Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Expert opinion: Silver workers - are you working late?

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Anna Wensley StockThere are now over a million people aged 65 and over and still working and owning business interests in the UK.

Not only is this great news for their own finances, as an average earner working one year longer has the potential to boost their pension pot by £4,500 in addition to earning the extra year’s salary, but there are also gains for the wider economy, including the country’s gross domestic product.

With people living and working longer their affairs are now more complex than they have ever been.

Increasingly therefore we are recommending people should consider a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to cover their property and financial affairs.

If you become mentally incapable then who will deal with your affairs on your behalf? If you have not made provision by way of an LPA then you are leaving your loved ones with a complex and costly application to the Court of Protection.

If you have business interests then you can appoint separate attorneys to cover those, and appoint your family to deal with your personal affairs. The choice is yours, but our advice is that you are better off thinking about it now than leaving it too late.

For more information about LPAs, log on to http://www.wansbroughs.com/site/ourservices/wills_probate_solicitors/lasting_powers_attorney/

Anna Wensley Stock is a partner at Wansbroughs in Devizes. Contact her on 01380 733300 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pebley Beach named Hyundai Aftersales Dealer of the Year

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Aftersales team members Steve Lawro Kathryn Harris and Martin Trelby with their awardSwindon motor dealer Pebley Beach has been named Aftersales Dealer of the Year by Hyundai UK.

The dealership was awarded the accolade in recognition of its high levels of customer satisfaction, staff training, and leadership.

The award was made at the Hyundai UK national conference at the Stadium MK in Milton Keynes – home to the Dons football club – earlier this month (January).

Pebley saw off competition from 166 other dealerships to scoop the award.

Presenting the award, Nick Tunnell, aftersales director at Hyundai UK, said: "I'd like to shine a spotlight on someone who has performed brilliantly across the parts, the service, and the people areas of their business."

Managing director Dominic Threlfall explained: “Aftersales is really important to us. Buying a car at Pebley Beach is just the beginning of the customer’s relationship with Pebley Beach.

“The experience they have when they bring their car back for a service or MoT is vital to growing our reputation, and is one of the reasons customers come back to us for their next car time after time.”

Although the award was presented in January, it recognises the achievements of the aftersales team during 2014.

“This is the last accolade of a bumper year for us: one that has seen Pebley Beach named Wiltshire Business of the Year and UK Garage of the Year, and pick up an Excellence in Aftersales award at the AM Awards,” said Dom.

“The judges will also be aware that we have more Hyundai master technicians than any other UK dealership, and that service specialist Lloyd Pickup has been named one of Hyundai’s top UK brand ambassadors for 2014.”

Local energy suppliers at top and bottom of Which? customer satisfaction survey

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Juliet Davenport of Good EnergyChippenham-based renewable energy supplier and generator Good Energy has come second in the latest Which? energy company customer satisfaction survey, while Swindon-based RWE Npower is propping up the bottom of the league.

Good Energy has consistently won high ratings in the annual Which? energy company customer satisfaction survey, coming top in three out of the last four years.

“We’re really pleased with this result,” said Good Energy CEO and founder, Juliet Davenport.

“This latest Which? survey shows we’ve delivered yet another great performance in 2014, stretching our track record of excellence. What other energy company can say they’ve been in the top two in the league for four years running?”

She added: “2014 was a year of rapid customer growth for us with electricity customer numbers rising by around 37 percent and gas customers by around 60 percent. At the same time, we saw our Feed-in Tariff customer numbers go up by around 26 percent, and this all put a huge amount of pressure on our customer service team.

“The fact that we managed to maintain the rating of 82 percent against this backdrop is testament to the sheer hard work, energy and commitment of our small but growing team!”

The company, which provides 100 percent renewable electricity, missed out on the top slot by just two percent but maintained the same high score of 82 percent that it won in 2014.

“Our consistently high performance over the last few years reflects our commitment to always keep the customer at the heart of everything we do,” said Juliet.

“What the Which? survey does highlight is something we already know: that there is still room for improvement. We’re really keen to do more to make our service even better for customers and intend to continue to focus on making our customer service ‘best in class’. We’re already setting our sights on next year’s energy company crown.”

The league table was topped by Gloucestershire-based Ecotricity. Npower achieved the lowest score for the fourth year running with 35 percent.

Npower said on their website: “We have been working closely with (industry regulator Ofgem) since June this year to demonstrate our commitment to reducing our complaint and late invoice numbers.

“While we’re pleased to report we have met the targets they set us for late billing and complaints and continue to make progress, and we remain under investigation for these.

“This work is ongoing and we remain fully committed to significantly improving the way we look after our customers.”

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “The large energy firms, which dominate the market, need to up their game as millions of customers deserve better.”

Excalibur promotes CCO to MD role

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Andy Tow of ExcaliburSwindon-based Excalibur Communications has promoted chief commercial officer Andy Tow to the role of MD, and has set himself the target of growing revenues from £7 million to £25 million.

Mr Tow was hired as CCO of the Vodafone Platinum Partner in October.

James Phipps will remain as CEO, taking a strategic role as Mr Tow handles day-to-day operations at the company.

The appointment was announced this week.

