Microsoft courses.

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New boss: Neal Ardley

Former Notts County manager joins Moors Former Notts County and AFC Wimbledon manager Neal Ardley has joined Solihull Moors as the club’s first team manager. The 48-year-old spent more than six years in charge of AFC Wimbledon, before moving to Notts County in 2018, who were relegated to the National League at the end of that season but two years later narrowly missed out on securing a return to the Football League, after a 3-1 defeat by Harrogate Town. Ardley left Notts County in March, when they were 14 points behind then leaders Sutton United – however, the club still made the playoffs again, this time losing out to Torquay. Before his managerial career, Ardley made 200 appearances as a midfielder for Wimbledon.

‘We are fortunate to have been able to attract a manager of Neal’s pedigree’ He also went on to represent Watford, Cardiff City and Millwall, and collected 10 caps for England at Under-21 level. In his new role at Moors, Neal will be assisted by James Quinn, who has been promoted from his role as first-team coach to assistant manager. The vastly experienced Greg Abbott, who was Ardley’s number two at Notts County, has also joined Moors on a consultancy basis. Neal hopes to keep Moors moving forward, on and off the pitch. He said: “After leaving Notts County I was hoping my next job could be a project that would give me the chance to take a club forward.

“From day one after meeting Darryl Eales, Tim Murphy and Craig Cope it was clear there’s a huge ambition to go alongside the wonderful story of Solihull Moors. “I hope to add to the great work that’s been put in place and keep the club moving forward on and off the pitch. “I’m really looking forward to starting with the players after their strong finish to last season, and working closely with Quinny and all the staff at the club. “Alongside this, Greg Abbott’s huge knowledge and contacts will help the club attract and recruit even more quality to the squad. I’m excited to get going.” Commenting on Ardley’s appointment, Moors chairman Darryl Eales said: “We are fortunate to have been able to attract a manager of Neal’s pedigree and track record. “I first met Neal when he was at AFC Wimbledon, and I was chairman of Oxford United. I would have liked to have appointed him as Oxford manager when Michael Appleton left to join Leicester City. At that time, I deemed it inappropriate to approach a manager at another club. “It was serendipity when Notts County released Neal and I am absolutely delighted that we have persuaded Neal to join the Moors project. “Not only is Neal a highly experienced and accomplished manager but he is also one of the most humble and genuine people I have met. “I’m also delighted that Quinny will play a more central role in the coaching team and that we have secured the experience and know-how of Greg Abbott to assist our push for promotion next season.”

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Solihull Solihull Chamber Patrons

Advice for Covid money savers Former Solihull Chamber president, Kevin Johns, is urging Covid money savers to take stock of their relationship with money, as national restrictions ease and the economy starts to bounce back. Kevin, also managing director at leading Midlands accountancy firm Prime Accountants Group, has said that the pandemic has turned many into ‘saving machines’, as a result of being forced to stay inside, not pay for daily commutes, meals out or impulse shopping spending. Although many have been able to stash cash away, Kevin says this super saving comes with its own set of risks as different swathes of the economy starts to open back up. He said: “The pandemic has turned some people into saving machines, many for the first time in their lives. While this is incredible, it comes with its own set of risks. “The past year has certainly highlighted how vulnerable many people are to financial shocks. So, it is extremely important they embrace what has been a golden opportunity to save and

evaluate how they can continue on this trajectory for future events. “If you’ve historically found sticking to a budget challenging, make use of free budgeting apps that can help you plan better. Transfer the money into a separate bank account so that it’s out of sight and you’re not tempted to spend it.” He also made a clear warning to Covid-19 savers on credit card debt, urging them to clear debt in order to pay less hefty interest rates. Kevin said: “Credit cards can be a tricky business with the extremely high interest rates in the market today. Most credit card users are highly likely to pay more interest on debts than they earn from money in savings. “This means if you do not use your savings to pay off debts, you will likely end up paying more in interest than if you just cleared them straight away, as the longer it takes you to repay your debts, the more interest will accumulate. “My advice to Covid-19 savers would be to use a portion of their savings to clear any credit card debt. Using cash which you already have to clear your debts will save money in the long term.”

Money on the mind: Kevin Johns

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ABCC Updates and useful information from the largest ethnic support organisation in the UK Contact: Anjum Khan T: 0845 6036650

Scheme to unearth regional writing talent Sky Studios and Birmingham Repertory Theatre (REP) have joined forces to launch 'Sky Comedy REP’. This is a scheme was aims to unearth and nurture new regional comedy writing talent from across the UK, particularly from communities that have traditionally been under-represented in the arts. The scheme – which has as its patron one of the UK’s best known actors, Dame Julie Walters - will see nine writers chosen to develop a one-act stage play. All the plays will focus around a simple premise, namely a meeting on a park bench. All nine will then be performed at a three-day comedy festival at The REP early next year, featuring up-and-coming actors and emerging directors.

‘Sky Comedy Rep is a unique and ambitious talent development programme’ Throughout the six-month programme, writers will be paid for their work and receive one-to-one mentoring from various comedians, including Meera Syal (‘Goodness Gracious Me’, ‘The Kumars’), Simon Blackwell (‘The Thick of It’, ‘Veep’) Danny Brocklehurst (‘Brassic’, ‘Shameless’) and Guz Khan (‘Man Like Mobeen’). The scheme will also include a series of workshops and Masterclasses at the REP featuring insights into all aspects of writing and production. The initiative will be overseen by the Rep's artistic director, Sean Foley, and Anil Gupta, Sky Studios creative director of comedy. Mr Foley said: “Sky Comedy Rep is a unique and ambitious talent development programme for comedy writing in the UK. Developing and nurturing new talent from wherever it springs is a cornerstone of everything the Rep does, and we are thrilled that this new partnership with Sky Studios will enable new diverse voices to take first steps in our industry. “Comedy is a genre very close to my heart - I’m delighted to be creating this new initiative alongside some of the UK's leading names in comedy, including our patron, the great Dame Julie Walters.” Dame Julie said of the project: "I am honoured to be patron of this important new initiative to provide a platform for new comedy writing talent. “Participants will be given access to some of the very best in the business whilst being given a paid opportunity to develop their skills and materials. I very much look forward to seeing, and enjoying, the final results.”

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India film festival helps bring back audiences The curtain is set to fall on the latest Birmingham India Film Festival, which has been wowing audiences since the end of last month. The festival has been screening the very best of new indie and classic films from the Indian subcontinent. Supported by the British Film Institute (BFI) using funds from the National Lottery, cinema goers were able to see a wide-range of films, including the opening night’s epic premiere of ‘WOMB (Women of My Billion)’. This is an inspirational feature-length documentary telling of one woman, Srishti Bakshi, who walks the entire length of India during 240 days to explore the experiences of other women in its billion plus population. Srishti was later featured live in conversation at MAC Birmingham following the screening. The closing film, ‘Flight’, showcases British Asian film makers and actors and their continued contribution to British cinema’s success, often depicting realistic stories of British Asian immigrant experience. Festival director Cary Rajinder Sawhneysaid of the festival: “Last year we grew our audiences quite substantially by going online and UK-wide. “With the UK scene improving, we are delighted to not only offer a strong high definition online experience on but to also welcome our audiences back to the big screen at MAC Birmingham, Millennium Point, and, for the first time at Everyman at The Mailbox.”

This year’s festival featured a dedicated strand of films focused on the environment, marked Bangladesh’s 50th anniversary of its independence, by staging special screenings of the lyrical The Salt in Our Waters. The festival was backed by Birmingham City University.

‘Last year we grew our audiences quite substantially by going online and UK-wide’ Professor Rajinder Dudrah, professor of Cultural Studies and Creative Industries at Birmingham City University, said: “In another challenging year all round, not least for our Indian friends and families, we need the possibility of the new, to be able to look at things differently, for hope, and to create and tell our stories in a myriad of ways. “This summer of BIFF 2021 promises to do just that with a range of stimulating films and events that deal with the topical, to the practical and the uplifting. “Birmingham City University, as in previous years, is pleased to be a partner to this venture that brings thought, escape and creativity to our city and online platforms.” On screen: ‘Too Desi Too Queer’, one the films showing at the festival

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ABCC Premier+ Partners

ABCC Patrons

A lesson in staying safe Students from South and City College Birmingham have been taking part in a series of interactive workshops to keep one step ahead of fraudsters and online scams. Current frauds include one where people are told they owe the taxman money and must pay up or face the consequences, and the crudely produced emails from ludicrous sounding individuals who have a vast fortune that they want to give to people – for an upfront fee, of course. The workshops, which are being delivered by NatWest in partnership with the college, highlight a range of purchase scams and offers to make a fast buck that young people have fallen victim to. The sessions also include a discussion on how young people can effectively manage their money while also staying safe from online fraudsters. NatWest intends to run similar workshops at other universities and colleges across the Midlands region in the coming months.

Abe Tilling (pictured), NatWest’s regional managing director for corporate and commercial coverage Midlands and East, said: “It’s absolutely vital that we educate as many people as possible against fraud and scams, and as a bank, we are committed to doing so across all communities. “These financial education workshops are an innovative way to share our knowledge with college pupils and help them become financially savvy.” Pam Sheemar, career accelerated pilot placement lead at NatWest, helped to launch the project, in development with Kaussar Bashir, deputy faculty head at South and City. The latter said: “We have had really positive feedback from our learners at South and City College Birmingham. “We hope that our learners who have taken part of the workshops are more confident in their abilities to spot potential incidents of fraud.”

