Pollinating business parks in the North

A project to support the survival of struggling pollinating insect populations, such as butterflies and bees, has been launched by County Durham-based Climate Action North.

Pollinator Parks, brings volunteers together to plant British native ‘pollinator-friendly’ wildflowers on business land that may otherwise go unused. The first site is a meadow lawn area and in two flowerbeds behind the BIC’s Jupiter Centre in Sunderland.

A raft of scientific evidence has shown that insect numbers around the world are undergoing alarming rates of decline, with bees, ants and beetles disappearing eight times faster than mammals, birds or reptiles.

Climate North East Action Managing Director, Sharon Lashley, said: “Bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects are vital contributors to the beauty of our landscapes, our economy and our £100 billion food industry. The functions performed by pollinating insects is believed to be worth £690 million each year to the UK’s economy alone.

“The implications of losing this variety of pollinating insects will disrupt the web of life that supports us so it’s vital that we take action now and rewild outdoor areas to introduce safe havens for them.”
The Pollinator Park project introduces ‘pollinator-friendly’ wildflowers including Red Campion, Moth Mullien, Primrose, Oxeye Daisy, Basil, and Dandelion to create a sustainable environment for the struggling insect populations.

Volunteer groups are led by project delivery partner Phil Macari of Wildcraft, and the planting session last just a few hours with after-care instructions provided.

Managing Director, Sharon Lashley, said: “Pollinator Parks is a superb example of small-scale rewilding and demonstrates how we can practically support and care for our wildlife, and repair the broken ecosystems. We’re proud to help communities, schools and businesses by delivering a wide range of activities around rewilding, climate change, sustainability, outdoor education, and learning. Our team are passionate experts in their field and completely driven to achieve our objectives.”

Climate Action North East aim to work with 20 business parks across the North East of England during 2019 and will be establishing pollinator gardens across the region in the coming year. To register your interest with the Pollinator Park Project please email Sharon.

Going for Gold!

As the region’s leading provider of services and support for children, young people and adults with autism or other examples of neurodiversity, part of The North East Autism Society’s role is shaping the narrative on how people view and understand autism.

Rather than the language of deficits or disability, the Society wants autism and neurodiversity to be celebrated and accepted; to be seen and understood in a positive light.
They also want our region to lead the way in being autism-friendly through its Going for Gold campaign.

It’s the colour associated with success and achievement. It’s the hallmark of great things. But more than that, Going for Gold is a new take on how autism is viewed and celebrated within our region, and in our nation.

UK Autism campaigners began this quest and the Society is backing their drive as several controversial charities, particularly in the Unites States, use ‘light it up blue’ as their theme. Still advocating ‘cures’ and outdated, harmful therapies, it’s important to distance ourselves from such initiatives and set a new standard – a gold standard – for autism and neurodiversity and have our region’s best loved landmarks to be a part of it.

Find our more.

Is a change to the disclosure of criminal convictions in job applications coming to Durham?

Minor historic offences can blight entire careers and inhibit rehabilitation. In January, the Supreme Court ruled that the criminal records disclosure scheme was, in places, disproportionate.

Changing attitudes towards certain historic convictions could benefit Durham businesses by providing a wider talent pool.

As things stand, anyone with more than one conviction to their name can automatically have their criminal record disclosed during the recruitment process. This is regardless of how minor, or how long ago, the crimes were committed. It can hold a person back for their whole life.

Campaigners have highlighted the injustices that this blanket rule can create and called for reform. And now, the idea is gaining traction in the corridors of power. The home secretary has hinted that a law change to make the rules less absolute could follow January’s Supreme Court judgement.

It found that the rules are not in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights. Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham looks at the impact on local employers.

Alison begins: “How useful is it really to ask a job applicant in black and white on a form whether they have a criminal record, before you’ve met them? Chances are, regardless of the circumstances a ‘yes’ will prejudice their application. They suffer a default rejection, and you might miss out on an excellent hire. That said for some roles, it is necessary for applicants to declare any previous convictions, like teachers.”

Recent research suggests that, on average, after seven to ten years, the risk of someone re-offending is no greater than someone who has a clean record committing a crime. Of course, some roles are so sensitive, and some crimes will be so severe or recent that they’re bound to have a material effect on a job application. Disclosure rules for these circumstances are not likely to be changed.

“Some employers are seeing benefits in waiting for the interview stage to ask about criminal convictions. This still leaves them free to reject the applicant if a criminal record makes them unsuitable.

