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job centre plus sign

FIGURES released today confirm that Staffordshire will go into 2018 with near full employment – with more business investment planned across the county.

The number of people claiming out of work benefits in Staffordshire continues to be just one percent of the local population, less than both regional (2.3 percent) and national (1.9 percent) averages.

On Friday a county council select committee will discuss a progress report on the economic growth picture in Staffordshire. It states that investment totalling nearly £400million has been made in the county since 2014 on projects that have been completed, are under construction or are being planned. For every £1 invested by the county council, an additional £15 is levered in from the private sector and the Government.

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “It is encouraging, of course, to go into 2018 with near full employment continuing and with ongoing business development at various county sites. We will see the completion of some major projects in the first part of the year which will ultimately create more jobs.

“It is a priority of ours to remain focused on the creation of skilled jobs in Staffordshire. This is even more important when we are hit with devastating job loss announcements such as GE’s last week. We will be doing all we can to ensure people affected can make the most of opportunities existing and being created here.

“We have a balanced economy in Staffordshire and with our partners, we will be making every effort to make the conditions right for businesses of all sizes.”

Liam fox visit

CABINET minister Liam Fox came to Tamworth last week (Thursday, December 7) to visit the town’s successful new business enterprise centre.

The Secretary of State for International Trade had a look at the facilities on offer in the state-of-the-art Tamworth Enterprise Centre and met some of the small business owners who have set up office there.

Housed in the former Philip Dix Centre in Corporation Street, the business hub provides modern serviced offices to rent, well-appointed meeting rooms for hire, an executive business lounge, virtual offices, conference facilities, superfast broadband, Wi-Fi, interactive TVs and much more.

The £575,000 Tamworth Enterprise Centre is the first phase in a £6.1million project by Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council to create an Enterprise Quarter in the Corporation Street area of the town.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources, including the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Local Growth Fund, which helped finance the development of the enterprise centre as part of a £2.95million investment.

Tamworth Enterprise Centre is managed by Tamworth Borough Council’s Economic Development and Regeneration team and was running with all 16 offices let within weeks of its official opening, with more businesses registered on a waiting list.

Experts from the Economic Development and Regeneration Team and other business organisations, such as the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, are also on hand at times to give businesses direct access to help and support in setting up or growing their ventures.

Liam Fox visit to TEC4

Liam Fox visiting TEC4 in the Tamworth Enterprise Centre

Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration, Cllr Steve Claymore, said: “The enterprise centre was designed to support the creation and growth of small businesses and entrepreneurship in Tamworth, as well as creating jobs and employment. We knew there would be a need for such a facility, but we have been quite amazed by the level of demand – which is a good sign for the local economy.

“Tamworth Enterprise Centre is off to a really promising start and it’s great that it has attracted the attention of a Cabinet minister who took the time to have a look round and speak to some of the businesses which currently operate from the centre.”

Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Economic Growth, Mark Winnington, said: “Tamworth Enterprise Centre is a thriving hub for small businesses and was highly in demand even before it opened. Its popularity further demonstrates that the economy in Tamworth and Staffordshire is thriving. We worked with the borough council to create the centre, which is supporting the wider regeneration of the town. It provides tenants with excellent facilities and flexible tenancy arrangements, allowing them to grow and prosper. We were pleased to showcase the success of the centre to a Cabinet minister.”

For more information about the facilities on offer, businesses can visit the website www.tamworthenterprisecentre.co.uk, or email [email protected] to inquire about hiring a meeting room. Prices range from £10 to £20 per hour depending on the size of the room. Virtual office packages range in price from £30 for registered address and post box services to £200 including meeting room credits.

symphony hall, xtra humongous

LOCAL businessman Brina, Owner of Event and Creative Agency Xtra Humongous hosted a sold-out show at The Symphony Hall, Birmingham recently that was broadcast to a global audience of approximately 10 million people.

It is not the first time that Brina’s work has been broadcast live.  Previously he created a crazy area in Shangri-La at Glastonbury for a number of years, which was broadcast live on the BBC.

