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LDP BUSINESS w w w . l d p b u s i n e s s . c o . u k

Mark of success Shop Direct boss explains his turnaround strategy

Changing times: Dockers off the payroll Tuning in: Big guns join TV debate on unemployment Free: UKTI supplement inside

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Mersey Docks settles dispute

EDITOR Bill Gleeson 0151 472 2319


Benefits of pre-packs

DEPUTY BUSINESS EDITOR Tony McDonough 0151 330 4918


Mark Newton-Jones, Shop Direct


19 The region’s knowledge economy

BUSINESS WRITERS Alistair Houghton


Barry Turnbull



25 INTERNATIONAL TRADE J2 Retail continues expansion





Neil Hodgson neil.hodgson

Alex Turner




MARKETING EXECUTIVE Litza Gorman 0151 742 2352

No 1 Tithebarn launch




ADVERTISMENT SALES Jackie McMahon 0151 472 5077 Trudie Arlett 0151 472 2476

Gateway to Hope


PHOTOGRAPHY Trinity Mirror

Eco firm welcomes U-turn


Reed in Partnership sponsors discussion on unemployment



PUBLISHED BY Trinity Mirror NW2, PO Box 48, Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L69 3EB.



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LDP Business is printed monthly and distributed with the Liverpool Daily Post. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission of the publisher.


Alex Turner messes about in boats

’M FEELING in relatively optmistic mood. Perhaps it’s because I’m about to put aside worries about recession to go on my summer hols. We decided to stay in Britain this year to avoid getting on a plane full of swine flu victims. We have chosen the fish and chips in the rain option. I can envisage numerous rounds of Monopoly as we wait for the skies to brighten. One of my sons has come up with his own variation of the board game which he calls Credit Crunch Monopoly. This involves new Chance cards stating “the bank forecloses on your property. Hand back five houses”. Ironically enough, it turns out that the little fishing village in Wales we are staying in has had its own



EDITOR’S LETTER mini-swine flu pandemic. You just can’t win. What should we be worried about most, swine flu or recession? There can be some pretty drastic consequences to both. If you lose your job, or your business goes bust, you could lose your home. If you catch the dreaded bug, you may just get a small snuffle, but some have died from it. One thing I’m not keen on is this line that is frequently used with

swine flu stories on television; namely, that nearly all of the most seriously affected patients have an underlying health problem like asthma, heart or lung problems or perhaps just pregnancy. Don’t these people have feelings, too? Don’t they count? Back in the business world, our big worries at the moment are fears for the local car plants, Halewood and Ellesmere Port, and concern that this may turn out to be a double dip recession. The optimist in me is predicting that the local car industry will pull through and that it has a great future ahead of it. Clearly we won’t

be making or selling many more Jaguar X-types, but, after a decade of production, it can hardly be a surprise that the vehicle, which was a commercial flop, has reached the end of its life-cycle. Instead, the future is in eco cars, whether they be electric, hybrid, or stop-start technology. Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port could yet build electric cars, while Jaguar Land Rover’s remaining Halewood staff could be gainfully employed making more fuel-efficient Land Rovers. And while we are looking ahead, our city region needs to wake up to the Digital Age. BT’s decision to create 14 superfast broadband exchanges in Manchester and environs is another

example of how we are missing out. Greater Manchester is already benefiting from the Media City investment at Salford. Yet I suspect the truth is that Manchester is itself belatedly catching up with investment levels already pumped into the South East. A lack of digital investment will seriously impair the region’s ability to compete for inward investment from the likes of banks and others who handle huge quantities of digital data. Creating our digital infrastructure needs to become a campaign for the whole region. Local authorities and the private sector need to work together to secure our futures.



Model railway business has platform to build on

Paul Boyland, of the Penketh Model Rail Centre, with Amanda Turpin, from Mitchell Charlesworth

A LIFELONG model railway enthusiast, who turned his hobby into a business, is on track to turn over £100,000 in his first year of trading. Paul Boyland set up Penketh Model Rail Centre, in Warrington, last year, after being made redundant from United Utilities, and has increased turnover month-on-month since he started. The 54-year-old started out selling repaired model trains on Ebay, and also attending swap-meets and model railway exhibitions, and the business has been a

runaway success. He converted the living room of his home, which was formerly a greengrocers, back into a shop and has not looked back since. North West accountants Mitchell Charlesworth helped Mr Boyland set up his model shop and provided tax, VAT and general business advice. He said: “When we set up our business bank account, the bank set us an ambitious target of £40,000 turnover, so we’ve more than doubled that.”

Dockers off payroll as port breaks with past HE Port of Liverpool has cut its final links with the past by taking the last remnants of its traditional dockside workforce off the payroll. More than 90 dockers and boatmen have either transferred to stevedore firm Drake or taken voluntary redundancy. Both sets of workers threatened industrial action earlier this year but agreed to go after lengthy negotiations with docks bosses and union officials. Mersey Docks managing director Gary Hodgson says the thorny issue of old labour practices had to be grasped to enable the business to move forward. He said: “I’ve made it clear that there were examples of outdated working practices that had to be addressed. “It is vital for the future of the Port of Liverpool that we continue to focus on improvements to customer service in the most flexible and efficient manner possible, especially during this global economic downturn. The successful restructuring has put us in a strong position to do this, and great credit is due to everybody – management, employees and unions – who have enabled it to happen. “There is no doubt that trading conditions remain tough, but with this very difficult period of restructuring behind us, the management team at the Port feel that we are in a much better position to respond quickly and efficiently once market conditions start to improve ” Now Mersey Docks no longer directly employs dockside workers, it significantly reduces any fears of the industrial strife that blighted the port for decades. Mr Hodgson does not want to dwell in the past, however, and is pressing on with trying to achieve cost savings of 8% this year.



There is no doubt trading conditions remain tough – Mersey Docks managing director Gary Hodgson at the quayside

Mark Chadwick, of Professional Liverpool

Professions ‘not a closed shop’ PROFESSIONAL Liverpool chief executive Mark Chadwick has rejected claims by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn that the professions are a “closed shop”. The report, by a cross-party panel chaired by Mr Milburn, claimed bright children from middle and working class families were missing out on professional jobs because of continuing “elitism”. It called for urgent action to break “closed shop mentality” which, it said, still characterises the professions in Britain. But this premise was rejected by Mr Chadwick, whose organisation represents Liverpool’s professional firms. He said: “Although there are one or two sensible conclusions,

particularly regarding aspirations and expectations, the report has largely missed the point. “Being a professional is about being well trained and highly qualified. If you are capable and demonstrate that you can reach the required standards, you are welcome irrespective of class, race, gender or age. I wanted to be a rocket scientist as a kid growing up at the time of the moon landings, but it was never going to happen; I just didn’t have what it takes. “That’s a truth that some people don’t want to accept. How many people want their brain surgeon or their barrister to be the product of social engineering or positive discrimination, no matter how Utopian that might be?”


Calculated support offered Accountants continue business success with help from Stepclever STEPCLEVER is an exciting initiative helping generate an enterprise culture in North Liverpool and South Sefton, by offering free business advice, grants and other financial support for existing enterprises, start-up companies and individuals. Here we look at a successful business helped by Stepclever. WHEN the accountancy firm Emma Jones and Michelle Wyatt had worked at for several years had to cease trading, following the sad death of the proprietor, it looked as if the strong relationship they had built up with clients would end. But they saw there was still a demand from local businesses for accountancy services and decided to set up their own company. Village Accountancy Services, based in Walton Village, was set up to provide a quality accountancy service to small businesses, and individuals including services such as PAYE, tax returns and invoicing. “Most of our clients, when we

A local success story started, were small local businesses,” said Michelle, “but we have now expanded into other areas as we have become better known.” The business was set-up in January, 2008, and was generating sales, although working conditions were not ideal when storing information and meeting clients. Therefore, it was decided that they would like to increase their profile and move into new premises to create a more professional image of the business.

Premises were identified in the Stepclever area, although renovation work needed to be carried out to make them more suitable. A business plan identified that they needed to find additional funding. An application was made to Stepclever, to cover the start-up costs of equipment, repairs, IT, advertising and stationery. This application was successful, as was a further application to Train 2000, who also provided additional funding to assist with start-up costs. “Stepclever and Train 2000 supported us with our business plan and they were really helpful when we started up at our new premises, “said Michelle. “And thanks to the support we received from Stepclever and Train 2000, Village Accountancy Services is going from strength to strength and is now gaining further clients.” ■ VILLAGE Accountancy Services, 120, Walton Village, Liverpool, L4 6TL, telephone: 0151 530 1835.

Support for Business

Emma Jones and Michelle Wyatt, from Village Accountancy Services



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CONFIDENTIAL with David Holland, of Grant Thornton Liverpool

Pre-pack deals ‘help save jobs in most administrations’

Trade body says controversial practice can protect firms from collapse In the final part of a three-part series, David Holland, a strategic business advisor, tackles a problem posed by the director of a Merseyside business.

This is a framework of decisions designed to ensure that innovations are reviewed within the context of the business, their impact on existing business, that the company can actually deliver the innovation and at what cost, and what efforts will be WE'VE seen needed to prepare the market competition increase for the product introduction in our market – and its success. building products. Not all innovations need to We’ve decided to go through the process, and become more innovative but the process itself can be a I'm struggling with the way light touch or a more forward. One option is to intensive one depending on make a board appointment of the size of your organisation a Head of R&D and make them and the degree of innovation. directly answerable for our There are normally a series innovation, but is this of decision points that enough? projects arrive at from INNOVATION is a conception, through initial cultural challenge. It's investigation and business not the responsibility case development, defining of one department or the product and service and person. refining the offering, through Most innovations are about product launch and updates, changes to the way you do and feedback and lessons things that yield performance learned. and cost savings, and the way By tracking and you present products and appropriately documenting, services to the you'll get better market, which give at innovation. At your clients new each stage, a reasons to buy cross-functional from you. An team should innovative culture assess how the embraces the need capabilities of for change and the company welcomes ideas match the from everywhere. innovation and a It's a process of go-no-go decision observation and made on whether review, challenging it should why things are as progress to the they are. The next stage – process begins including the with a vision of release of budget what you want the and actions to business to be, protect the intellectual which translates into a property through patents, culture that is open and trademarks or other actions. tolerant of failure. What this process does is Why open? Employees from make everyone aware of the across the business need to decisions being made, the trust that their ideas for small compromises that were agreed and large innovation will be and their impact. listened to and critically It should be seen as a filter, reviewed. If adopted, they encouraging lots of ideas at should expect recognition. the outset and refining those Why tolerant of failure? You down to the best ones for the are going to break eggs and current strategy. not all of them will make You will probably end up omelettes. with three categories of As a learning culture, you project; good, bad, and “too will benefit from that work, hard”. and realise that every time The final one is where you don't succeed you reveal many businesses fail. Rather another way not to achieve than sink the business trying, your goal. you have a couple of other But obviously you don't options; park it for later, joint want innovation anarchy with venture with someone who everyone running their own can deliver it, or license out agendas and abandoning their the idea. day job in order to invent the Whether you can do any of corporate hero product. this depends on your Every company interested resources and exactly how in innovation should have a many such concepts you formal New Product Process. generate. ■ DAVID HOLLAND was a financial director in industry before joining Grant Thornton’s Entrepreneurial Advisory practice


‘An innovative culture embraces the need for change’


INSOLVENCY trade body R3 says controversial “pre-pack” administrations offer the best chance to save jobs in the majority of cases. The organisation says its analysis of recent pre-packs shows they were the best job-saving measure in six out of 10 cases. Its research was carried out in response to concerns that unsecured creditors are being short-changed through pre-packs, where a business goes into administration and is sold almost immediately through a pre-arranged deal. The research analysed 89 pre-pack deals which were carried out this year, including six from the North West. In total,there were 5,478 jobs at risk, with 4,846 jobs (88%) being saved through the process. R3’s North West regional chairman, Matt Dunham, is a partner at Grant Thornton, in Liverpool, and in June completed the pre-pack administration of Southport-based national hearing aid company Hearsavers, saving 29 jobs. At the time, he said: “As a business, we set the bar extremely high in terms of when we will consider the use of a pre-pack administration. “In this case, we decided this was the right option for Hearsavers as it has enabled the business to be sold, saved jobs and also means all customer deposits will be honoured.” R3 members said that in half of the companies, a pre-pack was the only alternative to liquidation. In six out of ten cases, it was the best chance to save the workforce and in more than two-thirds of cases professionals said the sale had to be done quickly, most likely because rumours about financial difficulties would have destroyed what remained of the business. Mr Dunham said: “With a dearth of buyers and incredibly tight financing around, a pre-pack is often the only option left in a large number of cases. And in the current climate, you only need a whiff of trouble to reach customers or suppliers to find the whole business disappearing overnight. “There has never been a recession like the current one. The difference now is the lack of financing. We have not seen the bottom of the market yet. “Pre-packs play an important part in the rescue culture and have a track record for saving jobs and generating a better return to creditors.”

We set the bar extremely high – Matt Dunham, North West regional chairman of insolvency trade body R3 In the survey of 2,082 of R3’s members, a number commented on how difficult it is to sell a business in the current economy. One said: “As a whole, I dislike pre-packs, but in my view this was the only opportunity to save the business, albeit on a reduced scale.” While one comment was reflected in a number of responses: “Pre-packs are a

necessary tool for an insolvency practitioner, but the problem is mainly one of perception.” In January, 2009, the Insolvency Service announced that it will ensure creditors are being given sufficient information when a pre-pack is agreed – and they will follow up cases if they have concerns.

Accountants confident firms will survive downturn THE “overwhelming majority” of mid-size businesses believe they will survive the recession, according to a survey from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). The organisation says 83% of respondents believe their businesses will pull through the

downturn – but most of those polled warned they were facing lower sales and higher costs. CIMA polled more than 600 CIMA members and students in the UK and Ireland. Some 80% of management accountants surveyed were confident they would keep their jobs. But the majority of

those polled cited a decrease of over 10% in either turnover or profits in the past year. Ray Perry, director of brand at CIMA, said: “Although the mid-size market is weathering the storm and remaining upbeat, it is clear that it is caught in an economic vicious circle.

“Respondents want to move in to new markets and ramp up turnover. Yet, despite optimistic cash flow trends, ongoing decreases in areas like headcount and net profits are making it difficult for these companies to drive things forward at the speed they would like to.”