But, by humanising the process, they also have the opportunity to find out more, and assess for certain whether a criminal record is relevant. In doing this, they may gain a competitive advantage by recruiting from a wider talent pool.

Why Durham businesses need to be vigilant against age discrimination

An 88-year-old NHS secretary has become the oldest ever person to win an age discrimination case.
With no default retirement age in the UK and more of the population working into their later years, the risk of Durham businesses facing an age discrimination case is on the rise.

Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept Durham explores the issue.

Age discrimination is not just relevant to older staff: younger workers can be discriminated against too. Discrimination could happen at any time, but there are some occasions when it’s more likely. These include during recruitment, when making training and promotion decisions, managing performance and at retirement.

It’s vital not to make age-based assumptions which distort decisions. This often leads to poor outcomes all round: such as hiring the wrong people, demotivating existing employees who see through the prejudice and, of course, discrimination tribunal claims.

It’s about mindset and practical measures: don’t let age come into your assessment of staff or candidates. Try forming teams with people of different age groups who are working to common goals – this brings people together. Facilitate different age groups exchanging skills, knowledge and ideas. It could be a real benefit to your business.

The Equality Act does allow for some lawful exceptions to age discrimination. The different age-based pay rates prescribed by the National Minimum and Living Wages; and when there’s legal necessity for age to be a factor (known as an occupational requirement) being just two examples.

An age discrimination tribunal claim could be brought by someone who doesn’t even work for you – based on a job which specified a number of years’ experience. Or as a result of some so-called ‘banter’ from a colleague. Or because of some shoddy treatment around a forced retirement. It’s worth reading up on and seeking professional advice if you think you may have an issue.

In the spotlight with World of Rides

Drum roll please for… David Robinson, Founder of World Of Rides

World of Rides was started by David (pictured above) in 1969 as the manufacturing arm to supply his retail, operating and promotion businesses. He operated from a rented unit on the then new Stella Gill Industrial Estate in Chester-le-Street until 1990, when they needed to expand. The direct road links from the motorway to Drum Industrial Estate was perfect for their needs and, along with having a national customer base, the local staff would not be too inconvenienced by the move. So, David bought the premises and 50 years on are still here!

How would you describe your business in one word. And why?
Our business is based purely upon FUN, as we provide “Family FUN for Everyone!” to the commercial sectors of the amusement and leisure industries.

Tell us about your customers.
Our customer base ranges from holiday parks, farm parks, holiday resorts and shopping centres to the very wealthy sporting and celebrity domestic sector.

What are your plans for the future?
We will always retain our base on Drum Industrial Estate, but we now outsource a great deal of our manufacturing and service sectors from across the UK and the continent. We’ll also continue to invest heavily in our research and development side in order to continue bringing out exciting new attractions for our customer each year.

Why is the Drum Estate your place of business?
All our experienced family and staff live within the boundaries of Chester-le-Street, so we could never replace their dedication and knowledge if we ever tried to relocate elsewhere!

What motivates you?
We are driven to provide the very best ideas, equipment and service to our customers, and constantly aspire to increase our market share and to become our customer’s first choice for quality, safety and value.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was: “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell…and advertise!”

And what’s the best advice you’ve given?
The best advice that I always give to everyone starting in business is: “early to bed, early to rise, work like hell…and advertise!’

Tell us about your most difficult challenge so far.
Having worked through a number of financial recessions has always been very challenging, but the current Brexit Crisis has definitely hit our customer base and ourselves the hardest.

And finally, what’s your favourite quote?
My own favourite quote is still has to be ‘…early to bed, early to rise, work like hell… and advertise!’, and it’s the one that I still live by myself!

I still get people making contact to thank me for the advice, years after I gave them it, and telling me on a regular basis that it certainly helped them to get established!

However, I suspect that many of them didn’t stick to the ‘…early to bed, early to rise’ bit for very long!

The business of rewilding

Durham-based Climate Action North East has secured Doug Allan (pictured) to speak at its upcoming rewilding conference.

The BBC cameraman and award-winning photographer has worked alongside David Attenborough on high-profile programmes like Blue Planet.

The topics of rewilding and climate change will be discussed and ways to take action, at a conference on 5 June, which is hosted by Climate Action North East and sponsored by Resilient Business Systems.

The natural world can help save us from climate catastrophe. Let nature do the hard work in the fight against climate change by rewilding and restoring habitats such as forests and wetlands. Rewilding is defined as the mass restoration of ecosystems and to achieve this goal on the scale that’s needed, rewilding must be on the agenda and minds of everyone in a position to take action.

