Colors: Purple Color

A senior Sandwell councillor has been appointed a SCAMbassador and joined a national campaign to reduce fraud and criminal financial abuse, referred to as scams.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for health and public protection, is backing the council's involvement in the national Friends Against Scams initiative and urging people to become SCAMfriends.

The scheme aims to tackle the lack of scams awareness by providing information about scams and those who can fall victim to them.

People can become SCAMfriends by attending a short 40-minute session locally or by competing an online learning session.

The council’s trading standards team has been busy recruiting eight SCAMchampions – people who run short scam awareness sessions, resulting so far in 200 SCAMfriends - as well as two SCAMbassadors.

SCAMbassadors such as Councillor Costigan, use their influence to highlight the problem, change people’s perceptions and make the fraud and financial abuse a local, regional and national topic of conversation.

Recent scam cases in Sandwell have included a Tipton woman in her eighties who was conned out of £150,000 and had been targeted over several years, and a Great Barr man in his nineties, who lost more than £300,000.

Councillor Costigan, said: “Scams affect the lives of millions of people. People who become victims often experience loneliness, shame and isolation.

“Sadly our own trading standards team hear of far too many heart-rending cases where Sandwell people have been cheated by these fraudsters with the elderly and vulnerable often being systematically targeted.

“Since joining up with the National Trading Standards Scam Team in 2013, the council has supported more than 500 residents including some who have been repeat victims of scams, and in some cases have recovered some of the money they have lost.

"Through the campaign, we will continue to raise awareness by creating SCAMfriends. Information is the scammer’s enemy and by raising awareness we will continue to work against them.”

Joining Councillor Costigan in taking a stand against scams is director of prevention and protection Stuart Lackenby, who has also become a SCAMbassador.

He said: “Anyone can become a SCAMfriend  by attending a Friends Against Scams awareness session in person or completing online learning. They can learn how to identify different types of fraud and how to spot and support a victim.

"With their increased knowledge and awareness, they can then make scams part of everyday conversation with their family, friends and neighbours helping to protect themselves and others.”

Awareness sessions are being run by SCAM champions who are trained and supported by the National Trading Standards Scams team.

Sessions will also be run during Sandwell's Safer 6 campaign which runs from Saturday 23 September to Sunday 5 November.

An exciting line-up of brave business individuals have been coerced into performing a live, five-minute original stand-up comedy routine in front of their colleagues, clients, friends and family in a bid to be crowned ‘Wolverhampton Stand Up Challenge Winner’.

The daring, unwitting participants that have already signed up to months of secret preparation and training to boldly take on the 2017 Stand Up Challenge are:

  • Andy Cox, Managing Director at Cox & Plant
  • Jan Denning, Commercial Sales Director at Wolverhampton Racecourse
  • Dawn Owen, Director at Bodykraft
  • Kevin Rogers, Chief Executive at Paycare
  • Malcolm Wright, Business Entrepreneur

Jan Denning, Commercial Sales Director at Wolverhampton Racecourse commented, “My tummy is already doing flips at the thought. That aside, I’m looking forward to learning about this art and feeling proud that we did it - a group of local business people working together, having lots of fun and raising some money along the way. I just hope security do bag searches for any rotten tomatoes!”

Entrepreneur, Malcolm Wright known locally for his management role at the Wolverhampton Ramada Park Hall Hotel & Spa and his subsequent impact on the region, commented on his forthcoming participation, “I feel sick to my stomach about doing the Stand Up Challenge, but I have agreed to do it to take myself out of my comfort zone. It’s one thing I’m particularly poor at: telling jokes and being in front of an audience with lights shining down on me like something out of Shawshank redemption.”

The evening will be hosted by comedian, Jarred Christmas, and it promises to be a night of extreme entertainment, whilst raising funds for local community interest company, Creative Black Country - who work with local people to discover, explore and grow an exciting and meaningful programme of arts activity in the Black Country.

Sajida Carr from Creative Black Country said, “This is a great new initiative for the Black Country and one which I am confident will go down extremely well. Creative Black Country is very excited to be involved in such entertaining projects which make the most of the Black Country through arts and culture.”

The Stand Up Challenge, sponsored by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and the Black Country Business Festival, also forms part of the Funny Things – a new Festival to celebrate Black Country humour that runs from 23rd October to 5th November 2017.

