Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Business Biscuit exclusive makes headlines around the world

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Business Biscuit readers who opened Tuesday's newspapers will have experienced a touch of deja vu. For despite the news agenda being dominated by the royal birth, a property story that first appeared in this publication was making headlines.

The story concerned a delightful six bedroom farmhouse being sold by a Cotswold estate agent for the bargain basement price of £395,000. The catch? The property is in the middle of a Swindon industrial estate.

The PR was handled by Secret Agent Marketing – the writing talent behind Business Biscuit. DailyMail.co.uk – the world's best-read newspaper website - was the first to bite, publishing the story on its homepage, on the day news of the royal birth broke: its busiest day ever.

The following day the story made headlines in a number of national newspapers, including The Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and The Sun, all of which experienced record sales thanks to the birth of Prince George.

The story eventually made headlines across the globe. So next time you read an exclusive in Business Biscuit, just think: the next time you read it could be in the national press. 

  • Want to turn your business into news? Call Secret Agent Marketing on 01672 811515.  

Chance for small businesses to pitch to big spenders

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Mark Barnett, board member of Swindon & Wiltshire LEP and director of The Consortium, and Stefan Barbaruk, manager of Wessex ChambersThe chance for SMEs to tout their wares to Wiltshire’s biggest spenders is being offered at a Wessex Chambers Meet the Buyer event.

The event guarantees attendees one-to-one meetings with the procurement managers of nine of Wiltshire's biggest businesses, including Aspire Defence Services, Babcock International, Balfour Beatty, Bath University, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co Europe, MOD Abbeywood, Smiths News, Swindon College, and Wincanton.

Stefan Barbaruk, manager of Wessex Chambers, said: “Our large companies are looking for a wide range of services and we are very keen that, where possible, they use local suppliers.

"How much could a 15-minute appointment with each of the above be worth to your business?”

The event, which is sponsored by Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, will be held at The Wiltshire Hotel & Golf Club, Wootton Bassett on Thursday, October 24 from 8.30am until 5pm. Attendance costs £50 and spaces are limited.

For more information, or to book a place, log on to www.wessexchambers.org.uk

Rates are 'crushing small businesses and killing the high street', says FSB

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The business rates system needs a radical overhaul as almost one in 10 respondents to a Federation of Small Businesses survey say they are paying more in rates than rent.

The survey which polled 2,425 FSB members found that a fifth of respondents pay full business rates, with three in 10 firms receiving some form of rates relief, such as small business or rural rate relief.

However, the FSB is concerned that seven per cent of respondents paying business rates say they pay more in rates than in rent. A further six per cent say their rates and rent costs are about the same.

The FSB says business rates system is cumbersome and overly complex, and would like to see the Government take a formal review to make it simpler and fairer, as it is doing with other taxes. While business rates generate a huge sum for Treasury, it is a tax not related to economic activity and this needs to be addressed.

With another inflationary rise due to be calculated in September the FSB  wants to see the Government change the inflation index used to calculate annual increases from the RPI to the CPI to bring it into line with other government policies. The FSB believes that changing the indexation in this way, as recommended by Mary Portas, could help small firms on the high street.

The FSB's national chairman, John Allan, said: "The current rating system is a blunt tool for maintaining the Government's income even when everyone else's is shrinking. It takes no account of ability to pay, or changes to economic conditions. It is based on rental values but only adjusts its valuation assumptions every five years. 

“Its treatment of empty property is tantamount to a tax on no income, and it continues to use RPI for annual tax increases because it is normally above the Governments official measure of inflation, CPI. The FSB wants to see a level playing field for all businesses.

"There is no doubt small businesses across the country are struggling for survival. Business rates are one of the highest costs for most business after wages and rent, and for seven per cent of small business, business rates were actually higher than rent. 

"Businesses will continue to be lost as a result of this outdated and unfair system. The Autumn Statement will need a wide range of measures to target relief at businesses most in danger, and it will need to talk to business about a major overhaul of the system. 

“It doesn't work anymore; it is crushing small businesses and killing the high street.  That surely can't be right."

UK exports reach highest level since the recession

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Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netExporting activity is at its highest level on record (since Q3,2007) according to the latest British Chambers of Commerce / DHL trade confidence index, published yesterday (Tuesday).

Responses from more than 1,700 businesses show that export orders and sales have increased, with confidence levels in both future turnover and future profitability also remaining high.

More businesses have taken on new staff in the second quarter of this year, with many expecting to hire further in Q3.  

The key findings from the DHL/BCC report are: 

  • Export orders for service sector businesses increased for 50 percent of firms to the highest figure on record. Forty four percent of manufacturing firms increased their export orders resulting in the highest figure since Q1 2012.

  • More than half of exporters (51 percent) believe that their profitability will increase this year, and 60 percent believe they will see an increase in turnover.

  • Nearly a third of firms (31 percent) said that they expected to increase staff this year, up from 28 percent in Q1 2013. 

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West said:"For the first time on record, these results are positive across the board.

“Export sales and orders have gone up, confidence is high and expectations around profitability have increased.

“Even more businesses have taken on new staff this quarter, with many expecting to hire again next quarter which is really encouraging.

“This reflects the recent results of our own Quarterly Economic Survey showing that in this region figures for exporting have dramatically improved on Q1– a real tribute to our exporters who are working tirelessly to drive growth and lead the economic recovery.