Managing director at Climate Action North East, Sharon Lashley, said: “There’s growing interest in rewilding in Britain, and it’s important that we work to find understanding and take action to create ways of living that not only restores the natural world but also our prospects for a sustainable, safe and prosperous world.

“To achieve this goal on the scale that’s needed, rewilding in all its forms must be on the agenda and minds of everyone, not least those in the business world, conservation, farming and community sectors. This conference gives us the opportunity to bring everyone together and explore the opportunities and benefits that large and small-scale rewilding can offer.”

Doug Alan first visited the polar regions in 1976, and during the 43-years since has witnessed the effects of climate change, including the impacts that global tourism and human lifestyles continue to have on the planet. He said: “I’ll be covering successes and setbacks in my presentation at the Rewilding Conference during my own personal experiences exploring the challenges of climate change. I’ve learned to balance climate reality with climate optimism and most importantly, to realise that everyone has to be working together to inspire a change of direction.”

The conference will also welcome speakers Prof Alastair Driver – Rewilding Britain specialist advisor, Isabella Tree – co-owner Knepp Estate and author of Wilding, David Hetherington – author of The Lynx And Us, Sacha Dench – conservationist, adventurer and motivational speaker, Professor Chris Stokes – glacier specialist and researcher, and will be chaired by Mike Pratt – CEO of the Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

Climate Action North East’s previous climate change conference featured Chris Packham, who is currently hosting BBC One’s Blue Planet Live.

It will take place at the Newcastle Gateshead Marriott Hotel on June 5. Tickets are available here. 

Investment helps Steelcraft shape growth plans

A Drum estate-based engineering firm, which specialises in fashioning ornate and unusual steelwork, is aiming to take its turnover past the £2million mark with the help of a new investment from the North East Small Loan Fund Supported By The European Regional Development Fund.

Steelcraft designs, manufactures and installs a comprehensive range of architectural metalwork, including balconies, balustrades, stainless and secondary steelwork, street furniture and industrial fabrications.

The firm is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year by embarking on an on- and offline business development drive which will help it win new clients both at home and overseas.

Steelcraft secured the £50,000 Small Loan Fund investment through regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers as part of funding its expansion plans, which include increasing its turnover from £1.8million to over £2million by 2020. It has also launched an e-commerce website for its Forjj balcony brand after participating in the Digital Drive County Durham programme, and is aiming to especially increase its presence within London and the South East.

Having initially focused on manufacturing and installing bespoke security metalwork for clients across the North East, Steelcraft gradually widened its product portfolio and client base over the years and now employs a 24-strong team at its headquarters on the Drum Industrial Estate.

Well-known clients include Bellway Homes, Taylor Wimpey, Sir Robert McAlpine, The Esh Group, Galliford Try and Engie.

Matthew Rodgers, managing director at Steelcraft, says: “While we can fulfil most aspects of steelwork design and fabrication, we have an especially strong reputation in catering for uncommon shapes and unusual designs, and we’re now looking to build on this with new clients and in new markets. The Digital Drive County Durham programme gave us a lot of insights into how we use digital technologies to support our expansion plans which we’re now building on with our enhanced online presence.

“We’re confident of making significant commercial progress through the year to come and beyond and hope to see both our turnover and our team growing this year. The Small Loan Fund provided the right type of accessible option for us, and the practical advice we got while working through the investment process with the NEL team was highly valuable.”

Part of the £120million North East Fund and aimed predominantly at smaller SMEs, the £9million North East Small Loan Fund typically offers loans of between £10,000 and £50,000 to businesses in Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.

It is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new regional jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.

ike Guellard, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Steelcraft has an enviable track record in a highly specialised niche market and is now beginning to execute growth plans that will see it achieve even more.”

he overarching North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80million for further investment into the region.

NEL is also responsible for investing the £18m North East Growth Capital Fund, which offers unsecured investments of up to £500,000 to established businesses looking to realise their growth potential.
For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0345 369 7007.

What to do about an employee with a side hustle

Having a side hustle, as the practice is more commonly known, is catching on. It has been reported* that as many as 25 per cent of all UK adults now have some kind of side hustle alongside their regular employment. So even if only one employee has declared their passion for another project, it’s fair to assume there may be a few others who are thinking about doing the same.

Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept, Durham shares advice on how you can handle this situation.

What does the side hustle mean for your business?

Naturally you may be wondering what this might mean for your business and the future of your workforce. For example, issues can arise if a side hustle starts encroaching on regular work. A conflict of interest will be a real problem.

