It’s been a torrid night at the elections. We look at some early views and opinions from business support organisations.
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General, of the CBI said:
“This is a serious moment for the UK economy. The priority must be for politicians to get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure the markets and protect our resilient economy.
“Politicians must act responsibly, putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that the UK remains a safe destination for business. It’s time to put the economy back to the top of the agenda.
“For the next Government, the need and opportunity to deliver an open, competitive and fair post-Brexit economy that works for everyone across all our nations and regions has never been more important.
“This can only be achieved if the next government doesn’t put the brakes on business, remains open to the world and sets out a pro-enterprise vision.
“Firms will support the UK develop our inclusive, innovative and open economy. More than ever, the new Government must work together with business to make the most of the opportunities ahead. Firms can provide the evidence, ideas and solutions from the shop, office and factory floor to secure our future prosperity.”
The Forum of Private Business
is calling more loudly than ever for the UK’s politicians to recognise
that the economic strength of the UK is reliant on the country’s five million
Chief Executive of the Forum, Ian Cass said: ‘The voice of small business has been completely ignored during the election campaign, with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both demonstrating that they have no real understanding of the critical role played by businesses to the importance to the UK, both in economic contribution and job creation,’
Facing a period of increased instability and uncertainty that a hung parliament will once again bring to the business community, Ian Cass is pushing for business to be put at the heart of government, with a Small Business Minister sitting at the Cabinet table and having teeth.
‘Businesses are tired of being paid lip service to. We have over five million business leaders in this country. Young and old, North and South, Remain and Leave, who have their feet firmly on the ground and need, once and for all, to be taken notice of, as the negotiations with Europe are progressed’
The Forum’s ‘Get Britain Trading’ campaign welcomes Members of Parliament into Forum member businesses so that they can truly understand what is needed to make the British high street great again.
‘With such a divisive split in the UK political scene, it is time for business to take control of the Country’s future,’ adds Ian Cass, ‘Not just big business with their sights purely on shareholder value, but small businesses who live and breath common sense survival in a changing world. In pushing for a proper, long term, Small Business Cabinet Minister, the Forum stands ready to support the government and its members in creating a strong and stable future UK. This will not come from politicians throwing verbal stones at each other and trotting out sound bites. It will come from a sensible and calm business approach,’ emphasises Ian Cass, a business owner in his own right.
‘The politicians have a choice. Listen and take note of the business voice, or continue sounding the ‘mayday’ siren,’ concludes Ian Cass.
Sophia Haywood, Policy Manager at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce: “These results place even more uncertainty on our local business community, who have already persevered through recent years of political and economic turbulence. Businesses are already grappling with currency fluctuations, rising costs, and the potential impacts of Brexit. It is vital there is a swift formation of a functioning government to build business confidence and our wider economic prospects ahead of the EU negotiations. Just as businesses come together in difficult times, so should our politicians.”
By Ian Mean, director for Gloucestershire, Business West
With a hung Parliament today - no overall majority for the Conservatives - business will be very concerned about more and more uncertainty and delays in the Brexit process.
When you think that Theresa May had committed us to start the initial Brexit talks in just over a week’s time, the political earthquake that has now erupted puts a big question mark over the whole Brexit negotiation.
Will the opening Brexit talks actually go ahead on Theresa May’s timetable?
Will she even be prime minister by the end of today? Or even in a few days? There are already calls this morning for her to resign.
Our Business West members have told us in our recent survey how frustrated they are with the lack of information on the ongoing Brexit process.
They will be even more annoyed that our government’s standing will be at rock bottom with the EU now that Theresa May’s credibility has been shattered by the General Election result which she totally focussed on Brexit.
Calling a snap election with just eight weeks to give herself a stronger hand in the EU talks was a big gamble which the British people rejected.
Never underestimate the electorate is an old adage used by experienced politicians and today they have confounded expectations.
For many months now, companies I have talked to in Gloucestershire have been doing their best to ignore the “noise” generated by politics in order to focus on their own operations and ensure they retain good relationships with their export customers.
So, what will happen now?