Accelerator programme to focus on the future NatWest bank has relaunched its ‘Accelerator’ programme, in a bid to help small to medium businesses (SMEs) recover from the coronavirus crisis. The bank has been running this programme for more than six years, from its Entrepreneurial Hub in Birmingham where it has supported hundreds of businesses to develop and grow. The relaunch focuses on four specialised programmes for business sectors that NatWest says will be ‘key to the future economy’. The four programmes are for high growth businesses, as well was climate, fintech, and purpose-led businesses. Josh Winfield, regional ecosystem manager for NatWest in the Midlands said: “As the economy continues to recover, it’s absolutely vital that we support businesses to develop and grow. These tailored Accelerator programmes will bring together likeminded businesses to receive peer support, monthly coaching and access to our Entrepreneurial Hubs to collaborate.”

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skills agenda

post-covid By Lee Moore, director of Business Development, Open College Network West Midlands ‘Workers also need their employers to provide high quality on-the-job development and support’

s the country, indeed the whole world, grapples with the impact of Covid-19, education and skills have perhaps never been so important. The future health and fortunes of the economy will, to a large extent, be determined by the strength and pace of a skills led economic recovery that will inevitably require a workforce to up-skill and re-skill into new careers and into the new and emerging jobs of the future.


The new Government initiative Lifetime Skills Guarantee, that was launched in April of this year, is testimony to the direction of travel that policy makers are now on in recognising the renewed importance of lifelong learning. This will offer tens of thousands of adults the opportunity to retrain later in life, helping them to gain indemand skills that will open up new job opportunities. The Government’s Industrial Strategy, combined with the

regional and local economic growth plans flowing from the newly formed Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCA’s), is also presenting significant new opportunities for workforce development and skills, not least because each MCA has identified their own regional skills priorities and developed their own regional Skills Plans. These are supported by local FE colleges, employers and other training providers in meeting local skills needs. July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 51

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Workforce Development

For national Awarding Organisations that develop and award the regulated qualifications that are delivered to learners by colleges and other providers, there is a challenge to ensure that qualification development can meet the needs of employers in an ever changing and diverse workplace. Regulated qualifications can change lives; in fact, they can transform lives and communities through the opportunities and learning pathways for personal progression, further learning and entry into the world of work they create. As a national and international awarding organisation

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based in the West Midlands, Open College Network West Midlands is at the forefront of innovative new qualification development with our delivery partners, including on-line learning to help widen participation and increase opportunities. We see workforce development as an ongoing process of educating and empowering workers so that they can tackle the workplace problems of tomorrow. As a nation there is growing realisation that GB PLC needs to improve productivity. Workers also need their employers to provide high quality on-the-job development and support. Quite

simply, training your people to be more confident and skilled managers and operatives, will have a positive impact on your organisation’s productivity. The current drive on the new Apprenticeship Standards is certainly intended to improve workbased learning and to equip employees with the right knowledge, skills and behaviours for particular roles, and this is a good thing in terms of having a defined career pathway. Most jobs will have a particular skill set and focus linked to the role, but effective workforce development should also ensure that workers can

acquire and develop transferable skills in the event that they need to change roles or even move into completely new industry sectors. What many people don’t always realise is that as we progress through the world of work we develop a great variety of skills; from management and communication, teamwork to project work, office skills to decision-making, IT, commercial awareness and negotiation. These are all essential to ensure the workforce is adaptable and responsive to the inevitable and ongoing change in the modern world of work.

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Workforce Development


Working in partnership with employers and providers to develop the skills businesses need 4 4 4 4

Open College Network West Midlands can work with you to: Quality endorse your organisations existing training delivery programmes Develop bespoke qualifications to meet your particular skill needs Develop and accredit customised training units to meet bespoke skill needs Accredit any existing internal training delivery programmes

Get in touch with us today!

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Five ways to get your employee wellbeing strategy right By David McCormack (pictured), CEO of employee benefits and outsourced payroll specialist, HIVE360 he workplace and working practices as a whole, have undergone 18-months of disruption, but as the new normal begins to stabilise, ensuring your people are happy in the workplace, feel supported and less likely to leave, is essential to ensure business continuity, productivity and sustainability. With new research revealing that in fact nine out of 10 (89 per cent) workers in the UK are looking or thinking about looking for a new job in 2021, and over three-quarters (77 per cent) already actively searching, businesses must visibly demonstrate that they value their employees and care about supporting their wellbeing. Indeed, prioritising staff wellbeing is central to retaining and attracting employees as businesses emerge from disruptions caused by the pandemic, as a new report from


Gallagher confirms, and highlights the need for UK employers to enhance their benefits packages and improve internal communications. Employee wellbeing is fast becoming a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ for employers and their talent attraction and retention strategies, as growing number of workers actively seek a more positive work/life balance and employer support to achieve it. It’s encouraging that the vast majority of businesses are acting on this, with 91 per cent of UK companies confirming they have employee wellbeing initiatives in place. For these companies, there are many benefits of improving employee wellbeing support with a robust and competitive rewards programme boosting employee engagement, morale, productivity, job satisfaction and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line.

Top five benefits Key benefits to include in your employee wellbeing strategy to boost retention and stand out as an employer in a crowded marketplace, are:

1. Mental and physical health support For many, the stress of the last 18 months is beginning to take its toll, with presenteeism, ‘technostress’ and burnout on the rise, and many working longer hours. Employers have a duty of care to ensure their workers are healthy, and this has never been more important as we work towards fully emerging out of lockdown. Recent user data for our customisable engagement app Engage, which delivers dynamic employee benefits, recorded a 70 per cent increase in employee demand for GP support in lockdown three. Having 24/7 access to confidential physical and mental health support and advice, not just now, but on an ongoing basis, is key to fostering wellbeing and to counter the onset of stress and health issues.

2. Gym memberships and lifestyle discounts With 70 per cent of adults in England wanting to become fitter and healthier, employee benefits that make this easy and affordable are topping the list of perks used by the country’s workforce. Employers can help encourage healthier lifestyles and facilitate a better work/life experience for their employees by offering gym memberships, retail and other lifestyle benefits.

3. Flexible working opportunities

The Wellbeing Centre on HIVE360’s

Covid-19 opened the floodgates to a customisable mobile app, Engage remote working revolution and, whilst many are ready to return to the office for much-needed social interaction, it has proved that workers can be just as productive at home as in the office. Businesses are therefore adapting, offering a hybrid way of working, and including flexible working opportunities in your benefits and rewards solutions will be relevant and innovative and even something existing and prospective employees may expect.

4. Workforce training and development To put it simply, employee training is an integral part of any benefits strategy. It can open workers up to new experiences, make them feel valued, and increase overall productivity. Having in-house promotion systems within a benefits system is a good solution. The more extensive and accessible training opportunities are, the more likely they’ll be to improve the effectiveness of a company’s employee rewards programme.

5. Rewards and recognition It’s easy to overlook, but employee recognition has a huge impact on staff wellbeing, job satisfaction and loyalty. Whether this be an e-card recognition system to say thank you to employees, or a monetary reward to show appreciation for a department’s good work, acknowledgement of employee accomplishments shows a company and its management team cares about and values its workers and their efforts. 54 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

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Connecting The Midlands

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Connecting The Midlands


Infrastructure scheme will have a rail impact Midlands Engine Rail is an infrastructure programme designed to boost capacity and improve journey times across the region’s rail network. Transport body Midlands Connect says delivering the win-win project will also create and safeguard 3,500 jobs and have wide-ranging environmental as well as economic benefits. igures released by transport body Midlands Connect suggest that over 3,500 jobs could be created and safeguarded by the full delivery of Midlands Engine Rail, an infrastructure programme aimed at increasing rail capacity and securing faster and more regular journeys for passengers across the Midlands region. The analysis, completed by NSA research, shows that 2,880 jobs will be safeguarded by the delivery of this nationally-significant project, with 720 new roles created. The findings were outlined at a recent Midlands COP online event, which focused on how the region can decarbonise its transport network and support sustainable growth in jobs and the economy. Composed of seven schemes, including the flagship Midlands Rail Hub, which was identified as a priority by Government in its 2019 Manifesto, Midlands Engine Rail will deliver 736 extra passenger services a day, with over 60 stations across the UK set to benefit from faster, more frequent and/or new rail services. The other projects that make up Midlands Engine Rail include; Birmingham Airport Connectivity, a


scheme to enhance national rail connectivity to Coventry and Birmingham International stations; plans for faster and more frequent trains on the BirminghamBlack Country-Shrewsbury corridor; improvements on the Nottingham-Newark-Lincoln line and the reintroduction of direct rail links between Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham. Giving travellers the means to leave their cars at home is crucial in the fight against climate change; in total, Midlands Engine Rail will add 30 million passenger seats on the railway each year. The project will also create space for over a million lorries’ worth of cargo to be transported on the railways each year, rather than by road. Moving goods in this way produces 78 per cent less CO2. Infrastructure investment has been identified as an important tool in stimulating social, environmental and economic benefits as we look to mitigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and meet the target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. Commenting on the research, Midlands Connect chairman Sir John Peace said: “Midlands Connect is working in partnership with Government to

‘Midlands Engine Rail will add 30 million passenger seats on the railway each year’

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deliver a transport network fit for the future, and to build back better after Covid-19. “What’s really positive about Midlands Engine Rail is that as well as boosting train travel, by creating 30 million extra passenger seats every year, it will also create and safeguard thousands of jobs. “This series of projects will create a construction and engineering boom that will support critical sectors of the economy and protect skilled jobs. As we look to meet the challenge of climate change, speed the route to carbon neutrality and promote growth, it’s essential that we encourage our communities to reduce their car miles and travel sustainably. “That is why today Midlands Connect is holding a free all-day event to talk about the transport challenges the region faces in this climate emergency, and how best to meet them.

