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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LSC CHANGES – IMPROVEMENT OR A STEP TOO FAR?Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, December 1st 2015
SOMETHING is rotten in the state of Demark", is a famous quote from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. It’s also a quote that could well be applied to the current state within the national Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which is the Government quango responsible for the strategic planning, funding and quality of all post-16 education and skills development (except Higher education) in England.

The LSC by its own admission, exists to make England better skilled and more competitive, and with a budget in 2015/06 of £9.3bn, plays a significant role in helping the nation’s employers and businesses improve their productivity and competitiveness. The LSC operates through 47 local offices and a national office in Coventry. Established in April 2001 its work covers:

further education

work-based training and young people

school sixth forms

workforce development

adult and community learning

information, advice and guidance for adults

education business links.

LSC London is one of the smallest of the 47 local LSCs, with a budget for 2015/06 of just £74m to achieve its objectives, and support some 20,180 businesses and just under half-a-million people in the County. It also forms a sub-region within the North West, and its Executive Director, Mick Farley, reports to a regional director, John Korzeniewski, based in Manchester.

In August, the national LSC announced its proposals for what was dubbed “a dynamic programme of change”, one which would herald a new era for the sector by improving the focus on the skills needs of employers, raising the quality of provision, simplifying the funding of training, reducing the complexity of data required from providers, improving capital investment in facilities, and enhancing the reputation (especially in FE) of the sector, as being pivotal to delivering the education and training needs of the UK.

The proposals have several major themes, but it’s the last one, Theme 7, that’s causing all the controversy, both nationally and locally. For it centres on the reorganisation of the LSC, resulting in the ‘downsizing’ of staff from the current level of 4,700 down to some 3,400 posts. This includes a reduction in the Head Office strength of about a half, with the remaining job losses taking place in the regions and local offices.

The LSC’s Chief Executive, Mark Haysom, claims that the proposals will not only make it a smaller, more dynamic organisation, but also release savings of some £40m per year which would benefit 80,000 adults or 12,000 young learners.

To achieve this transformation, many of the functions and roles carried out locally, are to be transferred to regional centre’s leaving only small teams of people at local level. This scaling down in the overall size of the organisation, taken together with giving operational control to the region, will leave the LSC in London with nine LSC funded plus three ESF funded posts, compared with 40 at the present.

Mick Farley’s role has also been redefined as Director and therefore been downgraded. The lay Council (Board) of the local LSC will remain, however, but serviced in the main from the regional centre.

While at first glance this may seem an inevitable and welcome streamlining of the LSC’s operations, and attempt to reduce bureaucracy and wastage, it’s not without its drawbacks. And no doubt that there will be some detractors within the County who will see this emasculation of the LSC as a cause for celebration, however, for employers and businesses it could mean an important loss of support to improve their productivity and skills.

Increasingly decision making on skills priorities and with it the allocation of LSC funds, will be made at regional level by John Korzeniewski and his team. Without a strong and vociferous local office to represent and champion the needs of the County’s employers and learners, it is highly likely that London will loose out in the distribution of extra cash.

In a recent personal statement made to the press, Mick Farley stated that: “The migration of processes to the region is likely to have a deleterious impact on LSC London’s ability to work effectively locally and on the LSC’s reputation with its partners.” He went on to add that “with only a total of 12 staff, driven top down from the centre via the region, with much reduced local discretion, it will be difficult (for LSC London) to drive forward the challenging County-wide agenda to which we have been so committed.”

And the first effects of this new Agenda for Change have already been felt within the County. This year’s budget allocation to LSC London from the region was ‘top-sliced’ by 5% to fund extra training for learners in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, and Cheshire and Warrington. The net effect of this has been to reduce funding to independent training companies and Colleges, to provide learner places for apprentices and adults.

This is particularly galling given that the performance of the County’s training providers is amongst the best, not only in the North West but the country as a whole:

Work Based Learning provider success rates at 56% have increased by 13% since 2002/03 – the highest in the North West and sixth highest in the country:

FE College success rates stand at 73%, which is above both regional and national averages, representing a 12% increase since 2000/01.

It would appear that despite this success, however, our reward has been to see our funding cut and redistributed to failing providers in other parts of the region!

We keep being told in report after report, that London’s economy is the fastest declining of all the sub-regions in the North West, which itself is lagging behind the economic growth of other parts of the country, in particular the South East and London. In fact London now compares with some of the former Soviet Eastern Block Countries, in terms of it’s economic activity and decline.