You can watch the full two-hour show of the event at the Symphony Hall anytime by clicking  here

Some of the comments about the event were;

‘The best visual production we have ever had here’ Symphony Hall, Birmingham
‘Wow … Epic’Mixmag
‘Best Musical Show I have ever been too and I’ve been to them all’Jeremy Healy (DJ to Christian Dior & John Galliano)
‘Forget Pete Tong, Hacienda & Cream, this is the show to go to, over and over again’5*Facebook Review from attendee

Tamworth Informed caught up with Brina to ask him a few questions and what it was like to put on such a show, this is what he had to say: ‘The Miss Moneypenny’s ‘A Night At The Proms’ was the coming together of a 2 year project that saw me full service conceptualise, market, promote and produce the 2 hour show … but what a 2 hours it was!”

So whats next for Brina? ”Well i have a 27-piece orchestra playing ska music with bands and DJs and members of The Specials in attendance in the spectacular Coventry Cathedral on 30th December with Secret Symphony, and a credible house music event with Secret Party Projects on New Years Eve in the cool iconic gallery space Nottingham Contemporary”

And then? ”Well it’s a secret obviously, although there are a couple of projects in Tamworth I’m looking to help within 2018, we should talk about those soon!”

Apparently, his events and creative agency offer services that are a little more inside the box.

You can find out more at the Xtra Humongous website: www.xtrahumongous.com

Via his experiential incredible clubbing brand Secret Party Projects, his new orchestral brand Secret Symphony, it seems a long time since he owned and operated Tamworth’s most successful House Music club ‘Bullit’ for 12yrs bringing the biggest DJ names and brands into the Town that it has ever seen with
judge jules / howard donald / trevor nelson / boy george / jeremy healy / danny rampling / farley jackmaster funk / shapeshifters / freemasons / bodyrockers / sonique / norman jay / oliver lang / richard f / brandon block / alex p / k-klass / sonique / stonebridge / mark doyle / aaron ross / soul central / jon carter / jonathan ulysses / kate lawler / andy ward / lisa lashes / amber d / anne savage / nick rafferty / spoony / dave pearce / tim westwood / hedkandi & miss moneypennys to name just a few, or the ones he can remember!

So maybe a ‘Bullit’ reunion back in Tamworth?  ”HaHa, no comment, actually maybe we could open up the Assembly Rooms when it is finally finished, now there’s a thought”

toys r us logo

TOYS R US has stated that the Tamworth Ventura Park store is one of the 26 it is planning to permanently close in its move to cut costs.

Up to 800 jobs are on the line with the potential closure of at least 26 of the 84 permanent UK Toys R Us stores from spring next year.

The struggling US retailer has said that all the branches will remain open through Christmas and the new year.

Other stores in the region, including those at Birmingham (St. Andrews shopping park) and Leicester also face the axe.

Steve Knights, managing director of Toys R Us UK, said the company had to take “strong and decisive action” as its largest warehouse-style stores opened in the 1980s and 1990s were “too big and expensive to run in the current retail environment”.

Mr Knights said there would be no changes to the returns policies or gift cards across this period.

 

Toys R Us UK has been loss-making for seven out of the past eight years, with the most recent accounts filed at Companies House showing an operating loss of £500,000 on sales of £418m in the year to January.

In October, it was reported that a number of suppliers had stopped delivering stock to Toys R Us in the UK ahead of Christmas because of problems with credit insurance.

List of stores earmarked for closure

Aberdeen, Basingstoke, Belfast Newtown Abbey, Birmingham St. Andrews, Bolton, Bradford, Brislington, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derry City, Doncaster, East Kilbride, Exeter, Hayes, Kirkcaldy, Leicester, Livingston, Old Kent Road (south London), Plymouth, Scunthorpe, Shrewsbury, Tamworth, Tunbridge Wells, Watford, York, and Manchester Central Retail Park

Small business Saturday

SMALL business success in Staffordshire is being marked by the county council as part of a national event this week.

The county council backs hundreds of small companies through its business support package which includes its enterprise centres for start-up and fledgling businesses and its business loan scheme. It also helps to deliver the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub on behalf of the local enterprise partnership which provides a range of services including a business helpline.

