Colors: Purple Color

Kinaxia Logistics has recruited a business development manager for the Midlands region to help drive further expansion for the group. Stuart Arms has joined Kinaxia to bring new opportunities for the group’s operations across the region which comprise Panic Transport in Clifton upon Dunsmore, AKW Global Logistics Birmingham and Maidens in Telford.

Stuart previously spent five years at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, starting as a graduate junior account manager and progressing to become a key account manager. His role at Kinaxia involves helping to win new business for the group’s key product portfolio which includes co-packing, general haulage, warehousing, line haul and e-fulfilment, and to help identify growth opportunities with existing clients.

Kinaxia is a national group comprising 13 freight and logistics businesses across the UK with over 1,600 staff and more than 800 vehicles. The group, which has remained operational throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, has two million sq ft of warehouse facilities nationwide, offering contract packing, e-fulfilment, returns management and storage services. It has seen significant and continued growth over recent years, with annual revenues now approaching £200m.

Stuart said: “I’m thrilled to join Kinaxia at a time when the company is making real strides. I look forward to playing my part as we continue to grow and evolve, and hope to make a real difference.” Kinaxia was recently recognised as one of Britain’s leading mid-market private companies with its inclusion in the 16th annual Sunday Times PwC Top Track 250 league table, based on sales.

Group sales and marketing director Vanessa Hope said: “I’m delighted to welcome Stuart to the company in a newly-created role. He joins Kinaxia at a very exciting stage of our journey as we look to win new clients in the Midlands and growth opportunities within our existing client base.”

It has been announced that the chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), Paul Faulkner, is leaving his position and will take up a new role as chief of staff and operations within the group of businesses owned by the Richardson family.  

GBCC chair David Waller wished Mr Faulkner “every success” in his new career and added: “I am sure that you will join me in giving Paul our heartfelt thanks for all of the work and leadership he has given to the Chamber over the past six years.

“I am naturally very saddened that he has decided to leave our family but I thoroughly understand his reasons. Paul will remain as CEO of the Chamber for the coming months and I have asked him to work closely with me to help to ensure a smooth and effective transition with his successor.”

Mr Faulkner (pictured), who is a former chief executive of Aston Villa FC and Nottingham Forest, recently led the successful sale of Chamber of Commerce House to Mercia Real Estate for £4.75 million in a move that secures the Chamber’s long-term future. He said: “I’m very sad to be leaving the brilliant team at the Chamber, although equally excited by this next chapter in my own career. As a business support organisation the Chamber is absolutely second to none, and I am proud to have led its development since June, 2015, working alongside a host of fantastic individuals.

“The Chamber has led the way in supporting our members through some challenging times recently, not the least of which are the struggles all businesses are experiencing in the Covid-19 crisis. We have influenced government and council policies to the benefit of all businesses and supported them as we went through the agonising process of leaving the European Union.

“Throughout, we have managed to maintain membership levels, all supported by a tremendous team at the Chamber. This really is testament to the expertise and enthusiasm of a diverse group of people dedicated to promoting and protecting the cause of business locally, nationally and globally.

“And in doing so, the Chamber has in turn received tremendous support from our members, who have played their part in helping us to formulate these policies as well as enthusiastically engaging in the huge programme of Chamber events and activities that have taken place despite all the Covid-19 restrictions.”

The Richardson family business was founded by Roy Richardson and his late brother Don more than 70 years ago in Oldbury. The family now operate international real estate and private equity businesses, with these having being successfully run for the past 20 years by brothers Martyn, Lee and Carl Richardson, who said: “We are always looking to work with excellent people to further expand our family interests, Paul more than fits that bill. We are very pleased to welcome him on board as part of the senior team.”

Mr Faulkner added:  “I’m delighted and humbled to have the opportunity to take up this new position with the Richardson family business. While the role will be multi-faceted, I’m especially excited to use my knowledge, understanding and contacts within the regional business community to help identify locally based businesses that the Richardson’s family business may be able to partner with in order to help them develop, grow and ultimately fulfil their full potential. 

“I’ve long championed and believed that the West Midland’s business community contains some of the most entrepreneurial and innovative businesses in the world, and this will be an exciting opportunity to explore that further. The reputation of the Richardson family in the business community is second to none.  The evolution of their business interests from a West Midlands base established over 70 years ago into a leader in real estate and growth capital with a portfolio that is embedded all over the world is truly inspirational. I am looking forward to playing my part in an exciting new chapter for the business.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Chamber.  It’s a wonderful organisation that plays a critical role in supporting businesses and the regional economy, and I am pleased the Richardson family will continue to support the Chamber in a variety of ways going forward.”