Ray Perry, of CIMA

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learning on tHe job how kingscliffe nursery found keen staff via an apprenticeship

get real Help for buSineSS a roundup of government support including a £1,000 recruitment subsidy

in brief

your guide to Hr & recruitment summer 2009

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diScover diverSity

How a disabled staff member is an invaluable part of the team at Putteridge bury conference centre Plus: up to £2,500 recruitment and training subsidy communicating and managing change, by acas motivate staff and boost productivity with appraisals effective alternatives to redundancies

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3 ways to gain new staff Apprenticeships

Build a strong

foundation It’s a great time to consider apprenticeships – they give you dedicated, enthusiastic staff who learn both on-the-job and at tailored training courses


very employer knows that getting the right staff for the job can be tough. The right attitude – someone loyal, motivated and without too many bad habits picked up in other workplaces – can be hard to find. Apprenticeships are a tried and tested way of finding new talent, plus they can help fill skills gaps and potentially boost productivity and reduce staff turnover. Apprentices typically spend much of their week learning job-specific skills alongside more experienced employees in a real work environment, then receive off-the-job training from an appropriate training provider. The beauty of apprenticeships is that the schemes are not only sector-specific, but designed by employers. Consequently, they’re likely to provide good quality candidates who receive relevant off-the-job training. There are significant benefits for the apprentice as well. Simon Waugh, Director of the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) says, ‘Apprenticeships can be demanding but they’re very rewarding. Because apprenticeships train individuals in the skills employers want, they give people choices in their career.’ The Government is encouraging businesses to consider apprenticeships and has launched trials to pilot a range of support schemes including wage and training subsidies. In 2008, the then Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills, announced over £1 billion investment for apprenticeships in 2009 and 2010 with the Government pledging a further £140 million at the start of 2009 for 35,000 apprentices to boost the UK’s competitiveness. In February 2009, the Skills Secretary, John Denham, and Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls,



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published the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill which puts apprenticeships on a statutory basis and entitles every suitably qualified young person to an apprenticeship. Learning the ropes Loughborough-based Kingscliffe Day Nursery, which won Micro Employer of the Year at the Apprenticeship Awards 2008, is well versed in apprenticeships. It’s a small company that prides itself on its reputation for skilled, compassionate staff. ‘One of the problems we’ve encountered with recruitment,’ says Nursery Proprietor, Alexis McConnachie, ‘is that we’re such a close-knit working environment, new employees who have experience of working in bigger environments find it hard to adapt.’ Apprenticeships proved the perfect solution. As apprentices arrive without previous work experience and can, in Alexis’s words, ‘learn the skills we want from staff members from the ground up – existing staff members lead by example.’ This is a key point explains Alexis who believes unless your staff are willing and able to respond to an apprentice’s continued need for instruction and support, it may not be for you. ‘You have to have staff who are prepared to answer questions. There’s also a significant amount of administrative support that goes into sustaining an apprenticeship,

My apprentices are committed to the ethos of the company – its been a positive experience

Alexis McConnachie, Kingscliffe Nursery

so you want to make sure they’re prepared to stick with it.’ For this reason, Kingscliffe operates a programme of one to 2-week Work Trials to help candidates decide if a career in childcare is really for them. find committed staff One Kingscliffe apprentice who was clear about her commitment to childcare was Forida Choudhury. Forida joined Kingscliffe as an apprentice in 2002. Her off-the-job training took the form of an NVQ in Early Care and Education from Stephenson College in nearby Coalville. The majority of the week, however, was spent at Kingscliffe engaging in hands-on learning. ‘I came for an interview and was offered a training place and jumped at it,’ says Forida. ‘I could have gone to college from school and done a 2-year diploma but I really wanted the practical experience – you can’t beat putting learning into practice 40 hours a week.’ She says of Alexis, ‘She has supported me through my training over the past 7 years. My career has progressed and I feel loyalty towards Kingscliffe because of that.’ For her part, Alexis now has an experienced and highly competent Operations Manager in the form of Forida. ‘I don’t think twice about leaving her in charge,’ adds Alexis.

grAduAte internshiPs

A nurturing environment: Proprietor Alexis mcConnachie (right), and Kingscliffe’s latest apprentice, Laura Fletcher (left) with baby imogen

In January 2009 Skills Secretary, John Denham, responded to fears that the recession would leave the 400,000 new graduates entering the jobs market without realistic employment opportunities, by unveiling a Government-backed scheme for graduate internships. The scheme, set to launch later this year, quickly won the support of high-profile employers such as Barclays, Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

While graduate internships are common practice at many private firms, this new scheme will give graduates the opportunity to undertake internships in exchange for modest wages supplied by the Government. While the amount interns will actually receive has not yet been confirmed, the scheme will give graduates the opportunity to gain experience, making them more employable in the long term. Some, say Denham, may even be offered permanent employment with the firms where their internship takes place.

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Kingscliffe has taken on 12 apprentices, only 2 of which have left within 5 years. ‘Apprenticeships have been a very positive experience for Kingscliffe,’ says Alexis. ‘My apprentices have all been very committed to the ethos of the company and have brought new life into the childcare industry.’ Simon says, ‘Setting up an apprenticeship programme is easier than you may think. NAS advisers are on hand to guide you through the process and are there to make the implementation as smooth as possible. There’s also a vacancy matching system available at’ Alternatively, contact your local Jobcentre Plus or, get in touch with the NAS or the Apprenticeship Ambassador Network.


0845 601 2001

work triaLs work trials are a great way for employers to determine whether prospective employees are the right candidates for the job. they also allow the candidate to decide whether a particular role in a particular company or sector is right for them. They typically take place over one to 2 weeks and allow a prospective employee to fill an actual vacancy in a company. Candidates get the chance to show an employer they’re the right person for the job, while continuing to receive whatever benefits they are entitled to. They also have their travel expenses (up to £10 per day) and meal expenses (up to £3 per day) paid. Work Trials can be organised through your local Jobcentre Plus. Just contact them to express your interest and notify them of the vacancy you want to fill. Jobcentre Plus will then screen candidates for eligibility before submitting them for consideration. Go to www.

Photography: Charles Shearn 03


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EMPloyEr oFFEr

for your new recruits Jobcentre Plus is now offering £1,000 to employers who recruit someone who has been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance for 6 months or more. To qualify, the new employee simply needs to work an average of 16 hours per week for a minimum 26 week period. On top of that, in-work training worth up to £1,500 may also be available through Jobcentre Plus partners to help employers get the most from new recruits and current employees. These proposals are just part of the £500m invested by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) over 2 years, to help those who have been out of the job market for 6 months or more. The package is a great opportunity for businesses and also includes more support for people who want to set up their own business and access to 75,000 new work-focused training opportunities. Go to£1000

NEP pledges to get the UK working again Some of the UK’s leading employers have pledged their support to get people back to work at the first meeting of the National Employment Partnership (NEP), hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, James Purnell.


• advertise their non-specialist vacancies through Jobcentre Plus • Fill more of their vacancies through local Employment Partnerships (lEPs) and other new measures – aiming to meet a target of 200,000 people

real help for business the Department for business, innovation & skills is focusing on helping uK businesses to cope with the current economic challenges so they’ll be stronger when the upturn arrives. That’s why they have launched the Real Help for Business website ( with advice on how to save money and improve productivity in a downturn as well as details of 3 packages that offer financial support. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, who introduced the measures, says: ‘uk companies are the lifeblood of the economy and it’s crucial that government acts now to provide real help to support them through the downturn and see them emerge stronger on the other side. We know that some companies are struggling to secure the finances they need due to the tough credit conditions. This is why we have designed a package of measures addressing different forms of credit and providing real help for businesses.’

into work through lEPs this year

Encourage the suppliers they work with to recruit from a broader field by placing more of their vacancies with Jobcentre Plus, and to take advantage of the skills available, including those through Train to Gain

• Promote the development of the skills Britain needs for recovery, • including increasing the availability of apprenticeships, taking up Government

Continue to offer advice on helping people facing redundancy and the newly unemployed back into work as soon as possible through the skills system

subsidies and sustaining employer investment in workforce skills. Go to



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Metamorphosis BY BILL GLEESON

▲ ▲

Seven years ago, many thought Littlewoods was doomed – but Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive of parent Shop Direct Group, has helped to transform its fortunes. 11

THE BIG INTERVIEW MARK NEWTON-JONES CONTINUED FROM PAGE 11 ARK NEWTON-JONES comes from a family of shopkeepers. As a teenager, he would spend his Saturdays working in his father’s hardware store in the West Midlands. “I did everything – weighed the screws and nails, served the customers, the lot. Retail is in the blood,” he said. The chief executive of Shop Direct Group has moved on from weighing screws and nails to taking the microphone on the catwalk to launch seasonal fashion collections. He seems to enjoy the showmanship. “It comes with the territory. It’s very difficult to run a business like ours,” he explained. “The business needed a shot of adrenaline and enthusiasm. It needed self-belief and these are values we have put back into the business. “Littlewoods and GUS had become unloved. Sales and margins disappeared. It took a lot to create self-belief. A lot of people did not think these businesses had a future. “Three or four years ago, we couldn’t get top-rated retail expertise to come and work for us. Now, I can’t think of many vacancies we struggle to fill. People are looking at us as one of the retail success stories. The internet is where people think the future of retail is going to be.” Mr Newton-Jones says Shop Direct is much further down the road to achieving its ambitious transformation from an old-fashioned catalogue firm into an online retailer than expected at this stage. “Many said we were doomed to failure,” he said. “They said it’s not going to happen. “But we are well ahead of where I thought we would be. We will be cash generative for the first time since the shareholders bought the business. “EBITDA will be £124m this year. This is the last year of significant writedowns. Profit before tax will show improvements in the next few years. “There will still be some more restructuring, but not so much as before. “In another 2½ years, we should be in the top quartile of British retailers by return on sale.” At the start of the year, the Shop Direct boss moved with some alacrity to buy the Woolworths name from the administrators of the high street chain which closed at the end of 2008. Five months later, Shop Direct relaunched Woolworths online. “It has been an incredible 20 weeks since acquiring Woolworths,” he said. “We have brought this business alive in a really short period of time. If we were to do a high street business, it would take that time simply to refurbish the shops. “We feel confident because the customers have told us how they want us to rebuild the brand. About 1m customers have communicated with us during those 20 weeks.” He believes the collapsed high street chain suffered from a random and eclectic stock that varied too much between branches. “We are going to be more focused with the things we are going to sell,” he said. The new online Woolworths has four areas of business: toys, children’s clothes and nursery equipment, entertainment and technology including games, DVDs, iPods and TVs, and party lines including pic ‘n mix and fancy dress. By the autumn, the retailer



Striking a pose at Shop Direct’s spring/summer fashion show

Shop Direct’s Skyways House headquarters, in Speke expects to stock 1,500 different types of toy. When all DVD, CD and computer titles are taken into account, the new Woolworths will sell 500,000 product lines. There will be no catalogue at this stage. The plan also includes the reintroduction of Woolworths’ traditional Ladybird children’s clothing brand. This will be extended

to include new ranges of nursery furniture, such as cots and pushchairs. The relaunch is being supported by a £3m advertising campaign in red-top newspapers and in cinemas. The new Woolworths will be relatively small compared to the £1.4bn sales of its former high street incarnation, but Mr Newton-Jones says he is confident

Mark Newton-Jones has helped Speke-based Shop Direct Group his venture will beat the £28m of online sales achieved by the former firm. Other marketing innovations include posting videos on YouTube and using social media. It’s all part of a new approach to marketing and communicating with home shopping customers in the digital age. Shop Direct is creating a new club

for what it calls its Very Important Families, or VIFs. It will offer free Saturday morning cinema tickets. Mr Newton-Jones said: “Woolworths will make profit in its first year because we can run it off the engine we have created for Shop Direct group,” he said. “We can launch new businesses online, whether that’s an acquisition


become one of the country’s most successful online retailers. The company’s brand portfolio now includes Littlewoods and Woolworths or whether it’s a new brand.” An example of a newly invented Shop Direct brand is clothing and furniture brand Very, which is aimed at 25 to 35-year-olds with young families. “It will come with a monthly magazine, and, twice a year, a directory,” said Mr Newton-Jones. Woolworths and Very are the latest

brands to be added the long-standing Littlewoods and GUS names. The firm’s next big initiative is called Web Chat, which allows online customers to “talk” to sales staff. Web Chat facilities include having product queries answered and product demonstrations via video. “We have also introduced text messaging. We will now text

customers to say that their delivery is on the way or to tell them about a special promotion,” said Mr Newton-Jones. Other innovations include the use of voice recognition software to handle routine queries, such as account balance queries or credit card payments. Shop Direct also envisages using the internet to give

customers direct access to their statements. But it is in the field of television and video that the really big innovations are likely to take place. Mr Newton-Jones said: “TV and live video streaming is going to be the next revolution for the internet and web-based businesses. We already have 2,500 videos online. It

started with women models on the catwalk and we will have men doing that soon. “There was some criticism of our early internet trading. For example, people complained they couldn’t see how long a garment was or how it flowed. We have also started to video self-assembly furniture, and we have done sofa-beds on video so people can see how versatile a piece of furniture is. We are starting to film our own people and maybe actors talking about products. We are pre-empting the questions customers may ask, so if you have a bit of a tummy, you may want to wear long-line knitwear. We can give fashion and design advice. “We can bring old-fashioned retail service alive, but in digital form.” The internet, which now accounts for the majority of Shop Direct’s sales, allows the retailer to offer a more efficient and faster service than traditional catalogues. The retailer can change the stock on display faster than was possible with a print publication that had to be posted out to customers. Now, the stock displayed on the internet can be changed in an instant. Interactivity with customers offers further advantages. It allows Shop Direct to get to know customer buying habits much better and, as a consequence, it has devised new marketing techniques. Mr Newton-Jones explained: “We have some new customer segments. There is, for example, the ‘click-happy’ trader. This is generally a younger customer who does nearly all of their shopping online. Then there is the ‘family first’ customer. These are people who spend nearly all of their money on the family and not on themselves. We would target them for our Back to School range. “With that level of knowledge, we can do our marketing better. It can inform the way we buy products. If we know we have a certain number of click-happy customers, we can tell our buyers we expect to have a certain number of them next year, so we can buy for them six to nine months ahead. It’s much more targeted.” He added: “Their behavioural traits are very similar. There’s a certain amount of predictability where these customers are going to go. “The high street does not have the same level of information about their customers. The high street does not know who is going to walk into their shops. This is what gives the online retailer a huge advantage over traditional businesses.” Indeed, the Shop Direct boss believes online retailing offers so many competitive advantages that some high street operations may struggle to survive in the years ahead. He is particularly concerned about those chains which have 700 to 800 branches around the country. “When you look at all the town centres around Britain and all the out-of-town retail sites, you can cover the country with about 450 shops at most,” he said. “Anybody who has got more has a huge rental overhead which they have to meet.” Furthermore, high street retailers are constrained by the fabric and construction of their buildings in a way that online retailers are not. “We have no walls, so we can continue adding to our displays,” Mr Newton-Jones explained. If it is so advantageous to be an online retailer, then why aren’t others following suit? The answer, says Mr Newton-Jones, is that there are



Shop Direct Group has also launched many press and television advertising campaigns for its brands, including this Christmas Littlewoods commercial from last year 13 CONTINUED FROM PAGE 12 significant barriers to entry to this market. He said: “You need to have scale. There are those who set up in their garages, but they are small, and they may have a maximum of a few million pounds turnover. “To do what we’re doing, you need tens of millions of pounds in investment in technology, warehousing and the ability to pick, pack and deliver to homes all around the country. It’s significantly more difficult to deliver direct to 3,500 homes in Wirral than it is to deliver 3,500 packages to a single depot in Bromborough. If you’re going to do that, you have to have somebody else make the deliveries, and that hits your margins and makes you less competitive.”