Small Business Saturday is promoted by the Government and now in its fifth year. People can find out more at www.smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

Ten enterprise centres across the county offer start-up units with flexible tenancy agreements – crucial for new businesses. In addition, the centres provide a range of facilities like meeting rooms, networking opportunities and security. Any businesses needing advice on a range of issues should contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Mark Winnington, Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader said:

“Small businesses play a vital part in our growing economy as well as generating thousands of jobs and improving people’s skills. We will be celebrating our diverse economy in Staffordshire and the entrepreneurial drive here on Small Business Saturday.

‘The county council will continue to support small business wherever we can and we are seeing considerable successes at our enterprise centres and in the growth of our business loan recipients. We believe we are getting the mix between smaller enterprises and bigger business right in Staffordshire which is ultimately leading to a more prosperous county.”

The Staffordshire Business Loan Fund supports growing small and medium-sized businesses that are unable to secure finance from traditional lenders, with loans from £10,000 to £50,000. In Staffordshire over 170 business loans have been administered, creating or protecting over 1,000 jobs since it was set up in 2009. Any Staffordshire businesses looking for access to finance should contact BCRS Business Loans through the fast track online application facility at www.bcrs.org.uk or call 0345 313 8410.

sign up and subscribe buttons

STAFFORDSHIRE people and businesses should take advantage of guidance issued this week to make them more aware of laws on subscriptions, the county’s communities leader has said.

As part of National Consumer Week, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has issued the guidance on subscription issues. An estimated two million people across the UK still experience issues cancelling recurring payments for subscriptions without their authorization.

Staffordshire County Council’s communities leader Gill Heath said: “It’s quite common for people to sign up to a subscription for something either by post or in a shop, give their details and then forget about them. Quite often this might be for a free limited period trial which is then followed by direct debit charges.

“Our trading standards team wants people, businesses and banks to be more aware of subscription issues and National Consumer Week gives us an opportunity to highlight them. Unmonitored continued payment arrangements can lead to debt. We want banks to ensure their customers are protected and businesses ensure their terms and conditions are clear and transparent.”

The CTSI has today released, as part of the annual National Consumer Week and conjunction with the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP), two video animation guides for consumers, businesses and financial institutions on subscription issues.

The first animation is aimed at businesses who offer subscriptions to their customers. Whether selling gym memberships, health or beauty products, streaming services or periodic subscriptions, all businesses must follow a strict set of laws designed to protect consumers from unfair practices.

The second animation gives practical advice for consumers to make them think before they sign and not be tempted by free trial offers. If consumers find themselves caught in a trap then banks need to be aware of their responsibilities to customers struggling with subscription issues.

The animations highlight important issues faced by UK consumers and provide advice on legal obligations to businesses.

The videos are produced alongside Business Companion and discuss subscription periods, renewal schedules and total monthly costs, as well as continued payment authorities.

Business Companion is a free government-backed business advice website, offering important, up-to-date consumer law information accessible to all. It can be accessed at www.businesscompanion.info

CTSI chief executive, Leon Livermore, said: “Raising awareness of the issues facing consumers is key to tackling consumer detriment. National Consumer Week offers trading standards the chance to actively engage with consumers on a local and national level, on the big issues that can affect millions.”

National Consumer Week is an annual consumer education campaign coordinated by Citizens Advice and other members of the CPP, with this year’s campaign focusing on subscription issues and subscription traps.

Subscription issues can include signing up for a fixed term deal, trial, or promotion where it is unclear that the consumer will be auto-enrolled into ongoing payments.

Matalan at ventura park

TAMWORTH’S Matalan store is to close its doors for a number of months to make way for construction works.

Planning permission has been granted for an extension to the side of the store and the introduction of a mezzanine floor.  This means that the retail floor space will be spread across both the ground floor and first floor.

The plans for the Matalan store are part of wider plans for a face-lift and modernisation of Ventura Retail Park.

Tamworth Informed first reported on the plans in January when the application was submitted to the planning department at Tamworth Borough Council.

At this time, Matalan has not responded as to when the store is due to close and for how long.

Further Developments

Permission has been granted for the units on that phase of the Park to have new cladding to the outside and to modernise the look. The units look will be sticking to the appearance of Next. The plans show that the new frontages of the stores will be predominantly glazed and use new, modern materials.