Corin Crane, chief executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce said, “The Black Country has a strong history in comedy and continues to thrive throughout the region today. Initiatives like this bring this sector to the forefront even more. The business community spends its 'life' being serious, so this is its chance to have a laugh in aid of a good cause.

“The Chamber is proud to support innovative ideas such as this and the Black Country Business Festival. As well as bringing the business community together, they raise the profile of the Black Country by highlighting what a fantastic place it is to live, work and do business. It’s even better that we can show we have a sense of humour at the same time!”

The underlying strength of the rental market has been emphasised once more by new statistics that show rental prices are continuing to rise, despite more property stock becoming available to tenants.

Rightmove’s most recent Rental Price Tracker shows asking rents outside London in the second quarter of 2017 were 2.8 per cent up on the previous quarter. While some may expect a rise in rents to be at least partially a result of low supply, the opposite was in fact true with property availability up by seven per cent in comparison with Q2 in 2016.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Some experts believed the supply of rental properties would fall this year due to economic and political concerns, but this has certainly proved not to be the case.

“In fact, supply is growing in all regions across the country and high tenant demand for all types of properties means rental prices are also on the up, providing landlords with a golden opportunity to benefit from more people looking for rented accommodation and a booming market that allows them to enjoy a significant return on investment.

“This trend is also good news for tenants who are faced with more choice on the rental market and a greater chance of finding their perfect home.

“We expect rents to continue to rise through the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, making buying to let a lucrative investment that will deliver low voids and high yields.”

Rightmove’s research identified the most in-demand areas of all, with Oldham, Stirling, Folkestone, Stockport and Welwyn Garden City attracting the highest tenant demand outside London.

It also found the greatest annual increase in rents has come in the north-west, where prices are three per cent higher than in 2016. This was followed by the East Midlands, which has witnessed a 2.3 per cent hike.

 

More grandparents than parents are helping first-time buyers make their first move on to the housing ladder, independent research shows.

The nationwide study shows more than a third (34%) of estate agents have seen a rise in first-time buyers being helped by grandparents compared with 26% who report an increase in parents helping out children. Around a fifth (21%) of estate agents say first-time buyers are being helped by parents and grandparents.

Mortgage experts are warning the growth rate of first-time buyer numbers will slow this year after hitting record levels in 2016 although the Council of Mortgage Lenders says the number first-time buyers was up 8% in the past year.

Equity release referral service Key Partnerships study shows estate agents share the concern – half (49%) of those questioned say they are worried about the withdrawal of Government schemes to help first-time buyers. The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme funding lenders offering higher loan-to-value loans ended at the start of the year but equity loans and Help to Buy ISAs continue.

Estate agents are increasingly aware of the role of equity release plans in helping grandparents release money to help first-time buyers – 60% of those questioned know it can be used to support first-time buyers and more than half (54%) are interested in finding out more.

Around half of estate agents (49%) believe equity release plans are a solution for first-time buyers and 52% say they would highlight them as a solution if they had a relationship with a specialist adviser.

Will Hale, director at Key Partnerships, said: “The financial pressure on first-time buyers to raise the money for a deposit means grandparents are starting to play a bigger role than parents.

“Grandparents however need to think carefully about how they will fund grandchildren and plan ahead so they are not doing so at a cost to their own financial well-being in retirement. That should include looking at releasing equity from their homes.

“Estate agents are valued as a source of financial guidance and those who can discuss equity release as a potential alternative fund-raising solution will be able to benefit from an additional revenue stream by referring potential clients to a specialist.”

Key Partnerships is increasingly focussing on customers referred by introducers including estate agents and has allocated a number of dedicated Key Retirement advisers experienced in dealing with the complexities of interest-only.

Key Partnerships is a B2B referral service providing a whole of market equity release solution for introducers and their clients, through parent company Key Retirement; leading specialist provider of financial solutions to the over 55’s. Over 7,000 introducers encompassing IFAs, mortgage brokers, accountants, solicitors and estate agents are registered to refer business to Key Partnerships. In return for the referral, intermediaries earn on average £1,319 on completion of the loan.

City of Wolverhampton’s Business Week flagship event will this year be hosted by one of TV’s shining lights.

Broadcaster and journalist Steph McGovern will also be the keynote speaker at the annual Business Breakfast on Wednesday, September 27.

As one of the country’s most-esteemed business reporters, she has reported on business and finance from around the world, from international finance summits to small business success stories.