Since Mr Faulkner took up his appointment, the Chamber has seen significant growth in membership – now representing nearly 3,500 regional businesses – and strengthened its position as the leading independent support and voice for business in the area. Over the past six years many issues have been taken up successfully by the Chamber, the most recent during the Covid-19 pandemic when campaigns like “Keep Business Moving” and the “Mind the Gap” report contributed to significant changes in government policy.

There has also been a widespread programme to help businesses, especially exporters, understand and cope with the changes brought about by Brexit over the past five years. In this new role, Mr Faulkner will lead on all operational matters for the Richardson organisation across the Midlands, as it seeks out new investment opportunities in dynamic and ambitious businesses.

The appointment underscores the ongoing commitment of the Richardson family to the West Midlands, at a time when it is also continuing to develop its business portfolio across the world. Mr Faulkner oversaw the launch of the Greater Birmingham Commonwealth Chamber in 2017 as the region geared up to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022. In 2018 the Chamber’s growth and development was recognised when it was awarded the British Chambers Award for Excellence in Membership Services.

A history graduate from Cambridge University, Mr Faulkner began his career at MBNA Bank, completing the Bank’s Graduate Management Scheme and working in a variety of roles across the organisation in both the UK and the US. Following a period working as a consultant for Michael Page, he returned to the US in 2005 working for Brooklyn NY Holdings, a private family office of the Lerner family. In 2006 he was an integral part of Randy Lerner’s purchase of Aston Villa, and relocated to Birmingham to work at the club, initially as COO and then as CEO from 2010 to 2014.

Paul is a Trustee of Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital Charity, Cure Leukaemia and the City of Birmingham Rockets Basketball club.  He is also Chairman of Sport Birmingham, and vice-chair of performance Birmingham Limited (PBL) which operates the Town Hall and Symphony Hall in the city, and a Board member of Culture Central. He lives in Sutton Coldfield and is married with two young sons.

Business owners from across the Black Country and Shropshire are being offered free expert support to help them get through the latest lockdown. Multi-award-winning business coach, Andy Hemming, is offering free sessions to SME owners in an attempt to help boost the region’s business community. 

Mr Hemming, who runs ActionCOACH Black Country, says despite the lockdown, there’s still many things people could be doing to secure the future of their businesses - and it’s vital people act sooner rather than later. 

“It’s true that some sectors have been hit harder by the pandemic and will be suffering again because of the latest lockdown,” said Mr Hemming. “There are still things that business owners can do, but it can be hard for them to see the big picture while they’re in the middle of it. The situation we’re currently in means everything gets amplified – if you’re a procrastinator you will procrastinate more, if you’ve already got dramas in the business they will be magnified. Those who act now have a greater chance of coming through it stronger. 

“We’re able to work with businesses by bringing objectivity to the table and stripping the emotion out of the decision-making processes, and that’s something business owners often aren’t able to do.” 

Mr Hemming, who has been consistently placed in the top 10 Action Coaches in the world since 2014, says he speaks from a position of experience - which is why he’s keen to help others avoid making the same business mistakes.

“I’ve been there in the recession of 2008, I lost my head and my business nearly went bust. I know what it’s like to panic and not know what to do. I understand what it’s like to be in pain and watching money draining out of the bank account, not knowing what to do about it.” Mr Hemming’s fellow business coach, Lewis Hayden, said he had also been in a similar position before receiving help from Andy.

Mr Hayden said: “I first met Andy at a really tough time for our family business back in 2012.

“Following a difficult period of trading we were approaching the point where dissolving the company was looking like the only option. Thanks to Andy’s help and support we were able to turn it around, with the business now having a healthy turnover of £3m and employing 22 people.” Mr Hemming said this was why he and Lewis were both passionate about helping as many business owners as possible. I’m passionate about supporting SMEs because they are the backbone of the economy. They are often very good at what they do but don’t know how to run a business. I want to give my knowledge away to strengthen that local SME community.” 

ActionCOACH Black Country has a proven track record of helping people to grow their businesses, improving efficiency and  increasing profitability and turnover through business coaching. 

“Last year, as a business, we managed to achieve double-digit growth, despite the pandemic. We kept almost all of our clients and added new ones, and all of them increased their profit and turnover. I think that speaks volumes. Opportunities are still out there and I’d urge anyone who’s struggling to pick up the phone to see how we can help,” added Mr Hemming. 

Warwickshire Police’s plan to replace more than 80 police staff with officers will undermine the service provided to the public and isn’t value for money, says UNISON.  The union’s West Midlands regional organiser Charlie Sarell and branch secretary Paul Edwards recently met with Chief Constable Martin Jelley to discuss alternatives to the redundancies. 

However, few of the union's suggestions have been adopted, says UNISON, which is continuing working with the force to avoid the job losses. The police staff the force plans to replace have more than 50 years’ combined experience in dealing with sensitive cases, such as those involving domestic violence. Many are qualified to degree level in relevant subjects such as criminology and youth justice, according to UNISON.  

