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Pearl to be a jewel in city’s crown PAGES2&3

Start Survive Thrive

Shelf stacker to web guru PAGES4&5

THE latest 60 Really Useful Minutes presentation will take place at the Old Hall Street offices of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce at 9am this Friday, July 22, on Health and Safety Essentials, and will address how legislation impacts employees and employers on a day-to-day basis and will provide an overview of the documentation that is required. Book online at Liverpool

Duo check in to jobs at Hilton TWO job seekers have started work at Liverpool One’s Hilton Hotel in a new scheme for young unemployed. The Jobcentre Plus Work Experience lasts eight weeks without affecting benefits. Clare Jones, 21, from Fazakerley, had never had a job since leaving school and Tom Hughes, 19, from Knowsley Village, had been on Jobseekers Allowance since early 2011. Both have been given jobs after placements at the Hilton. Clare said: “I felt work experience was my last chance to show an employer what I could do – I really wanted a job.” Hilton HR director Elaine Cawley said: “We look forward to offering more placements.”

THE Knowsley ● Business and Regeneration Awards

JOB JOY: From left, Hilton Liverpool HR director Elaine Cawley, Clare Jones, Tom Hughes and hotel manager Marcus Magee


By NEIL HODGSON Industry Reporter

THE clamour to cut VAT rates is growing among small firms. A survey by Liverpool-based Bibby Financial Services reveals a 25% rise in north west firms calling for a return to VAT’s 17.5% level from last year, when the Government announced its decision to raise it to 20% this January. And small firms lobby group the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has echoed the plea with a call for “targeted and time specific VAT cuts...

January rise was ‘ill-judged’ says chamber chief

to restore growth in key sectors”. The Bibby research shows that 45% of small firms in the north west want a return to 17.5% as a matter of urgency. Spokesman Dave Golding, said: “It is clear from our research that small and medium-sized businesses are feeling somewhat marginalised by the

government and would like to see David Cameron and his ministers do more to address their specific needs.” The FSB goes further and wants the government to follow the lead of other European countries and cut VAT in the construction and tourism sectors to 5% for a year to help boost the economy. Evidence from EU countries shows that any lost revenue to the Exchequer by making VAT cuts will be met by earnings from additional demand, jobs and the wider economic activity. Latest FSB figures show confidence among small firms is now lower than at the start of the year. FSB development manager Neil Dutton said: “Confidence is key to getting Merseyside’s small businesses

back on track and this survey is worrying. The economy is still in a fragile state and these figures clearly show that the Government’s growth strategy is just not working. “We need the Government’s actions to match its rhetoric and it must finally deliver on actions in its growth strategy.” Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jack Stopforth added his support for VAT reform, saying: “I always felt the hike in VAT was ill-judged. “It is all about trying to recreate, or generate, consumer confidence at a time when people aren’t spending. “A return to previous VAT levels would be a welcome development.”

are seeking nominations from individuals, local companies and entrepreneurs for the 12 categories in the latest competition. New categories in the 2011 awards, which take place on October 7, include success in the built environment as well as economic prosperity, including Best Housing Scheme of the Year. Entries should be submitted before August 12. Please call Irene Johnson on 0151-443 2262 for details.

JOHN Timpson, owner of high street cobbler and key-cutter Timpson, is a guest speaker at the Celebrate Cheshire event at Chester Racecourse on September 16-17. He will speak as part of the Celebrate Cheshire Business Friday programme which will conclude with the Trinity Mirror Cheshire Business Awards, showcasing the business excellence within Cheshire. Opportunity Saturday will focus on the career, training, voluntary work and leisure opportunities that Cheshire has to offer. To register visit www.celebratecheshire.

HM Revenue & Customs is ● launching a discussion

document as part of a clampdown on dishonest tax agents. Permanent Secretary of Tax Dave Hartnett said: “Tackling dishonesty reassures the public.”