All of the changes, implemented over the past three years – including this year’s closure of the company’s Crosby call centre with the loss of hundreds of jobs – amount to a fundamental shift in the nature of the business. Shop Direct is no longer a catalogues business, selling Littlewoods, Kays or GUS brands. Instead, its principal asset is a highly sophisticated internet engine that is being used to sell more and more brands. The recent additions of Woolworths and Very will be followed by further acquisitions and ventures in the years to come. “That’s the reason we chose to change the company’s name last year,” said Mr Newton-Jones. “We wanted to emphasise to the team here and to the outside world

that Shop Direct is now an online retail engine. The engine is the hub and the brands are the spokes that come off it. It’s an all-encompassing structure that enables us to sell what we wish to, to whomever we wish to, in the UK and overseas.” The strategy has worked well, but the question is: was this always the plan from the moment the Barclay family acquired the business in 2002, or has there been an element of luck along the way? Mr Newton-Jones said: “There was a bit of vision there. They had seen how the internet had grown at some pace in Japan and America. We knew that the same would happen in the UK, too. But we did not have the infrastructure back then. “It was definitely the right plan, but the pace of change, particularly

the way broadband has been adopted in the UK, has helped. We are on a bit of a wave. We are in the right place at the right time. “Consumers are voting with their feet. We need to be modernising to change with that behaviour. We also need to keep up with Amazon and other aggressive internet businesses. “Did we ever doubt it? When we were right in the middle of the transformation, when we were closing our head office, when we were changing our warehouses, there were times I thought we were not going to come out of this, but I was pretty convinced that, from day one, the things we were doing were common sense and good for the customer. The business had to come through it. I think we have been vindicated.”

Mark Newton-Jones praises the vision of Shop Direct’s owners, the Barclay brothers


Law firms fearing the future as ‘Tesco law’ hits the shelves Solicitors launch baked beans protest amid worries about ‘potentially devastating’ legal reforms

Ian Hodgkinson, partnership unit partner at Mace & Jones, in Liverpool, says law firms that do not adapt to forthcoming reforms will struggle to survive HIGH Street law firms are being warned that they need to take urgent action to ensure their survival ahead of the introduction of so-called “Tesco Law.” Reforms under the Legal Services Act 2007 mean that non-legal bodies such as supermarkets and motoring organisations will be able to sell legal services. The move, set to come into place in mid-2011, has been described by some lawyers as a “big bang” that could transform the legal sector forever. One group of lawyers has launched its own fightback against the change., which has signed up 100 law forms, wants to become nationally-known brand so it can compete with chain stores or any other newcomers to the market. It led a protest outside the High Court in May where lawyers handed out free cans of beans from shopping trolleys, and warned that the legal reform plans were a recipe for

disaster. The cans carried the message: “Legal services by supermarkets is as ridiculous as lawyers selling beans.” Ian Hodgkinson, partnership unit manager at Mace & Jones, in Liverpool, says law firms are right to have real concerns about the reforms. He said the reforms will have farreaching and “potentially devastating” consequences. He said: “Firms offering personal injury advice, residential conveyancing, family law and probate work really need to look at the future. “In two years’ time, the ‘big bang’ will be happening. Those firms which fail to properly plan, adapt and protect themselves face real problems.” Mr Hodgkinson said he was especially concerned because most high street law firms operate as partnerships. He said: “Small professional

Legal group Quality Solicitors. com said the idea of supermarkets selling legal services was ‘as ridiculous as lawyers selling beans’

services firms of all kinds that operate as a partnership, but particularly high street law firms, are potentially under threat from Tesco Law and need to look at restructuring.

“In essence, if you operate as a partnership, and the business goes bust, the partners have unlimited personal liability for the debts of the business. “However, firms can protect

themselves by restructuring as a ‘limited liability partnership’. This way, the business and not the partners are liable for debts.” Experts are predicting that some high street estate agents, law firms and accountancy practices could be tempted to merge with each other to survive the “big bang”. Accountancy firm BDO Stoy Hayward is predicting that up to a quarter of small law firms, and up to 15% of medium firms, could merge, while a significant number of very small legal practices will cease trading. Mr Hodgkinson said: “Firms simply cannot plunge their heads in the sand. “Tesco law is coming. There is an urgent need to consider all options for adapting and protecting the business. It is vital to take expert legal advice in partnership law, which is a highly specialised area, to ensure the business stands the best chance of survival and success.”


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Are we in the know?

Lateral Visions, based at Liverpool Science Park, is winning a national reputation for its 3-D visualisations, ranging from architectural walk-throughs to educational games


▲ ▲

The knowledge economy is increasingly vital to the region – and regeneration supremos are bidding to win more international hi-tech investment.


THE BIG FEATURE OR the vast majority of people, the term “knowledge economy” is likely to provoke nothing more than a blank stare. On the other hand, everyone knows what an MP3 player is – a device that was developed as a direct result of the knowledge economy. This vague and imprecise concept is often easier to understand by referring to the kind of everyday objects this economy has produced: it uses cutting-edge, hi-tech science to develop ideas and convert them into a business proposition, which in turn impacts on our day-to-day lives. It also plays a crucial part in a range of other applications, in particular medical science. What is not in doubt is that this vast industry is becoming increasingly important to the North West as a whole, and the Liverpool city region in particular. It is home to a wide variety of such businesses, usually grouped together in science, technological, or innovation parks. In Merseyside, the biggest and most significant are Liverpool Science Park, in the city centre; Liverpool Innovation Park, on the former Marconi site, in Edge Lane; and Wavertree Technology Park. Both of the city’s universities also have a combined research portfolio approaching £300m in value. Farther afield, the biggest players are Heath Business and Technical Park, at ICI’s former Runcorn headquarters, and Daresbury Science Park, near Warrington. However, all are within the wider entity known as the Liverpool city region, and are becoming more and more significant as this sector of the economy undergoes rapid expansion. This will receive a massive boost next year, when Liverpool will be the only city outside London to be represented at the 2010 Shanghai Expo, where it will be marketed as the gateway to the North West. The city has its own Knowledge Quarter, which includes its universities, the Liverpool Science Park, and the Royal Liverpool teaching hospital. Together, it is reckoned these institutions generate £1bn for the city each year, supporting 14,000 full-time jobs or around 7% of the Liverpool total. A large number of these are highly paid and skilled knowledge-based jobs. The economic value of this sector is despite it covering only 1% of the city’s land area. The newly-formed Liverpool Vision organisation was established last year to promote the city region as a great place to do business. Both its director of investment and enterprise, Mike Taylor, and head of research and intelligence, Andy Green, are aware of the scale of the challenge they face in making everyone in the city – including many visitors’ first point of contact, taxi drivers – appreciate the size and significance of Liverpool’s knowledge economy. The first obstacle, explains Mr Taylor, is explaining what the knowledge economy is. To address this, a Knowledge Economy Group has been formed, bringing together all those institutions that make up the broad “knowledge quarter.” Mr Taylor said: “No-one quite understands the definition of what the knowledge economy is, but it includes the universities, health practitioners, financial and professional services, the creative and digital sectors. “It is the high added value, growth end of the economy, rather than the



Mike Taylor, left, and Andy Green, of Liverpool Vision, say they want to tell the world about the success of the knowledge economy in the service sector at the other end. The Knowledge Economy Group is developing a knowledge economy plan for the city region, which includes Daresbury and the wider knowledge-based assets. This is being drawn up over the next 12 months, and will lead to a better understanding of what our knowledge economy assets are.” An important element of the overall project is ensuring that Liverpool’s status as a centre of global excellence in this field is recognised. For example, more people work in bio-manufacturing in the south of the city than anywhere else in Europe, while Liverpool has Europe’s highest concentration of employment in vaccine manufacture, with companies like the Swiss drugs giant Novartis, at Speke. The knowledge economy also extends to leisure pursuits such as

the computer games industry. It was revealed earlier this month that Liverpool could be turned into an international nerve-centre for the computer gaming industry, with the setting-up of a £5m National Games Academy, to become a breeding ground for the finest computer minds in the country. The Liverpool city region is already the most significant games cluster in the UK, employing 1,500 people directly, and the proposal aims to build on this position. The region is home to some of the leading companies in the video games sector, including Sony, Evolution Studios, and Project Gotham Racing creator Bizarre Creations, as well as many smaller developers. A total of 10 of the top 100 console games in the world were developed in Liverpool. Despite this, many people are not even aware of the games industry’s

presence on Merseyside – there is no sign at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe’s development centre, in Wavertree, to alert passers-by to the hi-tech work going on there. In total, the region’s digital and creative sector employs some 36,000 people in 4,500 companies. Mr Taylor said: “The next phase is making sure Liverpool becomes world-renowned for its range of knowledge assets. This is what we’re working on at the moment because it’s one area where Liverpool does really badly – we don’t make the most of our knowledge assets. “The city’s presence at Expo will be a great help in this. The six months of the event are being sub-divided into thematic groups, but the knowledge economy theme extends across all of them, and the great strengths we have in that sector, whether it’s the city’s higher

education assets, science and innovation, professional and financial services, the overall regeneration agenda, or creative and digital. “We are looking for key economic outcomes from the Expo, such as an increase in foreign students and tourists, especially middle-class Chinese.” Mr Green adds: “We have to focus on our knowledge assets in order for Liverpool to play its part and survive in the global economy. We need to make sure the city’s wide range of knowledge economy assets are fully articulated, and for people to understand Liverpool is not just its sport, music, culture, and architecture, but also its knowledge assets. “All this is relevant to the man in the street and is also of international significance – for example, the University of Liverpool is doing


Software firm’s new vision

Sir David Attenborough provides commentary on 3-D tour of biological society

Liverpool city region important work in the field of zoonosis, which is about how diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, particularly important now with the swine flu pandemic.” Mr Taylor said: “Liverpool is so strong in this area because of the strength of its universities, which has bled out into other areas. “The knowledge assets are wrapped around an infrastructure that works – with John Lennon Airport the fastest-growing regional airport – its commercial district, and the cruise liner terminal. “This whole knowledge sector is very important as a driver for the economy. It’s a real employment opportunity, and it’s got growth potential. “The city has a reputation of being creative and digital with a rich cultural heritage, and with a relatively low cost base.”

THE beautiful setting of Burlington House, in the heart of London, is the headquarters of the Linnean Society, the world’s oldest active biological society. Now a Liverpool-based software company, Lateral Visions, has created a 3-D interactive virtual tour of the society’s historic premises, with audio commentary by Sir David Attenborough. Visitors to the website will be able to enter the 3-D world and either take a guided tour of the building and collections, or they can explore the building at their leisure. The Linnean Society takes its name from the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, whose botanical, zoological and library collections the Society has kept since 1829. The virtual tour allows visitors to enter the Society’s premises from the courtyard of Burlington House, and then be taken around the meeting room, library, council and committee rooms, with links providing more information for those who want it. The launch of the tour means that the society’s collections will be accessible to an international audience in a way never previously possible. Lateral Visions director Brendan Neville said: “3-D technology has different and exciting applications across a wide range of websites. “For the Linnean Society, the online tour means that the collections and the historic headquarters will be accessible to an international audience in a way that has never previously been possible.” But developers at Lateral Visions believe museums are just the start for this kind of online interactive technology – its applications are potentially limitless, from people selling high-end

real estate to institutions wanting to publicise their premises. Mr Neville said: “I’d predict that this kind of technology will soon be commonplace on the web. “It’s certainly not just about online gaming. It is encouraging that Liverpool businesses are seizing the initiative in this area and I’m confident that this will help create a lot of new jobs.” Lateral Visions was set up in 2003 by Dr Carl Gavin and Stephen Clibbery to pursue the use of interactive 3-D technology for non-entertainment purposes. They both had a background in interactive 3-D technology in the video games industry, and saw an opportunity to apply similar approaches for use in business, education, training and marketing – an area that is increasingly becoming known as “serious games.”. What makes Lateral Visions’ software different from other 3-D software for the web is that it is delivered in a standard web browser, without the need to install software, and is hosted by the client. Backed by Liverpool John Moores University’s International Centre for Digital Content, the company has developed a reputation for delivering sophisticated yet engaging 3-D projects ranging from driving simulations to architectural walk-throughs to educational games. Among its recent awards are “Best Application of Gaming and Simulation to learning” for their Racing Academy product, which was designed to teach engineering principles through the medium of a racing car game. ■ THE interactive tour of the Linnean Society headquarters is available at

Lateral Visions’ 3-D image of the Linnean Society library, in London

Hi-tech security specialist playing leading role in industry

A LIVERPOOL-BASED business is at the cutting edge of the UK’s human identity and biometrics industry, a sector currently undergoing massive growth with an estimated value of more than £250m. Human Recognition Systems, based at Wavertree Technology Park, has already won awards for its specialist work in biometrics, identity management and video processing technology.

Established in 2002 by entrepreneur Neil Norman, HRS quickly established itself as the market leader in its field, with clients including Manchester Airport, the Ministry of Defence and Merseyside Police. Now the firm has helped to develop the first set of occupational standards for the industry. These guidelines will define the level of competence needed for a particular job role or occupation within the

security industry. They will also be used to support individual and organisational development, and form the basis of a number of qualifications. Mr Norman said: “Biometric technology is becoming increasingly diverse, and despite being a relatively new industry it is growing at an incredible pace in the UK and globally – analysts are now predicting 20% growth between now and 2012. “We see the

introduction of National Occupational Standards into our industry as a landmark step – it is now of fundamental importance that everyone in the industry has a clear set of organisational, quality and vocational guidelines.” Skills for Security, created in 2006 as the sector skills body for the security industry, consulted dozens of industry experts to help it develop the new occupational standards.