The union says Warwickshire Police’s plan will not mean more police out patrolling the streets. Instead, these additional officers* will be doing the same jobs previously carried out by police staff. UNISON is urging local MPs and Warwickshire police and crime commissioner Philip Seccombe to back its call for the force to receive extra funding.  

UNISON West Midlands regional organiser Charlie Sarell said: “These proposed redundancies will damage the service provided to the public. The wealth of experience these police staff bring to their jobs will be lost. The move also won’t result in more officers out on the streets of Warwickshire.  

“UNISON will continue to campaign on behalf of police staff and the public to stop these redundancies going ahead.”  

Average house prices in Liverpool are up 15.1% since the start of the year, making it the UK’s top property hotspot in 2020, according to Land Registry data analysed by Movewise, the multi-agent property seller. Movewise.co.uk analysed the latest Land Registry house price data, published this week, to identify the UK’s house price winners and losers of 2020, comparing average prices at the start of the year to October 2020, across more than 100 major UK towns and cities.

Property prices in Liverpool have risen by almost £20,000 in 2020 to October, from £130,224 to £149,938. Only two other major UK towns have seen double digit house price growth this year - Slough (11.8%) and Worcester (10.0%). The impact of lockdown and the desire for outside space, plus a growing trend towards working from home, has seen an exodus from London. This is reflected in strong house price growth in major towns more than an hour away from the capital, that offer a better quality of life as well as easy access to London when needed.

Cheltenham, Winchester and Bath fall into this category, and have all benefited from buyers re-evaluating what they want from a home. Average house prices in these areas have all increased more than 8% in 2020. In the UK’s biggest cities, house price growth has been more subdued, with property prices up 2.5% in London and Birmingham, and 3% in Manchester, in 2020 to October. This is just below average house price growth for the whole of the UK, with prices increasing from £251,711 to £262,175 or 4.2% over the same period.

Surprisingly, only four major towns - Hartlepool, Aberdeen, Luton and Basingstoke - have experienced negative price growth in 2020, with Hartlepool rooted at the bottom, as property prices fell 6.5% during the year to October. In Scotland, the biggest loser is Aberdeen where house prices are down almost £7,000 or 4.7% in 2020 to October. In comparison, prices are up 7.9% in Glasgow and 6.9% in Dundee. In Wales, the biggest winner is Newport where average house prices are up almost £15,000 or 8.1% in 2020 to October. House prices are up just 1.8% in Swansea.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that everyone in England must stay at home except for permitted reasons during a new coronavirus lockdown expected to last until mid-February. All schools and colleges will close to most pupils and switch to remote learning from today.

Mr Johnson urged people to follow the rules immediately amid surging cases and patient numbers. He said those in the top four priority groups would receive a first vaccine dose by the middle of next month.

Speaking from Downing Street, Mr Johnson said all the new measures would last until at least the middle of February. He said the weeks ahead would be the "hardest yet" as a new more infectious variant of the virus spreads across the UK.

The Prime Minister added that he believed the country was entering "the last phase of the struggle". And he reiterated the slogan used earlier in the pandemic, urging people to "stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives".

Scotland earlier issued a stay-at-home order and joined Wales in closing classrooms for most pupils. Northern Ireland's Stormont Executive is also meeting to discuss possible new measures. The UK has recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh day in a row.

A further 58,784 cases and an additional 407 deaths within 28 days of a positive test result were reported, though deaths in Scotland were not recorded. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be contacted by letter and should now shield once more, Mr Johnson said.

Support and childcare bubbles will continue under the new measures - and people can meet one person from another household for outdoor exercise. Communal worship and life events like funerals and weddings can continue, subject to limits on attendance.

While the PM said end-of-year exams would not take place as normal in the summer, he said alternative arrangements would be announced separately. The government has published a 22-page document outlining the new rules in detail.

The House of Commons has been recalled to allow MPs to vote on the new restrictions. The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that his MPs would "support the package of measures", saying "we've all got to pull together now to make this work".

The Government’s Help to Buy scheme, designed to help first-time buyers on to the property ladder, is changing soon, offering fresh opportunities to would-be home buyers in Birmingham, says Persimmon Homes.

Introduced in 2013, Help to Buy enabled purchasers to put down just a 5% deposit on a newly-built home, with up to 20% of the full cost of the home being funded by a shared equity loan, which is interest-free for the first five years.

Originally aimed at both first-time buyers and existing homeowners, the new equity loan scheme will be limited to those new to the housing market from April 2021.

Neil Williams, managing direct of Persimmon Homes Central, said: “Starting on 1 April next year, the new Help to Buy programme lets eligible first-time buyers in this area borrow up to 20% of the cost of a new Persimmon home from the Government. This applies to new homes up to £255,600 in value on many of our developments.