More frustration for these businesses who now face the prospect of those initial Brexit talks being further delayed, because we might now have a Tory Party leadership election on our hands.
If Teresa May does resign, that delay in the talks could be as much as three months, and on top of that she will not be in charge of the Brexit process.
How can she retain any credibility with the EU, having had her wish for a stronger mandate for Brexit well and truly torpedoed?
For many companies in Gloucestershire where the strength of the pound is a big issue to make them more competitive, the lack of urgency created by a hung parliament could well affect their profitability for quite a period.
The key word here for companies is: confidence.
From day one when David Cameron committed us to an ‘in or out’ referendum, confidence has been the key issue for business.
In my experience in Gloucestershire, few companies have had any confidence in the government’s secretive Brexit process and during the Prime Minister’s election campaign, it became no clearer at all.
And at the heart of the government’s poor showing in the election was that the British public rejected the Prime Minister’s hard-line focus on getting the best deal for Britain.
She failed with a lacklustre election campaign where she almost hid from real voters - as opposed to party activists. This was the case particularly when she made a whistle stop tour to Cheltenham this week.
Most voters did not understand her Brexit argument in my view. They were more interested in domestic matters like the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and the NHS.
By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn ran an old-fashioned people-focused election campaign meeting everyone he could possibly meet.
Despite his obvious political shortcomings and a vicious right-wing press campaign against him, his anti-austerity ticket resonated with the public - particularly young people.
Business has been largely ignored in the election campaign.
That has to change and quickly.
Whoever now leads the country has to understand that the whole Brexit process will not be successful unless companies are regarded as important passengers on the journey - they must not be left standing on the platform
“Gloucester is a city on the up and it is now really going places”, was the positive message to Gloucestershire business people.
Addressing a Business West networking breakfast of the Gloucester Chamber of Commerce, Marketing Gloucester’s chief executive, Jason Smith, said: “Gloucester is a city on the up. We are beginning to see a real sea change here—there are diggers everywhere”.
And the president of the Gloucester Chamber, Mark Boyce told the meeting: “Today is a good indication of the way Gloucester is growing and progressing. We are going places and you can see the momentum building.”
Jason Smith said an extra 1900 jobs had been created in the city over the last four and a half years from the tourism initiatives and events like the Tall Ships- created and run by Marketing Gloucester.
He added: “The city is holding its own in terms of retail footfall and our events have had a lot to do with that. Last year, we overtook Cheltenham with our number of tourists.
“Gloucester is now the premier tourist attraction in terms of the conurbations in this county. We can increase that by putting on more of these events and it is fact that tourism to the city has created an extra 1900 jobs in the last four and a half years”.
Jason said there had been great enthusiasm for the city’s BID (Business Improvement District) by companies in the city centre with over 700 interviews conducted to ask businesses what they would like to see happen over the next five years.
He told the breakfast at Bill’s in The Quays: “Gloucester is now recognised as the 11th most safe place in the country.
“It is the fourth in the country for the best type of customer service and the second friendliest city in the country.
“But it is number 1 according to a survey for community spirit, and that is indicative as to where Gloucester is at the moment”.
Voting by businesses in the city centre to secure the BID continues until the end of June. Jason said that the cash contributions by local businesses to become part of it could be as low as a decent cup of coffee a week.
“One of the things built into the BID business plan is for 200 hours a week of registered security guards on the streets of the city”, said Jason. ”They will have real powers to ensure we have safe streets.”
Mark Boyce said that his hundred Chamber of Commerce members were fully behind the BID, and that businesses joining would be offered free membership of the Chamber for a year.
He commented: “The initial scepticism has now faded away for the fiscal and social regeneration of Gloucester and we are only part of the way on our journey.
“The Chamber is fully supportive of the Gloucester BID. We see this as the next critical step in the development of our city centre”.
An emergency loan to Gloucestershire Airport, reported to be £750,000, has been agreed by co-owners Gloucester City Council and Cheltenham Borough Council. Gloucester City Council said that both councils are lending the money to support the airport’s business plan.
Keystone Law has been named “Best Legal Adviser” in Legal Week’s Best Legal Adviser Report.
