Colors: Purple Color

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


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.” 

The 23rd Lanzhou Investment and Trade Fair's Belt and Road Initiative as one major theme, the local fair becomes more global thanks to a string of B&R economic and trade exchange activities.

This year’s Lanzhou fair increased exchanges with countries along the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in addition to those related with the Silk Road Economic Belt. The fair invited Nepal and Malaysia as guests of honor for the first time in its history, according to Zhang Zhengfeng, deputy secretary with Gansu Provincial Government and vice executive director of the organizing committee of the Lanzhou fair.

The Lanzhou fair attracted representatives from 36 countries and several international organizations, with 27 foreign ministerial officials and ambassadors attending the event. A total of about 32,000 people at home and abroad registered for the event.

The number of foreign guests set a record high this year, up over 30 percent year on year, making the local fair a more global event, Zhang added.

Gansu Province selected 206 major investment projects with investment volume totaling 211.6 billion yuan before the fair opened. Many of these projects were signed during the fair, with 12 percent, 30 percent and 58 percent of them being in the agriculture sector, industrial sector and tertiary sector respectively. A batch of major investment projects were signed at the closing ceremony on Monday afternoon, covering sectors in equipment manufacturing, Chinese traditional medicine, non-ferrous metal and metallurgy, modern agriculture, general health care, ecological tourism and others.

A new UK company is taking on leading cola brands with Green Cola, a revolutionary drink that offers all the great cola taste that consumers expect, without all of the bad stuff. It contains: NO sugar, NO Aspartame, NO Phosphoric Acid, NO preservatives, NO calories.

The drink is sweetened with Stevia, a natural plant extract and caffeinated with green coffee beans, which is why it's called Green Cola.

Green Cola was conceived in Greece in 2013. It has been a massive success with the Greeks and millions of British holidaymakers who pushed for it to be brought to the UK. It is being launched here by Green Room Brands, a small business setting out to make a healthy difference.

CEO Paul Woodward says: "It took over two years to perfect our cola, with literally thousands of attempts and recipe tinkering. One-by-one, we took out ingredients like aspartame, phosphoric acid and the ordinary caffeine used by mainstream brands, until we were left with a healthier cola that doesn't compromise on taste.

"There is nothing else like Green Cola on the market. Most low calorie colas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that many consumers have growing concerns about. This is an untapped market set to take off on the back of the sugar tax next year and we see a long-term opportunity to drive sustainable growth."

A growing proportion of landlords in the UK are opting to use the services of a professional letting agents in order to assist with the management of their property portfolio.

New figures from the National Landlords’ Association (NLA) show 61 per cent of landlords currently work with a letting agents, up from 54 per cent in the final quarter of 2016.

It noted the significant increase of seven per cent is a break from the norm, following several years in which the quota of landlords using a letting agents has remained relatively stable. The body also found there has been a 10 per cent fall in the proportion of landlords who self-manage their property in the last year.

Allison Thompson, managing director at property specialist Leaders, says: “A rising number of landlords are relying on the expertise, knowledge and resources of professional letting agents, which proves the majority of agents are delivering a great service.

“A good letting agents will help landlords to achieve the maximum possible return on their investment by setting the optimum rents, minimising any void periods, letting only to quality tenants and ensuring an efficient response to any required repairs or maintenance works.

“Just as importantly, a quality letting agents will strive to help landlords overcome the latest challenges, such as the ever-changing legislation they must comply with, the tax regulations that have recently come into effect and the uncertainties of Brexit. Professional guidance has never been so vital.

“Landlords seeking the best return while relieving themselves of many of the responsibilities of letting a property are advised to use a letting agents. However, as with any industry, it is important to work only with an experienced, reputable and trustworthy company, so landlords should choose their agents carefully.”

A number of regional variations were clear within the NLA’s results, with landlords in the north-east the most likely of any in England to use a letting agents.

Greater London, the south-west and Wales also witnessed sharp increases in the number of landlords seeking professional help with their property.

Businesses throughout the Black Country have reported a rise in domestic sales for a second consecutive quarter according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce. Of the businesses that took part in the Q2 2017 Quarterly Economic Survey (QES), 49% reported an increase in domestic sales, amounting to a rise of 7% on the previous quarter. Furthermore, 42% of survey respondents indicated a rise in domestic orders, thereby highlighting continued prospects for future growth.

In addition, this growth in both domestic sales and orders has seen a rise in confidence amongst the region’s business community, with 70% of those having taken part in the survey anticipating that their turnover will increase over the course of the next 12 months.

Corin Crane, Chief Executive of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, commented: "Uncertainty has continued to dominate the political landscape in recent months, yet despite this businesses across the Black Country have remained steadfast in their ability to thrive under challenging conditions. The fact that almost half of businesses surveyed within the region have seen a rise in sales and orders is testament to their tenacity and great news for the economic growth of the local area.

“With the General Election having taken place and Brexit negotiations now underway, it is now important to focus on harnessing a stable environment that is conducive to the growth and development of the local business community. Therefore, over the coming months we will be working closely with our colleagues at the British Chambers of Commerce and throughout the national Chamber network to ensure that there is clarity coming from Government in relation to Brexit and the impact that will have on businesses moving forwards.”

The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is a survey that is conducted each quarter, the results of which contribute towards and are compiled by the British Chambers of Commerce to form one of the largest independent economic surveys of businesses in the UK.

Home owners should book in their builder at least four months before their project begins or risk working with a cowboy, new research from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has revealed.

The research also shows that an alarming number of consumers don’t ask their builders for essentials such as a contract or references when embarking upon a major piece of building work.

Key statistics from the research show:

  • More than 40% of builders need at least four months’ notice from consumers who want to hire their firm;
  • 90% of builders say that the majority of home owners do not ask for a written contract;
  • 80% of builders report that most consumers do not ask for an agreed payment schedule;
  • Fewer than 10% of builders say that clients normally request to see vital insurance policies such as public liability or employer’s liability insurance
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “If a builder is free to start work tomorrow, alarm bells should ring. Demand for building work is incredibly high at the moment and it should be no surprise that almost one in two builders need to be contacted at least four months in advance of when a client is looking to start a home improvement project. The workloads of builders have been rising steadily over the past two years and there’s no shortage of work. That’s why we’re urging home owners who are keen to crack on with their build or renovation projects to start getting in touch with prospective builders as soon as possible. Otherwise, they risk disappointment delaying their projects or worse still, working with a dodgy builder. So many building horror stories start with a client approaching a builder who’s free to start work sooner than the more professional builder who is really busy.”

Berry concluded: “There are also indications that home owners are leaving themselves vulnerable to problems in terms of how they approach their building work. The vast majority of builders say that most clients fail to ask for references and even fewer ask for a written contract on their work. There is a similar trend when it comes to asking for critical things like an agreed payment schedule and key warranties on work, as well as checking whether the builder has any external accreditation or recognition from professional trade association like the FMB. These protections really are essential to helping clients weed out the cowboys and mitigate against any issues that could crop up during the build. A quality builder will insist on these things and if they don’t, consumers ought to question why.”