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“We are awaiting the release of the Integrated Rail Plan to understand Government’s rail priorities in the Midlands, but our research is clear: this investment in our region would be worth every single penny.” Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The transport benefits from the Midlands Engine Rail proposals, particularly the Midlands Rail Hub, have always been clear – more train journeys, a betterconnected region, and reduced carbon emissions. But now for the first time we’re also able to see the impact these proposals will have on jobs in the region. “We know we must redouble our efforts to promote jobs growth across the West Midlands given the damage the pandemic has caused, which is why I have a plan to create 100,000 jobs in just two years. To do this we must make the most of proposals that not only safeguard existing jobs, but create new ones too.”

Sir John Peace

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Sector Focus

Business Travel

Sector Focus The latest news from the sectors that matter to business Driver shortage hits crisis level The Road Haulage Association (RHA) says that a shortage of HGV drivers in the UK has now hit crisis level. The organisation says that the long predicted issue has now hit catastrophic proportions and the organisation has now published a 12-point plan to tackle the situation. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “The upturn in the economy since Covid-19 is increasing demand across supply chains and the reopening of non-essential retail outlets and parts of the hospitality sector is making the situation even worse. “The pandemic also resulted in the loss of about 12 months of driver training and testing. We need Government to act and address the driver shortage for the industry and the drivers. “While we welcome the increase in HGV apprenticeship funding to £7,000, this barely scratches the surface of the problem.”

Major funding boost for 5G transportation projects Six projects exploring the benefits and applications of 5G technology in the transport sector have been awarded a share of a £1.6m investment fund. 5G is the latest standard in digital telecommunications, and is related to the speed at which data can travel on cellular networks. Not surprisingly, it will replace the country’s 4G networks, which are slower. West Midlands 5G (WM5G) and Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is part of the West Midlands Combined authority (WMCA), have partnered to award funding for the development and deployment of 5Genabled innovations that will boost road, rail and bus usage across the region.

‘These innovative projects will explore how 5G can make public transport better for both passengers and staff’ These range from autonomous information robots at Birmingham New Street station to solutions using smart camera systems that will help manage overcrowding on buses. Others include the use of connected technology and smart sensors to quickly identify track and power line defects on the region’s rail and tram networks.

These projects will be tested in the region during the next 12 months. Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: "The idea of robots roaming railway stations and assisting passengers might sound like science fiction, but it could soon be a reality thanks to the government investing up to £20m in West Midlands 5G. "These innovative projects will explore how 5G can make public transport better for both passengers and staff, including by making it easier for disabled people to travel, reducing overcrowding on buses and detecting hazards on the railways." West Midlands mayor Andy Street said: “Once again the West Midlands is at the forefront of 5G technology and the cutting edge of transport innovation. From 5G robots at New Street Station, to 5G camera systems helping manage overcrowding on buses, all six of these projects to win our funding will help improve the region’s transport network. “By the end of this year, WM5G will have nearly 20 projects coming to completion in the transport area alone – which shows just how critical it was that we got ahead of the game with this ground-breaking technology and won the right to be the UK’s first regional 5G testbed back in 2018. “5G is far more than just quicker streaming of movies, and these projects will show the difference the technology can make to people’s everyday lives across the West Midlands.”

Green list Gibraltar route is back in business One of the routes operated out of Birmingham by the now defunct Monarch airline has been brought back to life. The route is between the Midlands and Gibraltar, on the tip of Spain. It has been reinstated by Eastern Airways, after a gap of four years. Eastern Airways is a small operator based at Humberside Airport. The airline’s parent company is Bristow Helicopters, and it currently has a fleet mainly made up of BAe Jetstreams and various Embraer models. The Gibraltar service will be operated on the airline’s Embraer E-Jet fleet. The service will be twice-weekly. Roger Hage, general manager for Eastern Airways, said: “What a welcome sign of summer and return to enjoying the sun in the Mediterranean this first service from Birmingham to Gibraltar marks. “Being on the green list of destinations with a wealth of 60 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Take-off: Graham Roberts (Eastern Airways), Roger Hage and Tom Screen

quality hotels, beaches, watersports and heritage, this British overseas territory offers an exciting short-break destination aside from its role in UK business.”

Vijay Daryanani MP, Minister for Business, Tourism, Transport and the Port for Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar said: “We warmly welcome Eastern

Airways new service, opening up another catchment area for Gibraltar. The service will be another boost to our tourism and business communities.”

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Local economy set to rebound in the summer A combination of Covid restrictions lifting, pent-up consumer demand, accumulated excess savings and a range of government incentives are expected to spark a strong lift-off for the West Midlands economy this summer. This will see the region’s gross domestic product (GDP) grow by a massive 9.5 per cent in 2021 (up from 8.9 per cent forecast in September 2020) and 6.4 per cent in 2022, allowing the economy to reach its preCovid level by the end of the year, according to the latest analysis in KPMG’s UK Economic Outlook. KPMG says the sharp contraction the West Midlands suffered last year was mainly caused by falls in the wholesale and retail trade, although as manufacturing operations were not restricted after the first lockdown, recovery was able to begin quickly.

‘Locally we’ve seen a notable uptick in performance within the manufacturing industry’ However, the longer-term outlook for the manufacturing sector remains uncertain, largely due to the ongoing impact of Brexit on automotive manufacturing, and the West Midlands’ post-pandemic economy is expected to be more reliant on the region’s growing IT and financial services sectors. The outlook for all regions and nations of the UK is one of a recovery in both 2021 and 2022, although at varying speed, with strongest growth expected in the West Midlands, London and the East of England. This reflects the uneven impact of the pandemic across sectors and regions, with a relatively quick bounce-back in manufacturing leading much of the early gains in output. However, as the economy re-opens and restrictions lift, the shift towards a services-based economy will resume across most of the UK.

Karl Edge: Manufacturing ‘uptick’

Karl Edge, Birmingham office senior partner and Midlands regional chairman, said: “Our forecast shows that the pace of economic recovery for the West Midlands has picked up speed, with the region leading the way with the highest projected growth of any UK region for 2021. “Whilst the focus for the last year has largely been on resilience and recovery, businesses have also sought growth where possible, and locally we’ve seen a notable uptick in performance within the manufacturing industry. “Our local IT and financial services sectors are also gaining traction and we expect to see further growth supported by these sectors going forwards. “As restrictions continue to ease, I believe that the Midlands has a bright outlook ahead as an attractive place to live, study, work and visit, being wholly supported by a range of quality businesses, educational institutions, vibrant communities and milestone events like the Commonwealth Games 2022 and Coventry as the UK’s City of Culture 2021.”

Region still an attractive proposition for investors

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The West Midlands’ attractiveness as an investment destination proved resilient amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with the region seeing only a slight decline in projects and an increase in its share of the UK market in 2020, according to the EY 2021 UK Attractiveness Survey. The West Midlands secured 61 inbound Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects in 2020, down 4.7 per cent from the 64 achieved in 2019. This was a much smaller contraction than the 12 per cent decline in overall UK projects (from 1,109 to 975) and the 13 per cent decline in overall European projects (from 6,412 to 5,578). The good performance relative to the rest of the country helped propel the West Midlands’ share of UK projects from 5.8 per cent to 6.3 per cent. The region secured the fifth highest number of projects among all UK regions and nations in 2020 – maintaining its 2019 ranking.

London secured the most projects in the country with 383. The West Midlands’ top sector was digital technology, which saw 11 projects in the region in 2020, slightly down on the 13 in 2019 – a decline in line with UK trends. The next largest sectors were transportation manufacture and supply with nine projects (down from 13), agri-food with seven (up from six), machinery and equipment with seven (down from 13) and business services with four projects (up from three). Projects were most likely to involve sales and services activities (29 projects, up from 23 in 2019). Meanwhile, manufacturing activities have seen a continuous decline in the West Midlands over the last four years, and although there were 11 manufacturing projects in 2020, this is significantly below the 2015 high point of 38. Logistics activities doubled from five projects in 2019 to 10 in 2020.

Simon O’Neill, office managing partner at EY in the Midlands, said: “Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the West Midlands delivered a positive year for FDI in 2020. The impact of both the pandemic and the UK’s departure from the EU can be seen in how some of the region’s key sectors and activities have performed too, particularly the big increase in logistics projects as businesses in the West Midlands have reacted quickly to the changes around them.” Birmingham was the West Midlands’ leading location for FDI projects and the only place in the region to feature in the top 10 UK towns and cities, having secured 26 projects in 2020 – a figure above its ten-year average of 19.4. This put the city in fourth position for all UK towns and cities, behind London (383), Edinburgh (36) and Manchester (35). Coventry recorded 10 projects, the joint 12th highest figure in the country.

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Sector Focus

Firm has something to Crowe about The Midlands office of national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe has supported 14 deals worth £112m in the past 12 months. The corporate finance team led by partner Andy Kay and including associate director Chasz Coulsting and managers Jason Daft and Phoebe Turner, provides advice and transaction support services to management teams, owner-managed businesses and private companies. Mr Kay said: “Despite the challenging circumstances created by the pandemic, corporate finance activity in the Midlands has remained busy, and I would like to pay tribute not only to my Crowe colleagues, but also fellow professionals in other advisory firms, who have all pulled together in trying conditions to facilitate these deals.” Key deals in the past year include acting for Newman and Spurr on the sale of the business to Qinetiq plc and providing transaction support to Grandeco on its acquisition of Holden Decor. The Crowe team also advised Inspiration Care during the company’s acquisition by Choice Care, and acted for a 25 strong local pharmacy chain on its multimillion pound merger with an industry consolidator. Mr Kay added: “As mid-market specialists, we are ideally placed to advise on mergers and acquisitions, disposals, management buy-outs and fundraising.