Industry-leading publication, Legal Week canvassed the views, of around 800 clients, from 250 national law firms in which respondents were asked to rate the importance of and their own satisfaction levels, across a range of different areas. Keystone Law was the only business to receive a top ranking across all 11 categories, covering:
• Quality of legal advice
• Quality of service delivery
• Commercial approach and business understanding
• Communication and responsiveness
• Value for money
• Billing practice/transparency
• Partner level contact
• Alternative low cost centres
• Innovation overall
The firm has concentrated much of its recent expansion across South West and South Central England - hiring more than 10 lawyers across the region, in 2016 alone. Currently, there are over 20 senior practitioners serving the area, across a range of disciplines including banking and finance, corporate and commercial, construction and engineering, dispute resolution and employment.
Law firms which passed a certain participation and score threshold in the survey were awarded “Best Legal Adviser” status. Benchmarked against leading firms such as Allen & Overy, DLA Piper, Mischon De Reya and Eversheds, Keystone was commended particularly for its “clear, concise and pertinent advice” as well as “a quick understanding of the key problems and imaginative solutions”. The firm was also praised for its “City-quality, partner-level advice” and strong relationships based on a profound business understanding.
Managing Director James Knight outlines that: “From a client’s perspective…the service that they require is both flexible and agile. All clients benefit from that today and that is exactly what Keystone provides. It is with no small amount of pride that I thank everybody who participated in providing this astonishing feedback, it’s a real representation of a joint effort and collaboration of huge proportions.”
Gloucestershire based Consultant Solicitor for Keystone Law, Jon Close added: "Keystone Law allows us to spend more quality time with clients, resulting in a more responsive service than that which is often offered in a more traditional setting. The firm is structured so that we are dedicated, solely, to finding the best legal solutions to often complex, commercial situations. We work alongside clients in their own environment, on a face to face basis, so that they can always be sure of who they are dealing with and the service they are getting.”
For further information on working with Keystone Law please contact Jon Close
Supporting Cheltenham College’s expansion into new boarding house accommodation, lawyers from Harrison Clark Rickerbys have completed a multi-million pound deal to buy two Regency houses at nos 1 and 2 College Lawn for the school – the buildings and their annexe were owned by the Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.
The buildings will be fully refurbished and transformed into a state-of-the-art boarding house for the start of the new academic year in September, so the deal had to be completed in a very short timescale.
Mark Fabian, who led the transaction with colleagues Emme Raynsford and Ryan Stewart, said: “It was further complicated by a rights of way issue which had to be resolved to ensure pupil safety, and also because the College has to meet exacting governance standards. But I am delighted that we could support their plans and we look forward to seeing the refurbishment work completed.”
John Champion, Bursar for the College, said: “We look forward to being able to use the properties for the school’s benefit – as the address suggests, they are close to the rest of the college and will make excellent boarding accommodation. We have worked with Harrison Clark Rickerbys for some time now, and very much appreciate their attention to detail and highly professional approach.”
Harrison Clark Rickerbys has 420 staff and partners based at offices in Cheltenham , the Wye Valley, Hereford, Worcester, Birmingham and the Thames Valley, who provide a complete spectrum of legal services to both business and private clients, regionally and nationwide. The firm also has a number of highly successful teams specialising in individual market sectors, including health and social care, education, agricultural and rural affairs, defence, security and the forces, advanced manufacturing and construction .
For more details, visit www.hcrlaw.com
For more details on the new College Lawn Boarding House please see
From Kazakhstan to Korea, clever chemistry developed and engineered by Gloucester-based Advanced Insulation is being applied to new products which are keeping oil and gas pipelines, ships and oilrigs protected from the heat, cold — and attack by sledgehammer (of which more later).
Nothing can stop a new business thriving if it hits the market at the right time, with the right products driven by decisive leadership, even during a global recession.
The men who’ve steered Advanced Insulation from zero to superhero in less than ten years (annual turnover is now £58 million), are managing director Andrew Bennion and technical director, Simon Shepherd. Andrew and Simon met at Alderley Plc, another globally successful Gloucestershire company in the oil and gas sector headed up by Simon’s father Tony.