During the financial crash, Steph was a lead producer of business news, at the forefront of the award-winning coverage of the credit crunch and banking crisis.

City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “We are delighted to have captured such an eminent figure to host the city’s annual Business Breakfast.

“This event is invaluable to businesses of all sizes in Wolverhampton to exchange ideas and I’m sure Steph will provide a hugely interesting insight based on her experiences.”

Business Week is a week-long programme which aims to support the city’s economic growth.

It will run from Monday, September 25 to Friday 29 and incorporates a range of events, activities and workshops for businesses, shaped by business representatives in the city.

The full programme of events can be viewed at www.investwolverhampton.com/bizweek and offers something for businesses of all types and sizes.

There are plenty of opportunities to tap into free business support and get help with developing workforce skills. Businesses can book now to join in ‘live’ advice on trading with Europe or find out about future contracts and tendering opportunities.

There are also drop in events to discover how technologies can enhance businesses and tap into information on business security.

A tour of Europe’s largest Construction Centre of Excellence at the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield Campus is available.

There is even the chance to develop team work by entering a team of four in the ‘It’s a Knockout’ Teamwork Challenge’ with WV Active

The resilience of the property market has once again been highlighted by new figures that show asking prices are continuing to rise.

Rightmove’s latest House Price Index reveals the average price of a property coming to the market this month is 3.1 per cent higher than in August 2016. It comes after statistics for July noted a 2.8 per cent annual hike in asking prices.

The index highlights a number of regional variations, with several counties identified as currently enjoying an annual hike in house prices of more than double the national average. The three most prosperous markets are named as Northamptonshire (a 9.1 per cent increase in the last year), Derbyshire (7.9 per cent) and Norfolk (7.4 per cent).

They are followed by Nottinghamshire (7.1 per cent), Bedfordshire (seven per cent), Worcestershire (seven per cent) and Leicestershire (6.9 per cent).

In terms of wider regions, the East Midlands (6.8 per cent) and West Midlands (5.8 per cent) led the way.

Kevin Shaw, national sales director at estate agents Leaders, says: “These figures, which are backed up by our own findings, clearly demonstrate the resilience of the housing market after last year’s historic Brexit vote.

“With the London market now well beyond the reach of many buyers, we have seen a definite ripple effect to the more affordable regions that have good transport links to either the capital or other large cities and towns. Many also benefit from infrastructure initiatives, such as HS2 and other urban regeneration projects.

“Birmingham is a notable hotspot, rivalling Manchester for second city status. Most crucially, unlike London and the south-east, house prices are within the reach of first-time buyers.

“Demand for rented property in these areas is also exceptionally high, enticing buy-to-let investors looking for inexpensive opportunities to invest. All these factors have driven demand and above average asking price increases over the last 12 months.”

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham say a freeze in inflation should not deflect from underlying problems that exist in the economy.

The Consumer Price Index measure of inflation remained at 2.6 per cent for the second consecutive month, despite forecasts that it would go up.

The Office for National Statistics said the largest downward pressure last month came from a fall in fuel prices.

This was offset by smaller upward contributions from a range of goods and services, including clothing, household goods, gas and electricity, and food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said: “Today’s inflation results confounded predictions as the rate stayed the same for the second consecutive month.

“Much of this was down to a fall in petrol prices (a trend which started back in March) which countered upward pressure from increases to food, gas and electricity prices.

“The latest figures suggest that UK inflation might peak at a lower level than previously predicted and it remains to be seen whether today’s results will impact the Bank of England’s thinking around potentially raising interest rates in the near term.

“Despite the positive news, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that wage growth is still lagging behind the rate of inflation and this will continue to have an impact on consumer spending power, a key driver of economic growth in the UK.

“Next week sees the start of surveying for our latest Quarterly Business Report and it will be interesting to see whether local businesses are still showing resilient levels of growth despite ongoing concerns around inflationary pressures and fluctuating exchange rates.”

With the return of GBBO in just a few short weeks, baking fans across the UK are dusting off the weighing scales, donning their aprons and hoping for some brilliant bakes. Ahead of the 12 week baking marathon, here Sainsbury's predicts five top food trends expected to hit our screens from episode one.