Neil Norman



City’s knowledge cluster Liverpool Science Park is showcasing the region’s excellence in R&D LIVERPOOL Science Park, in the city centre, was set up three years ago to support the region’s burgeoning knowledge economy. The complex now has 36 companies with more than 200 staff in its Innovation Centre – ic1. It recently launched its second phase – ic2 – a state-of-the-art facility designed for knowledge-based companies. The science park was constituted as a joint venture between Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool, together with Liverpool City Council, and part financed by the European Union under Merseyside’s Objective 1 Programme, and the North West Development Agency (NWDA). The chief executive of Liverpool Science Park, Dr Sarah Tasker, is herself an acknowledged expert on the region’s knowledge economy. In 2008, she was commissioned by Liverpool Vision and Government Office Northwest to write a wide-ranging report on the performance of Liverpool’s brand in attracting knowledge-based businesses from outside the region. Her report concluded that Liverpool’s brand punches above its weight nationally and internationally but is strongly associated with creativity, culture, sport and music rather than business. She said: “The city is not currently perceived as a first-choice destination for business, and is not widely recognised for the excellence of the wider research and knowledge-activity across the city. “This is hampering the Science Park’s – and the city’s – ability to attract knowledge-based companies from outside the region.” Dr Tasker’s call for Liverpool to embrace both business and “knowledge” as core to its brand development was well received by the city’s leaders. But it also led to a practical response at Liverpool Science Park. A “Soft Landing Centre” will shortly be launched, designed to help international companies and companies from outside the region by providing a range of offices and services specifically designed to provide quick and risk-free access to the city, its support networks and markets. Working with Liverpool Vision, Dr Tasker is also leading a task-force to showcase the city’s excellence in such areas as cancer research, biomedical technologies, green technologies and renewable energy. Dr Tasker said: “It is these technologies that will drive the city’s economy in future years. “Liverpool has long acknowledged the importance of the knowledge economy as a creator of wealth for the City Region. With two leading research universities and top-quality graduates, Liverpool has the potential to create a new generation of entrepreneurs whose ability to commercialise new ideas will create much-needed jobs and businesses. “Despite recessionary trends in the city and across the UK, the Science Park continues to generate strong demand. ic2 already has its first two anchor tenants, with the expectation that a further three companies will


take up residency in the next few months. “It is important for young knowledge-based companies to find a community that will support their enterprise and enable their success and growth. The management team at the Science Park go the extra mile to provide a wide range of activities and services designed to support young companies within a fully commercially framework. “The success of these companies demonstrate that Liverpool has the potential to attract and grow knowledge-based companies. “As companies look to reduce operating costs, the relatively low cost-base across the city, compared to cities in the south of the UK, should make Liverpool an attractive location for companies. However, perceptions of Liverpool as a business location need changing if this is to become a trend.” Among the numerous small businesses flourishing at the Science Park is FlaminDelux, an ICT company founded by Phil Matthews in 2006. Having started as a one-man band, FlaminDelux now employs four others. The team designs innovative products such as Videoke Stars, which uses green screen technology, along with head tracking and karaoke, to create an entertainment game where up to three people can dance and sing while the audience views the performance on the big screen. Other commercial applications have included turning Merseyside Police’s annual report into an information micro-site. This meant local reports were delivered in video format, and static data presented in an interactive format, creating an improved and paper-free viewing experience. Mr Matthews said: “The diverse collective of companies here has enabled us to complement and collaborate with other companies forming very strong partnerships and solutions. “By working in a cluster of science and technology businesses, we are able to understand the requirements and skill set of the sector, while making them aware of our own abilities.”

Dr Sarah Tasker wants Liverpool to embrace knowledge as a key brand

The new second phase ‘ic2’ building, at Liverpool Science Park


An artist’s impression of what the planned new ‘technology village’ at Daresbury Campus will look like

Campus looking to the future

Daresbury wants to host a technology village home housing 500 companies and 15,000 staff

THE Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus, near Warrington, is an important part of the wider “eco-system” of the Liverpool city region’s knowledge economy. The huge campus, just off the M56 motorway, is home to nearly 100 companies, based mainly in the Daresbury Innovation Centre. They are typically from the digital, ICT, biomedical and advanced engineering sectors. Although it is already delivering world-class science, the campus is about to move into the next phase of its development with major expansion plans. This would see Daresbury become home to larger and more established companies – the first step in an ambitious 30-year masterplan to create a “technology village” and a home for up to 15,000 people working in around 500 companies. The development would bring together hi-tech businesses, universities, research organisations and industrial partners with the business support and investor community. In all, more than £60m is planned for investment in the Daresbury Campus by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Among the facilities already on site are SuperSTEM, the world’s

highest resolution electronic microscope. Meanwhile, the University of Liverpool is constructing a radiation source on the campus’s ALICE (Accelerators and Lasers in Combined Experiments) particle accelerator, which will help with cancer research, among other applications. There is a high degree of collaboration on site, with three-quarters of companies joining forces with each other, and more than 70% engaging with universities and the STFC. John Leake, general manager of the campus, said: “Daresbury has always been a world-class science facility, known globally for its technological excellence like accelerator science and highperformance computing. “However, it has transformed itself in the last three years from a government research laboratory into a dynamic, interactive hi-tech community. “To ensure that Daresbury takes its rightful place at the heart of the UK’s knowledge economy, we need to build the hi-tech base from its current position. “It is also important for the companies that come to Daresbury that once they have found the natural home for their business, they

never have a reason to leave to find the appropriate space they need as they grow. “At the campus, we promote a ‘home for life’ philosophy – the ability to start with a desk on Campus and end up with your own building. This will require us to provide a portfolio of high-quality, flexible facilities providing office, workshop and laboratory space. “In the short term, this will be through the construction of a grow-on facility allowing companies to graduate from the Innovation Centre, while also attracting other larger companies to the campus. This will be operational in early 2011.” For Halton council’s chief executive David Parr, Daresbury is a “significant contributor to the development of the economy in Halton.” He said: “The knowledge economy, and science and digital/creative industries, are an important sector not just for Halton, but the Liverpool city region and the whole of the North-West. “It’s a major component of our economic regeneration. Traditionally, as a country, our focus has been on manufacturing, and Halton has been no exception. As we move through the 21st century, the

Some of the hi-tech work carried out at the Daresbury complex ability to collect knowledge, and learn and share that knowledge with others, is fundamental to the prosperity of the business communities. “For example, at Daresbury, there’s some very hi-tech, world-class science taking place. They are creating and inventing new concepts, new science that will in the fullness of time come into the life of everybody. “This is how the knowledge

economy works: it takes the science and converts it into practical applications in our day-to-day lives, such as the iPod. “What’s happening at Daresbury is the exploration of new science ideas and concepts that are being transformed into business applications that have a day-to-day application. Daresbury is unique because there are not many facilities that put science and business side by side.”



Former Government Minister Steven Norris, second from right, is pictured during the official opening ceremony for Progressive House with, from left, SOG marketing director John Lewis, Progressive Solutions’ president Len Williams, SOG managing director Dr Peter Cook, and Progressive Solutions’ UK managing director, Arthur Duffy

Phoenix rises from the ashes Former ICI site transformed into thriving technical centre – without any public funding THE Heath Business and Technical Park emerged from the ashes of ICI’s former Runcorn headquarters. It has now grown into a world-class centre for science and innovation, supporting more than 180 different organisations which employ a combined workforce of around 2,000 people – more than in ICI’s heyday. Even more remarkably, it has achieved this without a penny of public money over the nine years of its operation. Dr Peter Cook – a former ICI manager who purchased the 50-acre site belonging to the former chemical plant to set up SOG Ltd, which owns and operates the business park – says he wouldn’t want it any other way. According to Dr Cook, government hand-outs or regional development grants would interfere with the freedom he has to make decisions purely on the basis of what is good for the business. So far, this approach has paid off handsomely – and its zero cost to the taxpayer has even attracted the attentions of the Government, to see if this model can be replicated across the UK with its own research organisations. The park now encompasses companies that range from


bio-science firms to IT specialists, from food industry consultants to website designers, and from government agencies to telemarketing specialists. And, despite being only four miles away from the even more extensive Daresbury complex, The Heath has ambitious expansion plans and is continuing to buck the economic downturn. In 2008, SOG launched a new-build expansion and refurbishment programme at The Heath to develop a range of improved facilities over the next five years. This was launched in July, when Liverpool-born former government minister Steven Norris came to The Heath to open the new UK headquarters of leading information technology specialist Progressive Solutions – one of the very few building projects in the north of England to have been designed, started and completed during the credit crunch. The building is part of a multi-million pound phased expansion programme at The Heath, which will add 180,000 sq ft of new accommodation and will potentially increase the total workforce on site by more than 1,000. SOG also operates the Hexagon

Tower, an 11-storey tower block in north Manchester, making it the largest operator of multi-occupancy science facilities. Managing director Dr Cook is in no doubt that the knowledge economy is the future, not just in the UK but worldwide. He said: “The future of the British economy depends on science and innovation. It’s intellectual knowledge, innovation, the clever stuff in technology. “We’ve moved on from manufacturing and industry to a huge explosion in internet technology, with all this variety of software systems to help business run more effectively. “The Heath is a perfect example of this – we have retained ICI’s corporate facilities and skills and refocused them on to new businesses. “We have now virtually filled the site and reached 88% capacity. There are about 180 businesses here, across 23 different business sectors, and 70% is in science and technology. “We’ve done all this without a penny of public money. It has come from purely standard finance – we borrowed the money from a bank and are now paying it back. “The benefit of this is that it has made us very business-oriented and

More than 2,000 people now work at The Heath, in Runcorn focused. We have had to make hard decisions about the way we operate in the real business economy as we didn’t have a source of government money propping us up. “But such money is tied to various restrictions, and our experience is that you shouldn’t restrain business in its decisions purely to satisfy the

conditions of government money.” Dr Cook is in no doubt as to the secret of The Heath’s success. “We’re very flexible and focus on the needs of the business and the customers,” he said. “For example, we will modify laboratory space to suit the needs of a particular science business, and there is an ample supply of support services to support them if they need help.” Although the highly specialised and technical nature of what goes on at The Heath may go over most people’s heads, the results often have a universal application. For example, one research operation, Lionstar, is looking at the spray mechanism used in cosmetic and household sprays and developing a system which reduces the number of component parts that make up the pump assembly from 14 to four. Its clients include chemical giant Unilever. Although the business park co-exists quite happily with its near neighbour at Daresbury – which has more of an emphasis on academic, research-based science – Dr Cook said he was seeking more information on its proposed multi-million pound investment, and the impact it could have on The Heath.


in association with

MARK DOWD WE NEED fast rail links to London, a fact that is appreciated by Merseytravel, which has contributed £2.5m towards improvements at Lime Street Station. We also need a world-class public transport system within our city region if we are to stimulate inward investment and generate real economic growth. It is for this reason that Merseytram Line 1 to Knowsley remains the priority major scheme in our 2006-2011 Local Transport Plan and all the relevant authorisations and permissions remain active and in place. This route runs through some of the most deprived areas in the UK and was chosen because of the greater economic, environmental and social benefits it brings. It will help regenerate deprived areas, improve the quality of the built environment, housing renewal and improve physical accessibility to job opportunities. Recent regeneration proposals for Kirkby town centre only serve to strengthen an already overwhelming economic and social case. If the proposals to build a new stadium for Everton FC are approved, the case will be strengthened even further. At the other end of the line, at Kings Waterfront, it would help reduce city centre congestion. It has been estimated that

Merseytram could create up to 15,000 additional jobs in our city region – and, of course, it has the added advantage of being a transport system that is both clean and green. Line 1 has been strongly supported by local commerce and industry, and by the public. The Merseytram project remains popular and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce have maintained their support. Keolis, the French transport company we selected to operate Merseytram, says it would be one of the most commercially robust and successful systems in Europe. And that comes from a company which delivered and operated modern tram systems in many European cities. The company’s head of UK operations, Stephane Richon, said: “We run tram systems across Europe and we have subjected the revenue and patronage projections for Line One to serious independent scrutiny, and there is no doubt that there is a compelling commercial case for this route.” Keolis know from their experiences just how highquality fixed-link transport systems can stimulate regeneration, investment and growth. So does Merseytravel, which is why Merseytram still remains very much a priority for us, whatever anyone else may say.

Future progress – improvements for passengers will include a revamped Lime Street

Business class

Why letting the train take the strain is finally paying off TRAVELLING between Liverpool and London should now be turning into a first-class experience, after years of indifference. Faster trains, cheaper walk-on tickets, and new lounges at Lime Street are welcome developments for passengers. The services mid-week, particularly for business travellers, appear to have been a success, especially now journeys can be made in a little over two hours. Plans are also in hand for a revamp of Lime Street station itself. Maresa Molloy, head of policy and information at Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said: “The feedback that we are getting from members and from our transport committee about the Liverpool-London service have

been very positive. The reduced journey time makes a big difference; reducing the overall length of day for members who need to spend the day working in London. “The shorter journey times make onward travel through and outside London feasible as a useful working day – without needing a hotel stay or extended time out of the office. “Members have also commented on their leisure use, again with the service making a day trip a more attractive option. “The only complaint we have heard is that Watford is not so easily accessible on the direct route. “We welcome all investment that makes public transport a viable option for business users." Virgin Trains started a trial at the

end of March with savings of more than £55 off the price of the unrestricted Anytime ticket available at Liverpool Lime Street and Runcorn stations. First-class travellers are entitled to complimentary refreshments, wireless internet and the use of new first-class lounges at Liverpool and Runcorn. In addition, passengers can now enjoy the sort of facilities experienced at other top-line stations, after the opening of a £3.4m lounge. Maintenance group Network Rail, transport authority Merseytravel and train operator Virgin have worked on the new first and standard class passenger lounges for two years to create the sort of amenities demanded by customers.

Calling at all stations to fast food heaven

An artist’s impression of the Merseytram

VIRGIN Trains is offering a complimentary fry-up on selected weekend services over the summer. Holders of Standard Anytime ticket holders – or those who upgrade to First Class for £15 – can enjoy a slap-up breakfast or brunch at their seat. The trial run is on routes between London Euston and Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Preston

and Manchester. The Great British Breakfast offers outdoor-reared British pork and herb sausage, sweetcure back bacon, free-range fried egg, potato rosti and grilled tomato. Or there is an equivalent vegetarian grill. Alternatively, customers can have a roll with bacon or sausage or vegetarian sausage, or a fruit plate. The main course is

accompanied by toast and marmalade, orange or grapefruit juice, water and tea or coffee. The participating services are as follows: Saturdays, August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 0748 LIVERPOOL LIME ST – LONDON EUSTON. Sundays, August 9, 16, 23, 30. 0805 EUSTON – LIVERPOOL LIME ST.




Former cricketer Ian Cockbain plays a straigth bat on corporate bonds

Kevin Gillibrand, of Fraser – urges caution on bonds

Just how risky are bonds? Expert views on corporate bonds from St James’s Place and Fraser Wealth Management THE flight from the stock market by investors has seen corporate bonds emerge as a favoured asset class. Billions of pounds have been pumped into funds specialising these bonds this year by cautious and risk-averse investors who believe they offer a safe haven. But that may not necessarily be the case. So just what is a corporate bond? When a company needs cash, one option is to borrow on the corporate bond market. It’s like an IOU – the company promises investors to repay the loan at a certain date, known as the maturity, plus a fixed rate of annual interest, known as the coupon. The bond’s price in the market fluctuates depending on how the company is performing and where interest rates are going. There are some tasty yields on some bonds at the moment but this is often balanced by the fact that the issuing company could go bust. The flood of money piling into


corporate bonds has raised fears that investors do not fully understand the risks involved. Ian Cockbain, who runs the Liverpool office of respected City investment house St James’s Place, said: “The bond market, like everything else, can go up and down so we would only encourage such investment as part of a diverse portfolio. Our fund managers take the view that some bonds still currently offer the opportunity for capital growth and very attractive yields. “Because of the economic downturn, the market for corporate bonds is factoring in a level of risk that companies will default on their interest payments which is both unlikely and assumes a worse economic downturn than the 1930s. “Consequently, many corporate bonds issued by top quality companies are priced at levels not seen for over 70 years, which gives investors the chance to lock into

historically attractive yields as well as offering the potential for capital growth.” He said the St James’s Place Investment Grade Corporate Bond fund provides a focused, investmentgrade solution for investors looking for a higher-quality fixed interest fund with lower credit risk. This new fund will be managed by Paul Read and Paul Causer, of Invesco Perpetual, and will complement the existing Corporate Bond fund which offers exposure to a combination of investment grade and high yield debt. Cockbain added: “Whether investing for income or capital growth, the principles of diversifying your investments and finding the best possible investment managers to look after your money are as important as ever, particularly in these challenging times.” He argues that, for those looking for a return on income, the bond market is a sensible alternative to

keeping cash in the bank and watch it being eroded due to interest rates: “The harsh reality is that, once tax and inflation are taken into account, savers will have to erode their capital simply to maintain their income needs. Suddenly, the traditional safe option looks anything but.” Some funds have prospered, such as Invesco and M&G. Richard Woolnough, manager of the M&G Corporate Bond fund, says: “The investment case for corporate bond funds remains highly attractive. We believe the rates of default expected by the market are highly unlikely.” However, others have lost money dramatically. Halifax's corporate bond, for instance, has lost 14.7% of its capital over the past year. One advisor who is most definitely urging caution is Kevin Gillibrand, a director of Fraser Wealth Management in Liverpool. He said: “Bonds have been the hot ticket for some time and investors have picked up on this which has led

to clients clamouring to get involved. And, to be fair, there have been some good returns and I hope that will continue to be the case. “But, and it's a big but, investors have got to be wise about the possible downside of such an investment. “Basically you are buying a debt to receive yields which move with interest rates. When something is seen as a good thing, you get a rush to invest – a sheep-like mentality overcomes people. My personal view is that this can be dangerous and could well produce a bubble somewhere down the line which could be a year from now. And, of course, some companies may start defaulting on payments. “Some funds have done well but I'm not sure that jumping in with big investments at this stage is very wise. “By all means have some input as part of an overall portfolio, but don’t be a lemming and jump over the cliff.”