But on the plus side, an employee with diverse enthusiasm could breathe new life into an existing project or department of yours, if you embrace it and give them the opportunity. It may even satisfy a desire of theirs to look elsewhere or start out on their own.

A good way to protect yourself and communicate your expectations to your employees is to have a policy in place which addresses work on the side. In your policy, you will want to consider the following:

Protection of your assets
A data breach can do serious damage to your business. Your policy should make it clear that your customer data, trade secrets and any other sensitive business information is strictly confidential and a breach of this could result in legal action. You will also want to add that company hardware and software is for official business use only and that activity can be monitored.

Encouragement of openness
Through encouraging an open and honest culture you can request that your employees declare any other work or projects that they have committed to. Let them know that you are keen to find out more about their interests to see if these can be incorporated into their primary role.

Time spent working
When they are onsite for work, or have clocked on, it is to carry out the work which you have agreed upon. If it becomes apparent that side hustle activity is seeping into their work days for you and distracting them from their tasks at hand, disciplinary procedures will follow.

Need help managing an employee with a side hustle?
Ultimately an employee displaying an entrepreneurial spirit can end up doing wonders for your business if managed correctly. Keep the communication flowing to handle conflict and ask us about how to implement your policy today.

Do you know the latest tax rules regarding termination payments?

There have been significant changes to the tax treatment of termination payments in the last 12 months. And the government have not finished yet, but the goal posts keep moving. To help raise awareness among local businesses, Alison Schreiber from The HR Dept, Durham shares a rundown of what’s happened and what’s still to come.

Compensatory termination payments up to £30,000 are normally tax free.

In April 2018 a loophole was closed meaning non-contractual pay in lieu of notice cannot be wrapped up in this £30,000 tax-free amount.

A further change due in April 2019 to make employer national insurance payable on any excess over £30,000 has been postponed by a year.

Alison explains: “It may be that the hardest part of terminating an employment is making the decision to do it. However, with all the tax changes going on, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the most difficult thing is calculating the termination payment. As a starting point, let’s bear in mind that the first £30,000 of a compensation in a redundancy payment or as part of a Settlement Agreement is normally tax free.

“Last April new rules closed a loophole which had seen some payments made in lieu of notice deemed free of tax if there was no clause in the contract allowing pay in lieu ‘That change has happened.

“Another rule change that was intended to come in last April was that, as well as the excess over £30,000 of compensatory payments being subject to tax, the employer should pay national insurance contributions on it too. This would correspondingly increase the cost to an employer of a termination payment.

“This change was actually postponed until April of this year. And the good news is it has just been announced that it has been postponed again and has been kicked into the long grass of 2020.”

These changes may affect the equilibrium of termination payments, potentially reducing the value to the recipient and/or increasing the cost to the employer. It’s important to consider this when negotiating a termination payment and to ensure your payroll systems are updated with the latest rules.

The A-Z of recruitment

Recruitment can be a complex minefield. Here, the HR Dept, has prepared an A-Z of recruitment.

Attracting applicants
Attracting the right applicants requires an all-round approach. Some steps to consider are: Review your online presence, revisit your “work for us” content and be seen where your ideal candidates are looking.

It is true that Brexit uncertainty has affected the flow of EU migrants wanting to live and work in the UK. You may want to consider if and how Brexit affects recruiting for your business. Workforce planning, which highlights skills gaps and opportunities for training, is a great way to start preparing.

Company culture
Company culture can be a big pull for candidates. And you will also want to know that your new-hire will fit in well with yours. Communicate your company culture and core values by including them in your job description and interviews.

Data protection
Processing the data of EU citizens currently falls under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the handling of personal data needs to be compliant throughout your recruitment process. GDPR compliance can be complex. Ask us if you are unsure.

Employment contracts
Providing each new-hire with the right employment contract is crucial when it comes to protecting your business. Make sure you use the right contract for the right role and at the right time. You can be taken to an employment tribunal if you don’t.

Flexible working
Flexible working is a hot topic and a desired benefit of many job seekers in 2019. Could flexible working widen the net of your recruitment strategy?

Being ‘ghosted’ is the recruitment equivalent of being stood-up. In a job-seekers’ market, that cold feeling of rejection usually associated with online dating is becoming a common occurrence for companies who are hiring. Read our top tips on how to reduce the risk of being ghosted.

Headhunting can be a good way to attract your preferred calibre of employees. Just be sure to approach the process with caution and respect the confidentiality of your prospects. Steps one and two should involve research and rapport.

