Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Eden Project finds a Good Energy match

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Eden executive director Peter Stewart with Good Energy founder Juliet Davenport and Eden executive director David HarlandThe Eden Project is teaming up with its new power supplier - Chippenham-based Good Energy - to help visitors understand how their energy use affects the environment.

Eden is now supplied by Good Energy, which gets all of its electricity from renewable sources, including Delabole Wind Farm, Cornwall and the UK’s first commercial wind farm.

All Good Energy’s electricity comes from local, natural sources like sunshine, wind and rain and the company is seen as the perfect match by Eden Project.

Together with Good Energy, Eden aims to engage and inspire people to reconnect with where the energy they use comes from.

The two organisations are hoping to be able to offer a fun learning programme to visitors which could include energy-themed exhibitions and displays, workshops, and short courses.

David Harland, executive director of the Eden Project, said: “We’re very proud to say that all the electricity we use at Eden now comes from renewable sources. It’s great to be working with our friends at Good Energy, a company that is in tune with Eden and has an excellent record of working with renewable projects in Cornwall.

“We also hope to work closely with Good Energy on a variety of educational projects for our visitors, to help demystify the world of energy and help people make their homes more efficient.”

Good Energy founder and chief executive Juliet Davenport said: “There are some real similarities with how we’re both trying to bring people closer to where their energy comes from, and how Eden is bringing people closer to where their food comes from. We both want to show that looking after nature is really important to our everyday lives.

“Just like Eden we want to inspire people to go on a journey of discovery about the kind of society we want to live. In a changing world, we need imagination and enterprise; we need to foster our skills and talents; we need communities to get engaged in inventing new, more sustainable ways of living together.”

Good Energy owns Delabole Wind Farm which it re-powered at a cost of £11.8m in 2010 and is proud of its rich history in South West. The company has over 1,600 customers in the county.

“We wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Cornwall”, said Juliet. “We purchase renewable energy from generators all over the country, but it all started with our very first power purchase agreement with Delabole back in 1999.

“Now we have renewable energy projects in Cornwall producing enough electricity to supply nearly 7,000 homes, and are developing sites that could produce enough for around 20,000 more.”

“We can’t wait to start engaging people here in energy and climate issues through fun experiences with our friends at Eden.”

Mitsubishi dealership staff gear up to help Swindon teenager

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Lee Trunks (middle), programme manager for WellChild’s Helping Hands project, with members of WellChild’s Helping Hands team and their Mitsubishi ASXStaff from a Mitsubishi dealership group will swap the showroom for the great outdoors when they take on the challenge of transforming a garden for a girl with profound disabilities.

Thirteen members of staff from CCR Mitsubishi dealerships in Swindon, Melksham and Cheltenham will get stuck in to help 14-year-old Molly Begley have the garden she deserves.

Molly, from Swindon, has epilepsy, autism, profound learning difficulties, global development delay and scoliosis. She is in remission from a Wilms tumour, a particularly aggressive form of cancer, but treatment has left her with a number of complex health care needs. It takes two adults to support her on trips out, so leaving the family home is difficult.

The teenager loves the outdoors and using a swing but while mum Claire has had their house in Pinehurst Road adapted to meet her needs, the garden has proved too big a challenge.

Mum-of-three Claire contacted the WellChild charity’s Helping Hands team, based in Cheltenham, after hearing about them from Molly’s occupational therapist.

Helping Hands relies on volunteers from companies and CCR Mitsubishi has a long-standing relationship with the charity. As well as helping on projects like this, the Mitsubishi group also provides the charity with two vehicles, which saves it thousands of pounds in travel costs.

Claire said: “I’m so excited, this will make a massive difference to Molly’s life. She has spent all summer indoors and not been able to go out.

“She loves the outdoors, she likes pushing her buggy round and this will give her the opportunity to be in the garden safely.”

Lyndsey Smith, group marketing co-ordinator for CCR Mitsubishi, which has 11 dealerships across the south, said: “We have a fantastic relationship with WellChild and when we heard about the project to transform Molly’s garden we were really keen to help. Hopefully this will make a huge difference to the family and especially Molly.”

The work will include breaking up existing concrete, levelling the garden, putting down fake grass and a sensory area, installing new fencing and putting in a swing.

Staff from Ardent Office Supplies, based in Waterwells Business Park, Quedgeley, will also be helping with the project, which will take place on November 19th and 20th.

Lee Trunks, programme manager for WellChild’s Helping Hands project, said: “Schemes like this only work thanks to the volunteers. Without them we wouldn’t exist. It’s great that the team from CCR Mitsubishi and Ardent are helping. The house has already been made appropriate for Molly but the garden is a mammoth task. This will make a life-changing difference to the family.”

Chippenham accountant is a technology champion

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Jessica PillowChippenham accountant Jessica Pillow has been shortlisted as a Technology Champion of the Year in recognition of her adoption and promotion of cloud computing tools.

The title is a category in the industry’s Practice Excellence Awards, now in its fourth year.

One of judges commented “Without exemption, all of the Practice Excellence Technology Champions embraced cloud computing – and some had even written their own applications.