Wednesday, July 20, 2011



BIRKENHEAD affordable homes builder Lovell helped improve a Buddhist centre in Sefton Park, and the employment prospects of young Merseysiders, in a recent three-part project. Lovell provided skips, timber and a trainee joiner for five days for a gardening project at the Duldzin Kadampa Buddhist Centre. The building firm worked with Mersey Fire and Rescue Service and young people from youth charity The Prince’s Trust. The young people were on a 12-week “team programme”, delivered by the Fire and Rescue Service, to help them develop skills and confidence to get into work, education or training. Elaine Pritchard from the Buddhist Centre said: “The improved garden is fantastic, as it’s provided a tranquil space for all the people of Liverpool to simply sit and relax in peace and quiet. We’re very grateful to all the volunteers for their help and hard work.” Sara Lawton, from Mersey Fire and Rescue Service, added: “The young people have gained work experience, with some individuals securing apprenticeships in the construction industry. The lives of those involved have been changed in a positive way.”


INDEPENDENT handbags and accessories retailer Glitz N Glamour is holding a fashion show at Maghull Town Hall this week. The Maghull store is owned by Susan Slater, who has organised the show in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. She said she wanted to “heighten the profile of local small businesses who are finding it hard in the present climate”. It starts at 7.30pm and tickets are £2.50.


BUSINESS of the Week


IVERPOOL, a former capital of culture, is to receive a fresh infusion of culture in the form of a Chinese venture which aims to strengthen the cultural bonds between China and the west. China Pearl was established by Fenfen Huang, 30, who has finally realised her dream of building a career in dance after first coming to the city to study at the University of Liverpool in 2001. Born in Linhai, in Zhejiang province, near Shanghai, she studied at the university and gained a degree in environment and planning. But she said her overriding passion has always been dance, and it wasn’t long before she joined the university’s ballroom dancing team and was taking part in dance competitions in Liverpool and beyond. Having successfully gained her degree she decided that the world of environment and planning wasn’t for her, so she began a full-time dance training course at Liverpool Community College. She said: “I thought, planning is not really my cup of tea and dancing is in my heart.” Fenfen gained her diploma and then undertook an MA in marketing at Liverpool John Moores University. But she continued her dance training throughout her academic studies, including two visits to the Beijing Dance Academy to learn traditional Chinese dance. “I was also learning western dance forms and visited New York and London,” she said. But she had fallen in love with Liverpool, so after successfully completing her MA she set out on establishing China Pearl in the city. She said: “Liverpool is where I started my dance career and pursued my dream. “I love this city. It is great and it has such a distinctive culture of its own, with its own accent and arts. Liverpool is my second home.” She set up China Pearl in 2007 and, after recruiting two fellow directors in Liverpool Labour councillor Gary Millar and Indian dancer Bisakha Sarker, registered the limited company by guarantee this June. Their aim is to promote Chinese culture, not only through dance but through other traditional arts such as music, calligraphy and painting. They also hope to build bridges between the Chinese and Liverpool communities. One strand will be to focus on the many different Chinese festivals throughout the year, and open up their

China Pearl aims to be a cultural jewel in city crown Neil Hodgson talks to Fenfen Huang about her artistic development plans different themes and traditions to a western audience. Fenfen said: “There are so many traditional Chinese festivals that western people are unaware of. “They know all about Chinese New Year, but there are the Dragon Boat festival, the Lantern festival and the Mid-autumn festival, and Chinese Valentine’s Day.” The next festival will be the

Mid-autumn festival straddling August and September and focused, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, on the full moon of mid-August. She explained: “This is for family reunions or gatherings and is a traditional festival, with foods like mooncakes.” China Pearl’s shows will feature Chinese music and dance and Fenfen explained: “Even though the