Touchscreen technology adds point of sale to export market

J2 Retail Systems develops its overseas trade with expansion into France, South Africa and Australia CHESHIRE touchscreen computer supplier J2 Retail Systems has continued its international expansion with new operations in South Africa and Australia. The firm, which is based in Birchwood, sells PC-based touch-screens, LCD touchscreen monitors and point-of-sale hardware. J2 supplies touch-screen computers to retailers and the hospitality industry in this country and overseas, but earlier this year the company’s management team saw that orders in the UK were falling as the credit crunch began to bite. Moray Boyd, co-founder and managing director of J2 Retail Systems, said: “We’ve seen the downturn in the economy probably since January, 2008. “As a result of that, we’ve accelerated our efforts to distribute products in other parts of the world, so we won’t be so reliant on the UK or US.” That has culminated in the deals in the two deals sealed in the last month. It has agreed a partnership deal with a South African distributor, Star POS South Africa, which has exclusive distribution rights in sub-Saharan Africa for J2’s point-of-sale hardware to the retail, hospitality and leisure industries. Mr Boyd said: “The South African market is very focused on leisure and hospitality through its extensive tourism industry. The 2010 hosting of the Football World Cup will bring increased demand for point-of-sale systems in both these sectors and in retail.” The new partnership was negotiated by Christina Fielvard, J2’s business development director in Europe, Middle East and Africa. She said: “We have been impressed

by the professional nature of Star’s activities in Southern Africa, and we believe that this new partnership will bring benefits to both parties as well as to the retail industry itself. “Star’s understanding of the local market bodes well for both companies going forward.” J2 has increased its presence in the Australian market by creating a wholly-owned subsidiary, J2 Retail Systems Pty Ltd. Mr Boyd said the Australian expansion was to address the requirements of UK-based clients with local operations who wanted to standardise on J2 hardware, as well as building more direct relationships with Australian customers. Mr Boyd said: “From the start, Australia has been a fast-moving market for us. We quickly established ourselves with a distributor, and we’ve enjoyed high demand for our products. The opportunity has now arisen for us to expand our operations here. “We’ve assembled a team of people who are very experienced in this market, who will be based in our new Sydney offices. “This move means confidence and continuity for existing clients who will benefit from our increased investment and expanded operations, and underlines our commitment to the region for new clients considering J2.” J2 is headquartered in Warrington, and also has a base in California, USA. It has a design and engineering office in Singapore and its products are built to its specifications by various suppliers in the Far East. It has been expanding its European markets as well in the last year, having put its products into its first boulangerie in France. It is also developing its markets in Scandinavia.

Managing director Moray Boyd – believes international markets offer strong opportunities for J2

Fishing in a bigger pool brings rewards for exporting firms EUROPE’S golfers and fishermen are boosting the exports of two Merseyside companies. Fishing rod manufacturer Harrison Advanced Rods and Southport-based Logogogo, which prints customised logos on to sports and other goods, have reaped the rewards of an international approach. Harrison’s, based at Brunswick Business Park, produces 15,000 rods a year, and also carbon fibre tubes for items as diverse as canoe paddles and telescopes.

It has now opened new markets in Poland, Croatia, Greece and the USA, and has seen the value of its exports increase by £50,000. Dr Steve Harrison said: “We are better positioned to take the domestic dip because we have established new markets overseas. Being an exporter means no matter how depressed the home market, there is demand.” Margaret Bourke, international trade adviser for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), recalled how

Dr Harrison had initially just been looking to get financial support for a trade show in Amsterdam. She said: “Harrison Advanced Rods had a very strong sense of where they wanted to be in terms of overseas trade locations. We were able to assist financially at first, through part-funding for a trade exhibition, but then it was more a case of offering advice on local business customs and the idiosyncrasies of individual markets.” Logogogo also sought advice

on exporting from UKTI, which has resulted in increased sales, especially in Germany. Jon Gibbons, director of Logogogo, said: “We sell an artificial modular putting green for use indoors, and they have gone down very well in Germany where players have a propensity to practise more at home than they do here. We have had some good sales on the back of our appearance at European trade shows, and it is clear that people over there do know about us.”

Dr Steve Harrison



The multi-modal facility in Runcorn that is becoming a hive of development activity

Stobart delivers grand plan Logistics group leading the regeneration of key brownfield sites next to the River Mersey

THE rising tide of the Mersey snakes upriver and under the Silver Jubilee bridge, where it is flanked by the towns of Widnes and Runcorn. On a summer's day, with the sun blazing overhead, the scene looks positively tranquil, but don't be fooled – this patch has ambitions to become a regional economic powerhouse. The proposed Mersey Gateway bridge, reclamation of brownfield land and the development of the 3MG multi-modal facility by Stobart all point to a bright future for the area

lying within the borough of Halton. In the public sector, the council's Widnes Waterfront regeneration scheme is driving forward progress, while FTSE 250 company Stobart is creating 1.2m sq ft of commercial property developments on the banks of the Mersey. At the heart of this is 3MG, a hub for road, rail and water-based transport links. Growing up around this nexus is a development programme of commercial buildings that will service the transport links

that include the north west road network and rail connections with south coast ports. Eventually, there will be 1.2m sq ft of developments, including a huge refrigeration plant which is nearing completion and will be used to enable the company to handle more chilled foods for supermarkets. There are also three large distribution centres on the drawing board, as well as a biomass energy plant. Stobart Port's managing director,

Steve O'Connor, said: “There has been a lot of land reclamation here; in fact, all told, we have around 260 acres. Some parts are still unsightly but when finished this will be a great advert for Halton. “And, of course, this is an ideal location with the various transport connections such as the West Coast Mainline, River Mersey, Ship Canal and the motorways." Some trade through the Gateway has fallen in line with the shipping container sector’s downturn,

although Stobart has been cushioned by its heavy involvement in supermarket food and drinks deliveries." However, O’Connor is confident the speculative development blueprint will be justified: “Yes, we are very confident of growing the business on this site, and that will be through a combination of smart systems and smart people. “The investments planned will bring long-term benefits, despite current conditions.”

New ships berth will link 3MG ACROSS the river from 3MG lies Stobart’s Mersey Gateway Port, an unused berth and container area that will be used to develop more trade via vessels from the River Mersey and Manchester Ship Canal. The facility will tie-in with the company’s 3MG site. Steve O’Connor said: “Given its unique location and potential to provide


docking for large freight ships, in conjunction with fully integrated intermodal transport links via 3MG, the port looks set to become a key feeder for the rapidly-growing inshore freight shipping sector.” The group was recently awarded a Harbour Revision Order, recognising Stobart as the harbour authority and making it

possible to create amenities that can handle bulk, dry cargoes, palletised products, bonded goods and steel coil. A warehouse has been built on-site, although Mr O’Connor says it is not suitable for the cargoes, but something they may have to live with in the short-term.

Stobart’s docks facility on the river at Runcorn is ready for development


Quality office space for business quarter Building revamp welcome – but more Grade A required

Another part of the jigsaw completed in Halton

Phase 2 of Heron is open for business

ANOTHER part of Halton’s ongoing regeneration programme has been completed. Widnes Regeneration, the joint venture between St Modwen and Halton Council, has finished construction work on Phase II of Heron Business Park, after the first phase of the scheme was fully let. The two phases of the business park comprise 125,000 sq ft of light-industrial space and are a key element of Halton Council’s Widnes Waterfront regeneration project. Phase two of the development comprises 19 units, delivering a total of 73,700 sq ft of light industrial accommodation, ranging in size from 1,590 sq ft to 9,492 sq ft. Richard Bakes, development manager at St Modwen, said: “Following the excellent levels of interest so far at Heron Business Park, we are confident occupiers will continue to be drawn to the second phase of

the project. We already have a lot of interest from local companies, and the launch provided an excellent opportunity for interested parties to come along and see what is available.” St Modwen has also reported that its North West office had completed a number of deals, worth more than £600,000, in recent months. The Widnes Waterfront Economic Development Zone (EDZ) is one of only 14 designated Economic Development Zones situated in north-west England. Over a six-year period, it will utilise £8m of European Regional Development Funding, together with £7.5m of funding from the Northwest Development Agency and approximately £1.5m of Halton Borough Council funds as the lever to facilitate the regeneration of a derelict, former industrial site in the southern Widnes area.

A MAJOR £5m refurbishment has revitalised a fading city office block. The transformation of No 1 Tithebarn, Liverpool, was unveiled last week at a glitzy lunch for property professionals. The opening was delayed by several weeks after contractor Felton collapsed, but the job was taken up and completed by Ardmac. Providing 110,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art office space over eight floors, the building now has a dramatic new double-height contemporary entrance on to Tithebarn Street. Within the common areas of the building there are three high-speed lifts, a goods lift and a newlyinstalled lift for the disabled. Staircases and lift landings have all been refurbished and re-carpeted and all toilets totally upgraded, with new dedicated disabled toilets installed on each floor. The offices themselves have comfort cooling, new perimeter radiator heating, raised floors for power and data, and are fully carpeted. Ceiling heights are 2.8metres from bottom to top. The building is already home to a number of Liverpool businesses, but disruption was kept to a minimum while the refurbishment project was carried out. Neil Kirkham, partner at Hitchcock Wright & Partners, said: “This is a stunning transformation of one of the principal office buildings in the city. “The location, quality, floorplate sizes available and competitive letting terms now make this a premier choice.” The building was bought by the Arc property group for £15m in 2007. It is another significant addition to the city’s office portfolio, although there are still calls for more new-build Grade A space to be brought forward. Liverpool Commercial District Partnership chief executive Paul Rice believes there are some small signs of recovery in the UK commercial market, and says it is vital Liverpool is ready when the

Tithebarn House – now refurbished at a cost of £5m upturn comes. He said: “We have good-quality space in the city, in both new and refurbished properties, but it’s vital that we continue to refresh our supply if we are to maintain our momentum. “If a large inward investment enquiry for new Grade A space was to be received at the moment, we might struggle to satisfy this demand, so a key measure of our success in this area will be the ability to provide large, single footplates. “While there is undoubtedly still a long way to go before we see

confidence completely return to the commercial property sector, there is certainly a feeling that recovery is on the horizon, so we must ensure that we’re ahead of the game when the phones start ringing again.” Earlier this year, Merseytravel signed up for 140,000 sq ft at the new Mann Island development. That just leaves the remaining space at 20 Chapel Street and around 40,000 sq ft at 5 St Paul’s Square, with another 109,000 sq ft on the drawing board. There are further plans for a large, new building in Pall Mall.

Restaurants on the menu at Plaza

Beetham Plaza – restaurant destination

TWO new restaurant opportunities are on the menu at Beetham Plaza. The vacant former Platinum Lounge is being offered for rent, along with a new-build opportunity fronting The Strand. The area has become something of a hot-shot eating-out destination, with nearby brands including Heathcotes, Etsu and Restaurant Bar and Grill.

Agents Keppie Massie are marketing the twin prospects. A spokesman said: “As part of the continuing improvement to the Plaza, we are able to offer an exciting, new development that will sit between the Platinum Suite and Heathcotes. “It will be accessed via the Plaza, but has the potential for a glazed front overlooking The Three Graces.”

Platinum comprises two floors, an area of 1,000 sq ft downstairs and 4,000 sq ft on the upper level. The new-build premises will also offer two floors of 1,789 and 2,917 sq ft respectively. Keppie Massie says the developments could be restaurants or bars, or a combination. The Plaza was Beetham’s first completed scheme.


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Sefton responds to recession Shop Direct Group Financial Services closed its Crosby operation, where 1,200 people worked, and unemployment in Sefton remains above the North West and UK averages

Helen Hunt reports on Sefton Council’s plans to maintain the borough’s ‘recession-proof’ status HARD-HITTING review paints a bleak picture of Sefton’s economy. The report, Responding to the Recession, reveals house sales are down 70%, building projects have slowed and jobless figures for the borough could climb to a massive 11,000 in 2010. Several firms crucial to the area’s prosperity have succumbed to the downturn, with staff being offered redundancy as businesses buckle under the strain or slim down to keep trading. But, despite the grim outlook, officials report Sefton has not suffered as deeply as other areas. And a survey of the 100 largest local authorities reveals Sefton is the second “most recession-proof spot” in Britain.


Labour group leader Cllr Peter Dowd said: “I think it’s important as a key employer in the area and provider of significant services and leader in the local economic community that we take a measured, sensible and proactive approach to ensuring that both the services the council delivers and the actions and advice it takes or provides, helps with ensuring the recession is managed as sensibly as possible and helps to maintain the economic integrity of the borough. “The council itself has to be clear that it doesn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to the recession.” Sefton Council has already put together a robust action plan to protect its town centres from spiralling decline and minimise the harmful effects of the economic

downturn for business across its patch. That plan currently has five focal points. It is taking action to protect town centres in Bootle, Southport, East Sefton, Formby and Crosby with initiatives such as free parking, window dressing vacant shops and putting up maps of shopping centres and parades. Major employers deemed to be at risk are being supported, minimising the impact of unavoidable closures or disinvestment. It is also consulting and advising businesses on the problems they face and help they can access. The council is also supporting those entering the jobs market and co-ordinating support services to minimise the impact of the recession

on families and communities. The report evaluates the risks posed by the recession to people and places in Sefton, and highlights key issues that could affect the area’s wealth. Officers reveal that the collapse of the housing market has depressed house building and meant the build of Housing Market Renewal Initiative (HMRI) sites, such as Bootle’s Klondyke estate, has slowed, meaning homeowners will have to stay in condemned houses until more cash can be poured into the scheme. Financial services and professional firms in Sefton are also feeling the pinch. Spanish-owned Santander, which has acquired Alliance & Leicester, has offered staff voluntary severance packages at its Bootle site, but there are no enforced redundancies.