“At Persimmon we are registered for the new scheme and believe it can bring home ownership within the reach of thousands who may otherwise have struggled, especially after the unique circumstances we’ve all faced over the past year.

“Across the UK, Help to Buy has already helped more than 270,000 into home ownership, of which four-in-five are first-time buyers. The revised scheme aims to build further on this success.”

 

How Help to Buy works:

·         You pay a deposit of 5% of the purchase price of your new home when contracts are exchanged

·         You take out a repayment mortgage of at least 25% of the purchase price of your new home

·         You are not charged interest on the loan for the first five years

·         Interest fees start at 1.75% and rise each year in April by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 2%

·         You pay a monthly management fee of £1 for the life of the equity loan

·         The equity loan is secured against your property in the same way as a repayment mortgage. You must repay the equity loan when you sell the home, pay off your repayment mortgage or reach the end of your equity loan term. But, you can repay all or part of the equity loan any time before then

·         Buyers can apply for a Help to Buy: Equity Loan from 16 December 2020

  

Persimmon Homes operates new build homes developments at more than 380 sites across England, Scotland and Wales. The company is currently rated four stars in the Home Builders Federation (HBF) rating system.

To poorly paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of the office are greatly exaggerated but at the end of 2020 when ‘Zoom’ and ‘remote’ appear in the list of words of the year, there are few who think everyone will return to working exactly as we all did twelve months ago.

Colmore Business Improvement District (Colmore BID) is leading a unique study on The Future Business District to inform its response to long term recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and to offer policy directions on best practice for this and other central business districts in the UK.

The Study will have a strong emphasis on place, not just on the future of office working, but where workplaces co-locate and the important linkages with recovery of the High Street, city living, and the future of our cultural institutions, as well as the transport, air quality and climate challenges cities face.

Colmore BID is curating the study in partnership with Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority. The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and neighbouring city centre BIDs – Westside, Retail, Jewellery Quarter and Southside – are also supporting the Study. City-REDI at the University of Birmingham has been appointed as lead Research Partner. It will work alongside the Office of Data Analytics at the West Midlands Combined Authority to undertake the major research programme. Support will also come from UK Research and Innovation and the Centre for Cities think tank.

The Study will adopt a commission style approach with an independent Advisory Panel being established to provide expert guidance to Colmore BID and the project team. Colmore BID director Mike Best, Senior Director at national planning consultancy Turley, developed the Study with Kevin Johnson of Birmingham-based strategic communications firm Urban Communications. Mike will chair its Working Group overseeing the Study whilst Kevin will serve as Project Director. The project will review data and trends along with existing literature and commentary as well as undertaking primary research through interviews, surveys, workshops and a Call for Evidence, ensuring the Study engages a wide audience and produces an independent, evidence-based report.

Mike Best, director at Colmore BID, commented: “The central business district is facing a potential existential crisis because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The future for offices and city centres has been the subject of lively debate since the first lockdown in March 2020. Much has focussed on remote working and the extent to which this may be a long-term behavioural shift.

“Less well debated is the future of business districts themselves – the places where offices locate together with the supporting infrastructure of business networking, conferencing, hotels, retail, hospitality and cultural attractions and in close proximity to town halls and the corridors of power.

“These areas of our major city centres should be considered as having a value beyond their rents or supplying customers to coffee shops and after work bars. They are an ecosystem of large corporates, SMEs and small independent businesses that have historically thrived by each other. The questions now are what is the future role of business districts and how can we ensure they remain successful as places to connect people and businesses?”

The Study will set out to answer two key questions:

 

·         What is the likely long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on city centre business districts?

·         How can we ensure they remain successful as places to attract businesses and people and contribute to vibrant city centres?

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Business improvement districts have been a key part of the success of town and city centres in the West Midlands, and they must continue to be so as we move out of the pandemic and look to recovery economically. This study is a great way to work out what this future may look like for BIDs, and I am pleased the WMCA could lend its hand to the study through our Office of Data Analytics.”

Councillor Brigid Jones, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council said: “The repercussions of the global pandemic and the way in which businesses have had to adapt are unlike anything we have experienced in modern history. We fully support the work being undertaken by Colmore BID to ascertain the long-term impact of Covid on our city centres and what steps need to be taken to protect and preserve their future.”

Professor Simon Collinson, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement and the Director of City-REDI / WM REDI, University of Birmingham, commented: “As we look ahead to recovery, from an unprecedented series of shocks to our economy, society and communities, we need a combined effort to rebuild the regional economic growth momentum. So many businesses, jobs and households depend on a thriving central business district and these have been hit hardest by this year’s events.