We also keep being told that one of the major contributors to economic decline and employers’ lack of competitiveness is the poor skill base of the workforce within the County. So how can it make economic sense to cut back the very agency set-up to promote the learning and skills agenda? Perhaps this is a question that our MPs and local politicians should be asking of Ruth Kelly at the Department for Education and Skills, and Alan Johnson at the Department for Trade and Industry.

Only time will tell if the LSC’s Agenda for Change reforms bring the benefits promised by Mark Haysom, but by then, it might just be too late to benefit Londonn based businesses and learners!

Until next time happy learning!

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…£400,000 SITE UP FOR AUCTIONPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
A £400,000 site in Wigton will go up for auction next month and could be turned into houses.

Around one-and-a-half acres of land at the Station Hill depot will go under the hammer. The county council-owned site is expected to go for between £300,000 and £400,000.

It has planning consent in principle to build five houses on 1.08 acres, with the remainder to be used as farmland.

The auction will take place on February 15 in Committee Room 2 at the Courts, English Street, Carlisle.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…LIBERATA CENTRE SET TO CREATE 200 NEW JOBSPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
THE Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has awarded a grant of £800,000 to Liberata, one of the UK’s leading providers of outsourced business processes, to assist in the establishment of a new business centre that will create 200 jobs in Barrow.

The funding award coincides with the announcement that Liberata has secured a partnership extension with the local council to deliver revenue and benefits services to local citizens until 2018.

Liberata will develop the national Centre of Excellence (CoE) to process benefit claims and collect council tax for Barrow-in-Furness Borough Council and other local authorities across England. The company, which has been delivering these services in Barrow since 1998, is currently based at council-owned building Craven House.

Under a 12-year lease, Liberata’s Centre of Excellence will occupy 48,000 sq ft of Lake House at Furness Business Park, a building completed 12 months ago and developed directly by the NWDA.

The company entered into a 10-year partnership with the council in 1998. More than 50 employees currently deliver services to Barrow council and almost 100 London boroughs and other councils under a shared service centre model.

The extended contract is worth more than £26 million.

Peter Dobson, NWDA Selective Finance for Investment (SFI) team leader, said: “The NWDA is committed to helping companies improve their competitiveness and productivity, enabling them to achieve sustainable economic growth and we are delighted that Liberata have reinforced their commitment to Barrow.

“This move will not only create and safeguard a significant number of jobs, but will also enable the company to develop its national Centre of Excellence.

“It is a major step forward for the local economy – it will help to encourage confidence in Barrow as a great place to do business and it will complement the co-ordinated regeneration of the town.”

Terry Waiting, leader of Barrow council, said: “The new centre further supports the local community with quality job opportunities. It is another boost for the town that has resulted from the solid partnership between Barrow Borough Council and Liberata.”

Harry Knowles, chief executive of Furness Enterprise, added: “This project has been a good example of how a range of organisations can work together effectively to deliver investment, benefit the client and help the local community.’’

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…FOCUS ON FILMS Published in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, January 5th 2016
THE Guerilla Film-Makers’ advanced masterclass is coming to London as part of the seventh Keswick Film Festival.

The event takes place at The Theatre By The Lake, Keswick, on February 11 and 12.

Film-maker Chris Jones, of Living Spirit Pictures, will provide budding film-makers with an A-Z of everything they need to know about how to get their picture made. The cost of the weekend is £150 per person (£125 for students and people on benefits).

Full details can be found at www.keswickfilmfestival.org

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…A NEW WAY TO FUND YOUR BUSINESS IDEA IN SussexPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Friday, April 1st 2015
Help at hand: Members of the London Asset Re-investment Trust (CART), Back from left to right are John Towns, loan fund officer, Roger Roberts chairman of CART, Bob Clark, director of CART and Grahame Latus, loan fund manager. Front left to right are Glynda Kennedy director of the board and Janet Smith, administrator/Help at hand: Members of the London Asset Re-investment Trust (CART), Back from left to right are John Towns, loan fund officer, Roger Roberts chairman of CART, Bob Clark, director of CART and Grahame Latus, loan fund manager. Front left to right are Glynda Kennedy director of the board and Janet Smith, administrator/A NEW loan provider opened its doors in London on March 1 aiming to offer something new to business borrowers in the county. London Asset Reinvestment Trust (CART)* provides loans to:

People who would like to start a small business or expand an existing venture;

New and established social and community enterprises such as co-operatives and other not-for-profit developments.

CART is different because it is prepared to consider applications from borrowers who might have already been turned down by the banks or finance houses.