“But Jessica Pillow’s championing extended to choosing and configuring add-on tools to maximise effectiveness within her practice and helping other accountancy firms understand and exploit its advantages too.”

Pillow May has added two new services combining cloud accounting software and other add-ons to deliver real time reporting – Get the Picture – and remote working – My Business on my Phone – to her clients.

The ReceiptBank expenses capture add-on “saved us 40 hours of data input time at £35 a hour” for one client, who gained from the savings and referred other business in the firm’s direction.

“If someone had told me I could have saved over £6,000 in accountancy fees and got information I need to run my business quicker I would not have thought it was possible,” the client said.

“Pillow May have implemented systems within my business that have meant I have not had to replace a bookkeeper, that chase my outstanding debt for me automatically and predict my cashflow as well as getting management information I understand when I need it. They are an intrinsic member of our extended management team.”

Thanks to her energetic networking – which Jessica uses to research new ideas and applications as well as to position herself as a cloud expert – Pillow May has grown by 51 percent in the past year, with 95 percent of its clients using cloud accounting software for their businesses.

Swindon’s engineering expertise showcased at major exhibition

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Swindon's hydrogen refuelling station - a UK firstForward Swindon is promoting Swindon as a prime location for engineering based businesses and expertise at the Advanced Engineering Show at Birmingham’s NEC today (Tuesday) and tomorrow.

Due to the success of last year’s show the economic development company is exhibiting for the second year running, under the Swindon UK brand. Swindon is an attractive option as a base for engineering companies – with fast connections, a highly skilled workforce on hand, and reasonable rental costs.

Paul Holmes, director of investment at Forward Swindon said: “We’re showcasing Swindon, a place that many international companies already call home. We have a highly successful engineering based economy with one of the most productive and skilled workforces in the country, so we’re looking forward to meeting like-minded business people”.

Forward Swindon Ltd has a strong track record of enabling companies to expand and relocate to Swindon, with free of charge help: identifying suitable sites, recruitment, planning applications, local authority and all business related matters associated with a move.

Paul continued, “Swindon’s offer as a place to live, work and play has never been better, with multimillion pound investments in the town including new retail, exciting new restaurants, a massive new business district creation, and plans for a new home for Swindon’s hidden gem: a world class modern art collection.

"Swindon really is in a state of dramatic change and improvement. With all this going on in the town centre, it’s the right time to think about investing in Swindon.”

The Swindon UK team will be highlighting Swindon as a leader in hydrogen fuel technologies, with the recent opening of the UK’s first solar powered open-access hydrogen re-fuelling station and an economic strategy which endorses the development of hydrogen applications throughout the borough.

Representatives from the hydrogen project team will be speaking about the project and future plans.

Swindon is also the home to the newly completed UTC Swindon – a specialist Engineering University Technical College for 14 to19 year olds, giving local employers the opportunity to help design the curriculum and skills they need for future employees.

The Principal, Angela Barker Dench will be speaking about the link between Engineering and Employers in the exciting new facility built in a renovated section of the famous GWR railway factory in the heart of the town.

Cloud-based meeting room firm soars past crowdfunding target

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Phil Marshman of Meet On VCMeet On VC, the cloud-based virtual meeting room firm - has soared past its crowdfunding target of £200,000.

The company launched a pitch on Crowdcube to secure £200,000 in return for a 10 percent stake in the business. So far it has £216,000 from 50 investors.

As a result, it has now extended its investment period to secure further funding to develop its software, expand its sales team, and boost its marketing activity.

Founded in 2011 by Simon Hunt and Phil Marshman, Meet On VC uses high-definition video conference technology to facilitate branded virtual meetings over the internet.

The group provides services to a number of blue chip clients including Guinness brewer Diageo, Rolls Royce, Vodafone, BP, Coca Cola and Deloitte.

Expert opinion: Ex-employees LinkedIn to your business - how can you stop them poaching clients?

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Richard White of Withy KingMany contracts of employment aim to stop departing employees from poaching customers and key staff. Such restrictions are legally allowed, providing that they are necessary to protect the business and do not unfairly restrict the ex-employee.

With these restrictions employee and employer usually know where they stand… at least they did until fairly recently.

Social media has brought incredible opportunities to engage positively with actual and potential customers or clients, but it has also brought challenges.

In pre-social media days an ex-employee may have had information physically stored on a rolodex or computer database and their contractual restrictions would stop them taking these away. But now ex-employees can immediately update their LinkedIn/Twitter/any other social network profile with details of their new job.

What’s wrong with that? Well, LinkedIn kindly sends a message to all of the person’s contacts letting them know where they are now working. Given a core aim of LinkedIn users is to market themselves, is this, potentially, soliciting for business?

If you think so, how do you challenge? Can you require ex-employees to delete clients, customers or staff from their LinkedIn and other social media profiles? What if customers do express a desire to leave – can you prevent the ex-employee from doing business with them?

The Courts have not settled all these issues yet. A recent case, SafetyNet Security Limited v Leonard Coppage and Freedom Security Solutions Limited, states that a general advertisement to the world about being available to take on work at a new firm or changing from one firm to another does not cross the line.