“This is why we are so pleased at City-REDI to be appointed as lead Research Partner in this critical project to understand the impacts on our city centres and work with other stakeholders to help rebuild these economic engines. City-REDI is part of a great civic institution which has stepped up its efforts across many fronts to support the city-region in difficult times.“The University of Birmingham is also at the forefront of healthcare innovations which are essential to our current recovery and will improve our resilience in the face of future pandemics.”

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: “City centres are just 0.1 per cent of the UK’s land but are central both to urban life and the national economy. They are where we come together to work, shop and play but the pandemic has put paid to much of that.

“This year will be make or break for their future with implications for how we live and do business in the longer term, so we are delighted to be supporting Colmore BID on the future of central business districts.”

A dedicated website for the Study is launched in this month at www.futurebusinessdistrict.co.uk.

It will contain details of how people can engage with the Study, including how to respond to a Call for Evidence.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will urge MPs to "open a new chapter in our national story" by backing his post-Brexit trade deal with the EU in a Commons vote today. Parliament is being recalled to put the deal into law, a day before the UK severs ties with the European Union.

In a speech to MPs, the prime minister will say the deal - agreed on Christmas Eve - allows the UK to take "control of our laws and our national destiny".

But he will also stress the UK intends to be the EU's "best friend and ally".

The deal hammered out with Brussels over nine tortuous months sets out a new business and security relationship between the UK and its biggest trading partner. The EU (future relationship) Bill - which puts it into UK law - is expected to receive the backing of Parliament, thanks to Mr Johnson's large Commons majority and the support of the opposition Labour Party.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - who campaigned against Brexit - has said the "thin" agreement does not do enough to protect jobs, the environment and workers' rights. But - despite objections from leading members of his own party - he will order his MPs to vote for it, as the only alternative at this stage would be a no-deal exit, which he argues would be even more damaging to the UK economy. All other opposition parties, including the SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and all Northern Ireland parties that take seats at Westminster, have indicated they will be voting against the deal. But the prime minister received a boost from a powerful group of backbench Tory Brexiteers and serial rebels, who have indicated they will back the deal.

The European Research Group (ERG) said it had examined the text in detail and concluded that it "preserves the UK's sovereignty as a matter of law". In a speech opening five hours of Commons debate, Mr Johnson is expected to say: "The central purpose of this bill is to accomplish something which the British people always knew in their hearts could be done, but which we were told was impossible - namely that we could trade and cooperate with our European neighbours on the closest terms of friendship and goodwill, whilst retaining sovereign control of our laws and our national destiny." He will claim the deal - which comes four and half years after Britain voted to leave the EU and a year after it officially left - had been reached in record time, when compared to other trade treaties.

"We have done this in less than a year, in the teeth of a pandemic, and we have pressed ahead with this task, resisting all calls for delay, precisely because creating certainty about our future provides the best chance of beating Covid and bouncing back even more strongly next year," he is expected to tell MPs. And he will stress that the UK intends to be "a friendly neighbour - the best friend and ally the EU could have - working hand-in-glove whenever our values and interests coincide while fulfilling the sovereign wish of the British people to live under their own laws, made by their own elected Parliament".

"That is the historic resolution delivered by this bill," he will add, calling it a "a new chapter in our national story" that will reassert Britain as "a liberal, outward-looking force for good".

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel are due to sign the international treaty ratifying the deal this morning in Brussels. The document will then be flown across the Channel in an RAF plane for Mr Johnson to sign it in Downing Street, a No 10 spokesman said. The European Parliament has begun its scrutiny of the agreement but will not get a chance to ratify it before the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at midnight tomorrow.

The deal has, however, been given the unanimous backing of ambassadors from the 27 nations and the member states gave their written approval. MPs are set to debate the bill for five hours, starting at 09:30 GMT, before a vote. It will then move on to the Lords, which is also expected to back it, before receiving Royal Assent. Labour has called on the government to provide help to British businesses facing upheaval in the new year, including "clear communications", an acceleration in the recruitment of customs officials, forbearance for firms coming to terms with new rules, commitment to

British supply chains and financial support for affected firms.

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodd's said: "The fact that a catastrophic no-deal scenario has been avoided means that many businesses across the country are now breathing a sigh of relief. "But the government's irresponsible, eleventh-hour approach to the negotiations means there are many questions still unanswered with just days to go until the end of the transition period."

The deal comes as the UK government announced it has signed a deal that will allow British businesses to continue trading with Turkey on the same terms after Brexit. The tariff-free arrangements underpin a trading relationship which the UK government said was worth £18.6bn last year.

The UK has rolled over dozens of trade deals with countries around the world since deciding to leave the EU's trading arrangements. The vast majority of the 63 trade deals the UK has signed over the past two years have retained the same terms as before Brexit.