In addition, units 2, 5 and 6; currently occupied by Halfords, Mothercare and Toys ‘R Us are to have Mezzanine floors installed.  In the case of Halfords, extended.

The car park will also see a facelift, with extra spaces added and an improved access road; moving the main road away from the front of the stores to increase safety to pedestrians.  An additional 146 parking spaces will be created.

An artists impression of the new look stores.

An artists impression of the new look stores.

The planning statement which was prepared by the developers at the time of application stated that the whole development would bring significant economic benefit to Tamworth with the creation of around 66 jobs based on the additional floor space and the assumption of one full-time employee per 90m of floor space.  This could add around £2.5 million to the local economy.

It is hoped by developers that the plans will ensure the major retails brands remain in Tamworth for years to come, securing existing employment.

A reminder that this work is being funded by a private company, J.B. Auctott, and not Tamworth Borough Council.  The proposals, securing employment and big names is surely a good thing for the town!

Yes, as residents, we would love investments from big names in the Town Centre, but we cannot force the hands of the big names, they choose where they want to do business.

What do you think of the plans?

The planned parking layout

The planned parking layout

Next Place estate agents

AN independent estate agency in Tamworth has been named the second best in the country following a rigorous assessment of more than 25,000 branches.

Despite being a small, single branch business, Next Place Property Agents stood out from the competition as an ‘exceptional’ agency with an ‘outstanding level of service and care towards prospective clients’.

The Property Academy, in conjunction with Rightmove, has published a top 100 list as part of the Best Estate Agent Guide, in which Next Place has been rated ‘Double Exceptional’, placing it second in the country for sales and third for both sales and lettings. Only 87 agencies in the country achieved the ‘Double Exceptional’ standard.

The Best Estate Agent Guide has been put together following an in-depth analysis of detailed performance data, combined with more than 30,000 mystery shops – marking the biggest mystery shopping review process in the property industry. Only the top 20% of agencies are featured in the guide, and only the top 5% of those have won an ‘exceptional rating’ in sales or lettings; an elite group of only 87 achieved the accolade in both.

The guide is designed to help buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants compare estate agents using independent and trustworthy information.

The ‘exceptional’ rating and top three England ranking is a major achievement for the Tamworth company which was set up by Anton Plackowski less than four years ago out of frustration following the poor service he received during his own experiences of buying and selling homes.

Originally from an IT and sales background, Anton uses a business-to-business approach to provide a high level of service to every customer looking to buy, sell or rent a property.

At the heart of this ethos is the provision of a reliable and efficient service with constant communication. The office is open seven days a week and phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Properties are listed within 24 hours and marketed on social media and hundreds of websites.

Anton said: “This is great news and we are absolutely delighted to have been named second best in the country! We didn’t even know we were in the running for this or that the review was taking place, we were just busy doing what we do, but it shows that our approach really does work.

“All it really boils down to is providing a reliable and efficient service. We are easily contactable, work quickly and we are honest with people; we won’t overvalue a property or tell people what they want to hear. We set realistic goals and expectations and always deliver on our promises, which means customers always go away happy. On average for the period January to October 2017, we are currently achieving over the asking price for all of our completed and current sales.

“It’s not the first time we have stood out in research and performance data, despite being a small, independent, single branch business in Tamworth, but this is definitely the biggest accolade to date. Being rated second in the whole country is real testament to our methods and our approach to customer service.”

In the four years since opening, Next Place Property Agents has experienced incredible growth. It now employs nine members of staff and is one of the top selling estate agents in the town, according to Rightmove.

Recently, the business was named the best in the West Midlands in a Which? report for achieving the advertised asking price on homes for sale.

Every year the Property Academy surveys thousands of buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants in order to better understand their opinions and expectations of the home buying, selling and renting process.

After compiling those insights for 11 years, the Academy teamed up with Rightmove to map out the perfect customer experience and to identify the criteria that define exceptional service. This was combined with performance data and the mystery shopping exercise to narrow down the best of the best.

The performance was assessed over a 12-month period involving analysis of more than 25,000 branches, one million properties listed at any one point in time, three million transactions, 50 million leads, three billion property views and 30,000 mystery shops.

