Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Swindon MP backs campaign to license garages

Justin Tomlinson MP with Pebley Beach MD Dominic ThrelfallSwindon MP Justin Tomlinson has thrown his weight behind a national campaign to license garages - protecting consumers from rogue mechanics - following a visit to award-winning motor dealer and repair centre Pebley Beach.

Mr Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, was invited by Pebley Beach managing director Dominic Threlfall, who said: “Electricians and gas fitters have to be licensed, but anyone can open a garage and fix your car.

“A badly maintained motor vehicle can be lethal, and the public need assurance that anyone working on their car is trained to the highest professional standards.”

Mr Tomlinson said: “I think there’s mileage in this campaign, because enough consumers have been left with a bad taste in their mouth.

“I am happy to ask questions in Parliament about this.”

Mr Tomlinson also pledged to fight for MOT examinations being preserved as annual requirements, following previous speculation that Parliament might seek to make them biennial.

“Half of the cars we see here fail the MOT on their first attempt,” said Dom, “and that’s after 12 months of driving. Two years between tests would mean dangerous cars on our roads.”

He said that tyres were a particular problem in Swindon. “It’s all the roundabouts,” said Dom. “"They wear the edges of tread very quickly.

“On a car we saw today, for example, the driver was oblivious to the cords showing on the edge. We see this on a weekly occurrence. It is incredibly dangerous and the owner faces a hefty fine if stopped by the police.”

Mr Tomlinson agreed: “You need your car to perform at its best,” he said. “No-one has emailed me to complain that they have to have an MOT every year. Again, this is something I’m prepared to back.”

Mr Tomlinson’s visit to Pebley Beach – Wiltshire’s Business of the Year, and national Garage of the Year, as voted for by customers on comparison site motorcodes.co.uk – was arranged following the publication of a national report which suggested Members of Parliament are out-of-touch about the motor trade.

The Institute of the Motor Industry commissioned a survey of 99 MPs to find out their views on attitudes to the sector.

It found that while MPs recognised the number of jobs the industry provides - with 60 percent saying their constituents were quite likely to work in a garage or a dealership - more than half suggested the motor trade was low skilled, low paid, and dirty.

Showing the MP around the firm’s state-of-the-art repair centre, where inspections are routinely recorded on video and emailed to the customer, Dom said: “Our master technicians have done more training than a veterinary surgeon has, and our commitment to apprenticeships and ongoing training means we have a highly skilled and proficient workforce.”

And Mr Tomlinson - who has recently been car shopping - proved himself anything but out-of-touch, praising the customer experience at the Paddington Drive showroom.

“I went into a number of dealerships,” he said, “and Pebley Beach was the only one where I was approached to see if I needed assistance.

“It’s no surprise to me that Pebley Beach keeps winning awards.”

Explorer Hempleman-Adams helps young people looking for a route into work

David Hempleman-AdamsExplorer and adventurer David Hempleman-Adams will be the guest speaker at a business networking event to raise awareness and funds for Inner Flame next month.

Inner Flame helps people aged 14 to 25 through training, mentoring, work experience, jobs and apprenticeships, in the face of mass unemployment among young people in Swindon – where 1,000 youngsters are still struggling to find work.

The event, which is being run in partnership with Business Scene, takes place at The National Self Build & Renovation Centre, Great Western Way, Swindon SN5 8UB on Thursday, September 25 from 6pm. Tickets cost £15.

To book a place, click here

Repair Academy appoints project manager

Doug NorthAn innovative scheme that sees unwanted items from Wiltshire’s recycling centres repaired and re-used has appointed its first project manager.

Doug North has extensive experience in working in the voluntary and community sector and will lead the development of the Repair Academy.

The social enterprise is a joint initiative between Hills Waste Solutions and Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Community First, Kennet Furniture Refurbiz, Waste Not Want Not, Wiltshire College and Swindon College.

