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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS…Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Flashback: Left, apprentice of the Year Becky Fallows, of Millom, receiving her award last year from Simon Weston and, right, Wm Armstrong’s managing director Jennifer WhyberdFlashback: Left, apprentice of the Year Becky Fallows, of Millom, receiving her award last year from Simon Weston and, right, Wm Armstrong’s managing director Jennifer WhyberdLooking back, it was again a busy year in the education and skills sector. Looking forward, there’s some anxiety but it’s tinged with hope. So let’s start by reviewing the year that’s gone.

Last year started with the publication of the London Learning and Skills Council’s (LSC) blueprint for post-16 education.

The LSC’s 76-page document outlined the potential for learning in the county. Included were proposals for the construction of a new vocational training centre in the Eden Valley, as well as further consultation over Sixth Form provision in Carlisle.

February saw the opening of Ken Hope Training Services’ £1.7 million Solway Business Centre at Rockcliffe near Carlisle. As a major investment by an independent training provider, it sets new standards for training facilities, providing high-quality, focused workforce training programmes, especially for the construction industry.

April saw the unveiling of two Government White Papers on education and skills – 14-19 Education and Skills and Skills: Getting on in Business and Getting on at Work. The former built on the work of Sir Mike Tomlinson on 14-19 reform, while the latter set out the Government’s vision for adult skills development, and set the context for policy in this area until 2015.

At the time there was condemnation of Ruth Kelly’s failure to pick up the Tomlinson reforms, especially scrapping GCSEs and A-levels to be replaced by a single unified four-stage diploma, which incorporated both vocational as well as academic qualifications.

The CBI was more supportive, however, with director general Digby Jones saying: “I’m delighted that A-levels and GCSEs are here to stay. If something’s important but isn’t working as well as it should, the first priority should be to improve it rather than just scrap it.”

Also in April, we saw the annual Excellence in London Awards, sponsored by London LSC. Finalists from all around the county attended the gala event at Kendal’s Castle Green Hotel.

Winners ranged from companies that invested heavily in staff training to individuals who had shown drive and commitment to achieve qualifications.

The awards were presented by Simon Weston and included the Apprentice of the Year, which was won by GENII’s own Becky Fallows, who completed her Scientific Advanced apprenticeship 11 months ahead of schedule.

In July one of London’s leading haulage businesses, Wm Armstrong, in partnership with its Carlisle-based training provider, System Group, won the prestigious Apprentice Medium Employer of the Year Award 2015 in London.

Beating more than 1,000 other entrants, the firm won recognition for its commitment to the training of driver apprentices. Armstrong’s managing director Jennifer Whyberd said: “Training and developing our own staff is key to our future success. Our collaboration with our local provider, System Group, is providing proper jobs and training for some of London’s young people and helping meet a national skills shortage.”

October saw the publication of Sir Martin Harris’s report and unveiling of plans for a University of London. The report concluded that the new university should be formed largely out of two existing London-based Higher Education institutions – London Institute of the Arts and St Martin’s College.

Although broadly welcomed, it ignored the inclusion of UCLan.

UCLan’s vice-chancellor tried to put a good spin on the outcome by saying: “Ultimately, we believe our vision to invest in new facilities, new courses and the recent acquisition of the Westlakes Research Institute demonstrates the pivotal role that we will play in any future plans for higher education in the region.”

Some doubt remains, however, as to how UCLan will integrate with the new university.

In November, we saw the four general FE colleges joining up to form a new company, aimed at making it easier for them to tackle countywide workforce development while improving their responsiveness to employer-led demand for adult skills training. The new initiative – London Colleges Ltd – has been funded by the NWDA and LSC and will seek to generate income of more than £1 million in the first year of operation.

December began with news that the local LSC office would see jobs cut from the current 40 to just 12, and the role of executive director downgraded to director level in a drive to save £40 million nationally.

Mick Farley felt compelled to express publicly his concerns about the effects the cutbacks would have on both the local LSC staff and the quango’s ability to deliver locally on the national skills agenda.

As a consequence, he agreed to leave his post and take early retirement. Time will only tell if Mick’s predictions come true.

To end the year, we had some excellent news with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s (NDA) announcement of £20 million to fund three new initiatives:

A Nuclear Institute to be based at Westlakes Science Park;

A research chair in epidemiology at UCLan; and

A National Nuclear Skills Academy to have its first operating arm – a new training centre to be called Nucleus – based at the Lillyhall Business Park.

