Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

MP hits out at Google during Chamber Q&A

Justin TomlinsonSwindon MP Justin Tomlinson has hit out at Google over its tax arrangements during a Swindon Chamber of Commerce meeting with members of Swindon Chamber of Commerce.

This week, Google was back before the influential Commons Public Accounts Committee – on which Mr Tomlinson sits – to explain why it paid just £6m in corporation tax, despite generating £3bn a year in revenues.

Addressing a meeting of Swindon Chamber of Commerce this morning (Friday), the MP for Swindon North said multinational firms were paying accountants great sums of money to find loopholes in the tax system.

“Our tax laws run to 11,000 pages,” Mr Tomlinson told chamber members. “And the more complex the system is, the easier it is to find loopholes.

“The trouble with tax avoidance is that the rest of us, who can't afford those accountants, have to pay more.”

Robert BucklandMr Tomlinson gave his views in response to a question from the floor, after sharing a platform with Swindon South MP Robert Buckland.

The lively Q&A session was a chance for both politicians to play off each other – at times like a gentle, besuited comedy act.

The two Conservatives have shared an office and administrative staff since they were elected in 2010 – a unique parliamentary arrangement – but despite sitting on the same side of the House, their personal views differ significantly.

The first question from the floor – almost inevitably – was about Europe. Peter Jones, director of the HR Department, asked which way each MP would vote if there was a referendum on Europe tomorrow.

Mr Buckland said he would stay in: “It is vital for the economy that we avoid trade barriers. But I support the call for a referendum. It will give us a chance to discuss the merits of EU membership.”

But Mr Tomlinson – reminding his colleague that they had never voted the same way in a Free Vote – said: “It there was a referendum tomorrow, I'd vote to leave. They need us more than we need them, and we're currently paying to hamper our own economy.

“But I'm firmly behind David Cameron's renegotiation to get a better deal for the UK.”

Robert Buckland and Justin TomlinsonBoth politicians were quick to praise Swindon businesses and the strength of the local economy.

Mr Tomlinson reminded the audience that Swindon had recorded the fastest growth in start-up businesses than anywhere in the South West, while his colleague remarked that the town had the UK's highest proportion of employees working in the private sector.

The next Swindon Chamber of Commerce business breakfast is on Friday, June 4 when Steve Medd of The Winning (formula) will tell members about Creating Outstanding Human Performance That Drives Accelerated Growth.

That's followed on Wednesday, June 26 by the Corporate Insight Dinner, where John Scott of Chiltern Power Ltd and Stephen Thomas of Npower Renewables will discuss Future Energy Supplies: What Next?

For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk

New president at Corsham

Georgina Fairbrass and Sue StockleyCorsham Chamber of Commerce has a new president, after Georgina Fairbrass of Fairbrass-Bowman passed on the baton to Sue Stockley from 3 in Partnership.

Town planner Georgina, who has led the business organisation for two years, was thanked for the role she played in making local members aware of the various planning developments in around Corsham.

She will continue to serve on the committee.

Insolvency practitioner Sue said she was looking forward to her tenure as president.  

Apprentice star pops into Arkell´s

Nick Hewer (second right) at Arkell'sLord Sugar's TV wingman Nick Hewer has paid a visit to Arkell's Brewery in Swindon, too see how beer should be brewed.

He popped into the Kingsdown brewery following the transmission of the May 8 edition of the BBC Apprentice programme showing the hapless 2013 crop of apprentices trying to brew a fruit beer.

He brought with him Robert Humphreys, Hon Sec of the All-Party Parlimentary Beer Group. Both men grew up in Swindon, and Nick - whose background is in marketing - used to design Arkell's advertisements.

Arkell's is celebrating the launch of its new beer, a dark ale called Cherry Black.

Business leaders are going to prison

Wiltshire business leaders will find themselves behind bars next month – during a visit to Erlestoke Prison, near Devizes.

The Wessex Chambers site will give businesses the chance to see firsthand the learning and skills courses undertaken by the 494 offenders at the Category C training prison to prepare them for successful reintegration into society.

The visit takes place on Thursday, June 6 at 10am. For more information, or to book a place. Log on to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Wiltshire Council names its new squad

wiltshire council logoJane Scott has been re-appointed as leader of Wiltshire Council at today’s first full council meeting since the unitary elections today (Thursday).

John Thomson was appointed deputy leader and cabinet member for highways and streetscene and broadband.

Cllr Fleur de Rhé-Philipe was named cabinet member with responsibility for the economy, skills and transport, while Toby Sturgis got strategic planning, development management, strategic housing, property, waste.

Clockwise from top left: Jane Scott, Fleur de Rhé-Philipe, Toby Sturgis, JohnThomsonIn other appointments, Laura Mayes was given children’s services, Keith Humphries  got public health and protection, adult care and housing (exc strategic housing), Dick Tonge  was put in charge of finance, performance, risk, procurement and welfare reform, Jonathon Seed  got communities, campuses, area boards, leisure, libraries and flooding, and Stuart Wheeler was given hubs, HR, legal, democratic services, governance, heritage and arts.

Christine Crisp was appointed chairman of the council and Roy While as vice-chairman.

Agent helps Swindon NFU celebrate 100 years

Richard Nocton of Woolley & WallisMarlborough estate agent Woolley & Wallis has helped the Swindon branch of the National Farmers Union celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Land and estate agent Richard Nocton was joined by Peter Kendall, president of the NFU, who spoke passionately and forcefully about the British public wanting to buy food from a trustworthy source and that was best provided by British farmers and growers.

Group Secretary Nick Bent hosted the evening which was attended by over 75 people including numerous past presidents of the branch.

Woolley & Wallis are panel members of NFU Professional and any NFU member referred through the scheme is entitled to a fee discount.

Exhibition captures ordinary people Working Beautifully

Warehouse Roll 4am Smiths NewsOver 700 pieces of art featuring Wiltshire men and women at work will go on display in a new exhibition in Swindon later this month.

Photographer Nigel Hudson and digital artist Tim Cumming, who both live near Marlborough, have spent the past year visiting over 100 companies – from bakeries to warehouses – around the county and capturing ordinary workers going about their day to day duties.

The photographs have been turned into digital works of art, which form the Working Beautifully collection.

"To us, it seems that the full British economic story needs a fuller telling," said Nigel.

"Slowly, the country's on the rise, though media attention sometimes obsesses over the bad news, missing the good. So we wanted to provide a little balance - to picture the potential of the nation through skills, hard work and trade, because they're the tools of our recovery. Swindon has a trading history within the UK, which to us, mirrors the UK's trading history with the world."

Tim Cumming (left) and Nigel Hudson "Swindon trade is the perfect small-scale model of UK-international trade, complete with all its regional relationships and entrepreneurial spirit,” said Tim.

"Each of the 100 firms we've selected has shown the grit and guts necessary to thrive, even in a tricky economic climate. Worries about a triple-dip recession simply do not match the attitude or prosperity that we witness in these firms.”

The pieces will go on show in the atrium of the Brunel Centre in Swindon, from Monday, May 20 to Sunday, May 26.

For details, go to www.working-beautifully.co.uk