Shop Direct Group Financial Services closed its Crosby operation, where 1,200 people worked. Around 400 of the staff got jobs elsewhere or joined the company’s Aintree site. Barnetts Solicitors recently announced 40 redundancies at its Southport site on Town Lane, reducing headcount to 95. Management said two key clients stopped offering re-mortgages, which had a negative impact on its business. In addition, reports suggest over a quarter of Sefton’s business – mainly independent traders – are “trading at risk”. However, there are green shoots in the economy hinting that business will thrive again as banks have




Report’s key points THE key points of the Responding to the Recession report produced for Sefton Council are: ● The housing market in Sefton has seen a sharp decrease in the volume of residential sales: a 70% decrease since the last peak in the third quarter of 2007. ● The collapse of the housing market has depressed house building and slowed the build of housing market renewal initiative sites. ● Conditions have generally worsened for the service and manufacturing sectors, in line with national conditions. ● More than a quarter of Sefton’s businesses, mainly independent traders, are “trading at risk”, but banks are lending to small businesses again. ● The 2009 Sefton Business Survey of 806 companies reports that 24% of respondents expect their business to grow in the next six months compared to 12% that expect it to decline. ● The 2009 Credit Crunch Survey for Merseyside, commissioned by the Northwest Development Agency and The Mersey Partnership, was mostly negative, with 50% of respondents reporting turnover was down, and 52% that visitor numbers fell, compared with a year ago. ● The retail and leisure sector has been adversely affected by reduction or deferral of consumer spending. ● In the last two years, the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in Sefton has risen by 3,605 people to 8,474. ● The claimant count in Sefton reached 5.2% in May, 2009. This is the lowest rate of any district on Merseyside, but is still above the UK rate of 4.1%. ● If national unemployment peaks in 2010, as predicted, then, on a pro rata basis, the total number of claimants in Sefton may reach 11,000, nearly double that recorded in 2007, but well below the all-time record of 22,510, in September, 1984. ● The number of young people, aged 18-24, claiming JSA has risen in the last two years by 1,050 to 2,545 – a 70% increase. This increase is nearly twice as fast as for all claimants (42%). More school-leavers are expected to sign on after the summer. Shoppers in Lord Street, Southport, which is one of the areas to have benefited from initiatives to protect town centres in Sefton CONTINUED FROM PAGE 45 started to lend to small businesses again. Experts have also begun suggesting the recession may have “bottomed out”. Meanwhile, there are signs that confidence is returning. The 2009 Sefton Business Survey of 806 companies reports that 24% of respondents expect their business to grow in the next six months compared to 12% that expect it to decline. The decline of the economy has also hit the construction sector especially hard.


Costly credit and a reduced appetite for speculative developments coupled with a decline in demand has put a number of developments at risk of delay or being postponed indefinitely until conditions pick up. Sefton Council has produced a list of sites it is concerned about which includes: ■ Town Lane Commerce Park – the developer is reportedly in financial difficulty, and this may result in the loss of external gap funding; ■ Marine Park – leisure and residential markets are badly

affected by the recession, and this development is delayed and unlikely to restart until development funding re-emerges into the market; ■ Kew housing – market uncertainty has caused some delay, but the developer is now said to be confident enough to proceed with site investigations; ■ Floral Hall – which was completed, but commercial units are standing empty; ■ Scarisbrick Avenue – developer has gone into administration, but officials say they could claw back council grant money if the

development is not completed. The council is also concerned about local contractors, as private sector work is being cut drastically. Allenbuild reportedly lost £30m from its order books in September and October last year, and Sefton Council's spending freeze is putting further pressure on local companies. Meanwhile, Sefton’s previously strong labour market is being hit. The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) in Sefton reached 8,567 in July – 5.3% of the working age population. While this is significantly below

the Liverpool city region rate of 6.2%, it remains higher than both the North West average of 4.6% and the UK average of 4.1%. In the last two years, the claimant count in Sefton has risen by 3,698 to 8,567 and it is estimated there are more than 12 people claimants for every vacancy advertised at JobCentre Plus. Unlike previous recessions, when manufacturing and male manual jobs were hardest hit, this downturn is said to have a “white collar and professional” flavour. Figures show customer services


jobs experienced the greatest loss and women are being affected by job losses more than men. Meanwhile, there are more young people, aged 18-24, claiming benefits, and this summer’s school-leavers will add to this figure. Sefton Council is also having to cope with more residents and businesses having difficulty paying council tax and business rates, and more people claiming housing and council tax benefit. This financial burden has been made worse by a fall in building control fee income, a fall in council

car park income due to promotional initiatives and bad weather, and having to pay out for higher energy bills. However, despite the harsh effects outlined in the report, its authors state Sefton is better off than other areas. The report says: “While there is every reason to be concerned about the impacts (direct and indirect) of the recession on Sefton, the figures should be put in context. “Sefton has not suffered as deeply as other parts of the country, such as Leeds or Manchester, which were

more dependent on credit, or had higher levels of mortgage debt, and whose recent prosperity was built mainly on the back of finance, banking and insurance. “In fact, a recent uSwitch survey of the 100 largest local authorities reported Sefton was in joint second place as the ‘most recession-proof spot’ in Britain.” It said some reasons why they might be sheltered from the worst effects of the downturn include a relatively large and stable public


Sefton has not suffered as deeply as other areas 31


The Vincent Hotel, in Southport, which its owner, Paul Adams, says is boosting tourism in the town by attracting a younger demographic CONTINUED FROM PAGE 47 46 sector, a relatively small financial services sector, protection afforded by the spending surge generated by Liverpool One, and, to a lesser extent, the re-positioning of Southport as a Classic Resort, and the benefits the region has enjoyed due to Objective 1 funding which created considerable investment, development and jobs, and laid the foundations for long-term competitiveness. Tourism, a key sector for Sefton, has suffered from the downturn in the economy. The 2009 Credit Crunch Survey for Merseyside, commissioned by the Northwest Regional Development Agency and The Mersey Partnership was mostly negative, with 50% of respondents reporting turnover was down, and 52% that visitor numbers were down, compared with 12 months ago. The Sefton Council report notes, though, that it was not all bad news. It says: “There was still dynamism in the market, with 40% reporting


turnover went up and 42%that visitor numbers had gone up. “The commonest steps taken to protect profitability were investing in web marketing, targeting repeat visitors, and cutting business costs. “Only 16% of tourism business had sought advice from an external advisor.” “There is a mixed picture across the tourism sector, with conference business holding up well. The only active area seems to be food retail and some very limited leisure (again, food-based) interest,” it says. “In trading terms, there is a mixed view. While retail is obviously suffering overall, there are examples of retailers that are doing well, and overall we are not in the desperate straits Chester is, for example. “The hotel sector is generally in greater difficulties in the smaller properties than the branded ones, although both occupancy and rate has been depressed. Walk-up trade has been affected badly in certain cases. “Our conference business is biased

toward the public sector (and therefore less affected at the moment) but will increasingly be under pressure. “Advance sales for events are good, which could be a function of weather being better. “The start to the season for attractions has been better than last year, mainly due to the better weather. This seems to have outweighed any fall due to recession or lack of confidence.” And hotelier Paul Adams, who owns the £13.5m boutique hotel, The Vincent, in Southport, believes the sector can remain upbeat despite the downturn. He said: “Historically, tourism has always been an important sector for Sefton, particularly Southport, which in the 19th century was one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations. “Like most British seaside resorts, it suffered from the growth of foreign holidays and cheap flights abroad. However, the town has seen something of a resurgence over recent years and we are seeing a

Tom Davies, of Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa growing interest from the domestic market, particularly for city breaks and golfing holidays. “The fall in the value of the pound has had a two-fold effect. It means more and more people are holidaying at home, as it is increasingly

expensive to travel abroad, but also that we are seeing more international customers due to the attractive exchange rate. “Since the Vincent opened just over a year ago, we have also noted that many of our customers are much younger than the traditional age group associated with the town, which is particularly important for the future of tourism in Southport.” Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa, which spent £10m to transform itself before opening its spa and leisure club in June last year, is enjoying strong growth, helped by the region’s sporting reputation. Tom Davies, spa and leisure manager at Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa, said: “There’s been a great response to the spa since it opened. “The demand has led to taking on an additional 10 therapists. “We’ve benefited from being the only destination to offer full resort facilities on England’s golf coast, and we’ve been able to capitalise on our location at the heart of two Royal courses.”

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Gateway develops new Hope University business guru explains an ambitious new strategy to Neil Hodgson IVERPOOL Hope University has announced its entry into the business support sector with an ambitious strategy aimed at both employers and students. Business Gateway aims to tailor support packages to meet employers’ needs via a “one-stop” facility, and enable graduates to gain the necessary entrepreneurial skills to succeed. Vice Chancellor Prof Gerald Pillay said: “A university of quality must produce graduates who are able to make a difference for good in society, otherwise learning becomes self-indulgent.” He added: “Hope is committed to supporting its students beyond the formal curriculum. “Liverpool Hope University’s Business Gateway is a gateway of opportunity for ongoing professional development.” More than £13m is being invested in two new enterprise centres at Hope’s Everton campus and its Hope Park campus in Childwall. Dr Martin Carey was appointed chief executive of Hope Business Gateway last October, and will oversee its development. He said: “We have a track record of engaging employers and reaching out to communities, but this is a step change. “We are trying to make this a core element of the university.” He explained: “There’s a number of dimensions to this. We have a deep commitment to widening participation and employer engagement, and this will also be a key vehicle to widening the student profile. “Secondly, the public sector needs to diversify sources of income to control their own destiny. You need to find a range of sources of income generation, of which enterprise is a key one. “We will engage employers, but will also work with students to provide opportunities for enterprise and employment.” The Gateway initiative has already secured more than £1m of funding from a variety of sources which will support its development over the next three years. But Dr Carey says the long-term aim is for it to become completely self-sufficient, to the extent that it drives its income contribution at the university from 2% to 5% through commercial initiatives, which could include the benefits from spin-off companies. Dr Carey insisted: “The Business Gateway will operate as a business. “We are looking to grow on a continuing professional development to engage 1,500 students by 2011, funded through other sources, to push up our non-core funding from 2% to 5%. “Business Gateway should add value and not become an empire in its own right. “The public sector is awash with initiatives that generate activity and get grants for that activity, but when the grant runs out it stops. We are looking to be self-reliant and make a contribution to the university.” But he said the starting point



must be to listen, and so be clear what it is that people want. He said: “We have to explore the partnership of what is possible and we have to deliver provision that will impact positively on a company’s bottom line. “Unless you get this right, you are not going to make money, and we need to make money to re-invest in the university. “We are working on a social enterprise model. We want to generate commercial income not to pay senior managers high bonuses, but to re-invest in the university. “We have a distinct approach and we have the potential to become a market leader in a discreet part of the market – not just big businesses, because we have a commitment to the third sector and social enterprise.” He admitted that the university will never compete with its neighbours, the University of Liverpool or Liverpool John Moores University, in fields such as engineering or genetics , but added: “There are areas I am confident we are better placed to engage certain kinds of employers.” One such area is registered landlords. “This is quite a big concern in the North West,” he said. “We can work with them on staff motivation and better ways of working. It is an important and dynamic area. “There is a commitment by this government and the opposition are unlikely to withdraw that investment in affordable housing, particularly in the current circumstances.” Dr Carey has already developed links with Chester and District Housing Trust, which is a Times Top 100 company. An early initiative is a skills exchange between the Trust and Uganda. “We are working to complete a school which has lain unfinished for 15 years.” He said it would bring clear benefits for the community in Uganda, but will also help the workers’ own career and professional development. John Denny, Trust chief executive, said: “What impressed me about Liverpool Hope University is that it not only delivers high-quality courses, it also reaches out to employers in ways which are responsive and open to our needs.” Dr Carey entered higher education as a 29-year-old mature student, having left his East End London secondary modern school with no qualifications. Having worked in industry for British Airways as a clerical officer and a trade union convenor, he moved to Warrington and spent some time unemployed before joining Liverpool Hope in 1983, working on a doctorate on immigrant catering workers in the trade unions at Heathrow Airport. Dr Carey then progressed to become a lecturer before setting up urban regeneration company, Urban Hope, as a wholly-owned subsidiary working on a variety of schemes across Liverpool.

Dr Martin Carey, Liverpool Hope University’s new Business Gateway chief executive, pictured at this month’s launch. The institution wants to expand its business support services



An artist’s impression of the proposed entrance to the Hope Business Gateway – this will be part of the Centre of Excellence in Education, Innovation and Enterprise

Initiatives help nurture talent

Investment in practical support and two new enterprise centres can help graduates realise potential LIVERPOOL Hope’s Business Gateway has used enterprise-related funding to create a variety of new opportunities. These include The Economic Challenge Investment Fund which, over the next 18 months, will enable Hope to work with small firms and social enterprises facing a range of challenges caused by the current credit crunch. Funding from the Higher Education Funding Council will support vulnerable businesses through access to a wealth of knowledge, expertise and services. Hope will provide bespoke training provision directly related to the effects of the recession. It will also offer career packages for graduates and a voucher scheme giving free access for employers and the unemployed to Hope’s services. North West Enterprise Champions is another initiative to be delivered by Hope to support graduates keen to

develop their own companies. The scheme is led by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE), with the support of the Northwest Development Agency and funded through European resources. A total of 10 universities across the North West participate in the scheme, and Business Gateway chief executive Dr Martin Carey said: “This fits well with Liverpool Hope University’s renewed commitment to employer engagement and enterprise. “Never has it been more important to support graduates into work and setting up businesses – they are a critical element of the country’s recovery and the future of our region.” The NCGE has collaborated on another initiative, together with telephony giant O2. The O2 University Graduate Enterprise Awards will support up to

four of Hope’s students who can demonstrate viable business ideas with a good chance of success. An interest free £10,000 loan, business accommodation, business-related training, administrative support and marketing endorsement worth a total of more than £34,000 will be offered to each of the four lucky graduates. NCGE chief executive Ian Robertson said: “The need for entrepreneurship always increases in periods of economic hardship. “Liverpool Hope is leading the way in offering a fantastic support package that will enable its students to take forward entrepreneurial opportunities, thereby creating new enterprises and new jobs in the region.” In addition, to facilitate the creation of new ventures and support for entrepreneurial graduates, the university is in the process of appointing 10 Enterprise Fellows.