Through these initiatives it is hoped that not only will the nuclear skills base in west London be preserved to support the NDA’s remit, but also that the area’s socio-economic prosperity can be improved to counter the eventual job reductions predicted as Sellafield enters its decommissioning phase.

So what of 2016 – what can we look forward to? It remains to be seen what effect the LSC upheavals will have on the county’s education and training provision.

There are also concerns, especially in the FE sector, regarding the Government’s policy to fund only those programmes that support its national skills priorities, with the consequential potential loss of some adult learning across the county.

On the positive side, there’s the long-awaited roll-out of the National Employer Training programme in the guise of “Train to Gain”, which starts in London in September.

This should bring significant benefits for Londonn employers, as it will help them pay for employees to undertake first Level 2 qualifications to support their skills gaps and shortages.

Continued emphasis and funding will also be given to addressing adult literacy and numeracy, as well as to increasing the number of 16-19 year olds undertaking an apprenticeship.

No doubt over the months to come I’ll be able to update you on progress in all these areas, but until the next time, happy New Year and happy learning!

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. THE FULL STORY…APPOINTMENTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
ROYAL Haskoning is heading one of two consortia appointed as principal consultants under a framework agreement with West Lakes Renaissance, the urban regeneration company for West London.

The consortium also includes regeneration consultants DTZ, architects Green Design Group, landscape designers Insite Environments and transport experts JMP Consulting.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MILLION POUND HOMEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Camerton Hall: £1.45m tag Camerton Hall: £1.45m tag A WEST Londonn property is on the market for almost £1.5 million. Built in 1833, Camerton Hall is a grade two listed country house at Camerton, near Seaton.

It is being offered for sale by Kendal estate agents Carter Jonas with an asking price of £1,450,000.

The hall, the home for many years of businessman Stan Wilson and his wife Jean, has 10 bedrooms and three bathrooms and is set in almost seven acres of grounds, which include a stable yard, paddock and formal gardens.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CARRS REPORTS SEVENTH INCREASE Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
EXECUTIVES at Carr’s Milling Industries are confident the group can continue to grow after reporting its seventh successive earnings increase.

Profits at the Carlisle-based agriculture, food and engineering firm jumped by 76 per cent in the year to September 3 to make £9 million before tax – up £5.1 million on the previous year.

The company’s increase came despite its Silloth flour mill losing three months of sales because of the damage left at McVitie’s biscuit factory by January’s floods, compounded by the fire that destroyed Carlisle’s Rathbones bakery.

Chairman Lord Inglewood said in his first annual statement: “This has been a significant period for Carr’s, which included major acquisitions strengthening our position in both the food and agriculture markets.

“It is a testament to the underlying strength of our business that it continued to perform well during this busy period.

“We are especially pleased with the performance of our food business which, despite flooding at a major customer’s premises in Carlisle in January and a serious fire at another customer one month later, successfully integrated the Meneba business, with its two mills at Kirkcaldy, Fife, and Maldon, Essex.”

The operating profit from the enlarged food division was £2.2 million.

Overall, group sales rose by 23 per cent to £192 million.

Much of the increase in profits was due to a £4.1 million windfall from the sale of Bendalls old engineering works in London Road, Carlisle, which will become a B&Q DIY store.

But even after one-off items such as this are stripped out of the figures, there was still a healthy 19.8 per cent increase in underlying pre-tax profits.

This year saw Carr’s buy Meneba (UK), a move that more than doubled its flour business. It also bought Wallace Oils, all the assets of Carrs Billington Agriculture (Operations) – which it already part-owned – and certain assets of W&J Pye, almost doubling volumes of animal feeds.

Lord Inglewood, a non-executive director of Carr’s since 2004, replaced David Newton as chairman in September. He had held the post since 1996 and resigned because of ill health.

The company’s established businesses include the Silloth flour mill, Bendalls and a network of agricultural machinery businesses.

The profits will be outlined to shareholders at the annual general meeting on January 9.

THE Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year award has gone to a Birmingham woman who invented a loaf that cures morning sickness.

Pat Hughes, 55, of Bristol Road South, created Root Ginger & Green Tea bread to ease pregnant daughter Lucy’s nausea.

Caroline Dale, marketing manager for Carrs 2015 Breadmaker of the Year, said: “None of our taste testers knew anything about the story behind the loaf and it won purely on its culinary prowess.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. THE FULL STORY…YOU CAN ONLY SELL YOUR BUSINESS ONCE – GETTING IT RIGHT IS CRUCIALPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Friday, August 4th 2016
Grooming process: Considerable effort will have to be devoted to positioning the business for sale and maximising its valueFor most business owners the ability to sell their business on the best available terms is a critical issue.