Mid-autumn festival is very Chinese it is a way to get Chinese and western musicians working together. “We are working with local community choirs on songs and we want to show how the Chinese celebrate their festivals. We want to show British audiences about the origin of the festivals.” She is also working on the programme in partnership with Liverpool’s Primary Care Trust as part of its 2020 Decades of Health and Wellbeing programme. “My company wants to put on performances and workshops for the public and visit places like nursing homes, hospitals, schools and community centres, even somewhere like Sefton Park. I am hoping the final showpiece will be a theatre production.” Fenfen said the project will provide work for Chinese and western

Bosses’ leader in call for better links with education THE north west leader of bosses’ organisation the CBI has called for more links between business and the region’s schools to improve employability prospects for pupils. Damian Waters, CBI north west director, made his remarks during a visit to Kirkby Sports College (KSC)

in Knowsley, one of the government’s new PFI schools. He said more meaningful long-term strategic partnerships between schools and businesses are required, saying: “Both need to understand each other better. “For many business owners their last experience of school

was a long time ago and they need to see how education and schools have changed. “You only have to come to KSC to see how different the learning environment is. This is a wonderful inspirational building with fabulous facilities a world away from what many business owners remember. Moreover through

closer links schools can gain a far greater insight into what skills business wants.” KSC principal Baljit Gandhi welcomed the CBI visit and urged local employers to work with the school: “As a state school our purpose is to raise aspirations and ambitions.” She added: “We have some of the best sporting facilities

in the country, one of the best buildings and one of the most dedicated teaching teams. “However, we really do want greater input from industry in this area so we can inspire our pupils to think big. “Critically, pupils are telling us this is what they want – real experience from real businesses.”


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

DANCING FAN: Fenfen Huang pictured in Liverpool’s Chinatown wearing a Han costume from China’s Zhejiang province Picture: PAUL HEAPS

Do you want to be our Business of the Week? Contact Neil Hodgson 0151 472 2451 or email neil.hodgson

musicians, including 10 professional artists and 20 community artists and students. They will also produce a film about how local families celebrate family events, funded by the PCT and linked to a project on integrating communities. Fenfen believes she can build on the growing trade links between Liverpool and the UK and China She said: “I think people want to expand their scope beyond trading. They want to go beyond products and discover culture and arts, and both countries have fantastic talents. I want to see more cultural exchanges between the two countries.” She predicts a modest £15,000 turnover for the first year, but believes that could grow to more than £60,000 or £80,000 within five years as she broadens China Pearl’s horizons. “After the first year we want to look to Manchester and then raise our profile in the north west area and then from there go nationwide. “Maybe in three years we could do exchange projects in China, Europe or even America. “I want to explore integration of Chinese styles with modern and western styles. “China is developing very fast and people like to explore different styles. Here we have fantastic contemporary dance, ballet and media. It would be really nice to see the two cultures come together.”

PERFORMANCE: Fenfen Huang wants to build cultural links between Liverpool and China



DISCOUNT retailer Cash Generator, dubbed the “eBay of the high street”, has created more than 50 jobs after opening six new stores in eight weeks across Merseyside. The stores are situated in Wavertree, Netherton, Norris Green, Toxteth, Kensington and Wallasey. Six store managers have also been appointed, including Laura Lawless from Wavertree, Jayne Swindlehurst from Wallasey, Liverpoolborn Tony Yates, Peter McGerraty from Walsall, Chris Birmingham from Formby and Bruce Hardman from South Africa, who has worked for the chain for 18 months. Cash Generator managing director Julian Urry said: “Liverpool has played a significant part in our expansion plans in recent months with the opening of six stores. “Job creation has followed naturally and we are delighted to have carefully selected six store managers to drive forward our discount retail offering in the region.” The chain specialises in the buying and selling of “nearly new” goods.


TRANMERE Rovers is calling on local firms for support. The npower League One side has launched a set of sponsorship and corporate hospitality packages aimed at the business community. Home gates average about 5,500 and commercial sales and business development manager Liz Dicastiglione said: “We have what we believe are great sponsorship opportunities with the ability of reaching a captive audience of thousands of people at every home game.” She added: “We have put a lot of thought into these packages and considered the effects of the recession on businesses when looking at pricing.”