An interview will give you dedicated time with a candidate so that you can both discuss suitability for the role. To get the most out of this time, it is wise to do some interview prep to avoid repetition or missing out important questions which check that the candidate really has the right knowledge, skills and attitude to do the job.

Consider the location of your interview too. Does it give a good first impression of your business?

Job descriptions
Both a good job description and person specification are essential when it comes to being clear about the role and the person you want to fill it. Consider the title and keywords that you are using to advertise your role. Check out the competition too. Is your offering as attractive as theirs?

Make sure they have the right knowledge for the role. But also have you found a way to train and share knowledge across the team so that if someone is away, work does not grind to a halt?

Legal bit
Legal protection for candidates starts with your job advert. Is your process up-to-date and compliant for the likes of anti-discrimination, right to work and criminal record checks?

Enquiring about a candidate’s health before offering them a job could fall within the lines of discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. There are a few instances where it would be suitable to ask. For example, if the job comes with an occupational requirement.

NDAs (Non-disclosure agreement)
Asking candidates to sign an NDA during your recruitment process can help to protect sensitive information and the confidentiality of your business. The question here is, do you need one?
Some candidates can find this off putting and NDA’s have come under scrutiny in recent high-profile harassment cases. If you are unsure about NDAs, ask us.

Offering the job
When you have found the ideal candidate for your role it’s time to make them a job offer, great!
If you have already discussed salary expectations and employee benefits with your candidate, the process is likely to continue as expected. If you haven’t, you may want to keep your options open or prepare for the possibility of a counter offer.

Protected characteristics
The following characteristics are protected from discrimination within recruitment under the Equality Act 2010.

Age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity.

Your questions should tell you enough but not too much. There’s an obvious need to avoid subjects that could breach equality law (see protected characteristics above). And it’s also wise to steer clear of contentious subjects like politics or pressing for answers too vehemently. Their questions will tell you how much they have thought about the role, avoid those who ask how much sick entitlement they get.

Candidates often lie on CV’s. We recommend that you include reference checks as part of your recruitment process to corroborate the skills and experience submitted by your candidates. To do this it’s best to have a policy in place to make the process legal and fair.

Legally you must pay your employees at least the national minimum wage. It would be fair to pay your employees an affordable salary based on their skills, experience and the work entailed. Consider salary at the very start of recruitment to ensure that you have the budget required.

Telephone interviews
If you have received a substantial amount of applications for your vacancy, telephone interviews are a good way to shortlist candidates before holding face to face interviews. Plan your questions ahead of time and give a dedicated amount of time for each one to be answered.

Unconscious bias
Unconscious bias, through affinity, can influence your recruitment decisions. It’s important to be aware of it and justify your decisions with facts and evidence to avoid discrimination.

If your business works with the vulnerable, children or the elderly for example, you will need to know about disclosure (DBS) checks. Where references give you a basic and recent history of candidates, a DBS check provides a more thorough record check.

Worker status
We have seen Worker status cause confusion in some high-profile employment tribunals. In recent years, companies such as Uber and Pimlico Plumbers have been found to wrongly call their drivers self-employed when they should have been workers.

This can be a costly mistake. Ask us if you are unsure about employment status.

Xmas and seasonal staff
To be well prepared for busy periods you may wish to consider hiring seasonal staff. Our advice would be to give yourself plenty of time with this. Planning your seasonal recruitment strategy in advance will not only provide you with more time for training temps, but also broaden your opportunities. Read our top tips on recruiting seasonal staff

Your rights
Ultimately it is your decision as to who you choose to hire for your business. But your recruitment process does fall subject to employment law. Be fair to your business and candidates by introducing a recruitment policy, detailing the how’s and whys of your process.

Zero hours
Used properly Zero-hour contracts work well. The bottom line is that those on zero hours contracts are entitled to annual leave and entitled to accept work elsewhere. Contracts can be complicated, contact your local HR Dept for advice.

Better Broadband 

The Better Broadband Voucher Scheme is a UK-wide government subsidy scheme to provide a basic broadband installation to homes and businesses that are unable to access a service with a download speed of at least 2 Mbps and who won’t benefit from the superfast broadband roll out within the next 12 months.

Since its launch in December 2015, the scheme has boosted the broadband speeds of more than 20,000 homes and businesses in some of the hardest to reach areas of the UK.

Households and businesses that are eligible to take advantage of the scheme have the installation and hardware costs of their connection subsidised to ensure first year costs are no more than £400.