Ideally placed: Andy Kay

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we have also been instrumental in helping our clients obtain funding support, with a constantly updated flowchart that provided a unique real time guide to what was available, how to access it and the tax and cashflow implications going forward. “We continue to support our clients as the economy begins to emerge from lockdown and will be advising on opportunities for growth, whether organically or via the mergers and acquisitions route. “While many businesses have struggled in the past 15 months, others have been able to maintain an even keel and build a strong balance sheet which will prove to be an invaluable war chest to capitalise on opportunities to develop both market share and product and service capabilities and capacity as they occur.”

Credit where it’s due As the government bans on key debt enforcement actions expires, West Midlands businesses should seize the initiative and start conversations with their creditors over arrears built up during the pandemic. This is according to the Midlands branch of insolvency and restructuring trade body R3, which says that any rush by creditors to recover what they are owed too quickly might force the companies which owe them money out of business. R3 Midlands chairman Eddie Williams (pictured), a partner at PwC in Birmingham, believes that constructive and honest conversations between groups such as suppliers and customers, and businesses and the taxman will be vital to businesses’ prospects of continuing to trade and to wider economic recovery. He said: “Businesses have built up debt over the pandemic for very understandable reasons, so it will be important for them to have productive and frank discussions with those to whom they owe money about the best way to proceed. “Creditors who stubbornly insist on imposing unrealistic debt repayment plans may well find that this is far from the best way to recover their funds, and that a little cooperation will go a long way towards securing longer-term repayments.”

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Sector Focus


Sponsored by: NTS Communications

Partnership will deliver first-class cyber security Making contact As a business owner, you may be looking to implement new ways of working this summer. Maybe you have agreed for employees to work in the office on some days and at home on others. Or maybe you are moving your business away from a face-to-face model, to a much greater reliance on a contact centre and you need to increase the number of agents? Perhaps you need to set up a call centre from scratch? However your business is changing, you may be wondering if you have to invest in new technology. There are many excellent contact centre systems on the market but you may not want to make a major investment. At NTS Communications we have many years’ experience setting up contact centres for clients in all sectors and we understand the challenges. Right now we are working with a number of clients implementing an easy-to-use, complete contact centre solution using cloud technology. This software can overlay your existing telephony system and is able to adapt to your changing needs. Companies can turn agent seats on and off as needed and avoid the hassle of maintaining infrastructure. This solution is perfect for smaller businesses looking to use technology to be competitive in a changing market and works for inbound or outbound calls, or a combination of both. If you are looking to upgrade your business communications and improve your customer interaction without a big investment, please get in touch: Alan Pallett and Steve Ward Directors, NTS Communications Promoting Growth Through Technology Specialists in Unified Comms, Contact Centres, Cloud T: 0345 450 0333 E: W:

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METCloud and Cygilant have joined forces to help businesses gain access to some of the best cyber surveillance technology on the market. This new partnership will improve security capabilities for METCloud clients with the integration of software such as LogPoint, SentinelOne and Qualys. This software helps firms detect threats more swiftly, respond and mediate as well as gain an understanding of a threat risk and priorities when fixing cyber vulnerabilities. The robust suite of services will be provided through Cygilant’s UK-based Security Operations Centre (SOC) that provides users dedicated 24/7 support.

‘With more than six million SMEs in the UK making up 99 per cent of the economy, there is a bigger pool for cyber criminals to infiltrate’ The threat of cyber attacks can be costly - last year British businesses paid the sixth-highest total ransom to cyber attackers which amounted to a total of more than £200m “Ransomware attacks often make news when they hit big organisations like the recent Colonial Pipeline hack,” said Ian Vickers, METCloud chief executive. “In reality, small-medium businesses are often targets of perpetrators as well and they don’t make the headlines. With more than six million SMEs in the UK making up 99 per cent of the economy, there is a bigger pool for cyber criminals to infiltrate and if successful, they can cripple entire businesses. “METCloud’s experience in working with smallmedium enterprises has the team attuned to the cybersecurity challenges faced by businesses today. We are also sensitive to the fact that regardless of business size, it is the lifeblood of the owner and

Ian Vickers: Partnership can help firms stay protected from cyber crime

their teams. This is why we are committed to making state-of-the-art cyber secure cloud solutions through use of AI/ML available and attainable to SMEs.” Cygilant CEO Rob Scott said: “We’re excited to launch our UK partner program with METCloud, one of the most innovative cybersecurity companies in the UK and Europe. “METCloud and Cygilant will offer enterprise-grade protection for businesses that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford or manage it.” Mr Vickers added: “We are incredibly proud to be the first UK partner for Cygilant. As providers within the cybersecurity sector, we are equally committed to safeguarding the cybersecurity interest of businesses through innovation and collaboration.”

Workplace accolade for telecom firm Intercity Technology has been awarded a coveted Two Star Accreditation by Best Companies in recognition of ‘Outstanding levels of Workplace Engagement’. The award is the second highest standard of workplace engagement. The firm, based in Birmingham, came ninth in Best Companies’ ‘Top Telecoms Businesses to Work for’, 50th in the top UK Mid-Sized Businesses and 19th in the ‘Best Companies to work for in the Midlands’. Andrew Jackson, CEO at Intercity Technology, said: “The awarding of the Two Star Accreditation is a testament and acknowledgement of the fantastic work and efforts the Intercity team has delivered over the past 12 months and the value we place on our colleagues.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed by how the whole business has come together to support colleagues as well as our customers during what has been an extremely challenging year for everyone. “As part of our vision to be known as the best technology partner to work for and with, we not only have some fantastic talent right across the business but also have developed some exciting initiatives to support that talent. “From our management academy and CPD workshops, to colleague recognition schemes and an adapted approach to our community outreach programmes, we have continued to provide development opportunities to our colleagues during this time. “Through initiatives like these and

clear company objectives through our integrated business plan, we have ensured that not only do our colleagues live and breathe our company vision but also have the tools available to them to support their own continued personal and professional development.” The Best Companies award highlights the advances the company has made to its colleague development programmes and engagement strategy over the past year and also acknowledges the adaptations made during the pandemic to ensure the continuation of support for colleagues and partners. Best Companies is an employee engagement specialist which provides accreditation for workplace engagement.

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Sector Focus Food giants unite for plastic project

A hint of normality amid long road to recovery events, festivals and conferences As I write this on 21 June, today in the weeks to come. It has felt should have been freedom day where liberating to be able to get back remaining road map restrictions were out, meet friends and family removed. again, raise a glass and break Unfortunately, due to the bread. progression of the Delta variant, the To get a bit of normal back. Government have decided they need While we are slowly returning more time to study the impact on this to some normality, the road to rise in infections and give the vaccine recovery is long. programme a few more weeks to The Government’s bill for further minimise risk. It is supporting businesses through disappointing but understandable. I hope, that by the time this article the pandemic is still growing By Tony Elvin goes to print, restrictions will have and it is critical that this support president of Solihull Chamber and been finally removed or we’re very continues. general manager of Touchwood close to it. Right now that support is With that uncertainty in the air, we starting to diminish but decided it was too early to bring back the hospitality and retail businesses are not ready to Touchwood beach. bounce back just yet. Capacity in venues is understandably still clipped, retail sales and footfall, It’s probably not the best idea to have hundreds of whilst more buoyant than last year, are some way children all playing in the same giant sand box just behind 2019 levels and, as we know, the industry is yet, but that doesn’t mean the summer is a write-off experiencing huge staffing shortages. and we’ve got a full programme of activities planned The travel industry too is on the brink of disaster including outdoor crazy golf, trails around the centre, with a frustrating traffic light system and very little family friendly entertainment and blockbuster movie support from government. releases to look forward to. So, we must keep the life support on for a bit Since reopening, Cineworld has been comfortably longer, helping these businesses return to profit busy. They even ran out of popcorn over that first whilst servicing the debt they are carrying from a weekend such was the unexpected rush to see Peter very difficult year. That will mean more people in Rabbit 2. A far cry from their reopening back in June work and therefore more people spending. of last year when a showing of Tenet felt more like an We can all help by shopping in shops and dining in exclusive private cinema experience. restaurants. A holiday feels overdue so let’s book one Thankfully this is another sign that life is starting to of those when we can too. Getting back to a bit of return to normal. We’ve been able to shop in nonnormal can be the perfect tonic for our economy if essential stores for a couple of months now, dine in we choose carefully where to spend it. for a whole month and, fingers crossed, can return to

Retail Therapy

Retailers urge credit scheme extension The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) is calling for an extension in the government’s trade credit reinsurance scheme. Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre (pictured) said the removal of the scheme at the end of June could not come at a worse time for independent retailers. BIRA said research of its members had confirmed that they remained concerned about the end of the scheme. The scheme was introduced to cover those offering insurance on

trade transactions, and was brought in during the coronavirus crisis when traders could no longer get this type of insurance. Mr Goodacre said: “Despite the claim that there is a positive economic outlook and no need for this scheme, we have to recognise that any recovery for the so-called ‘non-essential’ retailers is very fragile. “Trade credit is crucial to retail, especially with footfall still 35 per cent below normal levels and restrictions still in place.

“Removal of this scheme at this moment in time is unnecessary. “"Most retailers who have been closed for eight or nine months over the past year will now be submitting accounts showing losses and increased debt. The danger is that the insurers will assess this risk and reduce or even remove credit. “We experienced this while the scheme was in place, and fear for the worst once the scheme is closed. “Our research suggests that 50 per cent of our members agree with us. When businesses are trying to re-build their livelihoods, the last thing they need is loss of credit.”