Alternative sugars; Those in the know are opting for alternative sugars such as coconut and date syrup, experimenting beyond the traditional caster sugar to achieve different results. Sainsbury's, whose baking aisle features an extensive range, has seen products such as Organic Rice Malt Syrup up 148% and Date Syrup up 32% since they arrived in store.

Boozy baking; 2016 saw contestants adding a ginny twist to their recipes for a more grown-up bake. Expect to see more of this in 2017 as contestants look to their take boozy bakes to new levels with tipples such as Prosecco, Gin & Tonic and Rum.

Garnishes and glitter; The recent launch of Edible Blossoms in Sainsbury's saw packs flying off the shelves, with the demand surpassing sales expectations. Now widely available, they're a beautiful way to give cakes a show-stopping quality, whilst adornments such as edible glitter, shimmer pearls and luxurious gold leaf nod to this year's beauty trends.

Autumnal tones; As summer turns to autumn, rainbow and unicorn bakes will become a thing of the past. This year's bakers will be channelling more muted and neutral tones in the style of Chetna Makan's favourite shade of mustard

Botanical and herb flavourings; Already popular on restaurant menus, expect to see contestants experimenting with botanical flavours in both sweet and savoury bakes, such as angelica root, thyme, rosemary, black pepper, saffron and fennel.

Former Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Chetna Makan says: “Every year baking trends change and evolve, often reflected within Great British Bake Off. In my experience, what was trendy and current in the baking world definitely influenced my recipes and baking decisions on the show. This year, expect to see a lot more neutral icing shades and unusual decorations such as edible flowers in both the show-stoppers and signature bakes.”

Sioned Read, Sainsbury's buyer for home baking added “Bake Off always has a huge impact on customer behaviour which we see reflected in sales from the baking and food aisles. For example, in 2016 after the contestants created Jaffa cakes, searches for Orange Jelly increased by 150% overnight on our groceries website. I'm always on the lookout for the signature ingredients of the season and aim to deliver an exciting range that allows customers to recreate the challenges at home. Based on recent baking trends, I expect our new Prosecco flavouring, alternative sugars and edible gold leaf will be firm favourites for 2017.”

As South Korea prepares for the largest winter sporting event in its history, LG Electronics (LG) is focusing on improving automated services at the main hub for the world’s travellers – Incheon International Airport (IIA). Starting on July 21, LG will put into trial service a number of Airport Guide Robots and Airport Cleaning Robots at the award-winning airport to assist travellers arriving and departing Korea. The Airport Guide Robot will roam the airport providing information and assistance to visitors while the Airport Cleaning Robot will be on hand to keep the floors impeccably clean.

By dispatching its robots to one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, LG will be able to provide its robotic services to approximately 57 million travellers who pass through the airport every year. While the robots are officially going into trial service today, they have been a familiar presence to frequent travellers since February, when they began beta testing at IIA. LG engineers have been fine tuning the robots for the past five months, improving their performance based on the data and experience collected during the beta test.

Equipped with LG’s voice recognition platform, the Airport Guide Robot understands four different languages – Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese – the four most popular languages spoken at the airport, in order to provide assistance verbally. The robot can connect to the airport’s central server to provide information regarding boarding time and locations of restaurants, shops, and much more. With a quick scan of a boarding pass, the Airport Guide Robot can escort the late or lost traveller to the right departure gate on time.

The Airport Cleaning Robot takes LG HOM-BOT’s powerful cleaning performance, autonomous navigation, and object-avoidance capability and applies them to a commercial, public environment. This robot detects the areas that require the most frequent cleaning, stores those locations in its database and calculates the most efficient routes to get there.

With these airport robots, LG is demonstrating its initiative to develop and expand its commercial robot business as a future growth engine. Currently, LG’s robot business is divided into two sectors: home and commercial. LG’s home robots include the HOM-BOT vacuum cleaner and the new Hub Robot while LG’s commercial business consists of robots specially designed to provide services in public areas such as airports, hotels and banks.

“LG is dedicated to the advancement and development of its robot technologies which includes navigation, voice recognition, natural language processing, and of course, DeepThinQ,” said Song Dae-hyun, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance and Air Solutions Company. “It is this kind of effort and innovation that will drive LG forward in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

A Wolverhampton business has announced multi-million-pound expansion plans following support from City of Wolverhampton Council’s business growth team.

Metal Spraying (UK) Limited (MSUK Group), a privately-owned Bilston-based manufacturer and distributor of construction and scaffolding products, has acquired Cannock-based Scaffolding & Construction Products Limited (SCP) from Alumasc PLC.