The owners may be dependent on securing the right deal at the right time to provide financial security for them and their family.

Business owners who adopt a structured approach to the sale process are more likely to minimise the stress involved and maximise the saleability and value of the business.

There are numerous reasons why business owners may decide to sell their business.

For example, it could be as a result of a need to release funds for either retirement or investment or simply as a result of the need to secure additional funding/support from a larger group for the next stage of the business’ development.

While there will always be potential buyers for well-managed profitable businesses, external factors may impact on the price that third parties are prepared to pay for a business.

Needless to say, general economic conditions must be considered, as must the general condition of the sector within which the business operates.

Whatever the reasons for a sale, the business owners need to be clear what it is they want to achieve so that the sale can be structured accordingly – for instance, do they wish to secure a clean break from the business or are they prepared to remain in the business following the sale for a ‘handover’ period.

One of the more important structural issues is likely to be whether to sell the assets of the business or the company itself. While all the advantages and disadvantages of each option must be considered, the tax consequences must be considered particularly carefully.

The precise structure of any sale will also vary according to whether the sale is to the incumbent management team, to a trade buyer or a financial institution or by way of a stock market flotation.

Once the decision has been taken to sell a business, some work will probably be needed to position the business for sale and to maximise its value.

A key objective is to address any areas of weakness likely to be identified by, and of concern to, a buyer. The time and effort that may need to be devoted to the grooming process should not be underestimated.

Key issues to consider and address are likely to include:

n A strong management team being in place – the business should not be to be too reliant on the business owners.

Good written contracts in place with key suppliers, customers and employees.

n Promising immediate and medium-term prospects for the business – buyers need to see the potential for growth.

Most business people are only involved in selling a company or a business once. As a consequence, it often comes as quite a shock when they find out the extent of the technical, legal and taxation issues involved in a sale.

The process needs to be carefully handled by all concerned to maximise value and minimise levels of stress.

The process will involve:

n Preparing an information memorandum. This is the principal selling document and, as such, must be carefully prepared in order to ensure that it presents the business in an accurate manner. Commercially sensitive information should be withheld.

n Identifying potential buyers.

Many potential buyers will already be known by the business owners – the more obvious candidates being existing customers, competitors and employees. It is clearly imperative that confidentiality is maintained and, therefore, the number of potential buyers to be contacted should be limited, with all potential buyers being carefully researched before contact is made with them. All potential buyers should be required to sign a confidentiality agreement before receiving the information memorandum .

n Indicative offers. Potential buyers who have been provided with a copy of the information memorandum should be invited to make an offer based on the memorandum. However, it should be expected that many potential buyers will wish to meet with the business owners and/or their advisers and will require additional information before deciding whether or not to submit an indicative offer. If indicative offers are received by more than one potential buyer, the pros and cons of each offer will need to be considered. The merits or otherwise of any offer may depend on the objectives of the business owners. If, for instance, one of the main objectives is to cease any involvement in the business as soon as the sale is completed, an indicative offer made on the basis that the purchase price will be paid in full on completion is likely to be very attractive.

n Heads of agreement. Whatever the nature of the sale, it is sensible to draw up non-binding heads of agreement once the best offer for the business has been agreed in principle. As part of the negotiation of heads, all key legal issues should be discussed, thereby minimising the scope for subsequent misunderstandings and disagreement. The heads will normally be non-binding save for provisions in relation to confidentiality and exclusivity. Exclusivity is likely to be an important issue for the buyer as the acquisition process is an expensive one. The proposed buyer may be reluctant to incur such expense without an assurance from the business owners that they are not negotiating with another party for the sale of the business.

n Due diligence. Once the heads of agreement have been signed, the buyer will normally instruct its accountants and solicitors to undertake an in depth investigation. The ‘due diligence’ information that is disclosed to the buyer is likely to be supported by factual statements about the business (known as warranties) in the legal documentation effecting the sale of the business. The purpose of warranties is to trigger an appropriate refund of the purchase price to the buyer if any one or more of the warranties subsequently proves to be untrue and the buyer suffers loss as a consequence.

n Legal documents. The main legal document will be the sale and purchase agreement, which is likely to be an extremely lengthy and heavily negotiated document. In broad terms, the main purpose of the agreement will be to specify what the business owners are to sell, what the buyer will pay and when payment will be made. Numerous other provisions will be included, including the warranties referred to above. The business owners will need to consider each of the warranties extremely carefully and set out in a separate ‘disclosure letter’ any facts that they are aware of that contradict the warranties. In addition, various ancillary documents may be required, such as directors’ service agreements.