Almost 8 in 10 UK adults will be carrying debt into 2021, new research has revealed. And, while the average amount owed has reduced compared to the previous year, the most common reason for 2020 debt is, worryingly, ‘normal living expenses’, according to the research.

Just 22% of the nation won’t be carrying debt into 2021, according to the study by financial comparison experts money.co.uk. What’s interesting is that 2% fewer people will be carrying over debt into the new year than this time last year. That means, mortgages aside, 78% will go into the New Year with some form of personal debt - including money owed on credit cards, personal loans, car loans, bank overdrafts and payday loans.

Experts say the really concerning figure is that 35% of people’s personal debt is largely due to ‘normal’ living expenses. A further 15% say their debt is due to Christmas spending and 31% have identified that their personal debt is due to changed financial circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The study of British adults was commissioned by financial comparison experts money.co.uk in December 2020 and shows that the average British adult ended 2020 with £9,246 worth of total debt – down 33% compared to last year’s average of £13,910.

Men are taking more debt into 2021 than women – UK males have an average of £11,581 debt at the end of 2020 compared to women, who have an average debt of £7,016 which they’ll carry over into 2021. Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: “Our research shows that it has been a particularly difficult year for the country financially. There’s been the coronavirus pandemic, and with it, unemployment and furlough, plus the rising cost of everyday living to consider.

“Yet, despite this, the good news is that people are generally carrying less debt across into 2021 than they did the previous year. However, our study also shows that one in four people are paying off the minimum amount in repayments but less than the full amount on their credit card every month, which will be costing them.

"It's worrying to see that so many never move their debt around to take advantage of better interest rates, something that could save them hundreds of pounds a year and help them pay off their debts sooner. One of the most troubling stats is that 35% of people are using debt to pay for household essentials, showing that the cost of living just isn’t covered by their regular income.

"It's always worth going online and investigating what options are available to you, especially as the new year starts, as there may be cheaper alternatives and strong offers from lenders." One in five Brits plan on paying off their debt by consolidating the different debts they owe, up 7% compared to 2019. But 44% of people say they don’t move debts to take advantage of better interest rates.

Some £2,465 of the average debt is owed on credit cards, according to the research. Those aged 45-54 have the most credit card debt (£3,121) with those aged 16-24 having the least (£1,640). Geographically, people living in Northern Ireland have the most credit card debt (£8,323) whilst those in the south-west have the least (£1,473). But UK adults have actually reduced the amount of debt on their credit card by an average of £500 compared to the previous year, according to the money.co.uk research.

Some 15% of people say they have personal loans (down over 3% from last year), 14% have overdraft debt (down 4% from the previous year), just over 11% have car loans and just over 15% have payment plan loans for home goods or white goods. A further 7% have store cards and 6% have payday loans to repay. In terms of repaying, the average time needed to pay off debts is almost three years (2.9). However, 27% of people say it will take between one and two years to pay off their debt and 15% say they can pay it off in less than a year. Those in Wales will take the longest to repay their debut - an average of 3.3 years.

Those living in London are most likely to carry debt into the new year. According to the study, 36% of those living in the Greater London area will carry debt into 2021. But the number of people, countrywide, carrying debt across from the previous year into this year, is actually down 10% year-on-year.

Salman Haqqi added: “Nearly 20% of those we polled say they have taken out a credit card to cover the personal cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 12% say they have taken out more than one additional card.

“And it is clear that the debt situation is causing worry right across the country – with one in four people admitting they’re worried about their debt this year. And although this is 4% fewer people who are worried than there were at this time last year, it is clearly still a concern.” The money.co.uk research also shows that for 21% of people their debt repayments account for 11-20% of their salary.

Specialist graffiti clean-up teams have been ridding the railway of unsightly vandalism between Euston, the Midlands and the North West this Christmas. Network Rail staff in the North West and Central region spent the holiday working to improve the look and feel of the railway for passengers and those who live beside it.

It supports Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ recent commitment to remove graffiti as part of an extra £1m provided by the Government to clean vandalism hotspots. One of the jobs this Christmas involved cleaning graffitied walls and railway equipment at Digbeth in Birmingham.

Tim Shoveller, managing director for Network Rail’s North West and Central region, said: “It’s very frustrating money has to be spent undoing damage done by railway vandals.

It’s money which could be being spent making the railway better and improving passengers’ journeys.

“Graffiti makes the place look messy for neighbours and passengers. We want the railway to be a clean, welcoming environment for people who travel on it and live and work near it.  That’s why we’re declaring a war on graffiti.

“There’s a safety aspect here too. Graffiti vandals risk their lives trespassing on the railway. It’s a seriously dangerous place to be. Our advice is to always stay off the tracks.” In recent weeks residents in Camden were sent postcards to show progress Network Rail teams there have made to clear graffiti on the approach to Euston station.