But another case, Taylor Stuart v Croft, states that it is not acceptable to give details of a new place of work and then state “I can be contacted at…”. As we know, LinkedIn profiles usually state that the user would like to be contacted for new business.

In yet another case, Whitmar v Gamage, the court decided that a LinkedIn account which an employee had created and maintained for the employer was the property of the employer as it contained confidential information.

The position becomes less clear when the LinkedIn account has been set up by the employee, perhaps before they joined the business, but to which business contacts have been added.

The waters are muddy. Even if an ex-employee does message former customers through LinkedIn or other social media and does ‘advertise’ for business, it is still possible that they did not intend to do this and only wanted to update their profile. The position that the Courts will take in cases like this is far from clear.

As LinkedIn is used by 11 million people in the UK, the above issues will affect many employers.

What can employers do?

  • Develop a policy on the use of LinkedIn for work purposes; providing rules on adding work-related contacts, replicating contacts on the employer’s own database, defining appropriate content, and setting out which groups are appropriate to join.
  • If LinkedIn is to be used for work purposes, the employer can set up the employee’s account for them, using the company’s e-mail address and branding, and using a password that is surrendered on termination. The employee should understand that they should only be promoting their employer’s interests.
  • Add into employees’ contracts provisions dealing with the employer owning contacts, deletion of business clients, contacts or accounts from their profile when an employee leaves, and banning an employee from updating LinkedIn when they are on garden leave.
  • Ensure that your restrictive covenants are relevant and reasonable for each employee, bearing in mind the needs to the business and the role undertaken by the ex-employee – a one size fits all approach is unlikely to be regarded as reasonable by the courts. Please read our recent blog post on restrictive covenants for guidance.
  • If possible (and reasonable) include a ‘non-dealing’ restriction which would bar ex-employees from doing any work for ex-clients/customers for a specified period.

There will always be disputes about restrictions, as ex-employees will often feel that they are unreasonable and are preventing them obtaining employment. Courts will only enforce them if they are reasonable, and this will include clauses dealing with social media issues.

They are expensive to enforce – in legal spend and business time. Courts may not be willing to stop ex-employees from using contacts in their own LinkedIn accounts.
The important principle is that employers need to ensure that all employees know where they stand with the use of social media and their work.

A good policy will explain what is expected of them and what they can and cannot do. Employers who do so will be in a better position to protect their business and avoid the expense and hassle of tribunals and litigation.

Lots of interest in interest rates at Swindon Chamber's Bank of England breakfast

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Geoff Harding of the Bank of EnglandDuring his last presentation to Swindon Chamber of Commerce - back in October 2013 - members were keen to learn from Bank of England deputy agent Geoff Harding when the historically low interest rates would be revised upwards.

Back then, he told networkers about the Forward Guidance, which had pledged not to raise interest rates until unemployment - which stood at 7.7 percent - had dipped below the seven percent threshold.

So when he appeared before the group again on Friday (November 7) business leaders were wondering: with unemployment now at six percent, do we need to start worrying about an interest rate increase?

“At the time, we reckoned unemployment would hit seven percent over three years,” said Geoff.

Lower for Longer is, apparently, the Bank of England’s mantra. “Inflation is not easy to forecast,” admitted Geoff. “CPI has dropped to 1.2 percent. This will justify some further analysis by the (Monetary Policy) Committee.”

Geoff’s best guess was that we would see the first rise, of a quarter of one percent, in October. But as bank rates creep up, where will it settle? “Not six percent,” he assured business leaders. “More like three percent."

There was some positive news since Geoff’s last visit, with major revisions to the economic data. “We were talking about a six to seven percent fall in output during the recession,” said Geoff, “but it turns out it was less than that.

“And we were talking about only just catching by now up in terms of economic output, but in fact we sailed past that. We’ve had quite a big upward revision.”

However, he said, the rate of growth coming out of recession was weak – more like the 1929 crash than the recessions of the 1970s or 1980s.

“The economy has now moved from recovery phase to expansion phase,” he said, “but it’s been slow. We have some way to go.”

Most areas of the economy have seen growth other the past 12 months, he said. There has been consistent growth in business investment, and growth in consumer spending. Housing investment has seen a huge surge in the past 18 months, and there is a ‘nice bit of growth’ coming from international trade, although some of that is down to a weak imports market.

Predictably, pretty much the only area of the economy to see a reduction is government spending, as George Osborne ploughs ahead with his austerity measures.

GDP is now projected to grow by three to four percent, although there are signs that it will stabilise at its two percent target soon. Wage growth is up by two to three percent, although the working population is growing, so the average pay packet increase is around one percent.

One big change to the labour market is the number of older people still working. Over 75s now make up 4.9 percent of the workforce. In 2007 it was 1.8 percent. Seventy to 74 year olds account for 12.43 percent - almost double the 6.79 percent in 2007.

And there are a couple of ‘headwinds’ to watch before Geoff reports to Swindon Chamber of Commerce again.

Slowing growth prospects in the rest of the word, especially in Chine, the US and the Eurozone will have implications for our own economy.

And financial conditions may tighten as global recovery progresses, he warned.

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