Hills Waste Solutions and Wiltshire Council are currently running a pilot scheme at three of the council’s household recycling centres at Devizes, Melksham, and Marlborough. Staff on site identify a limited amount of suitable furniture, certain white goods and bric-a-brac for donation to The Repair Academy.

The pilot scheme will run until the end of 2014 after which the academy will be set up as an independent charity or social enterprise.

The aims of the initiative are to:

  • Create social, economic and environmental value by transforming unwanted products into desirable goods
  • Support people in need by helping them gain skills for employment and life
  • Change public opinion to make used and repaired items more attractive
  • Foster an attitude of re-use and repair of materials.

Doug said: “The Repair Academy is a fantastic opportunity within Wiltshire helping to unite the voluntary and community sector even more. Having spent time working in a similar role I could not resist the opportunity that the Repair Academy has presented.

"With the capability of saving tonnes of usable items from landfill, to then be used for training and development, and finally ending up in a household which could not normally afford these same basic, refurbished items, makes a fantastic prospect.

“It’s going to be a challenging year getting the project operating to capacity, but with the continued support of the partners involved, I have every confidence that it will be a success.”

Emma Chapman, director of business and commercial services for The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust said: “The appointment of Doug North is crucial to the success of the Repair Academy.

“With the ongoing support of all the partners, we have a fantastic opportunity to showcase this flagship project and eventually widen its reach to cover Wiltshire, benefitting more young people and local communities and reducing waste.”

Expert Opinion: The five retirement mistakes to avoid

Stephen Depla of Brewin DolphinMaking the right decisions at retirement will make all the difference to your financial security and affect how you pass your wealth down the generations. Stephen Depla, head of office at Brewin Dolphin in Marlborough, discusses the most common mistakes people make at this critical time and how to avoid them.

Retiring too early
It is likely your pension will be near to its highest value when you reach retirement. However, the timing of your retirement could have a significant impact on the level of income you receive.

Generally, though subject to investment content and market fluctuations, the longer you can leave your pension fund invested, the larger the fund will become. This is due to compound interest which Albert Einstein described as “the eighth wonder of the world”.

Making the wrong choice with your pension
When you retire, most pensions do not automatically start to pay you an income. You have to make a choice: either to buy an annuity, which will pay you a guaranteed income for your lifetime, or take income drawdown, where your pension pot remains invested and you draw an income based on how your investments perform.

Annuities suit those who need a guaranteed income and are a lower risk option than income drawdown, where your income may fall as well as rise.

For many people, a combination of guaranteed income through annuities and State or other pensions, combined with some income drawdown can provide the best of both worlds.

Not shopping around for the best annuity
If an annuity is the right choice for you, shopping around for your annuity can improve your income significantly. The shopping around process is known as using the ‘open market option’.

If you are a smoker or suffer from poor health then you may be entitled to an even higher income, via an ‘enhanced annuity’ – it is always worth disclosing health conditions and lifestyle information when getting an annuity quote.

Not taking your full tax-free cash entitlement
After age 55 you may have the option to draw a pension commencement lump sum which is usually 25 percent of the fund value.

If needed this could be used to clear your remaining mortgage, take a cruise or provide a supplementary income to your pension. Otherwise, leaving this money within your pension pot can offer valuable tax benefits, so take advice before you act.

Paying more tax than you need to
Perhaps the biggest tax mistake I see is people not using their Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance.

Retirement is the time when you will convert your portfolio from pursuing a growth objective to delivering an income and this process is easier and cheaper if your investments are sheltered in ISAs.

ISAs are free from capital gains tax and further income tax and can provide you with a great source of tax free income.

Stephen Depla is head of office at Brewin Dolphin, Marlborough. For more information about Brewin Dolphin's products and services, click here.

CrowdFunding is topic at Monahan’s networking breakfast

Anthony-de-SouzaCrowdFunding will be the topic of discussion at the next Monahans networking breakfast, led by capital-raising consultant Anthony de Souza.

“CrowdFunding is a new form of democratic finance that is raising hundreds of millions in the UK every year for businesses.