Wednesday, July 20, 2011



BIG A 100mph journey M from shelf stacking to online success INTERVIEW Alistair Houghton talks to MATT BULLAS, managing director of Click Consult

ATT BULLAS can’t help going at 100mph – and that’s how he made the journey from shelf-stacker to award-winning business leader. Today Bullas, 33, leads Click Consult, the Cheshire web development agency that he has grown from a one-man band to an award-winning firm employing 75 people. He describes himself as a man with “a huge amount of drive”, and proudly tells the story of how he rose through the ranks at Safeway. Bullas joined the chain at 17 and soon rose from shop-floor junior to a key role in its head office. But when Safeway was taken over by Morrisons and he faced redundancy, Bullas decided he should apply the passion he applied to his Safeway career to his own business. “I was always restricted working for a large company like that,” he said. “I remember one person saying the problem people had with me was that I was getting on the train and going at 100mph and leaving everyone else behind. “They saw it as a negative. I saw it as a positive.” Bullas went to school in the small Devon town of Cullompton. “I’m not academic,” he said. “I didn’t get above a C in my GCSEs. “I went to college for one year – a painful year. I left there and started working at Safeway. “I started stacking shelves and worked around different parts of the store. I had a huge amount of drive. I was inspired by store management, so I worked my way into the management training scheme.” He became one of the youngest store managers in the country before moving to a regional role, managing the allocation of floorspace in stores from Cornwall to Basingstoke. But after two years, he wanted a change. “I’m the kind of person that does get bored quite quickly, fortunately or unfortunately,” he smiled. “It became the same old stuff every day. So I started looking for roles in head office.” He took a project management role at Safeway’s Middlesex base, but soon moved into buying. “ I found myself a junior buying role – it was almost a step back, but it offered progression,” he said. “When I finished buying at Safeway, I was buying £160m of electronics and telecoms goods.” In 2004, Safeway was bought by rival Morrisons. Bullas kept his job at first, overseeing the transition, but swiftly made plans for his future. He said: “Even before I got my redundancy, I knew I wanted to start a company.”

And so he launched Planet Phonecards, a site that offers savings on international phone calls. He said: “I had the idea of creating a website and getting rid of the physical phonecards.” Bullas moved to Wirral, where his girlfriend lived, and got a small office in Heswall. Next, he had to learn the skills he needed to run a business. “I’m not a technical person,” he said. “I couldn’t build the website. “I had to go through the process of finding a company to build it.” Planet Phonecards proved a success and was, at its peak,

turning over £2,500 a day. It survives today, running alongside ClickConsult. “There’s always going to be a market for phonecards,” said Bullas. “There are people who don’t have access to broadband or Skype. “Planet is a brand in its own right. I’m never going to sell it. It’s a declining market, but there’s still a niche.” To make Planet Phonecards work, Bullas had to delve into the mysteries of online marketing. And that gave him his big business idea. “I had to learn the marketing side of things, and how to make this

‘I was always restricted working for a large company’

business work online,” he said. “Other people were creating websites and saying ‘why am I not selling?’ So I had to get into the nitty-gritty of various ways of marketing.” He focused on the pay-per-click model, where revenues are generated depending on how many times an advert or a link are clicked on. And, as he learned more, he realised his research had opened up another business opportunity. “There’s got to be a chance for me to recycle what I’ve done for me for other businesses,” he said. “So I started Click Consult, and built the website, and started advertising pay-per-click management.” The business grew steadily. But as more agencies started to offer pay- per-click services, Click Consult had to diversify.

