b1275: Tue 11th Mar 2008

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The News

Small Matters

Business Events

Job Market

And Finally

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The News

Darling should fuel economic prosperity

North East businesses have called on Chancellor Alistair Darling to ‘guillotine' two tax proposals that would have a negative impact on the economy. The North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) has written to the Treasury outlining measures it believes should be adopted in this Wednesday's Budget to maintain economic stability and strong growth.

One of the prime points for reconsideration is the proposed 2p hike in fuel duty due to come into force in April. NECC has also urged a re-think on plans to increase tax on properties that remain vacant for a period of time.

James Ramsbotham, NECC chief executive, said: "With petrol prices at the pump soaring beyond the £1 per litre mark, an additional increase in duty is seen to be potentially one of the most damaging moves the Government could make in the current, fragile economic climate. NECC is also concerned that the Chancellor will implement plans to cut the relief on empty commercial property rates. This is based on the, often wrong, assumption that landlords are purposefully leaving some buildings vacant.

"Both of these taxes face causing considerable damage to the North East economy if implemented. Cutting the empty property rate relief will put a brake on speculative property development which in turn will shackle expansion in our region."

NECC's submission also points out to the Treasury that speculative commercial property development is essential. It states: "Making the region a more attractive location for companies is seen as a crucial part of this. If the increased risks associated with reform to empty property rate relief tip the balance against marginal developments, the impact on the North East economy will be damaging."

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Huge export boost for North East

Statistics released by HM Revenue & Customs this week show a huge leap in exports from North East England, with the region exporting more than £1bn more than it did the previous year. The total value of exports from the region rose by 13% from £8.5bn in 2006 to £9.5bn in 2007, which has bucked the national trend with total UK exports falling 10% from £244bn to £219bn.

David Coppock, international trade director for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in the North East said: "Clearly 2007 was a very tough year for exporters around the UK and against that background the increase in export value recorded in the North East reflects huge credit on those companies in the region doing international business."

The region's continued growth in the automotive and process industry sectors has been cited as a major factor in the rise in exports. The best performing sectors in 2007 were road vehicles (up 38% on 2006) and medicinal and pharmaceutical products (up 45%).

Ian Williams, One NorthEast director for business and industry, said: "This report is further evidence of the growing strength of the North East economy, which has outstripped UK average annual growth for the past three years. "The sectors that provide the most exports for the region are in automotive, biotech and pharmaceutical with all performing exceptionally well. The recent fantastic announcement that Nissan is to create a further 800 jobs is further proof that the North East is performing well. Today's HMRC figures reflect the buoyancy of the regional economy."

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Grant magnifies prospects for Durham firm

A Durham-based company has been awarded a grant to help develop new technology for the nanotechnology sector. Durham Photonics, developers of advanced imaging software in biomedicine and bioscience, has secured a £95,000 grant for research and development with support from Cenamps, the centre of excellence for emerging technologies.

The grant, awarded by One NorthEast for research and development, will enable the company to recruit a full time scientific team as well as to begin feasibility studies on new imaging systems.

Durham Photonics was established in June 2007 and is based in Durham University's laboratories and Enterprise Incubator. Its first product, a terahertz microscope -the first of its kind to reach market - will enable applications in bio- and nanomedicine and will launch late this year.

Dr Amanda McMurray, managing director at Durham Photonics, said: "This grant will enable us to further our development through additional research and to recruit new expertise. "Cenamps has supported the company since foundation and we continue to benefit from their input as well as that of other stakeholders. Outside investment remains imperative if we are to continue to excel in such an innovative field."

Durham Photonics has benefited from Cenamps' BioNano Regional Research Programme, which funded research in the Photonics Materials Institute that underpinned the Terahertz microscope.

Mike Pitkethly, CEO at Cenamps, said: "The continued development of the Terahertz microscope in Durham Photonics has been a great success. It is innovation such as this that enables the North East to continue growing, exporting and commercialising bio and nano research, and attracting technical expertise to live and work in the region."

For more information on Durham Photonics, visit www.durhamphotonics.com.