Trains leave Euston every three minutes powered by overhead wires carrying 25,000 volts of electricity making it a dangerous place to be for trespassers. This also makes it difficult to remove graffiti for Network Rail’s maintenance team, who can only access the track when trains aren’t running, mostly overnight.

Well over three million items of vital personal protective equipment (PPE) have now been distributed to frontline staff by the City of Wolverhampton Council since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Latest figures show 3,380,642 items of PPE have been allocated to local care providers, health workers and funeral directors as well as to council social care workers, bin crews, rapid testing teams and leisure, education, transport and housing staff so that they can continue delivering essential services. They include face masks, gloves, eyewear, aprons, gowns and gallons of hand sanitiser.

The council has purchased millions of items of PPE since the end of March, and it also received a wide range of donations from businesses and individuals who responded to a city-wide appeal in April. It is now being supplemented by fortnightly deliveries from the Government.

Councillor Linda Leach, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “Despite a global shortage of personal protective equipment throughout this pandemic, we've been able to source millions of vital items of PPE.

“We’re continuing to work as quickly as we can to ensure we get the kit out to those frontline staff who need it, not just those working for the council but also for local care providers and other organisations who have found it hard to get PPE through their usual channels – and the fact that we’ve provided close to three and a half million items over the last nine months shows just how desperately needed it has been.

“The usual supply routes are still not back to normal, so while care homes can obtain stock direct from the Government, we are still able to top up and we are delighted to help. I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this enormous undertaking.”

Following the agreement announced on Christmas Eve, after months of fraught talks on issues such as fishing rights and business rules, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, has said the new trade deal between the UK and the EU marks the beginning of a moment of national renewal.

He (Lord Frost) described the agreement as "one of the biggest and broadest" ever, with MPs voting on the deal in Parliament on December 30, as the UK prepares to exit existing trading rules on December 31. The European Parliament also needs to ratify it, while EU ambassadors received a Christmas Day briefing on the trade deal from EU negotiator Michel Barnier. A 1,246-page document, which has been published on the UK government's website, sets out the post-Brexit relationship with the EU and includes about 800 pages of annexes and footnotes.

When speaking to reporters, Lord Frost said: "There's no more role for the European Court of Justice, there's no direct effects of EU law, there's no alignment of any kind, and we're out of the single market and out of the customs union just as the manifesto said we would. "All choices are in our hands as a country and it's now up to us to decide how we use them and how we go forward in the future."

Senior members of the UK negotiating team added the deal allowed for a "managed divergence" from EU rules and standards. A free trade agreement usually rules out tariffs being applied to imported goods. Under the terms of this deal if either party acts in a way the other views as anti-competitive, they can go to an independent arbitrator. If that doesn't resolve the complaint, either party can impose tariffs.

The French Minister for Europe Clément Beaune said: "There is no country in the world that will be subject to as many export rules to us as the UK."

But the UK negotiators described the rules as "standard" for third party trade deals.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer - who campaigned against Brexit - said the deal did not provide adequate protections for jobs, manufacturing, financial services or workplace rights and was "not the deal the government promised". But with no time left to renegotiate, the only choice was between "this deal or no deal", he added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described it as "fair" and "balanced", saying it was now "time to turn the page and look to the future".

Over-65s saw their property wealth increase by more than £9,200 each on average in the past year as the housing market benefited from strong demand partly driven by the temporary Stamp Duty holiday, analysis from UK’s leading independent equity release adviser Key shows. Total property wealth owned by over-65s who have paid off mortgages is valued at £1.224 trillion and has increased by £46.135 billion in the past year equivalent to a gain of £9,214 for homeowners, Key’s Pensioner Property Equity Index reveals.

Key’s data shows over the long-term their gains have been even more impressive. Since Key started analysing the mortgage-free property wealth of the over-65s in 2010 homeowners have seen growth of 57% - a total of more than £444 billion which is equivalent to £88,735 per household in the past decade. The biggest gains in the past year have come in London where over-65s homeowners are more than £21,000 better off over the year while pensioners in the South West have gained £15,618 and over-65s in the South East are more than £10,000 ahead.  The only region to see property values drop was Wales with losses of nearly £2,000 the year.

The South East accounts for a fifth of all property wealth held by the over-65s with the South West and East Anglia accounting for nearly a third. London, which has the wealthiest over-65s homeowners, only accounts for 10% due to lower numbers of over-65s owning homes outright. Will Hale, CEO at Key said: “The property market has performed strongly despite the economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic with the Stamp Duty holiday on homes worth under £500,000 providing a material boost to demand. However, the Stamp Duty holiday is due to end on March 31and continued uncertainty around the economic environment may mean that the housing market is set for period of increased volatility.

