Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

FPB welcomes introduction of employment tribunal fees

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Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.netThe Forum of Private Business has welcomed the introduction of employment tribunal fees, which came into force on Monday, but says it does not foresee them bringing about a major change in the system.

The fees will apply for any case lodged from today and are set at two levels, depending on the type of claim being made. All applicants will be required to pay an issue fee to raise a claim.

This will be followed by a hearing fee if the case is referred to a tribunal for a formal hearing.

The annual cost of running the tribunal service currently stands at £84 million, and the government expects the introduction of fees will go some way to reduce this by encouraging alternative dispute resolution.

The Forum of Private Business said it would like to see a reduction in the number of spurious claims lodged by disgruntled employees as a result of the introduction of fees.

Vexatious claims to tribunals result in a huge cost to small businesses who are not only burdened with costly legal fees but see their businesses suffer in the process, says the lobbying group.

Business owners are required to divert attention away from the day to day running of the company and the laborious process of being taken to a tribunal acts as a disincentive to recruitment, inhibiting the growth of small businesses across the UK, it claims.

Research undertaken by the Forum of Private Business suggests that smaller businesses – those without a formal HR department – are more likely to resolve disputes at the mediation stage. Between 80 and 85 percent of workplace disputes in small firms are resolved internally.

The Forum's Chief Executive, Phil Orford, said: "Escalating workplace disputes to the tribunal stage is too easy an option for many employees. The burden on the employee is limited whilst employers are not only defending the case in question, but also the reputation of their business.

“Hopefully the introduction of fees will make claimants think more carefully before resorting to litigation.

"Our members recognise that employment law is there to protect both the employee and the employer. 

“But when weak and vexatious claims are being made against employers the system is being abused at considerable expense to small businesses employers; they do not have the time, resources or the money to defend vexatious claims and in many cases should not have to.”

From blue flame to blue light – heating firm sponsors Emergency Services Show

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Chippenham-based heating experts John Williams Heating Services have been confirmed as the lead sponsor of The 2013 Emergency Services Show. 

The company – which specialises in heating services and boiler repairs – have been serving the Wiltshire community for over 20 years. 

This year’s Emergency Services Show is being held at Hullavington airfield near Chippenham on Sunday, September 8 between 10am and 4pm.

The event is being co-ordinated by a volunteer committee drawn from Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service, Wiltshire Police, South Western Ambulance Service and the Highways Agency. 

Chairman Chris Harvey said: “I’m very pleased that John Williams Heating Services have decided to help sponsor this year’s Emergency Services Show. They are a well-established local firm who have strong links to our community.

“Their support – along with many other local businesses and charities – will help us deliver another highly successful day.

“Our last show in 2011 attracted over 8,000 plus visitors but we are confident that we can top those numbers this year. It is such a popular event and it really does provide a great opportunity for community groups, charities and local companies to promote themselves to a wide audience.” 

All profits from the event are given to local charities and put towards running future events. Donations totalling nearly £20,000 were made to local good causes in 2011. 

For more details, log on to 

Porn filters could bankrupt your business

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Alex HopsonYou would think that blocking children from accessing porn via the internet is great idea.

We, at Webbed FeetUK, certainly believe that efforts should be made to allow parents to prevent their children from accessing unsuitable material; however it needs to be done properly.

The government’s planned implementation is just as likely to punish thousands of websites that have no connection to pornography as it is to block adult material from minors.

As web designers in Salisbury we know how important your website is to your businesses and have several clients that, without a website, would not have a business.

If you have an eCommerce website, or rely on your site for lead generation, you could lose thousands of pounds a day if it was offline.

My site is unrelated to porn, why am I affected?

It doesn’t matter what your website contains as the majority of websites are hosted on what is known as shared hosting. This means that single servers regularly host over a thousand websites each.

The government plans to block access to all servers that they suspect of containing porn from allinternet connections in the UK (unless users manually opt in).

So if your business website is hosted on the same server as any adult content, then your website will be blocked from all UK users by default.

Consider that Fisherton Street in Salisbury contains an adult shop. Using the same logic as the government will apply to websites, all people would be prevented from visiting any shop, pub or restaurant on that street due to a single adult business.

It’s obvious how this is a bad solution, but this is the exact equivalent of what will happen when the government implement filtering in the way that they plan.

If you are not concerned yet then consider what it is already happening where mobile phone providers have filters are enabled by default.

O2 blocked their clients from accessing a church website for more than four months, ignoring reports of the issue by users, as another unrelated website on the same server had adult content.

What can I do if I am affected?

A real concern is that we have seen no assurances from the government that this collateral damage would be keep to a minimum. Nor have we seen any mention of how they will handle disputes and restore innocent websites quickly.

We have asked John Glen, our local MP, for reassurances on this.

If your site is blocked you can try and contact the responsible department/ISP to get yourself unlisted, the best case you can hope for is that your site would be offline for a short period of time.

Sadly, it may well be that they won’t unblock your website because that would allow people to access the content that it intended to filter.

What is most likely is that you would need to change your server; you could move to another shared host and hope that there won’t be any adult material on there. Ideally you would move your site to a hosting account where only your site uses a single IP address.But this type of hosting is more expensive, and perhaps unnecessary for many smaller websites.

Moving your site is of course another expense. Why should innocent businesses pay for someone else’s actions? 

The road to censorship?