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Artwork to welcome new premises

Newcastle Building Society is marking its imminent move into new office premises by commissioning a selection of local artists to design a range of artworks for the new building. The Newcastle has recently taken on a new four-storey building at Cobalt Business Park in North Tyneside, where up to 500 of its employees will eventually be based.

A range of commissions has been developed by the Society in conjunction with the Sponsors Club for Arts & Business. The chosen artists would work with staff to develop a proposal for staff input into ongoing management of the Cobalt's café gallery space. Space in the new building has been set aside for use by an artist in residence working in the summer.

Gillian Tiplady, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at Newcastle Building Society, said: "Our region is home to an amazing range of diverse artistic talent, whether established or up-and-coming, and it's rare that the opportunity arises for them to put forward their ideas for a space of this size and type, within which the possibilities are almost limitless.

"The pieces that are commissioned will be a central part of the celebrations to mark Cobalt's official opening later in the year, and we're very excited to see the ideas that our artists put forward."

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Small business offered advice over breakfast

Small businesses will be offered financial advice at a breakfast event at Lumley Castle next week. The event is being hosted by healthcare growth body Cels, and aims toprovide small businesses with information about accessing different sources of finance for their company.

The workshop will feature speakers from a variety of funding organisations and will be chaired by David Blain of Blain Associates, who has successfully floated two companies on AIM and the London Stock Exchange. David said: "I want to show local companies that there is so much scope and opportunity in terms of business finance. Whatever industry sector you operate in, attending this event will open your eyes to the wealth of prospects available."

Also speaking at the event is Marian Bernard, CEO of NorthStar Equity Investors who will talk about their Proof of Concept, Co-Investment & Three Pillars Funds and how these can be accessed. There will also be representatives from the Business Investors Group (BiG) and UNW Accountants, who will provide information about equity finance and corporate finance. Attendees will have the opportunity to talk to speakers and set up individual meetings at the end of the session.

The event takes place at Lumley Castle on 19 March. For more information visit www.celsatlife.com/accesstofinance.

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Debt freedom taking longer

People in Britain have had to work for an average of 70 days this year just to earn the money they need to pay interest on their credit card and loan debt, according to figures released yesterday. All the money the average person earns during this time goes towards servicing debt, without even reducing the amount they owe, says independent financial adviser website Unbiased.co.uk.

Unbiased heralded Monday 10 March as Debt Freedom Day, the day when the average British individual's debt would be paid off. This is an increase from last year, when Debt Freedom Day was 1 February 2007, meaning only 31 days were spent working off debts.

This was driven by a 10% increase in personal debt levels during the past year, while the interest people are charged on their borrowings rose by 6%. The amount people owed on personal loans jumped to £9.8bn this year, compared with £2.6bn in 2007.

David Elms, Chief Executive of Unbiased.co.uk, said: "This year's Debt Freedom Day is a real warning for UK consumers - as it marks the day we start paying off the actual debt levels rather than merely servicing the interest accrued. Compared to last year we spend almost two months longer this year to pay off the interest of our borrowings and this doesn't event take into account mortgage costs.

"While Debt Freedom Day is of course a hypothetical point in the financial calendar, people should pay attention to it. In the current economic client is has never been more important for people to realise just how much it costs to service their debts and to ensure they have adequate funds available to do so."

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Small Matters

Don't let your business fall behind

With Suzanne McCreedy of Business Link

6 April 2008 is an important date in the financial calendar. It represents the Government's next common commencement date (CCD), when a number of key departments will issue changes to UK business regulations. CCDs occur twice a year and provide a perfect opportunity to prepare your business for the implementation of any changes needed to comply with any of the new and changing regulations that may affect your company.

What you may not be aware of, however, is that Business Link has a section of its website dedicated to keeping business owners up to date with all the latest CCD regulation changes in one place.

Being aware of any upcoming changes can help to save your business money. Your company could be entitled to benefits or, if you fail to comply with new regulations, could end up paying out penalty fines.

For example, the Companies Act 2006 will reduce the burden on private companies in April. It will no longer be a requirement to appoint a company secretary and executing deeds will not need to have the signature of two directors - one director's signature before a witness will suffice. Another change this year will affect business-to-business marketing, which will be regulated on a far tighter scale and misleading advertising will be made unlawful for the first time - with comparative advertising placed under increased scrutiny.