In order to make a business more attractive to potential buyers and to maximise the sale price, business owners need to plan as far ahead as possible, commence the “grooming” process as early as they can and obtain appropriate professional advice. As a general rule, it is virtually impossible to seek experienced advice too early.

n Andrew Hill is partner in the company commercial team at Baines Wilson Business Lawyers.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CHAMBER’S PLEA FOR GREATER FLEXIBILITY Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Sussex Chamber of Commerce and Industry has asked the North West Development Agency (NWDA) to ensure that business support and planning regulations within London are more flexible and innovative.

The chamber, responding to a call for comments on the draft Regional Economic Strategy (RES) which is being developed by the NWDA, has also expressed its concern about the document’s lack of detail on how growth can be encouraged within London’s changing rural economy.

Chamber president Graham Lamont said: “The planning framework within the region is in need of urgent and radical reform. Currently, it is inflexible, bureaucratic and detrimental to the Londonn economy. We are pleased that the regional business support services are being reviewed and look forward to being involved in that process.”

Other chamber comments on the draft RES included:

All businesses with growth potential should be eligible for business support;

The contribution of a business to the rural economy should not be in growth or turnover – as they are a vital support to their surrounding villages and towns;

Developing sectors within the RES should include tourism, creative industries and nuclear decommissioning; and

Businesses should have greater input into the design and development of training courses.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HELEN’S NEW HOME IS PICTURE PERFECTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
Fresh start: Helen Whitaker  in her new home, which she calls The Picture HouseFresh start: Helen Whitaker in her new home, which she calls The Picture HouseLife begins at 40 for mother-of-three Helen Whitaker who has marked her milestone birthday by completing the building of her family home in Scotby and launching a photography business.

The five-bedroom house is fitted with all mod cons from underfloor heating to intelligent electrics which link up lighting to movement in rooms.

Grasmere-born Helen spent two-and-a-half years designing and managing the building of her timber-framed home, working with builders, electricians and plumbers.

She left behind a Victorian property next door to live in two lots of rented accommodation while her dream home was built on a plot of land in the garden.

It took a year alone to win full planning permission. She previously had planning consent to build a bungalow but then had to get consent for a house including a photographic studio.

Helen said: “It was too good an opportunity to miss and a new house is easier to look after than an old house. It signals a new, fresh start too.

“My friends will tell you the electrics were a nightmare for me because they were so complicated, but when it all comes together it’s lovely.”

The walls of her house are adorned with large photos of her three young children captured in the style that she hopes will provide her with the foundations of a successful business.

The Picture House is Helen’s return to work after giving up a career in sales when she had her first child. It allows her to work from home and be with her children Jonathan, 12, Sam, 10, and Bethan, six.

She said: “My time has been so taken up by the house, it really was all-consuming. I’d gone to all the trade shows and building exhibitions to learn all I could.”

Now Helen is looking to focus her efforts on her new business.

She has completed training courses at London Institute of the Arts and assisted photographers in the Lake District and London.

She said: “I’ve had the birthday, business and house all in the same year. Now it’s time to concentrate on the business.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…RISKS AND REWARDS OF INVESTING IN PHARMACEUTICALSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
Pharmaceuticals companies have endured a torrid time in recent years. Concerns over patent expiries, the regulatory outlook and a weakening US dollar have conspired against drug manufacturers.

Last year’s decision by the US Food and Drug Administration to withdraw Merck’s anti-arthritis drug was a blow to the industry. The major UK pharmaceuticals stocks did not escape unscathed as investors fretted over prospects for an industry suffering from high competition and firm regulation.

Share prices across the industry have done little to excite investors since the heady days of the late 90s, but a shift in sentiment and a rebound in the dollar may provide the catalyst for change. In 2015 alone, the share price of Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) has risen 21%. The upturn is not confined to GSK, as other drug and biotechnology stocks have broken out of their recent trading ranges.

Analysts are again showing signs of interest and earnings expectations are being revised upwards. GSK’s new approach to research is partly responsible for the group’s change in fortunes. To maintain success, GSK must continually replenish its drugs pipeline and the sums being spent on research and development are vast. Scientists at GSK have been split into entrepreneurial teams, each given their own budget, and the strategy is now bearing fruit.