Four of the UK’s biggest food companies, together with consumer goods giant Unilever, have joined forces in a new plastic recycling project. The four are Mars UK, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Cadbury-owner Mondelez. The £1m project – the Flexible Plastic Fund – is aimed at improving the recycling of plastic by making sure more of it is treated in this way, thus reducing pollution. The Fund will guarantee a minimum value of £100 per tonne of recycled product to incentivise recyclers to process flexible plastic. It thus hopes that the more plastic that is recycled, the more it will attract new investment and jobs to those involved. Louise Stigant (pictured), Mondelez’s UK managing director, said: “Making our snacks sustainably and in the right way is at the heart of our purpose. “Increasing the recyclability of our products and creating a circular economy so our packaging stays within the economy and not the environment is a priority for us. “The Flexible Plastics Fund is an important step to ensuring packaging is collected, sorted and recycled in the UK.”

Mailbox to stage dragon boat race Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity is set to host its inaugural Dragon Boat Race at Mailbox on 25 September. The race will see 23 boats compete against one another, with many of Birmingham’s biggest businesses set to take part. Each team of 16 will participate in a series of 200m races, which will end with one of them being declared the overall winner. Helen Miles, the charity’s corporate fundraising manager, said: “We’re so excited to be holding our first ever Dragon Boat race this year and thrilled that it will be staged in such an iconic Birmingham location. “Mailbox provides the perfect backdrop and we can’t wait to see it filled with our fantastic supporters, rowing to raise vital funds for our patients.” David Pardoe, head of retail, marketing and tenant engagement at the Mailbox, said: “We’re proud to be playing a part in fundraising for such a fantastic cause.” July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 67

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Sector Focus


Pandemic fails to dent law firm growth

Stephen Rosser: Pandemic was ‘unprecedented’

Law firm Clarke Willmott has seen its turnover shoot up by 2.5 per cent in the past year, to £53 million. This is despite the effects of the coronavirus, which the firm’s chief executive, Stephen Rosser, described as ‘unprecedented’. He said: “In unprecedented circumstances for the firm, our clients and the world as a whole, I am delighted with the excellent response of our team. “Our culture has always been recognised as being highly collegiate and supportive, in 2020 this really came to the fore. “There are many lessons from the pandemic, but the biggest for Clarke Willmott is the ability and willingness of our staff to adapt and to adopt new flexible ways of working, supporting each other and also our clients,” commented Rosser. “Our future is one that sees us committed to growth. This will continue to be based on excellent service for our clients, delivered by a team of lawyers and support staff who will operate on a fully flexible basis. “Other than for a few specific roles, our people will be encouraged to work where they can best deliver for our clients. If they want and need to be in the office, they can be. Equally if they can get their best work delivered by working remotely, then they will be supported in doing so if they wish.” During the pandemic, the firm surveyed staff about home working, and found that

Anna Cartledge

most of them (70 per cent) have welcomed the opportunity to work flexibly. However, some ten per cent of the firm’s staff did not enjoy the experience, primarily because of a preference for working in an office environment – although a massive 90 per cent said they wanted to carry on with remote working in some form or other.

‘If they can get their best work delivered by working remotely, then they will be supported in doing so’ Mr Rosser said: “As we look to the future we have been turning our minds to further supporting our staff to deliver their best performance. In addition to general management support, we have provided a range of broader initiatives including wellbeing activities such as online yoga and Zwift cycling sessions, art club, cream tea events and a coffee club that connects staff members across teams and offices for an informal get together.” The firm has also rewarded staff for their hard work with a two per cent bonus for all staff in addition to the firm’s usual bonus and pay review processes, an additional ‘bank holiday’ to coincide with the easing of lockdown and gifts including a luxury hamper.

Julie Russell

Appointees planning for the future Law firm Shakespeare Martineau has hired two new property specialists in the Midlands. They are legal planning partner Anna Cartledge, and legal planning legal director Julie Russell. Anna Cartledge, based in Birmingham, has more than 15 years’ experience in legal planning, compulsory purchase and highways law, acting for a variety of clients. She has a particular interest in heritage issues and has advised a number of local authorities and private sector developers on various listed building consents. Legal director Julie Russell has joined the firm’s Leicester office and has more than 14 years’ experience, working on all aspects of legal planning, development and infrastructure work. She has particular experience in dealing with nationally significant infrastructure projects. She also regularly deals with planning enforcement, public rights of ways issues, planning

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appeals, planning due diligence on site acquisitions and challenges to planning permissions. Anna Cartledge said: “I am very much looking forward to being part of such a highly regarded and market leading planning team, full of supportive people who want to work together to flourish and grow the business. There is a real energy and sense of dynamism across the firm as a whole.” Alex Smith, managing director of Shakespeare’s infrastructure and specialist markets business unit, said: “From small listed buildings to large development projects, planning is a complex area law and it requires specialist knowledge, both Anna and Julie have great expertise and are well-placed to advise clients across the Midlands and nationally.” Anna and Julie’s appointments follow a raft of announcements including 13 internal promotions, six appointments in Milton Keynes and a further two in the East Midlands.

HCR advises on major acquisitions Law firm Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ (HCR) Wye Valley corporate team has advised financial services firm Tavistock Investments Plc on the sale of Tavistock Wealth Limited to Titan Wealth Services Ltd for £40m. HCR has also acted for Tavistock on the acquisition of the advisory business of Chater Allan Financial Services LLP for around £1.6m. Tavistock is an AIM-listed company offering independent financial advice and institutional quality investment management services to more than 30,000 clients across the UK. The HCR corporate team has advised Tavistock on various acquisitions in the past. The sale of its investment management arm will provide Tavistock with the funds needed to support a planned acquisition programme. HCR’s team on the latest deals was led by Jennifer Staples, who said: “It’s always good to help a longstanding client to achieve their growth plans and it was particularly interesting on this occasion to advise on a major disposal.” Tavistock chairman Oliver Cooke said: “Being supported by a firstclass team of lawyers takes a great deal of stress out of the process.” Harrison Clark Rickerbys has more than 780 staff and partners based at 12 offices in the UK.

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Sector Focus

Solicitors’ busy year of corporate activity Thursfields Solicitors has recorded its busiest-ever 12 months of corporate activity, providing legal guidance on 29 deals worth a total of more than £125 million. Gareth Burge, director and head of corporate at the firm, said that he and his team had coped with the hectic period despite the covid crisis. Mr Burge said: “The last 12 months have been our busiest ever, and the team has worked incredibly hard to ensure all projects were finished to our usual high quality. “During the pandemic, we completed a total of 29 deals worth over £125 million and consolidated our position as a leading legal adviser to the owner managed business and SME market. As we start our new financial year, we look forward with real optimism. The local mergers and acquisitions market is looking increasingly buoyant and we have some fantastic new deals in the pipeline.” Deals which Thursfields worked on last year have included advising shareholders on the sale of technology specialists CloudThing to Kerv, the sale of PCMS Eng Group to the British Engineering Services Group, and the sale of CJN Insurance to The County Group. Meanwhile, Thursfields advised creative agency DRPG on its acquisition of screen content specialists A-Vision UK, and advised Tenn Holdings on the acquisition of data company National Business Register. The company also advised the management team of technology firm Smartbox on their joint acquisition of Smartbox with social care company Caretech plc. Mr Burge added: “These are just a few examples of the complex deals which have seen us all busy in the last 12 months, and where we have helped clients to successfully complete their deals.” Working with Mr Burge on the 29 deals were corporate director Tim Edwards, corporate and commercial director Philip Chapman, corporate associate director Fiona Boxwell, corporate associate solicitor Joe Rollins and corporate solicitor Reece De-Vaney.

Promoted: Gemma Whitchurch (left) and Kim Hopkins

Duo promoted to key roles at Sydney Mitchell Sydney Mitchell, which has offices in Birmingham and Solihull, has made two senior promotions. The firm has promoted Gemma Whitchurch to senior associate and Kim Hopkins to senior legal executive. The former is a family lawyer who has helped clients on all aspects of family law from divorce, finances, children matters, adoption, surrogacy, pre-nuptial agreements, cohabitation, domestic violence and emergency remedies. During the last 12 months she has worked on numerous cases where domestic abuse is an issue.

She is an LGBTQ community ally and has represented clients on same sex marriage/dissolution and in complex children matters. Kim Hopkins is a key member of the private client team and assists on a wide variety of matters including the administration of estates and the preparation of wills and powers of attorney. Sydney Mitchell senior partner Karen Moores, said: “I thank Gemma and Kim for their hard work and determination and contribution to the business. During the last 12 months everyone has gone that extra mile for their clients and the firm.”

While many key-worker employees have stoically continued to attend their normal workplaces throughout the Covid pandemic, many employees have been furloughed, or working at home for over a year. With the gradual release of lockdown, employers should now be turning their thoughts to the “new normal” and how they are going to manage the “return to the workplace”. But what are the legal implications? It is inevitable that as soon as the government’s dictat of work from home if you can is lifted employers will be at the receiving end of requests to continue working at home for some or all of the time. A request to be based at home is effectively a flexible working request. Employers can agree to such a request on an informal basis, but it is still advisable to clearly document the terms of such arrangement going forward. If you are going to deal with the request as a formal flexible working request, you can only decline it for one or more of eight ‘permitted reasons’. This could be tricky given the fact that people have been working from home relatively successfully for months.