“However, short or medium-term volatility in the housing market does not change the basic fact that millions of over-65s retain considerable property wealth which can transform their standard of living in retirement and enable them to address a wide range of needs and wants.  Equity release is one way that older customers can tap into their property wealth. Demand for later life lending products has remained strong throughout the coronavirus crisis and with an increasing number of options available it is vital that customers seek specialist advice in order to find the product that best fits their individual circumstances.”

A Solihull-based business is spreading some much-needed Christmas cheer for those who need it most after donating £500 worth of toys and goodies ahead of the festive season to two Birmingham-based charities, Birmingham City Mission and Birmingham Irish.

UVA UK is set to launch its new app-based ride hailing service in Birmingham in early 2021 and has committed to lending a helping hand to local charities and community groups across the areas it operates. As part of these plans, the company has pledged to donate 3% of its overall profits to charities in the UK. The delivery of the Christmas presents to Birmingham City Mission and Birmingham Irish marks the start of its long-term charitable commitments.

Each of the charities have received packages stuffed with Christmas presents from UVA, which includes toys, chocolates and clothes. Each set will also include an age-appropriate book to support the newly launched Marcus Rashford Book Club, which aims to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to embrace reading from a young age.

The curated packs, which have been tailored by gender and age range, will be gifted to children and families in the region who need them most and otherwise would not have gifts to open on Christmas morning. Alongside the toy donation, UVA UK has also donated £180 worth of food to Smethwick Foodbank to support BBC WM’s Adrian Goldberg’s pledge to donate for every West Bromwich Albion goal. This is to ensure no family goes hungry and can enjoy a hearty Christmas dinner together during the festive period.

Ayesha Rees, CEO of UVA UK, said: “No one should go without, especially over Christmas. In a challenging year, it’s vital to give back and support those in our community who need it most. We hope that the donations make the festive period a little brighter for families across Birmingham.

“As a start-up business, we knew from the beginning that charity and community would be put at the heart of our operations. Working with organisations such as Birmingham City Mission, Birmingham Irish, Smethwick Food Bank and the The Trussell Trust, who are all doing amazing work for families across the region, marks the start of a long term commitment at UVA UK of giving back to our society and creating a positive impact in our communities.”

Trudy McGroarty at Birmingham Irish Association said: “More families than ever are experiencing financial worries this year. We are extremely grateful to companies like  UVA who have donated to our toy appeal to make sure that every child has a new toy to open under their tree on Christmas Day this year.”

Negotiators from the UK and EU are to begin a new push to reach agreement on post-Brexit trade after both sides agreed "to go the extra mile". A UK source said the "process still has some legs" but Boris Johnson has warned no-deal is the "most likely" outcome. A deadline to finish talks had been set for Sunday, but the prime minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to an extension. They did not say how long these latest talks would continue, but the ultimate deadline is 31 December, when the UK is due to stop following EU trading rules.

Talks will continue and many, especially in financial services, will hope to reach a deal that will allow them to continue to do business with the EU. Even with a deal in place, there will be significant changes for firms to adapt to in almost every area of their firms. Back in October, the House of Lords' EU subcommittee published a report stating the UK’s accountants, lawyers, recruiters, architects and advertisers are under risk of losing contracts and jobs when Britain formally leaves the bloc in January. 

Despite this, there were reports that corporate lobby group insiders said that the discussions on Brexit preparations by professional services firms were constructive. A Brexit trade deal could run to 600 pages of legal text and must be rapidly translated into easily accessible and readable guidance for businesses, a source said after the meeting of the Government’s Brexit business taskforce.

Chris Biggs, Partner at Theta Global Advisors, commented on the role that professional services have in the Brexit process and what they could look like come January: "With businesses having to prepare for a new supranational trading environment in a matter of weeks, there is still a huge amount of speculation of what it could mean for a number of sectors that trade nationally and globally. In the professional services space, many clients will be impacted heavily by Brexit, so they are trying to understand their new working rules and regulations as quickly as possible. 

“Legal and consulting firms hold an important role in deciphering a deal if it comes, and the framework and intricacies that it entails, or what the rules will be around a no-deal and future trade. Many firms will have used this time to try and prepare the best they can for 2021, but when the new rules are in practice, many will call on the professional services market to ensure that there are adhering to both the UK and European rules of the future. One large area that is bound to be heavily impacted by Brexit is systems and data. Questions have already been asked about the adequacies of the UK's data laws, so firms may be looking to implement new systems to deal with both EU and UK law if a compromise isn't agreed.

“Therefore, consulting firms that can help businesses with this will be in demand in the coming weeks, and while the House of Lords' EU sub-committee raised potential concerns in the sectors, businesses will be relying on these firms to help them get through this period. If firms correctly pivot and provide support to their clients in a timely fashion, the sector could find itself in a new business arena, helping to secure the next generation of clients both at home and on the continent."