Bullas said: “If we didn’t do that, it was going to stand still, or go backwards. So we started to look at search engine optimisation (SEO).” Bullas created the SEO Consult brand and recruited experts in SEO – the art of getting websites ranked as high as possible on search engines. The move paid off – today SEO makes up some 80% of Click Consult’s business. The company also offers web design services. For Bullas, the key to success in the ongoing economic downturn is to prove to clients that their investment in Click Consult’s services is paying results. “If you don’t deliver a return on investment, clients won’t deliver the spending,” said Bullas. Web development is such a fastmoving industry that it is hard to predict what technologies will be all

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



AMBITIOUS: Matt Bullas worked his way up through supermarket chain Safeway before founding his own business


Advertising Feature

Passion can mean business Karen Tate, business start-up advisor at Stepclever, has some advice for readers


the rage in years to come. But, says Bullas, many firms have yet to get to grips with current trends. He said: “There are a lot of traditional companies that haven’t yet invested in a good website. They don’t have sites that integrate with social media. There are big opportunities there.” Bullas has largely handed over the day-to-day running of Click Consult, now based in Hooton, to his management team. He focuses instead on the firm’s strategic direction and growth plans. That also allows him to work on other business ideas. He has built a portfolio of domain names and is now planning to see if he can build businesses around them. “I’m an idea generator, and niche spotter,” he said. “The concepts are there and now I need to thrash out the business models.

“Click Consult is the big beast. It’s the core focus. I don’t want to lose sight of what’s happening here.” Even outside the office, Bullas doesn’t believe in sitting still. He and his wife, who have a four-year-old daughter, manage a property portfolio. Bullas is also a Manchester United season ticket holder, and regularly visits the gym – “I believe that you need a healthy body and a healthy mind,” he says. To that end, he insists on leaving work at a reasonable hour so he can spend time with his family. But he can never truly leave work behind. “I’m not a 12-hour-a-day workaholic,” he said. “But I’m always checking emails. “My BlackBerry is the bane of my life, even when I’m on holiday. It’s very difficult for me to switch off completely.”

S Stepclever business advisors, we have the privilege to be involved in supporting many different types of business. Most inspiring is when a client has sheer passion and drive for what they are trying to achieve. One such example is Claire Morgans, the CEO of YKids, a children’s charity based in Bootle, which seeks to benefit the lives of children and young people living in areas of deprivation. Originating in 1988 as a voluntary organisation, Ykids works with over 2,000 children and young people every week, delivering a variety of mentoring programmes, street play projects, sports and arts projects, self esteem programmes in over 40 schools in Bootle and surrounding areas. From this, another social enterprise, Not Just Cooking, was formed last year where cooking workshops are delivered in various locations promoting real cooking, healthy eating and life skills, as well as training young people in the catering industry. In the coming months, there are plans for a coffee bar on the high street in Bootle, which will not only provide an income to help sustain the charity but also become a much needed evening venue for targeted youth work. All of this can’t be achieved, though, without pure passion and commitment. Claire said: “I love Liverpool and I have a particular passion for Bootle. I love its people and its communities, and I long to see regeneration and a sense of hope and anticipation return. “I want to see investment in Bootle on a grand scale alongside the development of many small businesses and social enterprises which give self-esteem and power to local people. “People need to believe in themselves, find hope for the future and reach for their dreams. Certainly, as a charity, a large part of our work is about helping children and young people to see their worth and encourage them to realise their potential and achieve their dreams. “The Stepclever programme is about supporting people to set up new businesses in areas of deprivation and I want to champion anything that brings investment and regeneration into Bootle. “I know of a number of businesses in the area that have set up as a direct result of our signposting and Stepclever has been there for many of them.” If you want to find out more about Claire’s work visit ● Stepclever has a range of services to help you on your way from turning an idea into a real life business. To find out more visit or call 0151 934 4672.

HONOUR: Matt Bullas receives a High Sheriff ’s Award for Enterprise from the High Sheriff of Cheshire, Diana Barbour


Wednesday, July 20, 2011




Tony McDonough on the latest winners of Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.