The MS UK Group, located in Meadow Lane, was established by Wolverhampton-born entrepreneur Ranjit Dale in 1999, and its acquisition of SCP creates one of the largest independently owned distribution specialists for construction products in the UK with a combined turnover of £20 million.

Dale said: “We’ve worked closely with Alumasc for almost 20 years and have made this investment to safeguard jobs and ensure long-term certainty of supply for the construction industry.

“SCP is a perfect fit with the range of products we produce at MS UK Group, and, together, we plan to expand the range of products and services we offer to help our customers improve performance.

“Our growth plans for the next five years will also generate additional business and employment opportunities in the Wolverhampton area, and we are grateful to City of Wolverhampton Council for the support they have shown for this venture.”

The council is providing business support through ERDF-funded programme AIM (Black Country Advice Investment and Markets), helping with growth potential, inward investment, and market development.

AIM pools the resources of the four Black Country local authorities, University of Wolverhampton, and Black Country Chamber of Commerce, to provide specialist consultancy to Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) via the Black Country Growth Hub.

City of Wolverhampton Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Peter Bilson, said: “It is excellent news for the city and the Black Country, in terms of investment and jobs, to see Metal Spraying (UK)’s growth.

“It demonstrates the business environment in Wolverhampton remains buoyant.

“There is an excellent business support structure in the Black Country accessed through a wide-range of partners and programmes such as the AIM programme.”

A multitude of issues have the potential to force a landlord to deduct money from a tenant’s deposit to pay for repairs, with a new study revealing broken furniture to be the most common cause of all.

Breaks to chairs, tables and other items are the most common reason behind landlords withholding cash from a deposit return, with 29 per cent of tenants claiming to have experienced this.

Marks on the walls have led to a deduction for 24 per cent of tenants, while 21 per cent of those renting a home have been penalised for carpet stains, 12 per cent for redecorations and nine per cent for the presence of mould.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Deposits are essential for landlords as they provide security that any damage caused by tenants can be repaired at no financial loss.

“However, deposit deductions can cause disputes between landlords and tenants, so it is important to understand what causes them and how both parties can reduce the likelihood of such issues occurring.”

Leaders’ figures for its managed tenancies show that just over 45 per cent of tenant deposits are subject to a deduction at the end of the tenancy, but less than three per cent of those progress to a dispute.

Allison adds: “The figures clearly underline the benefit to landlords of using a professional letting agents as, if a tenancy is well managed with a detailed inventory drawn up and a proper check in and check out process, there is a much smaller chance of a dispute over the deposit arising when a tenant moves out.

“In a typical month just 2.9 per cent of our deposit returns result in a dispute, while 33.5 per cent are returned in full and a further 41.5 per cent are returned after a partial deduction.

“Disputes are less likely to arise because of the thorough inventory and schedule of condition that we draw up at the start of the tenancy and the comprehensive checkout we undertake at the end. Any loss or damage to the landlord’s property that may occur during the tenancy can be easily detected and the necessary evidence provided to support a claim from the deposit. This is just one of the ways in which we minimise risk for landlords.”

For more information or advice on letting a property or holding a deposit contact your local Leaders branch.

For the third year running, Sandwell Council has published details of the borough’s 50 fastest-growing businesses – giving a snapshot on firms that employ more than 6,500 people and have a combined revenue of £1.5 billion.

The Top 50 list celebrates the companies’ achievements, as well as the economic contribution they make to the West Midlands.

The Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies Index 2017 was released with a networking breakfast at The Hawthorns in West Bromwich yesterday (Thursday 27 July), where representatives from nearly 100 businesses and partners gathered in celebration of Sandwell’s latest success stories.

The index lists the 50 top-ranked companies in Sandwell in terms of rate of growth in turnover.

Collectively the companies employ 6,500 people and have a combined revenue of £1.5 billion.

Twenty-seven of the 50 companies listed have shown growth of 10% or more in the past year. The 12 fastest growing companies have enjoyed growth of 20% or more, while the highest revenue growth rate – from transport operator Diamond Bus – is 44%.

More than half of these businesses are engaged in manufacturing, while 22% operate in the wholesale and retail sector.

Transport and haulage contractor Sheldon Clayton Logistics is at number 43 in the index with a solid 3.8 per cent growth in turnover.