"But we mustn’t take our foot off the gas. We still need more companies to take the plunge on international trade and for those who export already, to try and diversify into new markets.

“Business West through Acorn Interactive, UKTI and Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) is working hard to provide on the ground support to help companies take their goods and services overseas, smoothing their path by providing local insight, guidance and global expertise, enabling them to sell their wares to the world.

“We must seize this momentum and strive towards an economy that is more than just ‘ok’, but which is truly great and outperforms our competitors.

"Our exporters require all the support they can get from the government, from trade bodies, and fellow businesses to invest in new markets, if they are to lead the country back to sustainable economic growth."

Would-be engineers flock to launch of University Technical College

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Dr Gareth Neighbour, head of mechanical engineering for Oxford Brooks & Chris Walton, project manager for UTC SwindonWould-be engineers from across Wiltshire attended a launch event to find out more about the Swindon's University Technical College.

Teens and parents visited the event at STEAM Museum in Kemble Drive, to discover how the University Technical College in Swindon will work, who can apply, when they can apply and what the curriculum will offer. 

Parents were completing application forms, asking questions about the design of the new building while young people were trying out the BMW ActiveE, donated for the campaign by leading vehicle fleet provider, Arval.

The highlight of the evening was the fly through of the building, showing what some of the facilities will look like, including state-of-the-art workshops, multi-use rooms and the ‘Railway Terrace’. 

The event was the first of many which will be held in the area to promote UTC Swindon which, from September 2014, will offer full-time technical and vocational education for 14 to 19 year olds in the town and within an 18-mile radius.

Guest speakers talked about engineering as a career, how UTC Swindon will work and what kind of courses, GCSEs, and A levels will be offered. The new principal Angela Barker Dench will take up her new post in September and building work should begin within weeks.

UTC Swindon will be housed within the historical railway works in Bristol Street, Swindon, within walking distance of the bus and railway stations.

  • Watch the fly-through of the building at www.youtube.com/watch?v=djPUh96UfKg

Things are looking up for economy, agree businesses leaders

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Image courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.netBusiness lobbyists have welcomed today's news that the economy grew by 0.6 percent between April and June, compared with the first three months of 2013.

But lobbying groups have demanded more action from the government to sustain growth.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics also suggest that Quarter 2 GDP has increased 1.4% year-on-year, with services growth up 0.6 percent on the quarter (2.1 percent on the year), manufacturing growth up 0.4 percent on the quarter (0.9 percent on the year) and construction output up 0.9 percent on the quarter (one percent on the year).

Although only estimates, the news has been welcomed by business lobby groups.

John Longworth, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ““The modest, positive growth seen in the second quarter of the year shows that things are looking up.

“The gradual progress made by the UK economy – particularly in the services sector where exports continue to surge – is pleasing to see.

“Confidence among businesses is high when looking ahead to profitability and turnover, and many have intentions to take on staff later this year.”

But he warned: “Strong, sustained growth requires efforts from the government too, as businesses need an enterprise-friendly environment for the economic to go from good to great.

“New and existing exporters need more support to help them diversify into fast-growing markets, and access to finance for dynamic, growing businesses must be made more available.

“We must be careful not to choke off the growing optimism and confidence that is coming through, but instead be more proactive in nurturing the modest recovery that is starting to gather pace.”

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “It is clearly welcome that the economy grew by 0.6 percent in the second quarter and that growth was seen across all sectors.

“This gathering momentum fits with the results of own recent small business index, which showed firms expected faster export performance in the coming three months and that more businesses were planning to grow in the next 12 months.

“In order for to build on this momentum and for small businesses to meet their aspirations and further strengthen the economic outlook, they need a stable environment. The capital spending on projects announced by the Chancellor recently, will have a positive effect on growth in the medium-term and the employment allowance announced at the Budget may help more firms to invest in jobs.

“The Government should now look to further supporting UK small businesses by increasing competition in banking, enabling a better energy deal and simplifying the complex number of back to work schemes.”

And Phil Orford, of the Forum of Private Business, said: "Today's figures confirm what most had long suspected, and that's that the UK economy is at last steering to calmer waters with a recovery that's gathering pace."

"Of course there's no room for complacency though, and we urge the government to address the many burning issues such as red tape which continue to make life difficult for small firms – the real drivers of the UK economy. The government still has much to do when it comes to simplifying the tax system, and as a matter of urgency government has to address the matter of spiralling business rates."

"We also urge the banks to help the momentum by resuming proper lending to those firms desperate for cash. While RBS is currently auditing their lending processes, we would like to see more banks go the extra mile too." 

"While today's news is most welcome, there is still a mountain to climb," he added.

Rugby treat for ladies who lunch

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Nigel RedmanBath, England and British Lions rugby forward Nigel Redman will be the guest speaker at a meeting of Wiltshire businesswomen in September.

Since retiring from the pitch, Redman has coached the England under 19s and been a commentator for Sky Sports. He is currently assistant head coach at Worcester Warriors. 

The Monahans North Wiltshire Ladies Club Lunch will be held on Tuesday, September 10 from 12.15pm at Guyers House, Corsham, SN13 0PS.Attendance costs £20. 

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

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