I met Andrew at Advanced Insulation’s factory at Quedgeley, Gloucester to find out more about the man behind the business.
Andrew graduated from Birmingham University as a chemical engineer. He took his first job at Monsanto’s Aspirin plant, North Wales so he could slalom canoe on the River Dee in his spare time. A move to the Laporte chemical company in Widnes saw him running several of the company’s sulphuric acid and effluent treatment plants. This sounds unenviable, but I clearly don’t appreciate the scientific achievements behind the processes. He also ran its power distribution plant and worked on processing edible oils and copier paper.
He moved to Alderley Plc and into general management. Here he completed an MBA at Henley Business School and became Alderley’s group finance director. In 2008 he and Simon completed a management buyout of the company subsidiary Alderley Materials and named the new company Advanced Insulation.
Investing to grow
The new company’s growth strategy was based on a commitment to research and development. “We’ve always invested around 10% of turnover in R&D,” explains Andrew. That’s a lot, and unusual for an industrial company where annual R&D investment usually averages around 2-3% of turnover.
Advanced Insulation’s core products are based on phenolic chemical compounds. A breakthrough in the company’s development came through collaboration with multinational energy company Statoil. Advanced Insulation adapted its formula for application on subsea structures at the oil producer’s North Sea Kristin plant. This opened up a rich new seam of business.
New grades of phenolic products were developed to meet the increasingly technical demands of the oil and gas sectors. Advanced Insulation then developed a new range of industrial insulation and protection jackets for large and complicated-shaped equipment such as valves. These removable fire protection covers are as efficient as bonded insulation materials.
Manufacturing across the globe
While the design and engineering of compounds and products is done largely at Advanced Insulation’s factory in Gloucester, the application of insulating material happens at the client’s site, and takes a great deal of skill.
“We do a lot of training because every skilled engineer must perform at their best in front of the client,” explains Andrew.
The manufacture of fire protection covers is also best done close to the end user, so the company established a manufacturing facility in Dubai. The facility now has around 75 employees and Advanced Insulation has since opened jacket manufacturing facilities in Kazakhstan, Korea, Brazil and closer to home, Nottingham (which supplies the company’s North Sea business).
Technology drives oil and gas development
It’s no secret that the oil and gas industry is having a tough time, so can Advanced Insulation’s success continue? “We believe the oil and gas market will come back,” says Andrew.
“Traditionally we focussed on upstream oil and gas because there were so many opportunities. Now we are diversifying into other areas such as sustainable energy, where our technology can be adapted to fit.”
And don’t write off the oil and gas industry yet, he warns. “There is less capital expenditure in oil and gas at the moment but we’ve lived through a number of cycles, though this is the longest. As technology evolves, oil fields can be developed in more hostile environments. Many of these fields are operating in extreme temperatures: hotter or sub-zero, so our new product innovations are ideal.”
Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation has won many awards. Half the weight of other insulation products, it can be applied to the underdeck of an oilrig. “Weight is a massive issue on oilrigs and MS400 is much more robust than a standard system of fibrous insulation held on by a stainless steel shell,” says Andrew. “Our product is bonded using the same glue used on A380 wings.”
Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation was so radical that one client, not believing its properties, took a sledgehammer to it.
That didn’t work. He had to resort to a hammer and chisel on the bonded product before he could chip anything off.
Where there’s a need, there’s a solution
Advanced Insulation’s growth through innovation is complemented by strategic acquisitions. In 2014 the company acquired Plymouth-based Manuplas, which develops polymers for the marine, offshore, renewable and leisure markets.
The following year the company purchased Nottingham-based Covertherm to manufacture insulating jackets for use in the North Sea.
From £3 million turnover in 2009 to £58 million in 2017, what continues to motivate him? “I get huge satisfaction when a decision goes well. When I see our success, I see the individuals involved and how they’ve developed and taken ownership of projects.”
Andrew has an unshakeable belief that if his sales team can identify a need, Advanced Insulation can provide the solution. “We are best at adapting core chemistries to solve new and existing problems.”