Remember too that the employee’s reason for wanting to work at home is not relevant to your considerations – the focus is on the impact to the business. Employers may also have to deal with those who continue to be fearful of the Covid risk. Much has been talked about of the right for employees to stay away from work (on full pay) if they have a reasonable belief that their health will be endangered by doing so. However, as long as the employer has taken all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of Covid transmission and has clearly communicated what these measures are to its workforce, it is arguably difficult for an employee to demonstrate that their belief in the danger the workplace poses is reasonable.

Can you insist on mandatory vaccinations before allowing people to return?

Thursfields have built our reputation by providing timely and practical advice to our clients.

Probably not, except in very limited circumstances. However, employers should certainly encourage the employees to take the jab unless they have a good reason not to do so. It is perhaps more reasonable to insist on regular testing. Employers can access lateral flow tests for use by employees and many do now require twice-weekly testing as a pre-requisite for being permitted into the workplace. This is arguably a reasonable instruction given that the “greater good” is likely to be given precedence over individual inconvenience.

We will tailor our approach to suit you and take your instructions in whatever way best suits you – by phone, video conference or in person at our Birmingham, Solihull, Worcester, Kidderminster or Halesowen offices. We have an excellent team of specialist employment solicitors to advise you on work-related issues, always seeking the best solution for both employers and employees.

If you would like more information, please contact: Helena Morrissey at Thursfields Solicitors on:

0345 20 73 72 8 or:

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Sector Focus Eviction ban goes on for unpaid rent A ban on landlords evicting firms for unpaid commercial rent has been extended for another nine months. The ruling, which stops landlords taking tenants to court for nonpayment, was due to end on 30 June. An extension was announced by Treasury Secretary Stephen Barclay, who said the delay in easing lockdown restrictions presented additional challenges to business. Chamber head of policy Raj Kandola said: “The extension of the current scheme will come as a huge relief to commercial tenants up and down the country that have been knocked sideways by the pandemic and have faced crippling overheads. “We are also pleased to see the Government is committed to striking a balance between protecting landlords and supporting those businesses that need the most help. “As early analysis from our latest Quarterly Business Report shows, firms are still facing major issues related to cash flow and many are under pressure to raise the price of their goods and services. “Landlords are of course businesses too and have also faced many challenges during this period. “This is an issue that can’t be pushed down the road forever, innovative approaches to helping businesses clear Covid debts and reach mutually agreeable positions with their landlords and creditors will need to be found. “We are calling on the Government to look at what else can be done to help impacted businesses reduce their overheads and give them the breathing space they need to get through what we hope will be the final few months of this awful crisis.”


Convention centre to be added at Wasps’ stadium

First steps (from left): Mark Lee (chairman of the Arena Quarter Advisory Board), Sarah Windrum and Paul Michael (commercial director, Ricoh Arena)

The first steps have been taken in creating a new multi-millionpound convention centre at Ricoh Arena in Coventry and home to Wasps rugby club. Work has begun to transform the existing 1,750 square metre conference and exhibition space in the lower halls at the Coventry venue – which will be named Coventry Building Society Arena from this summer – and marks the first stage of construction in the creation of the state-of-the-art Commonwealth Convention Centre. The three-month project will see the space significantly overhauled, and a state-of-the-art digital and audio-visual technology system installed. The modernisation of the current halls will also connect the space to the rest of the venue to give exhibitors and organisers access to up to 7,750 square metres of

‘This is a major step in the redevelopment of the Arena’ exhibition and conference space. The newly-refurbished halls are the first stage of the project, with further construction later in the year, with work expected to commence in September. This will include the pavilion entrance on the south side of the venue, the new Commonwealth Convention Centre lobby and a dedicated art and gallery space to showcase local projects. Transformation of the existing halls at the Arena is being funded through a £3.8 million granted to the venue by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), via the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) as part of the government’s

Work under way at technology hub Building work on a new stateemployers and the economy. of-the-art Institute of The new building will have a Technology (IoT) has begun at cyber manufacturing rig and Aston University’s campus. new equipment for labs and Construction started on The workshops, including 3D Hub in May and is expected to printers, lathes and a be complete by December coordinate measuring machine. 2021. Aston University Professor The project is designed to Hub culture: How the new facility will look Sarah Hainsworth said: “When create a ‘powerhouse’ for built, this will be a fabulous advanced manufacturing and engineering and is a resource for students and learners from across the collaboration between further education providers, Greater Birmingham and Solihull region to connect universities and employers for the region. with each other as they develop their skills to equip The consortium is led by Solihull College & the region with a pool of talented engineers. University Centre, Aston University, Birmingham City “The Hub will be home to a new cyber physical University and South and City College Birmingham manufacturing rig which will create a simulated and supported by BMET College, University College working environment linked to advancing Industry 4.0 Birmingham and the University of Birmingham. technology and state of the art digital facilities and I The IoT will boost education and training really look forward to when it becomes the new home opportunities aligned to the latest skills needs of for our IoT students.”

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‘Getting Building’ fund. An additional £1.4 million has also been made available to Ricoh Arena via CWLEP from the Local Growth Fund and Growing Places Fund. The Commonwealth Convention Centre is expected to open its doors in 2022. Stephen Vaughan, chief executive of Ricoh owner Wasps Ground, said: “This is a major step in the redevelopment of the Arena and signals the beginning of works to create the state-of-the-art Commonwealth Convention Centre. “This project will repurpose the existing site and bring innovative digital technology to the lower halls that is also being installed across other areas of the venue. “There will be a dramatic visual improvement to the space which will enhance the overall experience of companies looking to host events with us.”

BECG settles into city centre home Communications firm BECG has moved into a new office at Colmore Row. The firm will share the offices with its software developer subsidiary Crowd Technologies. Verity Barr, head of BECG’s Birmingham Office, said: “We are extremely excited to be moving into our new offices, firmly cementing us in the centre of Birmingham. “Over the past year, we have seen excellent growth in our client base across the Midlands, and now work with some of the UK’s largest brands. This move will give us a solid base to continue to expand our team and clients in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.”

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How do you grow a medium-sized business in the current climate? W

ith unprecedented global challenges and heightened uncertainty, it is vital now for organisations to implement strategies that build resilience and create sustained business growth as they recover from the effects of the pandemic. Our Senior Leaders Business Growth Programme will provide support for medium and mid-sized companies to accelerate their recovery post-Covid and to devise a strategy for the next phase of growth, while honing participants’ leadership skills to implement the plan. Throughout the programme, participants will work on specific, real-world challenges and opportunities facing their own business, while benefiting from the support, challenge, insight and expertise of Warwick Business School (WBS) experts and course peers. The programme offers participants one-to-one executive coaching alongside six two-day face-to-face workshops, the time to build a network of peers to exchange ideas and knowledge, and the opportunity of a visit to their company to delve deeper into the issues by leveraging our worldclass academics. “This is a unique course, offering the chance for medium and mid-sized businesses to bring projects critical to their growth to the classroom, where they can be advised, planned, challenged and robustly investigated by world-leading academics. “Whether it is entering a new market, digital transformation or wanting to create innovations to grow, the course will help leaders create a plan and implement it, while also building a supportive network. “Senior leaders will have the chance to discuss the issues and strategies with like-minded peers. Indeed, this is the chance to make contacts and build a network of trusted peers that can be tapped into beyond the course. The programme will build its own ecosystem of trusted advisors that will increase the intellectual capability of each firm involved in taking on the challenges of the future.” Tim Wray, Director of Executive Education at WBS

THE PROGRAMME ADDRESSES FIVE CRITICAL THEMES: 1 Innovation: How do organisations build the capability to innovate and embed an entrepreneurial mind-set to carve out new markets? 2 Productivity: Generating productivity growth is a primary goal for the best-managed companies. 3 Digital: What opportunities does technological progress in the fields of artificial intelligence, blockchain, open APIs, big data, and platforms present for organisations? 4 Resilience: How do businesses gain the strategic adaptability, operational agility and leadership mind-set to create organisational resilience in the face of constant change? 5 Leadership: What does effective leadership look like to address the challenges of growth?

It will be delivered by academics who not only inform policymakers and advise global organisations like IBM, Rolls Royce, KPMG, E.On and NASA, but teach on highly-ranked courses like the Full-time MBA, rated the best in the UK for the last six years by The Economist, and the Distance Learning MBA that has been number one in the world in the Financial Times’ rankings four years in a row. Participants will be able to trial ideas and solutions for their strategic issue on the course while under the supervision of WBS academics, with the face-to-face workshops covering subjects ranging from digital adoption to sustainable organisations.

‘The course will help leaders create a plan and implement it, while also building a supportive network’

“We have consulted business leaders in designing this course and made sure the lessons are actionable and can be applied to their context. “This course is ideal for wellestablished medium and mid-sized companies that are looking for their next surge in growth; that have the hunger for their thinking to be challenged and the motivation to learn from others, rather than sit with the same formula that has made them a success. “We will provoke, challenge, and facilitate the conversations and discussions from different perspectives to co-create new ideas for the strategic development of their business. The workshops will cover the key challenges, drivers of change and enablers of growth to tackle today’s uncertain and volatile environment.” Paul McCarthy, Course Director

Find out more about the Senior Leaders Business Growth Programme: July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 71

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Sector Focus

Output predicted to bounce back A new survey says that manufacturing output in the UK is set to return to pre-coronavirus levels by the end of next year, much sooner than expected. The survey – by manufacturers’ organisation Make UK and business advisor BDO – says that although industry saw a ten per cent decline in output during 2020, much of that is set to be regained this year. In particular, both UK orders and total orders were very strong for West Midlands companies in the last quarter, while output levels were the highest of any UK region. According to the survey, demand in the West Midlands has also have been boosted by the recovery of the automotive sector and the resulting impact on the supply chain in the region. However, Make UK stressed that the figures are reflecting a recovery from a very low base with balances last year reaching record lows, worse than those seen during the financial crisis. Between 2019 and 2020, the manufacturing sector lost approximately £18bn in value which

will take more than a short term boost of pentup demand to return the sector to its prepandemic size, said Make, which represents 20,000 manufacturing companies in the UK. Charlotte Horobin, regional director for Make UK in the Midlands, said: “Manufacturing growth is now firmly accelerating as restrictions have been eased and economies around the globe have started to open up.