They will use about a third of their time to develop enterprising ideas which will hopefully lead to new income for the university. Dr Carey explained: “We will provide 10 staff with time and pay incentives to utilise a third of their time on enterprise activity likely to generate third stream income.” He revealed that one of the Enterprise Fellows is already working with IT icon Apple on a commercial idea that could be spun off as a company. “We are also developing a professional ethical tool kit related to corporate responsibility.” Dr Carey said it tackled issues raised by the banks and how they operated: “We are looking to develop that on a commercial basis, as well as intellectual property issues.” The Gateway will be also be able to second staff from other employers to work alongside the Enterprise Fellows, and Dr Carey revealed that

initial links had been set up with social landlords. “It’s about tailoring the offer to employers and working with companies that are being challenged by the current situation.” But he is aware that the Gateway needs to distinguish its offer to clients: “Many employers get hit by too many initiatives. “We hope to simplify that process so that we are a starting point, while being aware of what their needs are. “We want to become a one-point-of -contact for companies.” More than £13m of investment in new buildings will help deliver the Business Gateway’s exciting range of services. Funded by Hope, the North West Development Agency and the Higher Education Funding Council, two enterprise centres will be built at the Cornerstone for Creativity Campus, in Everton, and the Childwall campus.





City eco firm welcomes U-turn Government pumps extra £35m into grants for renewable energy A LIVERPOOL firm specialising in the installation of renewable energy systems has welcomed a Government U-turn on grant funding for not-for-profit organisations. David Hunt, director of Eco Environments, told LDP Business earlier this year that the Government’s actions on reducing carbon emissions were not matching its rhetoric. He cited the withdrawal of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP) which gave up to 50% grant funding for installing solar power, wind turbines and other renewable energy systems into schools, charities and other not-for-profit organisations. However, now that decision has been reversed with an extra £35m now being made available for LCBP Phase Two. Another £10m has also been made available to subsidise installations in private homes. Mr Hunt said: “This is great news for schools, charities and community groups in Merseyside and the North West. “Not only has the funding been extended, but it has been made easier to obtain. We can now help organisations plug directly into these grants.” Eco Environments has already helped Liverpool-based children’s charity KIND (Kids In Need and Distress) gain 50% funding to install two new solar arrays, generating electricity for use on site, with any surplus being sold back to the national grid. They are also in discussion with other local schools, charities and the city council. Mr Hunt added: “Part of our service is to provide impartial advice and quotations for schools and not for profit organisations. “If they decide to proceed with a project, we can help manage the whole process, from grant applications to planning permission, where required, to the design, installation and commissioning of the system.” Eco Environments are one of the highest accredited renewable energy installers in the UK, with expertise in solar and wind power, heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, and energy efficient lighting. They are also sponsors of the Liverpool Year of the Environment 2009.


Eco Environments staff erecting wind turbine for a customer, at a site in Wirral LCBP offers grants for the installation of micro-generation technologies at public sector buildings including schools, hospitals, housing associations, local authorities and charitable bodies. This sees the current programme deadline for grants to be made and installations to be completed extend from July 1, 2009, until April, 2011, up to the introduction of Feed-in Tariffs and the Renewable Heat Incentive. The scheme has allocated £5m for

the funding of photovoltaic solar panels (PV), under Phase Two, to deal with the majority of PV applications in the pipeline and a further allocation of £9m has been made to meet extra demand. The extended programme will continue to provide grant funding to charitable organisations, community groups and the public sector. The upper limit for heat technologies has been raised to 300kW.

LCBP Phase 2 is part of the UK Environmental Transformation Fund (ETF), a joint Department of Energy and Climate Change/Defra fund to bring forward the demonstration and deployment of low carbon energy and energy efficiency technologies. Applications made up to June 30 are currently being finalised and ETF will be contacting any projects remaining on the waiting list as soon as possible in order for them to choose their options. Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications, it is currently unable to advise on estimated times to process applications. Anyone planning to apply for funding for photovoltaic, ground source heat pump and solar thermal projects should note that there has been a greatly increased application rate over the last few months. They have been placed on a waiting list and will be processed first before any new applications for these technologies can be assessed. This is in line with an approach to allocate grants on a first come, first served basis. The application must be complete (ie, it can be assessed without the need to ask for further details) and the applicant does not want to change any of the project details. The scheme ends on April 30, 2011. Applications for power generation can only be accepted up to March, 2010, when Feed-in Tariffs will be introduced. Heating only applications can be made up to April , 2011. Log on to uk/home for more information.

Organisations may apply for up to 50% of the cost of installing approved technologies up to a maximum of £200,000 (though maximum grant levels may depend on the nature of the organisation). There will be a £9m pot for solar PV. All other technologies will benefit from the remaining £21m. The programme is now open to all products and installer companies registered on the Microgeneration

Certification Scheme (MCS). In terms of the additional products this also includes Solar Keymark for solar thermal collectors, and the Environmental Technology List (ETA part of the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme) for biomass boilers and heat pumps rated above 45kW and up to 300kW thermal. Applications for Biomass boilers, air and water sourced heat pumps, hydro and wind turbines can be processed now.

Knowsley hires consultants to look at saving energy A WORKSHOP was held to find out what Knowsley businesses are doing to save energy. Knowsley Council has brought in independent consultants to look at how the local public and private sector can increase their use of renewable energy. The firm, Arup, is looking at the potential for both the council and local

companies to incorporate renewable energy options such as wind and solar power into their businesses. It invited local businesses such as Jaguar Land Rover, QVC and Warmer Heating to a workshop in Kirkby to find out what steps the firms are already taking. It also looked at what

more could be done to meet new legislation and increase competitiveness. Cllr Graham Morgan, cabinet member for regeneration, economy and skills, said: “We want the plan to be as practical and possible – that is why we have brought in consultants and are involving as many groups and businesses as possible. We are

already doing a lot to improve the energy efficiency of our council buildings, but we need to do more and use different types of energy that can be reproduced and don’t create the carbon that traps the earth’s heat.” Arup is due to report back to the council with its findings in the next few weeks.

Cllr Graham Morgan




Mark McManus, the managing director of Stiebel Eltron UK and chairman of the GPF, is one of the main organisers of the event at the BT Convention Centre

Conference aims to pump up the volume Liverpool’s BT Convention Centre will play host to green energy event A MAJOR green energy conference to be held in Liverpool in October. The inaugural Green Power Forum (GPF) takes place at the BT Convention Centre on Liverpool’s waterfront on October 15. The conference will concentrate on heat pump technology and how it can help slash carbon emissions in homes and businesses. GPF is an independent forum. It is made up of energy suppliers, renewable energy manufacturers, energy support agencies and business groups. Members include Stiebel Eltron, North West Energy Support Agency Envirolink, Nu-Heat, ISO Energy UK and Liverpool Chamber of Commerce. The GPF is chaired by Mark

McManus, the managing director of Stiebel Eltron UK, a supplier of heat pump technology. He said the event aimed to examine best practice in renewable energy heat pump technology. “Heating is responsible for more than half of UK energy use,” he said. “Both the public and private sector are under enormous pressure to find environmentally-friendly alternative forms of heating, away from oil and gas. “Renewable energy heat pumps have a massive role to play in providing that alternative. And this is where the GPF comes in. “It is targeting professionals responsible for green energy. We will be examining key areas including best practice, complying with

legislation, products and the finance incentives for going green. “We are specifically targeting architects, facilities managers, developers, local authorities and housing associations. “The idea came from a similar event in Holland, but we wanted to make ours even better.” Mr McManus said the GPF will have a representative from every step of the supply chain. This includes a government expert explaining existing and future legislation. An energy supply company will also be on hand to discuss reducing energy production, while installers will detail private and public sector case studies. Earlier this month, the

Government laid out its plans to transform the UK into a low-carbon economy. Energy Secretary Ed Miliband said tackling climate change will require “comprehensive changes in the UK’s economy and society”. The Government has committed the UK to cuts of 34% in emissions by 2020, and signed up to EU targets to source 15% of all energy from renewable sources by the end of the next decade. Mr McManus said the announcement was a move in the right direction, but added the proposals were still light on detail. “A lot of what the Government is doing is still clouded in mystery,” he said. “In France, there are huge

subsidies available for green technologies and generous tax breaks. There are also schemes in the UK, but they are not properly advertised or promoted. “This conference is about educating people about what help is available.” Dave Hall, sector development manager for energy at Envirolink Northwest, added: “Increasing the level of knowledge and training in the renewable energy sector is of paramount importance to Envirolink.” Tickets for the event, which will take up six hours of Continual Professional Development (CPD), are priced at £90. ■ FOR further details, visit uk

LDP publisher launches environmental initiative MERSEYSIDE’S business leaders painted the town green for the launch of It’s Our World. City figures met at a networking event to mark the Liverpool Daily Post’s new environmental section, and to find out more about the many green initiatives going on behind the scenes at the paper. With a dedicated regular section in the Daily Post, plus in its sister paper, the


Liverpool Echo, and Merseyside weekly titles, plus companion websites for each paper, It’s Our World can bring the community up-to-date news and features on the very latest environmental issues. Keynote speaker, Trinity Mirror North West and Wales managing director Sara Wilde, explained the company’s commitment to the environment in the region.

Trinity Mirror, the Daily Post’s parent company, has achieved the world’s first carbon reduction award. The Carbon Trust Standard is a new award for companies who can show carbon reductions year on year for three years. Trinity Mirror is one of only 12 organisations to achieve the standard. There was also a chance at the launch to find out more about Business in the

Community’s work in Liverpool. Daily Post editor Mark Thomas explained the importance of the initiative. He said: “The environment is such an important issue for everyone, whether in business or their domestic lives, that I am delighted that the Daily Post and its sister papers are taking such an active role in Merseyside.”

Trinity Mirror's Regional Managing Director, Sara Wilde, speaks at the launch of the It's Our World campaign

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LDP Business editor Bill Gleeson, centre, chaired the debate and was joined by, from left, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jack Stopforth, Liverpool Vision chief

TV spotlight falls on the rising

Panel of experts discuss issue of unemployment in first LDP Business debate live-streamed online UNEMPLOYMENT and worklessness came under the spotlight in July’s LDPBusiness debate. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showed the Liverpool city region’s rate of unemployment is now 6.2%. This is up from below 4% a year ago, as an additional 21,000 people have begun claiming jobseeker’s allowance to bring the total to 56,579. And this figure only covers those people eligible to claim jobseeker’s allowance, so the wider definitions of unemployment and worklessness will include thousands more. Nationally, the claimant count has increased for 16 consecutive months, to 1.56m. The debate, sponsored by Reed in Partnership, was chaired by LDP Business editor Bill Gleeson and the panellists were Liverpool Vision


chief executive Jim Gill, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce chief executive Jack Stopforth, Reed in Partnership operations director Tom Miller, and Clare Murphy, of Wild Woman’s “I’m not a Statistic” campaign. Other experts, including Northwest Development Agency chief executive Steve Broomhead and economist Peter Stoney, contributed through pre-recorded video packages during the programme. Mr Gill began by defending the city’s performance. “There’s a long history of economic problems in the city region and they don’t actually reflect the current position of the city,” he said. “If you look at the rate of increase of unemployment in the city region, it’s going up and it’s going up far too quickly.

“But it’s not impacting on this area any worse than in other areas. In fact, in many respects, the city is doing better.” Reed in Partnership’s Mr Miller described what he was seeing in the recruitment sector. He said: “We are seeing more customers coming in to our branches and asking for our help. “We offer services additional to what JobCentre Plus offers. We work with longer-term unemployed people, so people who have been unemployed for 18 months or more. “They are less motivated to job seek than they were previously. They are finding competition for the vacancies that are available more difficult.” Wild Woman’s “I am not a Statistic” campaign is about working with the long-term unemployed to

overcome the obstacles that are stopping them getting work. Ms Murphy believes this group should be more involved in shaping the policies which affect them. She said: “Maybe they have never really had a voice and been listened to, maybe that’s the thing. “Maybe those long-term unemployed people have never been heard, so now maybe it’s time for change and for the people who are writing these policies to listen to us and hear our voices.” Mr Stopforth, Liverpool Chamber chief executive, was clear that the blame for the rising number of unemployed people should not rest with the private sector. He said: “It’s not the responsibility of the business community to deal with the social aspects of unemployment.

“Companies will recruit when they are in expansive mode. They will have to lay people off in order to survive long term. “The consequences of that, I am afraid, are essentially the responsibility of the public sector.” Mr Gill accepted that, while some job losses were because of structural changes within firms unrelated to the recession, there was no suggestion that changes were being made now to hide behind the excuse of the downturn. “Change always leads to more change,” he said. “Companies are always under pressure on their cost base. Some of those companies, certainly those companies with the right levels of resources and standing, will look at the way they work overall. “That just seems to me to be the


The number of jobless people in the region is on the rise, as the recession begins to bite

executive Jim Gill, Reed in Partnership operations director Tom Miller, and Clare Murphy, of Wild Woman

jobless figures in Liverpool way business works generally. It works more obviously in a recession because you see the effects, but it’s doing that sort of analysis all the time.” His view found favour with Mr Stopforth, who agreed that there was no sense of opportunism among businesses who have had to cut staff. “I would hate to suggest there’s a degree of cynicism about that – there isn’t,” he added. “The whole point of being in business is to make more for less. The whole point of being in business is to make sure your costs are always under control and you’re getting maximum profitability that you can for yourself, your staff and for your shareholders.” However, Mr Miller explained that there was one way in which employers were changing their

practices. He said: “Increasingly, employers that have vacancies are structuring those vacancies as part-time or zero hour contracts so employers are looking for greater flexibility from their workforce than used to be the case, and that may be a permanent change.” He also had a positive message for people who are looking for work. “There definitely are jobs out there,” he added. “There is more competition for them, but there are some sectors where there are still significant volume of good paid jobs. “The care sector is a good sector where we are seeing quite a lot of growth. “The hospitality sector is holding up much better than people expect, and even in retail in Liverpool, with the investment in Liverpool One, is

holding up better than many analysts predicted.” The discussion, which was livestreamed on the Liverpool Daily Post website, was accompanied by a CoverItLive blog which allowed readers to submit questions to a panel of experts, and contribute directly to the debate as it was aired. Liverpool Daily Post editor Mark Thomas said: “This debate really showed off the capabilities of our new digital TV studio to the full. “We are now working on developing a rolling programme of business debates in the same format, and I think this has the potential to bring us in some significant new revenue.” ■ THE 30-minute video and blog can be watched back on the Liverpool Daily Post website at liverpool

NWDA chief executive Steve Broomhead




THE BUSINESS LIST Wednesday, July 29

A business lunch is being held by CEPNW Chamber, at the Crowne Plaza, Chester, from 12pm-2pm. The speaker is Gareth Emberton, owner of The Entrepreneur’s Coach, who will talk about growing businesses. It costs £17.25 members / £23 non-members. For more information, call 01244 669988.


Wednesday, July 29 Striding Out is holding its summer networking party at Chameleon Bar, Back Colquitt St, Liverpool. Striding Out’s new business coach, Cheryl Speak, will be introduced at the event, which is from 6pm-9pm. For more information, visit

Thursday, July 30 The North West branch of the Italian Chamber of Commerce for the UK is organising an event which aims to promote co-operation between Italian and English companies. The free event, at Trafford Park, Manchester, will include short presentations along with case studies, and informal networking opportunities. For more information and to register, contact Stefania Corallo on 0161 244 5367 or e-mail

Thursday, August 6 A networking event is being hosted by Sefton Chamber of Commerce at Formby Hall Golf Resort, starting at 5.30pm. For more information, call 01704 531710.