FOCUS . . . on Queen’s Awards


LOBAL business changes rapidly but it seems the old-fashioned royal seal of approval can still provide a boost for British firms trading both at home and overseas. Last week saw the latest batch of UK firms receive their Queen’s Awards for Enterprise 2011. This year there were three recipients in the Liverpool city region – RS Clare in Liverpool, EA Technology, based at Capenhurst near Chester, and Skelmersdale-based social enterprise, Brighter Future Workshop. Winners are entitled to put the Queen’s Award logo on their stationery and marketing material for five years. Both current and past winners say the accolade can give them a significant advantage when attempting to win new business. RS Clare, Merseyside’s oldest-surviving manufacturer, has won the Queen’s Award for International Trade. The firm was founded in 1748 and has been at its current Stanhope Street site since 1795, where it produces specialist lubricants for the oil and gas industry as well as the rail, car, steel and construction sectors. It exports to more than 30 countries worldwide, with exports accounting for almost 50% of turnover. New markets include Africa, Syria, Romania, Gabon, Trinidad and Tobago. The firm has expanded this year, with the number of employees rising by 20% to 68 and it has an annual turnover of £12m. Its gate valve lubricants are used by several major oil companies globally and the China market is opening up for all its product sectors. RS Clare was visited last month by Lord Green, Minister for Trade & Investment, and congratulated on its contribution to strengthening the local economy through manufacturing and international trade. Chairman Ian Meadows said: “To us at RS Clare, the Queen’s Award is the ultimate accolade. It’s the one logo that everyone wants to wear on the corporate shirt.

PROUD: RS Clare chairman Ian Meadows says the Queen’s Award is the ‘ultimate accolade’ for the firm and its employees “We have become accustomed to winning awards since the RAC presented to us the massive Ballymenagh Trophy over a century ago for Britain’s ‘foremost dust laying compound for road surfaces’. “But the Queen’s Award for International Trade is a step change. “It reflects on the whole team at Clare, and we are very proud. “Internationally acclaimed, it has enhanced our credibility globally, and that will doubtless contribute to even stronger export growth both in specialist lubricants and surface coatings where we are building significant niche market positions.” The winner of the Queen’s Award for Innovation is EA Technology of Capenhurst. It is the second time the firm has won the award. EA won the award for the development of instruments for use in the electricity industry, which can identify faults before they lead to failures and power cuts, improving efficiency, reliability and safety. In the last three years worldwide sales of its UltraTEV products have

soared by 345%. EA’s development director Neil Davies said: “The Queen’s Award for Innovation is a great honour for the company and for all the team. “The award carries real weight around the world and confirms our position as innovators of highly specific equipment in the field of energy technology.” EA has also doubled its workforce to nearly 200 and won orders in 86 countries during a time of global recession. More than 85% of its UltraTEV products are exported, with growth markets including China. The original UltraTEV instrument won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2007 and has given rise to three subsequent generations of development, with a fourth on the way. Brighter Future Workshop in Skelmersdale has won the Queen’s Award for its “outstanding commitment” to enhancing the lives of the local community. The enterprise has recycled more than 5,000 items of used mobility equipment as well as providing over

3,000 training places in a disability-friendly workshop to train those with physical, medical, learning or emotional problems. Chairman Peter Cousins said: “We have received plenty of calls since winning the Queen’s Award, and I feel it definitely has the potential to help our business. “We are only a small social enterprise, so we are delighted to have received this accolade and I feel it can only do the business good.” Liverpool scrap metal recycling firm S Norton has been the recipient of two Queen’s Awards for International Trade – in 2004 and 2009. Its 2009 win came off the back of a three-year period of growth during which its export business grew by £39m. David Hulse, the company’s public affairs advisor, said winning the award was a great boost for business and for the morale of its staff. “It is like a badge of honour,” he said. “When we talk to potential overseas customers they see that as evidence of our good standing.”