Advanced Insulation is going to need a bigger awards cabinet. Added to its Queen’s Awards for Innovation and International Trade, it’s won many awards from respected engineering and manufacturing support organisations and was ranked 30th in the seventh annual Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. Track 200 ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales.
Quick Facts on Advanced Insulation
Advanced Insulation is one of the region’s fastest growing companies. It designs and engineers insulation and fire protection products and systems. The company has worked primarily in the offshore oil and gas subsea sector, but is expanding fast into sectors such as marine and wind energy. Operating globally, the company has recently secured its first contract in China.
Head Office: Gloucester
Group Revenue: £58 million
4 Facts on Andrew Bennion
1. Studied chemical engineering at university (little known fact: so did Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Bob Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex)
2. Former slalom canoeist. Now a cyclist
3. Has competed in the world’s largest cycle race, the Argus Cycle Tour, in South Africa
4. Has no excuse for being late for work. He lives 10 minutes away from Advanced Insulation HQ, Gloucester
A Cheltenham-based charity, that has Prince Harry as its patron, has appointed national audit, tax and advisory firm Crowe Clark Whitehill as its auditors and advisors.
WellChild is the UK charity for seriously ill children which aims to help them get out of hospital and back to their families, wherever possible.
Crowe partner Guy Biggin, who has extensive experience advising the charity and education sectors, said: “More than 100,000 children and young people are living with serious illness or exceptional health needs across the UK.
“Many spend months, even years, in hospital simply because there is no support enabling them to leave.”
Colin Dyer, WellChild’s CEO, said: “Our vision is for these children and young people to have the best chance to thrive – at home, with their families, wherever possible.”
WellChild provides essential and practical support to ensure that the increasing number of seriously ill children and young people in the UK have the best possible quality of care.
The charity provides a team of WellChild Children’s Nurses who work with families to ensure that children with complex care needs can leave hospital and return home. Its Helping Hands scheme also enlists the support of volunteers to tackle practical projects in the homes of sick children.
In addition, the charity has invested more than £20 million in ground-breaking children's health research projects.
The charity also runs the annual WellChild Awards that celebrate the inspirational qualities of the UK’s seriously ill children and young people, along with the dedicated professionals who go that extra mile to make a difference to their lives.
WellChild Director of Operations, Vanessa Snell said they chose Crowe Clark Whitehill as their new advisors because they recognised the firm’s national reputation and expertise in the non profit sector.
“We felt that Guy Biggin and Hannah Wood had an incredible depth of knowledge and really understood the charity sector.
“They were proactive, personable and really care about the work that WellChild does.
“We felt they were the right partners to help us take WellChild on to the next level,” she said.
One of Gloucestershire's leading law firms, Willans LLP, is toasting its 70th anniversary this April.
The firm, established by Alec Willans in 1947, now employs around 75 people and spans four buildings on Imperial Square.
Willans has a campaign of activities planned during 2017 to mark the milestone, including a birthday party, ongoing sponsorships of county events such as Gloucestershire Business Awards and Cheltenham Festivals and fundraising initiatives for its local chosen charity of the year, The Nelson Trust.
The firm is also supporting the next generation of lawyers by partnering with the University of Gloucestershire's law school to provide mentoring and coaching.
Managing partner Bridget Redmond commented: “We’re immensely proud to be celebrating Willans’ 70th anniversary. The firm today is very much the product of the hard work, professionalism and business acumen of the many partners and staff who have been involved with the firm during its 70 years.”
“We are better equipped than ever to look after our clients, their businesses and their evolving and complex needs. We have grown to a size that has enabled us to develop real depth of expertise in specialist areas including intellectual property and renewable energy, areas of specialism that Alec Willans wouldn’t have dreamed of back in 1947! Yet we are still committed to providing great, personal service to individuals, helping them with their wills or conveyancing, just as he would have done.”
The Lexcel-accredited firm is commended in prestigious legal guides, Chambers and Legal 500 , as are a number of its lawyers. Today Willans’ multi-disciplinary team provides a range of services to clients, from wills, family law and conveyancing through to commercial matters, litigation, property and employment.