To save you time the Business Link website contains a regularly updated CCD summary page, which contains further details on the changes mentioned here and other new business regulations coming into effect next month.

The next CCD after 6 April will take place on 1 October 2008, but if you want Government regulatory news sent direct to your desktop throughout the year you can sign up for Business Link's regulation email alert service. Of course, if you need any impartial advice about how the forthcoming CCD regulation changes will affect your business you can get in touch with Business Link to find out more on 0845 600 9 006.

Business Link's substantial team of expert brokers operate across the region in local access points and on a mobile basis. For further information about Business Link visit www.businesslinknortheast.co.uk or call 0845 600 9 006.

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Business Events

Sunderland Business Network Launch

Venue Evolve Business Centre, Rainton Bridge Business Park
Date Tue, 18 Mar 2008 - Tue, 18 Mar 2008
Time 18:00 - 21:00
Cost Free

Sunderland Business Network aims to facilitate a vibrant business-to-business self-help network, providing opportunities for members to expand their network of contacts, develop skills, and access useful information and advice.

Alex Scullion, regional entrepreneur and Managing Director of Alex Scullion Electrical Group, will be guest speaker at the event.

Businesses who wish to attend should call 0191 387 1924, or visit www.sunderlandbusinessnetwork.co.uk for more information.

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Tackling HR Challenges in 2008

Venue Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham
Date Mon, 31 Mar 2008 - Mon, 31 Mar 2008
Time 09:00 - 11:30
Cost £20 + VAT

The uncertain economy of 2008 is creating considerable challenges for business owners and professionals in HR, training and organisational development. Attracting and retaining the best possible staff is an increasingly challenging activity and the requirement for existing staff to perform to the highest possible standards is becoming a more and more crucial agenda item. Additionally, managing redundancy effectively is liable to be a feature of 2008.

In response to this issue, Drummond and Company are holding a ‘Sharing Workshop' on attracting the best talent and maximising employee performance.

The following topics will be covered:

  • Latest developments in psychometric testing.
  • Effective recruiting in difficult market conditions.
  • Benefits of bespoke assessment centres.
  • The true value of 360º feedback in performance management.
  • The power of coaching.
  • Managing redundancy effectively

The workshop will give you a unique opportunity to share your experiences with like minded people from a wide variety of organisations both in the public and private sectors and also gain insight and expertise from our wealth of experience.

To book your place please email Helena or phone Helena Marley on 0191 239 9191.

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Job Market

Communications Manager

Salary Circa £35k

The Organisation: We are one of the longest established Enterprise Agencies in the country, set up almost 25 years ago to influence the pace of change in business development and entrepreneurship. Commercially focussed and driven by results, more than anything we want to make a positive impact on the sustainability and prosperity of our customers and our communities. The recent appointment of a new Chair and a new Chief Executive has brought critical focus to our strategic direction and our drive for growth. Our merger with Service Network in December 2007 is a major part of our vision to deliver added value to our private sector customer base.

This role is responsible for taking the Service Network brand and membership to new self-defining levels in support of One NorthEast's drive to enhance the productivity and contribution of the Knowledge Intensive Business sector in the region.

Please click on the following links for futher details.

Communications Manager information

Communications Manager Job Spec

For further discussion about this opportunity, please contact Nigel Smith, Financial Solutions Manager on 0191 244 4011.

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And Finally

DJ's radio ga ga

A radio DJ chatted away for an hour without realising he had forgotten to press the broadcast button. Radio Teesside's Andy Greener was effectively talking to himself while his listeners heard a back-up tape of music and jingles.

Mr Greener's witty banter, chat about the news and crucial weather update disappeared into the ether, reports the Daily Telegraph. Meanwhile, station boss Peter Dixon, listening at home, was trying desperately to alert the presenter on the phone.

Eventually, Mr Dixon got through and only then did the DJ realise the on-air light in the studio was not on. He took a couple of minutes to compose himself, before pressing the right button and start broadcasting once again.

Mr Greener told the Northern Echo: "I thought the show would be going down well. The studio phone kept ringing, but I was too busy talking to answer. I now know that some of the calls were from people pointing out the blunder."

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