“This has now become a huge trend benefitting any person, startup or business who wish to come to terms with what CrowdFunding is all about,” says Anthony.

The event will be held at Chippenham Golf Club, Malmesbury Road, Chippenham, Wiltshire, SN15 5LT from 7.30am to 9am on Wednesday, September 24. Attendance costs £10.

To book a place, log on to http://www.monahans.co.uk/events.asp

Bluebird Care Swindon wins top training award with innovative e-learning for care workers

Charlie Begbie and Ben CurtisCare workers at Bluebird Care Swindon have been given a boost after the company was announced as the winner of a top training award for its innovative e-learning scheme for care workers.

Bluebird Care, one of the UK’s leading care at home providers, has won the Skillsoft Inspire Award for its new e-learning training programme for care workers, which trains staff in a variety of areas including the dementia, infection control and customer care policies of Bluebird Care Swindon which go above and beyond the regulatory standards and requirements.

The award, for Best Compliance Initiative, comes as a result of Bluebird Care’s continued investment in training and support for its staff, including implementing a new e-learning system. The new learning programme provides new recruits and current staff with a flexible and blended approach to learning that underpins the high quality service they deliver.

Bluebird Care offers training and support for its staff that goes above and beyond industry standards, with an industry-leading approach that sees staff trained for a minimum of 12 weeks at the start of their Bluebird Care career, and supervised on a monthly basis to provide ongoing support throughout their careers. Specialist training, including creating Dementia Champions throughout the business, means that customers receive the highest standards of care and care workers can develop a rewarding career.

Care in the home is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, with Bluebird Care operating almost 200 offices across the UK, delivering 20,000 high quality visits to customers each day. Being a care worker is an incredibly rewarding career, and Bluebird Care staff are supported with high quality and flexible training, such as the award-winning Skillsoft e-learning programme.

Commenting, Owner of Bluebird Care Swindon, Ben Curtis, said: “Providing the best support and training to our staff is at the heart of everything we do at Bluebird Care, and we’re thrilled to have been recognised for this with a Skillsoft Inspire Award.

“Our staff deliver the highest possible standards of care and service for our customers, and we’re proud of the results they achieve.

“Training for our staff goes on throughout their careers, so they’re always up to date with the best possible practices. Our award-winning, flexible approach including e-learning plays a key part in delivering the best service to our customers.”

Commenting, Skillsoft UK Director of Compliance, Mike Newton said: “We are delighted for Bluebird Care, they have committed to compliance e-learning and the award is thoroughly deserved. This award category was strongly contested and the award judges were impressed with both Bluebird Care’s achievements to date and plans for the future.”

Bluebird Care Swindon, which has offices in the railway village, is currently recruiting more staff in order to be able to expand its service. For more information contact manager Charlie Begbie on 01793 698033 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wootton Bassett entrepreneur through to finals of national start-ups competition

Little Miss Cake Maker - Samantha WhittinghamA Wootton Bassett businesswoman has been nominated for a national award just five months after launching her cake-making business.

Twenty-five year-old entrepreneur Samantha Whittingham quit her job as a media sales executive in February to launch Little Miss Cake Maker, a web-based create-your-own cupcake business.

And in a bid to appeal to the corporate market, Samantha will embelish any cupcake with the logo or slogan of a company. 

Now, her website has been selected as one of just 100 semi-finalists in a competition run by The Pitch – billed as Britain's biggest small business competition.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out I made the top 100,” said Samantha. “I entered it thinking I would do my best, that it was a learning curve. I am really excited. Making it to the top 100 is an achievement in itself.”

The 100 semi-finalists have been invited to attend a Boot Camp in Manchester, where they will learn how to present the perfect business pitch. From there, 30 will go on to the finals in Bristol. The overall winner will receive a business support package worth thousands of pounds.

Supporters can vote for Samantha at http://www.thepitchuk.com/shortlist/little-miss-cake-maker/701


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