‘We need the Government to look at longer-term strategies to allow the sector to build back better’ “Looking forward there seems no reason to believe that this will not continue assuming the shackles come firmly off in the second half of the year. “However, given we are coming from a very low base worse than during the financial crisis we have to bear in mind that there was bound to

be a rubber band impact this year. Furthermore, for some sectors such as Aerospace the limited prospects for international travel in the near future means they may struggle to return to normal trading for some time.” Jon Gilpin, head of manufacturing at BDO in the Midlands, added: “West Midlands manufacturers have fought hard to recover from the brutal impact of the pandemic and have made great strides since the start of the year. With investment levels on the up, it appears the Government’s introduction of the temporary super-deduction tax has provided the incentive that regional manufacturers needed to bring forward their investment plans. “We know targeted tax policies can have a huge impact but, with the melting pot of challenges ahead around supply chains, availability of basic commodities and rising inflation, we need the Government to look at longer-term strategies to allow the sector to build back better and confidently invest over the next 10-15 years.”

Big work brings big reward for Adi

Stephen Forrester

A Birmingham-based engineering firm’s newest division has managed to turnover £4m in the past year, despite the coronavirus crisis. The new division is Adi Factory, Plants and Relocation, which was launched just over a year ago by Kings Norton based Adi Group subsidiary Adi Mechanical. The division is a specialist in the heavy lift and setting down of large industrial machinery, a fairly unusual activity which Adi had identified as a gap in the market. Despite the pandemic, Adi has managed to source a regular stream of work in this field in the food and beverage sector, including a £3.2m decommissioning project with a well-known food manufacturer in Corby. Adi Mechanical managing director Stephen Forrester said: “In many ways, we pre-empted what was already at play in the manufacturing sector, just prior to the pandemic. “Lack of skilled in-house engineering support has been amiss for a while for manufacturing firms, particularly given the well-publicised skills gap in the sector. “Businesses that can therefore move plant and equipment, fabricate and install interconnecting pipework, service, commission and maintain plant and machinery, with no breaks in the supply chain, are in hot demand in an age when many others are subcontracting out such work. “What we can provide is expertise – the skills they need at a time when many manufacturers are now looking to expand or restart those large-scale CAPEX (capital expenditure) projects that were put on hold at the beginning of the pandemic. “Similarly, those scaling down operations have needed hands-on engineering that can complete works efficiently and quickly. “We’re delighted to be able to offer such assistance, backed up by the wider capabilities of the Adi Mechanical and Group workforce.” The Adi Group is a multi-disciplinary engineering firm, spanning markets including aerospace, defence, automotive, biosciences, food and beverage, manufacturing and petrochemical.

Hydraulics firm appoints new MD American-owned hydraulics specialist HydraForce has appointed a new managing director in Birmingham. The firm, which makes highperformance hydraulic valves and manifold systems, has appointed Jon Bradley (pictured), who was previously director of global quality excellence. Mr Bradley started his career as an engineering apprentice, before embarking on a 30year stint in manufacturing, covering the aerospace, automotive and off road hydraulic sectors, and based in both the UK and the USA. He said: “I am extremely honoured to be asked to follow in the footsteps of former managing directors Tony Brown and Peter Macdonald, extending the founder, Jim Brizzolara’s HydraForce legacy. “HydraForce is a fantastic company to work for, with a great workforce, and I will continue to work with the team to deliver the benefits that my predecessors have put in place, carrying them out in the spirit of HydraForce.” Tim Twitty, vice-president of operations at HydraForce, said: “We extend our gratitude and best wishes to our former MD, Tony Brown, in his future endeavours and welcome Jon Bradley in his new position as managing director.” HydraForce Ltd, based at Aston Hall Road, Aston, employs around 700 staff at present and is the American owned business’ European headquarters. July/August 2021 CHAMBERLINK 73

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Sector Focus


The Business of Sport Pupils aim for football record A Birmingham school is attempting to break the record for the longest indoor football match to raise funds for its food bank. Pupils from King Edward’s School (KES) will need to play five-a-side soccer for more than 36 hours to break the record. It won’t be the first time the school has attempted a sporting record – two years ago more than £8,000 was raised for Guide Dogs for the Blind in a 31 hour touch rugby game. Pupi Aran Singh Bansal, who came up with the idea for the challenge, said: “Following the success of the touch rugby fundraiser we wanted to do something similar to raise money for the KES food bank, which has done an amazing job supporting families in the local community, especially during lockdown.” George Browning, director of rugby and head of sport science, said: “Playing football continuously for over a day and a half will be tiring and the boys are going to need plenty of motivation to keep going.”

Crowded house: Edgbaston saw the return of spectators for the Test between England and New Zealand

Match is Test for crowd too Warwickshire’s Edgbaston ground has been used as a test-bed to see if crowds can return to major events without the need for social distancing. The pilot event took place at a Test match between England and New Zealand, where crowds were allowed in under the Government’s events research programme. No-one was allowed in without a Covid test, and all spectators had to sign a medical consent form. Those attending have now been asked to undergo a further Covid test within five days of the match, to provide further evidence for the research programme. Entry to the ground was also controlled by use of a digital ticket. Edgbaston chief executive Stuart Cain said: “We like to be innovative at Edgbaston and have invested heavily in the technology that supported this initial pilot.

“However, what we have done will provide part of the norm for future sporting events in having an app for stadium entry, for ordering food and drink orders, merchandise sales and wait times. “We think that we have proved that the system can work, but need the sports and live events industry moving again and ensuring that we see a return to full capacities as soon as possible.” • A local recruitment firm has become a sponsor of Warwickshire County Cricket Club – and it’s all down to bamboo. SF Recruitment, which has an office in Gas Street, says it has joined forces with the club to reduce the use of single-use plastics. Both SF and the club are keen on the use of bamboo as an alternative to plastic, with the latter using the material for their shirts during 2020.

Bursary scheme honours basketball legend A former Olympic basketball star is set to help players and coaches reach new heights at the City of Birmingham Rockets. Birmingham’s biggest community basketball club has set up a bursary fund in the name of Brisbane Bullets legend Rob Sibley. The Robert Sibley Bursary Scheme aims to support players and coaches on their basketball journey, especially those who can’t afford to take part in the sport. The initiative is the result of a generous donation from US-based entrepreneur Jason Healy, who is a long-term friend of Sibley. Jason, who used to be Brisbane Bullets’ marketing and public relations manager before becoming a successful entrepreneur, said: “Sibs always made time to encourage and help kids, including me, during his career, so it’s only fitting that his legacy will be helping kids to have access to the game he loves.” 74 CHAMBERLINK July/August 2021

Olympic star: Rob Sibley

Sibley, a former Australian Boomer who appeared at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, is keen to support the Rockets thanks to a meeting between him and the club’s managing director, Rob Palmer, almost two decades ago. Mr Palmer said: “In 2002 as a young aspiring coach, I was fortunate to have the opportunity

to make the trip Down Under to Brisbane with two players from the college programme I was heading up at that time. “Club staff at Brisbane Bullets, including Rob Sibley, selflessly took us under their wing and we were treated magnificently, on and offcourt, giving us an incredible experience.

“Little did I realise at the time that the legacy of the trip would resurface almost 20 years later.” Sibley played for the Brisbane Bullets during the club’s NBL glory days in the 1980s. The player, who is known as the ‘Baseline Bandit’, made his debut for the Bullets in February 1984 as a 17-year-old and played in the grand final-winning teams of 1985 and 1987. Sibley played in seven grand finals in an NBL career that spanned 371 games, including 305 with the Bullets. Unfortunately, the 54-year-old is now facing an off-court battle after developing cancer. He has been undergoing intensive treatment since November 2019. Despite all that he is facing the father-of-three is thankful for one small mercy. He said: “Basketball is a brotherhood. That bond never leaves you, and I want those benefiting from this bursary scheme to experience that too.’’

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Member Profile

Member Section

Chamber Insight Focus on a member

Name: Ayesha Rees Company: UVA UK Job Title: CEO

What does your company do? UVA UK are an e-hailing company. We are creating a new approach that doesn’t just look after itself, but does the right thing by everyone it touches. A company with such a strong ethical stance it immediately stands head and shoulders above the rest – reassuring every potential user, driver and investor How did it all start? Having traveled the world for both business and pleasure, our founder Ibrahim Aldaajani understands only too well how ride-hailing companies are a disappointment for both driver and passenger. A faceless interaction with the registration number of a car that may or may not arrive, most ehailing services are universally viewed with distrust or at worst seen as a necessary evil. What’s your greatest achievement so far? We have survived a pandemic! UVA UK has taken the opportunity to use this time to look at and then relook at our model, so we know we are delivering a service that will really make a difference. What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken – and did it work out? To date we have taken calculated risks, to adapt our business model … more than once, to invest in good causes that really need support, at a time when we weren’t generating any revenue. What keeps you awake at night? Ensuring that UVA UK delivers on everything we say we will, we are a tech driven, people centric business so there are lots of moveable parts! And of course, hoping that there will be no more lockdowns If you could turn the clock back, what would you do differently?