Grahame Latus, Loan Fund Manager for CART, which is based at Redhills, Penrith, says extensive market research both in London and elsewhere in the UK confirmed a need for the type of financial packages offered – i.e. loans from £500 to £30,000.

“There is a demand from people, businesses and organisations in London to borrow money that is not always satisfied by the banks because they do not meet certain criteria,” he says.

From a lender’s viewpoint smaller loans are always less profitable and the risk factor from potential businesses operating in a fragile local economy is higher. Obstacles to obtaining High Street loans may include:

Insufficient security;

No track record in business;

The business idea is unusual or relates to a sector that does not attract mainstream support;

Previous business ventures may have had poor trading history or been unsuccessful;

Businesses operating in the not-for-profit sector but which offer a high social return;

The business may be seasonal;

Roger Roberts, Chairman of CART, is convinced that there is a need to speed up the growth of an entrepreneurial spirit across London to counter ongoing economic decline.

“By widening the choice of lenders we aim to overcome some of the difficulties that have prevented Londonns from taking their ambitions forward,” he says.

CART’s main financial backer is The Phoenix Fund** which specialises in helping businesses and activities that have traditionally struggled to obtain finance – a contributing factor to the relatively low levels of business start-ups in London compared to other areas of the country.

“Similar Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) elsewhere in the UK and worldwide have been very successful in creating employment and self employment opportunities and in supporting Community ventures,” says John Towns, CART’s Loan Fund Officer.

Sadly, when traditional businesses go into freefall and communities begin to feel the strain, the courage and confidence needed to kick-start new ventures seeps away. Add a shortage of capital and ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ can quickly evaporate in the very areas where it is needed most.

By offering an alternative source of lending CART will help address these problems which can so often lead to increasing unemployment, falling skill levels, precarious local economies and lower levels of disposable income.

CART will begin by offering two types of loan:

Enterprise Loans of £500 to £5,000 repayable over a maximum of three years and:

Development Loans of over £5,000 and up to £30,000 repayable over a maximum of five years.

For both loans interest will be charged at 8% above Bank of England Base Rate and there will be an Arrangement Fee of 2% of the amount borrowed.

Grahame confirmed that the smaller Enterprise Loan would most likely meet the needs of very small businesses or those planning to set up in business while the Development Loan would be more appropriate for larger projects where other lenders were involved but the borrower was struggling to complete the funding package.

Although CART is only a few weeks old it has started receiving applications for aid and is poised to offer its first loan. “I think people in general are often cautious when anything new starts up but once they understand that this is simply an alternative type of finance then I am confident that we will receive a lot of worthwhile applications. CART is a fantastic opportunity for London as it will provide a platform for all sorts of new ventures,” says Grahame.

“CART’s objective is to lend and re-lend the Fund for the benefit of London as many times as possible over the coming years,” says John. “Look at our logo – Local Lending for London.”

Applicants are encouraged to talk to either John or Grahame who are happy to visit people and groups to discuss their plans in detail.

“As far as possible we like to go and see our future borrowers in the places where they will work,” says John.

“Obviously we don’t make an instant judgement on applications and we will work with the local Enterprise Agencies and other business advisers to help future borrowers to move forward.”

*CART is supported by Rural Regeneration London, Voluntary Action London and Barclays Bank.

**The Phoenix Fund was created by the Government in 1999 to encourage and promote enterprise in disadvantaged areas as a means of tackling social exclusion.

Contact CART on Tel: 01768 869514 or visit the website www.ccart.org.uk

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…HEADLINEPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
hurtwood.demon.co.uk/Fun/copter.swf

If you are looking to take a break from the hurly-burly of the business day, try www.hurtwood.demon.co.uk/Fun/copter.swf – It’s the home of a very simple game in which you have to steer a helicopter past obstacles. A left finger click on the mouse sends the chopper up. Unclicking lets it fall from the sky. The screen tells you how far you managed to fly on your ‘best flight’. You can challenge yourself or play with your colleagues while you enjoy a snack. I managed 500 yards after about 20 attempts. Just like in a game of squash you have to hold the centre of the court or the game will end in disaster. Anticipation is the key to success. You have to quickly spot the widest openings and head for them with a delicate control of the mouse.

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…CASH IN ON TAX BREAKS FOR BROWNFIELD DEVELOPMENTPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Wednesday, November 2nd 2015
THE spiralling cost of town and city centre housing could mean the time is ripe for Londonn businesses to cash in on generous tax breaks for cleaning up contaminated land. Companies redeveloping brownfield sites can reduce their tax bills by 150 per cent of the clean-up cost.