To view the Best Estate Agent Guide visit www.bestestateagentguide.co.uk. To experience the top quality Next Place service visit www.next-place.co.uk.

redhead threads

TAMWORTH children have been in the spotlight as their unique beauty sees them become the face of a new clothing range dedicated to celebrating the glorious redhead.

With only 2 percent of the world’s population carrying the unique gene, red hair is a rare exception making it a cause for celebration for one Tamworth mum. Local Auburn children were at The Studio, in Tolsons Mill Business Park, Fazeley for a fashion photo shoot to launch Jennie Marshall’s new Red Head Threads clothing range.

The mother-of-one from Tamworth came up with the idea after struggling to find outfits which suited and celebrated her daughter’s rare look and unique spirit.

The range, which carries inspirational messages, is also designed with colours that complement red head shades rather than clash to allow little ones to shine and be proud of their unique gift.

Five-year-old Max Tromans from Tamworth was among the children taking part after being selected from scores of entries to find a youngster to promote the range.

The redhead youngster will now feature in promotional images as the company launches its new lines of outfits for youngsters aged newborn and up.

“It was lovely to have so many Tamworth redheads taking part in promoting the range,” said Jennie, who illustrates her own designs for all of the outfits. “Being a redhead you are born to stand out and I have always brought my daughter up to be proud of who she is.

“Her hair makes her unique and special as there are very few people in the world that share that specific gene.

“I am so grateful to all of the beautiful youngsters that joined us in celebrating their unique spirit and are helping us to showcase the rare gene. Through Red Head Threads I want to give children the skills and knowledge to deal with any negativity that may arise and feel empowered by their difference.”

Redhead Threads – which celebrates the MC1R gene which makes all redheads so unique and special – is a unique enterprise, based in Tamworth, which focuses on providing artisan designs to empower and celebrate redheads.

More information is available at www.redheadthreads.co.uk

Black Friday

PEOPLE looking for bargains online on Black Friday and throughout the Christmas and New Year sales period are being urged to get to know their rights and avoid scams.

Consumer laws were updated in 2015 and aim to give people greater clarity when they shop in-store or online.

The Consumer Rights Act clarifies consumer law and includes legislation to allow people to obtain a full refund on faulty goods within 30 days of purchase. It also gives an ability to challenge unfair terms and conditions or those that are hidden in small print, and an ability to demand poor services are redone or that there is a price reduction.

In addition, the laws cover faulty digital goods such as online films, games, music and e-books.

People can also take a few simple steps to reduce the chances of falling victims to scams and fraudsters.

Sales of counterfeit clothes and electrical items online have increased in recent years. People should be aware that websites sometimes use a domain name that falsely suggests they are UK-based. They should be particularly wary of goods being offered for sale on social media. Quite often these are counterfeit goods which are potentially dangerous and of poor quality.

Scam websites are often difficult to tell from genuine ones but there are some tell-tale signs people can look out for. People should be wary if the site:

  • Offers are too good to be true, for example, the price of an item is markedly lower than the market rate.
  • Has no information about the identity of the person operating the business such as the proprietor’s name or the company’s full name.
  • Has no geographic address for the business, preventing people from locating the business in the event of a dispute
  • Makes no mention of any cancellation rights.
  • Has unfair or restrictive terms and conditions which limit people’s legal rights.
  • Only accepts payments via money transfer services such as MoneyGram and/ or Western Union.

Staffordshire County Council’s communities leader Gill Heath said: “Black Friday is a fairly recent event for UK retailers to focus on but has grown in popularity in recent years, particularly with online sales. People have already started Christmas shopping and this will be an extremely busy period until the New Year.

“We want to remind people of their rights and be aware of potential pitfalls when they’re shopping over the next few weeks.

“Consumer laws apply to online or in-store trade so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with them.

“Unfortunately internet shoppers are increasingly targeted by criminals and that’s why it is important people follow some simple safety tips while shopping.  We want people to be able to shop with confidence online, stay safe, and perhaps think about buying a gift from one of our local businesses.”

People can find out more at www.citizensadvice.org.uk

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