In 2008 Turkey banned Richard Dawkins’ site due to complaints that his book, which contests evolution, was offensive.

The Chinese government regularly bans websites it doesn't approve of. Now it seems that the UK is heading in the same direction.

There have already been leaks suggested that there are already plans to expand what is censored to other topics considered offensive by the government. Where is the line going to be drawn?

  • If you have any concerns about your website, please get in touch. Webbed Feet UK Wiltshire web designers can check your current web hosting to see if you might be affected. 

 Although this may be limited to just new accounts, there are conflicting stories about who will have the filters enabled by default.

UTC Swindon given government go-ahead

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How UTC Swindon will lookPlans for Wiltshire's first university technical college have been given final approval by the Department for Education.

The announcement will see a £10m capital investment with which to construct the University Technical College’s home on the site of the original Great Western Rail Works.

The government’s commitment will also provide the on-going year-on-year budget to run the new educational institution, which is co-sponsored by Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and Oxford Brookes University, and will cater for 14 to 19-year olds when it opens in September 2014. 

Paul Holmes, automation and mechanical design manager for Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells and UTC Swindon director, said: “This announcement is a historic moment for UTC Swindon and represents the final approval from the Department for Education to progress to opening.

“UTC Swindon will be an innovative new educational facility in engineering and technology, set in a stunning building design, carefully blended in an historic setting. 

“This will provide young people in the region with a fantastic opportunity to gain highly desirable skills, to meet future employers’ demands and raise aspirations in progressing their careers.

“We have already received strong interest from students and parents about joining UTC Swindon and being a part of its future. We look forward to being able to share the vision and provide more detail at the various events and open evenings planned over the coming months”

Paul Inman, pro-vice chancellor for Oxford Brookes University and UTC Swindon director, added: “We have reached a significant milestone in our journey towards producing the next generation of highly-skilled engineers. 

“Importantly, construction can now begin and we are extremely grateful to Network Rail for the opportunity to site the building on the original Great Western Rail Works.

“Those attending UTC Swindon will have the chance to build on this legacy and we look forward to welcoming our first students in September 2014.”

  • The UTC Swindon team is attending many large events throughout the summer, sharing information about the University Technical College which opens in September 2014. Would-be students can apply now by calling 07990 601516 or by visiting www.utcswindon.co.uk

Government announces £160m technology boost for agricultural industries

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The UK will become a world leader in agricultural science and technology following the launch of a new strategy to deliver sustainable, healthy and affordable food for future generations, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has announced.

Breakthroughs in nutrition, informatics, satellite imaging, remote sensing, meteorology and precision farming mean the agriculture sector is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors.

Developed in partnership with industry, the Agricultural Technologies Strategy will ensure everyone from farmers and retailers, to cooks and shoppers share the benefits.

It includes a £160 million government investment in developing cutting edge technologies, and taking innovative products such as cancer-fighting broccoli from the field to the shopping aisle.

Industry is also expected to invest heavily in the strategy which will transform farming in the UK, using the latest technologies to ensure the process is as productive as possible whilst reducing environmental impact and resource use.

With the demand for food rising rapidly worldwide, the strategy also aims to make the UK a world leader in addressing global food security issues.

Agri-tech is a well-established and important UK sector. The entire agri-food supply chain, from agriculture to final retailing and catering, is estimated to contribute £96 billion to the economy and employ 3.8 million people.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Some of the biggest brands in farming and food are based in the UK. We have a world class science and research community and our institutes and universities are at the forefront of agricultural research.

“To get ahead in the global race, this strategy sets out how we can ensure that we turn our world-beating agricultural science and research into world-beating products and services.”

This Agricultural Technologies Strategy follows the recent plans for automotive, construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

Defra Minister for Science Lord De Mauley said: “We face a global challenge to feed the rapidly increasing population in a way which is affordable and sustainable.

“We are investing in technologies that will enable British farmers to meet these challenges and take advantage of the growing demand in export markets for British food.”

Help is at hand for professionals facing a 'life shift'

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Gail GibsonProfessionals facing redundancy or retirement are being offered help to reevaluate their career.

Reincarnating the Professional You is a six-week programme aimed at people who have experienced a shift in their life or work circumstances, leaving them feeling unsettled or uncertain about their situation and their future.

Run by life and business coaches Gail Gibson and Holly Scott-Donaldson, is designed to help delegates gain focus, clarity, purpose, direction and confidence.

Each session will include a focussed topic of learning with actionable outcomes together with one-to-one coaching surgery sessions with Gail. 

A free taster session is being held at The Creative Kitchen in Pewsey from 10am to noon on Wednesday, September 11. For more details, or to book a place, log on to http://www.dbbureau.co.uk/courses.php

Are you ready to start paying three percent of salary into employees' pensions?

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Elliott SilkAre you ready to start paying three percent of salary into employees' pensions?

That's the question being posed by Elliott Silk, head of employee benefits at wealth management specialists English Mutual, at the September meeting of Swindon Chamber of Commerce.

Elliott will be explaining the measures businesses can take to ensure they are ready for the legislation change, and explain the pensions auto enrolment form, and what it means for business owners.

The event takes place at the Marriott Hotel, Pipers Way, Swindon SN3 1SH from 7.30am to 9.30am on Thursday, September 13.

Attendance costs £19.20 for members and £31.20 for non-members. For more information, or to book a place, log on to http://www.thamesvalleychamber.co.uk/event/44834/

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