The West Bromwich company started life around 40 years ago, servicing the North Sea oil boom. Today its strategy of “better business not more business” helps maintain stability and steady growth even through times of economic difficulty.

“We are a tough lot in the Black Country,” said group chairman and founder David Sheldon, referring to the entrepreneurial spirit of the region.

Councillor Steve Eling, Leader of Sandwell Council, said the UK’s economic and political circumstances are making trading tougher than usual and that the companies that made this year’s Top 50 index should feel prouder than ever.

“The success of Sandwell’s Top 50 can only reflect hard work, great leadership, commitment and foresight.

“Their growth also demonstrates Sandwell’s position as a profitable place in which to operate. Our borough is ideally located at the heart of England and well connected by road, rail and air. We have a highly skilled workforce and a strong heritage of manufacturing,” he said.

“The wider West Midlands’ spirit of innovation has always helped us ride out waves of political and economic uncertainty.”

At the networking event, local business people networked with like-minded professionals (including representatives from the Top 50), made new contacts and heard from Sandwell Council about its work to support local businesses, and its vision for the future of the borough.

House prices across the UK continue to head upwards, with the latest figures showing there was a 4.7 per cent increase in the year to May.

The Office for National Statistics said the average price of a property in the country now stands at £221,000, up by about £10,000 in comparison with the same month in 2016.

However, the results also showed a significant disparity in the levels of growth being achieved in certain regions, although all parts of the UK once again recorded an increase in values during the year in question.

The east of England enjoyed the most rapid rises in house prices in the year to May, with a typical property adding 7.5 per cent. It was closely followed by the East Midlands (7.2 per cent), while the south-west (5.5 per cent) and the West Midlands (5.3 per cent) also saw large gains.

In the north-east, house prices increased by 1.6 per cent, while the figure was only three per cent in London.

Kevin Shaw, national sales director at property specialist Leaders, says: “Although a 4.7 per cent annual rise in the year to May was slightly down on the 5.3 per cent growth recorded in April, it proves the UK housing market is robust and continuing to grow at a reasonable pace.

“The regional variation in evidence in the market right now is particularly intriguing. A variety of factors – including wage growth, buyer demand and inflation – are having a differing impact in certain locations and mean the experience of selling a home varies greatly depending on where you live.

“That is why I believe it is incredibly important for people to work with a local estate agents that has great understanding and insight into the relevant town and region.

“It is also wise to set a realistic asking price for a property in order to maximise interest and increase the chance of achieving a quick sale at a great price. Sellers should be wary of using estate agents that promise inflated figures simply to win their business and instead trust those that recommend an attractive but realistic price.”

All of Leaders’ 124 branches across the UK are staffed by local experts and offer a dedicated, tailored service to those looking to sell their home.

For more information on selling or buying a property contact your local Leaders branch or visit leaders.co.uk.

 

Lead international concert industry and trade body, Pollstar, has released its 2017 mid-year results, with the City of Birmingham selling the second highest number of event tickets in the world, compared to other arena city counterparts.

In the ‘Mid-Year Worldwide 2017 Ticket Sales Top 200’, Birmingham’s Genting Arena achieved eighth place, and Barclaycard Arena 12th, with their combined ticket sale figures out-performing other arena cities including Glasgow, Cologne, Mexico City and New York for events played between January and June.

Head of Sales for the NEC Group Arenas, Ian Congdon, said: “This is a time of considerable growth for the NEC Group Arenas.  We are now selling for a wider range of events - everything from Céline Dion, G-Dragon, and Stone Sour to HelloWorld and the 2018 IAAF World Indoor Championships- and these results reflect the efforts of the whole team here, to book and deliver innovative and world class content.

“To have both our venues in the top 20 proves that there is the demand to sell for two arena venues in Birmingham, and that the city continues to be a destination of choice for live event goers.”

Nicola Hewitt, Commercial Director for Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme, added: “More than three-quarters (76%) of recent visitors to Birmingham agree that the city is a great place for music, gigs and concerts - and that’s testament to the quality and variety of shows on offer here throughout the year.

“Birmingham continues to attract record tourist numbers, with more than 39 million people choosing to visit the city in 2016 - a 17% increase over the past five years. Together with our popular cultural, retail and food scene, the NEC Group Arenas play a key role in the region’s compelling leisure offer.”