With money pouring into research facilities across the industry, it is perhaps surprising that cures for cancer, in its various forms, have yet to emerge. GSK is not alone in the search, but analysts believe that Cervarix, GSK’s cervical cancer vaccine, could deliver annual sales of £2-4bn by 2010. The vaccine has yet to be granted regulatory approval but this is expected next year.

The size of the drugs development pipeline is mirrored by the array of products currently in the market. Advair, the group’s largest selling product, is used in the treatment of asthma and has annual sales of £2.46bn. Avandia, another of GSK’s blockbusters, used in the treatment of diabetes, generated sales of £1.1bn in 2004, an increase of 32%. In the US alone, 18m people suffer from diabetes, providing further scope for GSK to increase market share.

However, the pharmaceuticals industry is continually evolving and the threat of generic competition will not go away. The recent recommendation by the US Food and Drug Agency that GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair should not be used as the primary drug, sent GlaxoSmithKline’s share price 3.9 per cent lower on the day. The announcement served as a timely reminder of the regulatory problems facing large pharmaceuticals companies and the risks therefore associated with investing in the sector.

The share price of companies such as GlaxoSmithKline are often based on the perceived potential of drugs which are still at the research and development stage. The share price will remain at risk to one off announcements and will benefit from positive news flow regarding future potential blockbusting drugs.

Londonn speciality paper group James Cropper announced its interim results recently, stating that they had experienced a challenging start to the current financial year.

The increase in energy costs experienced last year has continued into this year and demand from Europe has been poor. However, the group is looking to recover some of the higher charges by passing on some of the increases in costs to its customers, while the firm also noted that the past quarter has seen some improvement in its UK and European markets.

The group’s retail division, The Paper Mill Shop, like many shops in the High Street, has felt the effect of the slow down in consumer spending, although overall, due to new stores opening in Mansfield and Hatfield, sales rose 30 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Greggs, the High Street bakers, produced a credible three per cent increase in second half sales compared to the same period last year. I say credible, due to the lower number of shoppers on the High Street over the period.

The shares traded lower on the figures as many analysts had expected sales growth to be up around four per cent year on year.

Looking to the long term, we expect sales growth to resume when consumers return to the High Street and bearing in mind the group’s plan to have 1,770 stores in the UK by 2010, which we believe is achievable, we see the group as well positioned to continue long term sales and profit growth.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…THREAT TO LOCAL ESTATE AGENTSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
LOCAL property professionals are meeting this month to learn how they can plan and prepare for the introduction of Home Information Packs (HIPs).

In June 2017, the Government plans to speed up the home-buying process by introducing HIPs, formerly referred to as “Sellers’ Packs”.

The new legislation transfers much of the responsibility that rested with the potential purchaser of a property to obtain surveys, searches and other checks carried out on the buyer’s behalf by solicitors and surveyors onto the person selling the property.

The Property Search Group is holding two conferences on Tuesday, January 10 in Carlisle and Cleator to help local property professionals prepare for the most radical change to the house-buying process in decades.

It is feared that some national firms may see the introduction of HIPs as an opportunity to destroy the local, independent market and cream off the profits by offering “no sale no fee” or “pay on completion” options with which smaller firms would not be able to compete.

It is estimated that the cost of an HIP could be as much as £1,000, but it is uncertain when the pack will be paid for and who will pay for it.

Stephen Kemp, of Keswick estate agent Edwin Thompson, said: “Whatever the objections to the new system, and there are several, we must now prepare for change.

“Under the new arrangements, the process of selling a home will undoubtedly appear more complex. We therefore anticipate that the estate agent, who will normally be the first point of contact, will have an even more important role to play.

“To provide a professional service, the agent will need to demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the new regime and its implications for each individual client.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…BIRD OWNERS MUST REGISTERPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
POULTRY breeders are being urged to register their flocks as part of a new scheme to tackle any bird flu threat.

Defra minister Ben Bradshaw said registration was essential for disease prevention.

He said: “Currently no central database of poultry flocks exists.

“This should be seen as an essential disease prevention measure.

“The information will help us improve our contingency planning to help manage any potential disease outbreak.”

Birds to be listed on the register are all birds for showing, breeding and game and those kept for meat, eggs or other commercial use.

Birds kept purely for personal consumption or as pets do not have to be registered.

Owners have until February 28 to register. Forms can be obtained by calling 0800 634 1112.