Enter now for 2012 THERE are three categories that businesses can enter for the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise. They are: International Trade, Innovation and Sustainable Development. There is also an individual award category – the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. Each Queen’s Awards category has different application criteria that must be met before application. The awards are made annually and are only given for the “highest levels of excellence” demonstrated in each category. Business secretary Vince Cable pictured, has now put



Wednesday, July 20, 2011


SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AS ANY social entrepreneur will tell you, starting a social enterprise can be a very tough yet ultimately rewarding experience. One person who can attest to this is Steve Taylor-Smith who is a Wirral based social entrepreneur who has successfully trodden the path of social entrepreneurship, and is now helping others to do the same. Having worked in the community and social enterprise sector for a number of years it became clear to Steve that a social enterprise was needed that would help other social enterprises to become sustainable and deliver social impact. Fast forward to today and Urban Quay has sparked a huge amount of socially entrepreneurial activity across Merseyside through the provision of effective, affordable solutions to social matters. Urban Quay, which was established in 2009, has supported the start-up of 36 new social enterprises over the last 12 months and attracted over £10m of investment into the sector on Merseyside. And this is just the start. Urban Quay recognises that the political and economic

with Jo McGrath, chair of the Social Enterprise Network

SUCCESS: Steve TaylorSmith upheaval of the past year has opened up huge opportunities for social enterprises locally. The political landscape has changed and as such there will be many opportunities available within public service delivery. Social enterprises are well-placed to capitalise upon these opportunities so long as they have the right mindset and structure. And it is these new

challenges which are driving Steve and the rest of the team at Urban Quay to ensure that local community-driven social enterprises don’t miss out on the valuable opportunities that are currently being presented to them. So if you're considering setting up a social enterprise, you’re not alone. Others have trodden the path of social entrepreneurship, and you can too!


WITH energy bills set ● to soar, inflation is hitting 65-74-year-olds the

POWERING AHEAD: EA Technology in Capenhurst has won the Queen’s Award for Innovation

hardest, says the Alliance Trust Research Centre, which reckons this age group is suffering inflation at 5.1% per year, some 21% above the rate of 4.2% Food price inflation hit 6.5% in June, and gas and electricity price hikes will hammer this age group further in the coming months. The under-30s face the lowest rate of inflation – just 4.6% – as they benefit from low inflation in rents. With this month’s official inflation report showing the headline rate of inflation down from 4.5% to 4.2%, the Alliance Trust’s monthly study says all age groups saw a fall in their inflation rates over the month. TWO ● market-leading accounts from

out the call for firms to get their entries in for the 2010 awards. “It’s important we create the right conditions for Britain’s new and upand-coming entrepreneurs to succeed and I strongly

encourage businesses to start thinking about nominations for next year,” he said. The application/ nomination period for The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise 2012 is now open and closes on October 31.

Winners will be announced on April 21, 2012. Entrants must be based in the UK. Entry is free and forms can be completed and submitted online at

Nationwide BS are designed to give long-suffering savers a break: an 18-month Loyalty Fixed Rate ISA and an 18-month Loyalty Fixed Rate Bond both pay 3.30% gross pa/AER, between 0.30% and 0.55% above the Society’s existing range of 18-month fixed rate options. Since launching the Savings Promises in November 2010, Nationwide BS has launched three

loyalty savings accounts rewarding more than 150,000 members. The new rates adhere to the Society’s Promise to ensure that Fixed Rate ISA rates match or beat equivalent Bond rates. Both products are available in branch to existing customers with a minimum £1 in a Nationwide savings account for at least three months prior to application. The Bond is available to customers aged seven or over, while the cash ISA is available to customers aged 16 and over. IF YOU missed out on ● the £161m up for grabs in the EuroMillions lottery,