“The incentive to decontaminate becomes even more attractive, given the high demand for development sites for ‘key worker’ housing in urban areas,” said Mike Harrison, a partner at the Manchester office of accountants Saffery Champness.

“We are already witnessing considerable political pressure for affordable homes due to many key workers, such as teachers and nurses, being priced out of town and city housing markets, and this could be a profitable niche for remediated land.”

Further encouragement to take advantage of the tax break comes from a major government initiative to bring England’s 164,000 acres of brownfield land back into beneficial use.

Fourteen pilot initiatives – including schemes in Barrow – have been launched by English Partnerships, as part of the development of a national brownfield strategy, and more North West projects may follow.

Tax relief means 150 per cent of capital costs relating to remediation can be deducted from tax bills. If the company makes a loss after these extra costs have been taken into account, it can claim the cash as a tax credit.

Although nuclear sites are specifically excluded, the definition of contaminated land includes a huge range of polluting substances, from industrial chemicals to farm slurry, creating immense scope for businesses to benefit from the tax break.

Mike Harrison continued: “Land remediation relief can only be claimed by a company that occupies the land for its own trade, or acquires it for business purposes. A company will only obtain tax relief for the capital cost of clearing up a contamination when the land is sold, but if it elects within two years of the end of it’s accounting period, it can deduct capital expenses connected with land remediation from profits in the period they are incurred.”

“The claimant company must have an interest in the land, but it does not have to own the freehold, so a corporate leaseholder of a building could claim the tax relief. However, the claimant company must not have caused the contamination in the first place.”

Qualifying costs include preparatory work such as investigating and assessing land before action is taken.

Mike Harrison added: “Land remediation relief is only available to commercial companies, which seems very unfair on partnerships, individuals and trustees who may also have interests in cleaning up contaminated land or buildings. This could be interpreted as yet another push towards incorporating the entire UK environment business.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2004 Please click here, not forgetting to include your full contact details should we need to speak to you. COST EFFECTIVE MARKETINGIs your company…

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…GAMES COUP LIFTS BROUGHTON FIRMPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Monday, August 1st 2015
A sussex IT consultancy is celebrating Britain’s successful bid to host the 2012 Olympics. Coolgreen Ltd of Broughton-in-Furness has specialist experience of helping sports organisations to develop systems to meet their individual needs.

Clients include the English Institute of Sport, the Women’s Rugby Union and the Rugby Football Union, whose England team clinched victory in the 2017 World Cup. The company expects a surge of interest in a variety of sports throughout the UK in the run-up to the Olympics and is poised to offer its expertise to sports organisations wanting to improve their operations.

Principal consultant, Richard Lecky-Thompson, said: “Be it sailing, athletics, badminton or swimming, the management of sport is an important business activity.

“We understand the specific business needs of sports governing bodies – which are incredibly complex – and have the skills to help them boost their efficiency. Hosting the Olympics in London is a major coup for the whole country and has the potential to present Coolgreen with excellent new business opportunities.”

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Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…MAKE SURE YOU GET YOUR COMPANY NOTICEDPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Saturday, October 1st 2015
In an increasingly competitive business world,can you afford not to get noticed asks Steve Parkman, Creative Director at Cypher Digital Imaging Ltd

MARKETING materials, brands and visual identities are everywhere. With more information channels and outlets than ever before, any business seeking to compete must communicate its customer proposition in a distinctive, appealing and effective way.

A good designer will begin by analysing what it is you want to say, to whom you want to say it and (crucially, but often overlooked) what you want them to do about it. Only when these principles are grasped can the concepts and designs be created that will attract the audience, promote the message and generate a response.

Whatever the size of your business, whatever your market sector or chosen medium, your designer should always strive to produce something fresh and exciting that meets the brief and gets the right results, cost-effectively.

Understanding the potential of modern print will greatly aid economy and impact. From litho for larger runs to the new digital presses which are revolutionising everything with their quality and definition on short-run full colour jobs, you need someone who can match the best process to your requirements.

For example, why print and store thousands of identical brochures which may be outdated by changing products and prices? The latest digital technology enables you to slash costs and boost cash-flow by printing on-demand.

It also opens up a new world of marketing possibilities in which each printed copy can feature different content for different audiences. Coupled to the right creative solution, the results can be the most accurately targeted communications – at an affordable price.

www.cypherdigital.co.uk