For more than 35 years, Pollstar has provided music professionals with the most reliable and accurate worldwide concert tour schedules, and ticket sales results, and maintains the world’s largest database of international concert tour information.

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have hailed another huge step forward for the HS2 project after the award of £6.6bn worth of contracts was announced.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling today confirmed the contract awards that will create up to 16,000 jobs.

It means work on Phase One of the HS2 route, from London to Birmingham, will begin on schedule.

UK companies Carillion, Costain and Balfour Beatty are among the consortia who will build tunnels, bridges and embankments on the first stretch of the new high speed rail line.

In addition, the Phase Two routes to Manchester and Leeds are set to be announced later today, placing Birmingham at the heart of the national HS2 network.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce chief executive Paul Faulkner said: ““It’s great to see the main works civil contracts being awarded for Phase One of the project.

“Not only will construction of the project start on time, it will also create a raft of new jobs and supply chain opportunities for our local firms.

“We also welcome the news that the final routes for the Leeds and Manchester branches are due to be announced today.

“It means that Phase Two of the project will embed Birmingham at the heart of a modern and innovative transport network which will help rebalance the national economy and bring greater prosperity to the region as a whole.

“On a wider point, the news will only add to the air of confidence that we are seeing in the region at the moment. We will be analysing this and other key trends at our Q2 Quarterly Business Report launch event on 18 July, focusing on investment in Greater Birmingham.”

 

New research released today reveals that 78% of those aware of the infamous Japanese knotweed would be put off buying a property if they discovered the weed was present in the garden. Reasons for this included the concern that it cannot always be removed (69%) or that it would be too costly (56%) or time consuming to do so (57%) 

The survey, carried out by YouGov and Japanese knotweed removal specialist Environet UK, suggests whilst many are aware of the weed, there is a high level of myth and misinformation around the threat posed by Japanese knotweed and the options available to homeowners who discover it on their land.  

Japanese knotweed was first introduced into the UK from Japan in the 1850s as an ornamental plant, but it is now number one on the Environment Agency’s list of the UK’s most invasive plant species, described as “indisputably the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant”. Growing up to 3 metres in height, it spreads rapidly and can push up through asphalt, cracks in concrete, driveways, cavity walls and drains in its quest for light and water. 

Despite only 4% of those aware of the weed having had Japanese knotweed growing on their propertyawareness of the threat is high, with 75% of Brits knowing about it. This awareness is particularly high in areas where the spread of the weed has been most prolific according to Environet’s own records of treatment, such as Wales, where 95% of respondents are aware of it, and in the south of England (80%). 

Those aware of the plant are also largely oblivious to their legal obligations to deal with Japanese knotweed if it is discovered on their land. Only around half (49%) know that a homeowner is legally responsible for preventing it from spreading from their propertyand just around one in five (21%) are aware that they could receive an ASBO if knotweed on their land is allowed to spread to their neighbour’s garden. 

In fact, knotweed can now be completely removed within a matter of days, at any time of the year, using a digging out method that sifts the earth to remove all viable rhizome roots from the infected soil. Once the problem has been swiftly tackled and an insurance backed guarantee has been secured, there are no difficulties in obtaining mortgage finance and property sales can proceed unhindered. For worried homebuyers, a professional indemnity insurance policy is now available, enabling them to protect themselves from the risk of Japanese knotweed from as little as £67Despite this fact, only 3% of those aware of the weed said they would not be at all deterred from buying an affected property. 

Nic Seal, MD and Founder of Environet comments: “Homeowners are right to be concerned about the threat posed by Japanese knotweed. Attempting to deal with it by cutting it down repeatedly, burning it, burying it or using common weed killers simply won’t work as the plant can lie dormant beneath the ground, only to strike again when people least expect it. 

Yet for those wishing to buy or sell property, it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Japanese knotweed can be dealt with once and for all, within a matter of days from discovery, so there is hope for buyers who may have otherwise walked away from their dream home.” 

Chartered Surveyor Philip Santo FRICS, Director at Philip Santo & Co, added: “RICS shares concerns that many people believe Japanese Knotweed poses a much greater risk than it really does. Since RICS issued guidance in 2012 the situation for buyers and sellers has greatly improved. For most affected properties there is now access to mortgage finance once an approved Japanese Knotweed Management Plan is in place. DIY remedies can make matters worse and should not be attempted.”