Patrick Connolly, at financial advisors AWD Chase de Vere, reckons Premium Bonds still have attractions. With a £1m prize each month, Premium Bonds promise a total return of 1.5% per annum, tax free. This equates to a return of 3% per annum for a 50% taxpayer, or 2.5% for a 40% tax payer – not bad in the current savings market. IF YOU missed out on ● the £161m up for grabs in the EuroMillions lottery,

Patrick Connolly, at financial advisors AWD Chase de Vere, reckons Premium Bonds still have attractions. With a £1m prize each month, Premium Bonds promise a total return of 1.5% per annum, tax free. This equates to a return of 3% per annum for a 50% taxpayer, or 2.5% for a 40% tax payer not bad in the current savings market. HARD-UP Britons ● need credit cards to pay bills some 21 days

after payday, says The personal finance website says a quarter of Britons – some 11 million adults – use credit cards as a fallback when they run out of funds in their current account.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011


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FUNDING CALL: Lord Digby Jones, pictured before presenting one of Liverpool Jones Moores University’s Roscoe Lectures this April

by NEIL HODGSON Industry Reporter FORMER CBI director general and UK Trade and Investment Minister Lord Digby Jones is urging small firms to exploit a £1.22bn European reserve to fund their research and development costs. He believes UK firms are missing out on the aid and will use a conference next week in the Midlands to call for more to be done to help the small business sector. Next Tuesday he will address the event organised by business support company Pera, but on the run up to his speech he highlighted the importance of the SME (small and medium-sized

Digby Jones in call to SMEs to claim EU funds enterprise) sector to the UK recovery, saying: “This country is only going to get itself out of this economic malaise if we trade our way out of it. “If you ever analyse the first year out of a recession, it’s always the small business sector that pulls the country out: it is the sector that starts to employ first, the sector that grows wealth again first. The small business sector is key to economic recovery.” But he said since the start of the

recession money spent on research and development (R&D) in the SME sector has fallen by a quarter to just £25bn in 2009. “The UK spends 1.79% of GDP on R&D. This is behind the OECD average – behind Belgium. “The UK R&D tax-credit system works well, but much more must be done with small, innovative businesses receiving special fiscal help.” Lord Jones says Europe recognises the value of SMEs, which was why it has a £1.22bn fund to help small firms innovate and develop new products and processes. The fund for SMEs is part of the Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Development which is designed to drive growth,

innovation and collaboration across Europe. Lord Jones said: “Companies are missing out on millions of pounds of FP7 funding and therefore investing less in R&D. “UK firms spent less on research and development than either Germany or France. In 2007 before the banking crisis, Germany spent £54.3bn, France £34.2bn and Britain just £32.4bn.” He believes the government should do more to support small firms, saying: “If they and the EU were to do one thing to help SMEs it should be to cut regulation and the paperwork and make doing business easier. “It is vital that the government and banks do more to unlock the potential through research and technological innovation.”

Lloyds Bank simplifies charges for SMEs LLOYDS TSB has introduced a new pricing plan aimed at business customers. It says it simplifies business banking charges by allowing customers to pay a fixed monthly fee for a package of transactions, like direct debits and cheque payments, as an

alternative to paying for individually priced items. Customers can choose from a range of five PricePlans, depending on their business needs and will be able to switch between plans to reflect changes in their businesses. It follows recent research among 2,000

small firms that showed 78% of north west respondents felt bank charges need to be simpler, while 64% believed a flat fee would provide that simplicity. John Maltby, Lloyds Banking Group managing director commercial, said: “Small businesses are facing a lot of

uncertainty at the moment, with a volatile economy, rising energy prices and input costs all taking their toll, so we want to ensure that the service we provide is as straightforward and supportive as possible. “We are tackling the crucial issue of access to finance, head on, through

our ongoing efforts to lend, and we have bolstered our SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) Charter with our latest pledge on lending appeals.” He said the monthly PricePlan will help firms cut down on the time managing their day-to-day finances.


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ECHO Business - 20th July 2011  

8-page business news supplement from the Liverpool Echo

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