Economist delivers upbeat message on the economy

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Stefano Silvestrin of NationwideA snapshot of the local and national economy was given to Swindon Business leaders by a senior economist from Swindon-based Nationwide on Friday.

Stefano Silvestrin was the guest speaker at Friday’s meeting of Swindon Chamber of Commerce, returning to the forum a year after he had made his first set of predictions.

In January 2014 he had told networkers that the economy would grow by between 2.5 percent and 2.7 percent – and it turned out the prediction was on the nail.

“2014 has been a very good year for the economy - we’ve averaged about 0.6 to 0.7 percent growth per quarter, which is higher than most of our European neighbours. Year on year growth is around 2.5 percent,”
he said.

“Businesses are now more profitable than they were in 2008, and there are fewer businesses struggling.”

“The local economy has benefited from the rebound. South West unemployment is at 4.7 percent, one percent below the national average, and Swindon has a very high rate of people working or in employment.”

Mr Silvestrin warned that there were still risks to the economy, posed by unbalanced growth led by consumer spending rather than business investment.

The imbalance in trade needs to be addressed, as do the high levels of household debt, he said.

But generally there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic: unemployment stands at 5.8 percent, down from eight percent in 2013, and wages now increasing above level on inflation.

Monetary policy remains supportive. Even if interest rates do increase, it will be gradual. And sterling is very competitive.

The falling oil prices also gave Swindon business owners reasons to be cheerful.

“Oil price is major driver in the fall in inflation,” said Mr Silvestrin. “Sectors that benefit most include agriculture, manufacturing, which accounts for 17 percent of the local economy, and transportation , which is more than 20 percent.”

Offering his outlook for 2015, he said: “Growth should remain strong over the next couple of years, with 2.5 percent to three percent growth in 2015/16 and maybe 2017 too.”

Business West issues list of demands ahead of General Election

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Phil Smith of Business WestRegional Chamber of Commerce Business West has published a 15-point list of demands ahead of May’s General Election.

The Business West manifesto was launched at the chairman’s Winter Reception held at Leigh Court in Bristol on Thursday (January 22).

The manifesto was informed by consultation with 18,000 business members, which include firms in Swindon through Influence Swindon.

The ‘asks’ of local MPs and the incoming government covers 15 areas, including Infrastructure, Transport, Digital Connectivity, Energy, Housing, Skills, and Taxation.

Among the specifics are:

Transport: A commitment to the proposed A303 Stonehenge tunnel.

Rail: Delivery of electrification to Swindon, and commitment to the extension of electrification to the entire regional network.

Rail: Re-establishment of direct passenger rail services from Bristol to Oxford, via Swindon, in the next First Great Western franchise and investment to deliver a high speed ‘brain train’ from Bristol to Oxford and Cambridge, via Bath and Swindon.

Digital Connectivity: Ensure UK businesses have access to world-class digital infrastructure by introducing a new national target that matches the most ambitious targets in other EU countries, and not just countries of a comparable size.

Skills & Employment: Improve the availability of further and higher education opportunities in Swindon & Wiltshire.

Investing in ‘Place’: Improve the connections between the North and South of the railway in Swindon to enhance the coherence and attractiveness of the town centre.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West said:“"This Business Manifesto also recognises that our cities, towns and counties are in competition with other parts of the UK – competition for people and skills; for business and jobs and for investment.

"We argue the case for improvements to our hard and soft infrastructure. With Scotland, Manchester and Wales already promised extra powers and investment, we must make sure that our region is not disadvantaged. Our vision is for the region to be a more confident, more enterprising, more skilled place to start and grow a business.

"The decisions taken by local and national politicians in the next Parliament will have a crucial impact on future prosperity.

"Our asks are predicated on our position that economic growth and business success must not come at the price of inequalities, environmental or societal cost if our region is to be the best place to run a business, to work and to live."

Demand for Swindon office space at highest level since recession

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James Gregory of Alder KingDemand for offices in Swindon has witnessed the highest level of take-up since before the recession, according to the first Market Monitor of the year by commercial property agents Alder King.

Significant out of town demand came from Nationwide, which took 29,000 sq ft (2,694 sq m) at the Trilogy Building at Kembrey Park, and Swindon Silicon Systems, which took 34,000 sq ft (3,159 sq m) at Interface House, Royal Wootton Bassett, according to the the head of the Swindon office, James Gregory.

There was also significant improvement in the take-up of in town office buildings, with many service providers for the electrification of the mainline railway seeking representation close to the station. In-town transactions represented 30 percent of take-up.

However, there has also been a reduction in supply, as poorer quality stock is converted for residential use.

In stark contrast, demand for industrial premises was at its lowest level since before the recession.
The largest letting in 2014 was Signalling Solutions Limited’s move to Dorcan Industrial Estate, closely followed by Aldi taking two further buildings at South Marston Park.

Retail and leisure property was buoyant, with the majority of the Regent Circus development opening in November and December, and H&M taking a new 25,000 sq ft (2,326 sq m)store in The Parade in the town centre.

“Further public realm projects are planned for the town centre including Havelock Square, demonstrating the optimism for the main retail area,” writes Mr Gregory.

In all, the value of investments increased 14 percent over the year to £76.5m – the highest value of transactions seen since pre-2009.

A copy of the report is available from www.alderking.com/media/153933/Market-Monitor-2015.pdf

 

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