Thursday, August 13 Posh Pads at The Casartelli are opening the doors to its luxury serviced apartments for an evening of business networking. Prospective businesses and clients can see the facilities on hand at the apartments. It is on from 5.30pm-7.30pm and costs £10+VAT. To book, contact Sue Platt or Melissa Bush on 0151 227 1234 or e-mail events@liverpool

A coaching demonstration by The Everton Foundation will form the background to Liverpool Chamber’s business networking event LIVERPOOL Chamber of Commerce’s business after hours event is being hosted by The Everton Foundation at Goodison Park. The networking event will hear about the foundation’s work across Merseyside and beyond,

and there will be a demonstration by coaches working with one of Everton’s disability football teams. Everton relaunched their charity, which was previously called Everton in the Community, in May.

Tuesday, August 18 Liverpool Chamber of Commerce’s monthly platform lunch is at The

The organisation has set itself some ambitious goals, doubling the scale of its activities in two years. The registered charity was set up in 1988 and delivers a range of stimulating programmes across Merseyside to

promote the benefits of social inclusion, well-being and fitness among young people. It works as far afield as Shanghai, Liverpool’s sister city and venue of the 2010 World Expo, where it has a grassroots disability football

Bluecoat from 12.30pm-2.30pm. Three members take the platform in turn, each having six minutes to introduce their products and services. It costs £25+VAT members / £30+VAT non-members. To book, contact Sue Platt on 0151 227 1234 or e-mail

the first themed as a healthy breakfast, all about what to do to improve your lifestyle and be fitter, smarter and develop a healthy business life. It is free to Halton Chamber members and £10 for non-members. To book, contact Nicola Holland on 01928 516142 or e-mail

Wednesday, September 2

Wednesday, August 19

Striding Out is at Chameleon Bar


Liverpool Curry Club, powered by, is holding its monthly hot networking event from 6pm-8pm at Sultan’s Palace, Victoria Street. The event costs £15 for unlimited quantities of food and a free drink on arrival. For more information, e-mail or call 0845 3017406.

development programme. ■ The networking event is on from 5.30pm7.30pm and costs £10+VAT. To book, contact Sue Platt or Melissa Bush on 0151 227 1234 or e-mail events@liverpool

Sultan’s Palace is the venue for the Liverpool Curry Club August networking event

Tuesday, September 1 The next 1stuesday breakfast event is at 7.45am at Foodini Restaurant, The Heath Business and Technical Park. September’s meeting will be

Chester Business Growth Club, hosted by CEPNW Chamber, is at Mollington Banastre, Chester, from 7.30am-9am. After breakfast, there is a five-minute presentation from a member company on the topic of business growth, which is followed by structured networking. The event costs £11.50 for CEPNW Chamber members and £23 for non-members. To book, visit www.cepnw or call 01244 669988.



Ballet Entredanzas from Spain who performed at the Southport Festival

Uma Ramanathan and Karlene Mangeroo, at the Southport Festival

CAROLYN HUGHES From left, Peter Price (City Talk), Mandy Molby (Wirral Witches), Carolyn Hughes (Carolyn Hughes PR) and Yvonne McCormick (Wirral Witches) at the Gusto event

PERFORMERS from around the world headed to Hesketh Park to take part in the Southport International Street Festival. Families from across Merseyside were treated to colourful dance displays from established acts who had travelled from a wide range of countries, such as Spain, Holland, Trinidad & Tobago and Portugal, courtesy of Brouhaha International. ■ GARY POTTER, the jazz guitar impresario, joined pianist and resident Paul Brooks at Jalons, as part of the new season of jazz in their newly refurbished south Liverpool restaurant.

■ HESWALL’S Gusto Restaurant and Bar hosted a Summer Party in aid of Wirral Witches (Women in Touch With ClaireHouse). Guests were treated to a BBQ menu, and even the sun managed to shine to make it a real communityspirited event. ■ LIVERPOOL’S property professionals descended upon the office of law firm DWF, in St Paul’s Squar,e for the Downtown Liverpool in Liverpool in Business Property Forum. Those attending heard Liverpool City Council’s director of regeneration, John Kelly, talk about his aspirations for the city in the future.

Gary Potter with actor Paul Byatt, at Jalons

Gary Potter, jazz guitarist; John Dooley, Jalons Bridewell; actor Paul Byatt; Paul Brooks, and Kev Seed Linda and Frank Rogers at the Gusto event

Joe Hull (general manager, Gusto Heswall), and Sue Crimes (operations director, Living Ventures) at the Gusto event

Gail Nicholas, Mersey View, and Mike Carr, NSG UK, at the DLIB Property Forum

From left, John Kelly, Liverpool City Council; Frank McKenna, DLIB; and Danny Leich, Grant Thornton; at the DLIB Property Forum




BUSINESS LUNCH Alex Turner and Liverpool BID chief executive Ged Gibbons enjoy a leisurely lunch at The Olive Press ED GIBBONS has a simple aim for Liverpool – to get people to sit down. It’s a straightforward approach, but one that would have a huge impact on the atmosphere of the city. The chief executive of Liverpool Business Improvement District (BID) is in relaxed mood, chatting away in the Olive Press, on Castle Street. And the Italian restaurant is a good example of what Ged means. When people are comfortable and happy, they sit down and enjoy the experience. It’s a concept influenced by the work of world-renowned urban designer Jan Gehl, who was a driving force behind the pedestrianisation of Copenhagen and has been involved in city centre projects across the world. Next week sees the launch of one idea that will help to do this for a few weeks – an urban beach in Williamson Square. He said: “We are bringing in 30 tonnes of sand next to the fountain and we have got 50 deckchairs, including 20 small ones which are designed for toddlers. “There will also be lots going on around it. Retailers are getting behind it, for example Utility are sponsoring windmills and Boots will give out sunblock. “What we are doing is something that the rest of the city will benefit from,” he said. “It’s about creating a city centre that’s welcoming in many different areas. “If everyone is trying to get people in to the city centre – whether it’s Liverpool City Council, Liverpool One or ourselves – then we will all benefit.” Our drinks arrived – Ged had a sparkling mineral water and I had a pint of orange cordial, although I had ordered orange and lemonade. A second, very minor, gripe is it was served in a tall Peroni glass with a submerged straw. Why? But it was not a sign of things to come, with this the only blemish on an otherwise very efficient service. By the time Ged recounted seeing a mutual acquaintance at his son’s school play earlier in the week – former St Helens rugby league player Apollo Eleven Perelini, so named because he was born on the day of the moon landing – our starters had been brought over. Ged had a beetroot salad with shaved pecorino, shallots and rocket pesto, which he described as “excellent, the beetroot was fantastic and the sauce was wonderful”. My choice, the tomato, chick pea



and spring onion soup, was also excellent – chunky and full of flavour. Ged is confident that the city itself meets such standards. “Satisfaction levels for people coming into Liverpool are very, very high,” he said. “We have to build on that. We have to make sure we promote the Business Improvement District, and Liverpool city centre in the wider sense, as a safe, clean place to come. “The key for us is that when people come into Liverpool they are not disappointed. We are looking for loyal shoppers, whether they are local or coming from the wider sub-region. “Competition is fierce from other cities and locally from places like Cheshire Oaks and Mersey Retail Park. We have got to be mindful of the retail environment, while it’s challenging nationally and internationally, it’s also challenging at a local level.” The recession has caused drastic changes on high streets across the country. For example, along with many other shopping areas, St Helens, where Ged was town centre manager for four years until 2007, the loss of Woolworths has left a huge hole. But he says Liverpool has largely absorbed the loss of the retailer, while empty retail units in the city centre are receiving lots of interest. Clayton Square shopping centre, which lost Zavvi from a key site, is in “serious discussions” with a couple of retailers, while Bold Street is also holding its own – contrary to some forecasts – despite the opening of Liverpool One last year. Bold Street became part of the BID in November, after retailers voted to extend the BID in time and geography. It was the same time as Ged replaced Rita Waters as chief executive, initially in a caretaker role, before being confirmed as the permanent choice in May. Ged said: “It was right to add Bold Street because of the very nature of it – smaller, independent businesses – they have got no national headquarters to back them up. “If they get it wrong, they suffer and became a retail casualty. And the recession is hitting SMEs especially hard. “The unique nature of Bold Street makes that a challenge, but there are very enthusiastic business people. It’s about getting them to work as a partnership. “It’s way more than just being about the 1.2%levy. It’s about how

The right balance of attention – The Olive Press, in Castle Street, Liverpool we work together as 650 businesses and make it an attractive destination for shoppers, tourists and businesses.” The arrival of our main courses wasn’t quite enough to knock Ged off his stride, and he continued talking for long enough to concern a member of staff, who came over to check everything was OK. Just the right balance of attention, without being obtrusive. Ged, who read Spanish and Portuguese at Liverpool University and has lived in Madrid, Andalucia and Barcelona, was keen to avoid having a lunch that was too heavy. He chose penne with chargrilled chicken, mushrooms and basil pesto, and was happy with his selection. “The chicken was really tender and there wasn’t too much,” he said. “The danger is with pasta, chicken and a creamy sauce that you just want to fall asleep and with no siesta that’s a no-no.”

Ged Gibbons

My chargrilled salmon with pea risotto, sour cream and oregano was really good, and justified it being the recommended dish of general manager Neil Cooper. The creamy risotto was neither too bland nor too over-powering for the salmon – a good partnership. And partnership is a word that comes up again and again during lunch and Ged – a self-confessed fan of analogies – stresses the amount of work that goes on behind closed doors to make things happen. “A lot of what we do is furious pedalling to make the swan look good,” he said. “I spend most of my time building up partnerships. People have bought in to the collective good. “We focus on four key areas: clean, green, safe and animated, which covers things like events, lighting, street entertainment. “It’s my job to try and influence partner organisations on how we can deliver on those.” With desserts refused – Ged showing the discipline which enabled him to complete 25 marathons (with a best time of a very respectable three hours and six minutes) before knee surgery put an end to his running days – we finished off with a filter coffee and an

espresso. The bill came to £32.85, helped by the 50% off any pizza or pasta main course offer. As we finished off, Ged returned to the high standards which the city has to maintain and surpass. “It’s not can we do it, but how much do we want to do it?” he said. “Liverpool has that healthy attitude. “That appetite for change, there’s a real private sector appetite. “Public funding is going to become less and less. If, in the past, there has been an over-dependence on public funds, that will cease. “It’s now about the private sector taking on the momentum that has been created to date. “We have been given a push-start and are now pedalling. It’s up to us where we go and at what speed.”

DETAILS The Olive Press 25-27, Castle Street Liverpool L2 4TA Tel: 0151 227 2242

Access Downtown’s Little Black Book Downtown Liverpool in Business Join The Business CluB wiTh ATTITUDE! 0151 227 1633




ALEXTURNER . . . it never rains, but it pours, as John Maynard Keynes puts a dampener on this year’s rain-drenched river cruise ‘M TELLING this story in a faraway scene, sipping down raki and reading Maynard Keynes. And listening to Deacon Blue’s classic track, Dignity. I am penning this in the town named after the one-time chairman of the London and North Western Railway, Hardman Earle, which is on Merseyside’s eastern front and seems as far away from Liverpool’s bustling waterfront as Siberia did to those who displeased Stalin. The bottle of raki sits nearby and has – disappointingly but unsurprisingly – been handled more often than my copy of the economist’s magnum opus, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. In it, Maynard Keynes, who has enjoyed a revival in interest in the current downturn thanks to revisionists positioning him as Nostra-


damus economus, sets out the following: “The outstanding faults of the economic society in which we live are its failure to provide for full employment and its arbitrary and inequitable distribution of wealth and incomes.” Which isn’t quite as snappy or memorable as Deacon Blue’s tale of a man who worked for the council for 20 years, picked litter out of the gutter and saved his money in order to buy a dinghy called Dignity. But the central message is the same. I was making this point to an ever-decreasing number of people while sailing down the River Mersey aboard the annual Rensburg Sheppards river cruise. But any lingering interest in the investment opportunities of a yacht was soon blown off course by the tale of an uninvited guest who had misunderstood the rules of networking. It is all about taking the plunge, but she had taken this advice literally, jumping into

the Mersey before being pulled to safety by a couple of unidentified heroes. The woman was not trying to board the ferry – although the tight control of the guest list means that, for the usual blaggers and sandwich-stealers, it is the only way they can get on – but instead, it seems, she was unhappy with her lot. History failed to record whether it was her despondency with the Keynesian approach that had caused her radical action. Once the 198 guests and two lifesavers were on the boat (and shame on the 50 or so fairweather networkers who looked at the leaden skies and decided to become notworkers) there wasn’t much chance of another “man overboard” shout as everyone crammed into the bars to avoid the showers. That was the excuse given, anyway. And the cruise saw a little more swaying than usual, as the guests went without ballast. This year, the buffet was absent to save money on the “credit crunch cruise”, which at least avoided the problems caused by not having a third hand. How else do you hold a beer, a plate, and then transfer food from the plate to the palate? HE rain was not just bad news for the cruise – although it meant that those heading to train stations could stop in Newz Bar after disembarking “to keep out of the rain” – as it was St Swithun’s Day. Legend has it that, if it rains on July 15, it will stay wet for 40 days. This weather predictor, devised in a time when meteorological forecasts involved looking at the sky, grew out of the burial arrangements of Swithun, a ninth-century Bishop of Winchester. He requested that “the sweet rain from heaven may fall upon my grave” so was buried outside, rather than in his cathedral. A century later, his body was to be taken to a new, indoor, shrine but the move was delayed for 40 days because of torrential rain. And so, fast forward a millennium, we expect that if it rains on July 15, it will rain for the next 40 days, until August 24. Despite the flaky basis for the forecast, on the evidence of the first few days, it seems that this may well hold true. Potentially, that’s good news for the England cricket team, ark-builders and Susino, the Speke-based division of the Chinese umbrella manufacturers. Susino sold more than £500,000-worth of umbrellas in its first 18 months in the UK and a combination of staycations and a wet summer should see more brisk sales. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that.


Deacon Blue lead singer Ricky Ross belts out his idyllic song about a Keynesian disciple’s dreams of a retirement spent on the open seas


Hand sanitiser stations placed in common areas of the workplace make hand hygiene fast, easy, and convenient! Suitable for home use and is available in handy sized bottles and sprays. This non gel product contains hand softener to moisturise your skin.



DAILY POST Tuesday, July 28, 2009


A new environment for business


With a range of brand new high specification office, hybrid and light industrial units available for sale or lease from 100ft2 to14,000ft2 and an unrivalled location at the heart of the Northwest communication network Widnes Waterfront is the right location for your business. Sited on the Mersey Estuary, a location of outstanding natural beauty, within a landscaped business park of the highest environmental standards Widnes Waterfront is minutes from the M62 and M56 and within easy reach of Manchester International and Liverpool John Lennon Airports. For further information about commercial property at Widnes Waterfront please call Steve Clark on 01928 516124 or email

LDP Business, 28/7/09  
LDP Business, 28/7/09  

LDP Business, 28/7/09.