I would have done a real deep dive into the sector at the very start of this journey… pardon the pun! PHV is completely different to any other sector I have ever worked in, we really have ‘learnt on the job’. What has surprised you most in your job? That when you are a start up you worry about everything! Then again as our Chairman says, “if business were easy, everyone would do it” What advice would you give to someone starting out? Ask for help and surround yourself with people who challenge you to raise you up! You will meet plenty of people who think they make their candle shine brighter by blowing yours out…gently remove these people from your circle. Which business do you most admire? Any business who has taken an idea, believed in that idea and made it a success, this could be someone like Brew Dog who were famously rejected by dragons den or a small independent passion project such as Stacey’s Shabby Shack in Fargo Village What exciting projects is your business working on? I can’t reveal all my secrets yet… watch this space. What made you join Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and how are you making use of your membership? I really wanted to engage with like-minded people in the business community, the flexibility that the Chamber offers has meant that the team as a whole have benefitted the Chamber offer, making it an invaluable part of our business. Visit:

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Member Section

New Members

New Members

Whatever your business size and requirements, the Chamber has a membership scale to suit your needs. For more information visit:

Your guide to new recent sign-ups Afak Trading Ltd Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Faisal Saeed 0121 359 0200 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Avifauna Technology Information and communication Prameela Devi 01274 925255 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce AW Wealth Ltd Financial and insurance activities Brett Linton 0121 215 0926 Solihull Chamber of Commerce Barrett Industrial Cooling Administrative and support service activities John Barrett 01543 437428 php Cannock Chase Chamber of Commerce Bowbrook Financial Planners Professional, scientific and technical activities Gregory Palethorpe 01543 399940 Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce

Cosy Direct Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Peter Ellse 01332 370152 Burton and District Chamber of Commerce Digital World Property Real estate activities Craig Rogers 07368 484327 Solihull Chamber of Commerce Ecomaster Commercial Ltd Other service activities Paul Gresty 01827 831 270 Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce First Intuition Limited Education James Morley 0121 716 2085 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce HR Advice Hub Administrative and support service activities Kiran Najran 0121 820 9571 Solihull Chamber of Commerce Kingsford Consulting Transportation and storage Andrew Penny 001 (613) 592-0544 Transatlantic Chamber

Bulgarian Imports Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Kevin Wainwright 07486 436143 Burton and District Chamber of Commerce

Legionella and Fire Safe Services Ltd Professional, scientific and technical activities Kym Darby 0800 080 3045 Cannock Chase Chamber of Commerce

Certified Pro Installs Ltd Professional, scientific and technical activities Chris Bagnall 0121 779 6548 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Lets Sanify Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Jag Jaigirdar 0121 827 7801 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

City Centre Car Care Co Ltd Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Sam Adams 0121 766 7699 Solihull Chamber of Commerce

Local Roofing Supplies Ltd Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Jamie Harrison 01827 66388 Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce

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LookAfterYourDog Other service activities Mark Dalton 07814 245 595 Solihull Chamber of Commerce My CSR Administrative and support service activities Michelle Wright 0121 537 1368 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Opus Smart Solutions Construction Steve Elvis 0121 312 2777 Solihull Chamber of Commerce Panact Ltd Professional, scientific and technical activities Vikram Kapoor 07976 617468 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Reactive Solutions Group Financial and insurance activities George Hutchin 0121 752 5750 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Service Response Group Limited Administrative and support service activities Todd Stephens 01562 886220 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Siddall Jones Limited Real estate activities Edward Siddall-Jones 0121 638 0500 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Sustainability West Midlands Administrative and support service activities Anna Bright 0121 237 5890 www.sustainabilitywestmidlands. Birmingham Chamber of Commerce The Community Foundation for Staffordshire Administrative and support service activities Faye Williams 01785 339540 Burton and District Chamber of Commerce

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New Members

Member Section

As the voice of local business since 1813, we strive to help firms across the region

connect, support and grow. The Dove Radio Company Limited Arts, entertainment and recreation John Haynes 07414 233312 Burton and District Chamber of Commerce

The Sporting Club Administrative and support service activities Emma Brassington 07710 124780 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

The Edwards Company Administrative and support service activities Lisa Edwards 01384 626313 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

Theodorous Professional, scientific and technical activities Paris Theodorou 07866 704388 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

The Grand Hotel Birmingham Accommodation and food service activities Jack Edwards 0121 827 9600 uk Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

UBC UK Ltd Real estate activities Claire Hancox 0121 796 5331 Solihull Chamber of Commerce University of Birmingham Education Lauren Davies

0121 414 6254 Asian Business Chamber of Commerce University of Birmingham Education Lauren Davies 0121 414 6254 GBCCC Wedge 3D Ltd Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles Clair Wedge 07834 764161 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce XPO Logistics Transportation and storage Ken Perritt Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce

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Member Section


...any other business A roundup of news from Chamber members Print sale will boost hospice An exclusive, limited-edition artwork endorsed by the Prime Minister and signed by a number of significant Birmingham dignitaries is up for grabs in aid of Acorns Children’s Hospice. The piece – a print of a Digbeth street art mural, ‘Forward in Unity’, by grafitti artist ‘Gent48’ – is valued at £10,000 and currently under auction to raise money for Acorns and the charity’s work providing care for life limited children and their families. The mural was developed as part of a project by local organisation Art4Charity, in an initiative which has so far raised more than £54,000 for a number of local causes. Head of fundraising at Acorns, Vicki Rowles, said: “For one lucky individual, this is a once in a lifetime chance to own a stunning piece of Birmingham history and at the same make a real difference by supporting the work of Acorns. “What Art4Charity have already achieved through this project has been phenomenal, and to continue that work through this exclusive auction is really admirable. “We’re so grateful to them for their support for Acorns and our work, which has never been more needed as it has been throughout the course of this pandemic.” The print is one of 11 limited edition prints hand-signed and numbered by the artist and featuring the signatures of 250 Birmingham dignitaries, community and business leaders, frontline workers and NHS staff. Despite the £10,000 valuation, one print was recently purchased via auction for around £20,000. Nick Herd, co-founder of Art4Charity, said: “We’re proud to make this incredible artwork available to own whilst at the same time supporting Acorns. We’re aware of the important work the charity has been doing over the course of the pandemic and every penny raised will go towards this well-loved local charity.”

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Youngsters get into gear as they chase big driving ‘brake’ They say that life imitates art – in which case, the organisers of a driving competition may well have looked to ‘The Simpsons’ for their inspiration. That’s because the ‘Young Driver Challenge 2021’ wants to find out whether a 10 year-old could be the family’s best driver – which sounds suspiciously like ‘The Simpsons’ episode where 10-year-old mischief maker Bart is given a driving licence by corrupt Mayor Quimby. Anyway, although Bart won’t be in it, entries for the Young Driver Challenge 2021 are now open, and the hunt has begun to find the 40 best young drivers in the UK, who must be aged from 10 to 17 years old, to compete in a national final. Organised by pre-17 driving school, Young Driver, the final, will be hosted by TV driving star Quentin Willson in October, at the British Motor Museum. He said: “Even after seven years of Young Driver Challenges I’m still amazed at the dedication, skill, ability and sheer pluck of our Young Driver Challenge competitors.

Car-azy: Josh Burford won the 10-13 age category in 2019

“Some could put adult drivers with 20 years’ experience to shame really. I’m proud to be judging again and look forward to meeting more driving stars this year.” Finalists will be split into two categories, 10 to 13s and 14 to 16s, before taking part in a number of driving challenges. Entrants are scored on a range of driving skills, including clutch control, use of mirrors and signals; effective use of gears and smooth

gear changes; safely tackling junctions, including roundabouts; handling a steering slalom and manoeuvres including a forward or reverse bay park or a parallel park. Young Driver has delivered more than 900,000 lessons to 10-17 year olds over the last 12 years, with the aim of creating a safer generation of young drivers. Lessons take place in a new, dual-controlled Vauxhall Corsa with a fully qualified driving instructor.

Final countdown for rock musical Broadway rock musical ‘Rock of Ages’ is starting a new UK tour, beginning next month at The Alexandra in Birmingham. The performance – a jukebox musical based on the hit rock songs of the 1980s – ran for more than 2,300 performances on Broadway, the 29th longest running show in the theatre district’s history. The show is based around efforts to save a Hollywood bar – the Bourbon Room – from evil planners, but the real stars of the production are the songs, which include: ‘Don’t Stop Believin’, ‘We Built This City’, ‘The Final Countdown’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’, ‘Here I Go Again’, ‘Can’t Fight this Feeling’ and ‘I Want To Know What Love Is’. The cast for the new ‘Rock of Ages’ tour includes Luke Walsh who first played the lead role of Drew when the show toured in 2018/2019.

Rock on: Rock of Ages is coming to Brum

Drew is an aspiring rocker who works at the under threat club. Luke is a singer/songwriter and his theatre credits include ‘Chess’ (Umeda Arts Theatre, Osaka) and ‘Boybands Forever’ (Germany Tour). Also starring is Joe Gash, who will play the iconic role of Lonny. Joe will be making his theatre debut in the role – Lonny is the

show’s narrator, and also assists club owner Dennis. Dennis is played by Ross Dawes, whose previous West End theatre credits include ‘Phantom of the Opera’, ‘Girl from the North Country’, ’Charlie & the Chocolate Factory’ and ’Shrek the Musical’. The show is opening at The Alex on 19 August.

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3. Chamberlink July Aug 57-80.qxp_Chamberlink 29/06/2021 12:03 Page 80

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