Find out more about the scheme and whether your premises could be eligible.

A helping paw for animals

The North East Hydrotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre, based on the Drum Industrial Estate, now offers a professional CPD accredited small animal first aid training course.

Managing director, Michael Leonard, said: “Having always had dogs of various breeds, I’ve always strived to ensure the wellbeing and health of families most loved pets at all times. I know how much they mean to their owners. The first aid training gives delegates the knowledge and training to deal with immediate first response situations which may save an animals life prior to them being treated by the veterinarian.”

Michael began his dream of rehabilitating dogs opening the business in 2013, naming it after his own dogs “Biscuit & Baileys”. Recently the business has rebranded to North East Hydrotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre as it continues to grow.

Michael delivers the courses alongside Kathryn, a tregistered Veterinary nurse. The team have over a combined 26 years of veterinary experience and the centre is now one of the best Rehabilitation centres in the country and works alongside Animal Jobs Direct in delivering the highest standards of education in helping students in becoming Hydrotherapists.

Co-op becomes official Red Box Project drop off point

The Drum Estate-based Co-op depot is supporting the Red Box Project.

The scheme is a community-based, not-for-profit initiative, which aims to support young people whose families may not be able to afford sanitary products. They provide red boxes filled with sanitary items to schools.

The Co-op is proud to be supporting the Red Box Project and is now an official drop/collection point. The products collected will be donated to the following schools: Pelton community primary school; Park View School; Barley Mow primary School; Birtley East Primary School; and Lord Lawson of Beamish.

All businesses on the Drum Estate are welcome to drop off products at the Co-op. Contact Suzanne Patterson for more information.

Get more details about the project.

Lumiere to light up Durham

A lights festival which attracts hundreds of thousands of people to Durham promises to have a lasting impact on communities throughout thanks to a substantial grant.

Artichoke, producers of Lumiere Durham, have announced that the Garfield Weston Foundation have once again pledged support for the 2019 edition of the light festival.

Lumiere Durham showcases the talented and forward-thinking companies based in the region and is acknowledged for sending out a clear message that Durham is very much open for business and is the ideal place to locate and grow a business.

The £90,000 grant will go towards the delivery of Artichoke’s year-round learning and participation programme within communities in the region, ensuring Lumiere has “a lasting impact beyond the four-day festival experience”.

Lumiere, commissioned by Durham County Council, with additional support from Arts Council England, will return from the November 14 to 17 November for its tenth anniversary edition.
Beyond the festival is an extensive programme of events, workshops and training experiences, which invite community groups, businesses and individuals from the region to take part in the creation of artworks, learn new skills and undertake professional development opportunities like traineeships and enhanced volunteering roles.

Philippa Charles, director of Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “The festival is an internationally-renowned cultural highlight, which has delighted and astounded audiences repeatedly over the last ten years. We’re proud support the festival in its endeavour to further the impact of the festival throughout the local community.”

There is still time to join Garfield Weston as a supporter of Lumiere 2019. Artichoke are still seeking sponsors for a range of initiatives including the Brillian commissioning scheme and Lumiere conference.

Top marks for North East Autism Society’s care services

The North East Autism Society, whose head office is based on the Drum Estate, has scooped an outstanding score by Ofsted.

Its care home Acorn House, which is situated within the grounds of the North East Centre for Autism in Newton Aycliffe, was awarded the top mark – the third within the Society ‘s care services for children in as any months.

Director of Care for the North East Autism Society, Brian Stoker, said: “Yet another incredible report is testament to the team on the ground who are committed to making sure every child or young person who walks through our doors is not only welcomed into a safe, homely, stimulating environment but who is so well known and understood that with every visit we see progress, in all areas.

“Well done to everyone at Acorn House. Your hard work and passion for your jobs have paid off.”

ITPS bags donations for St Oswald’s Hospice

Drum-Estate based Technology firm IT Professional Services (ITPS) launched a “Bag It” appeal in aid of St Oswald’s Hospice.

Although donations were supposed to be delivered to St Oswald’s a few weeks ago, staff had so many old clothing items to bag up that the firm decided to extend the deadline.

MD Garry Sheriff and his son Elliot were among those who dropped off the donations to the store based in Whickham. Elliot has been volunteering at the shop for the past year after getting a six-month placement for his Duke of Edinburgh Award and he’s enjoying it so much that he’s continued to volunteer!

Their “Bag It” appeal back in 2017 raised an estimated £1,400 in donations so they’re hoping to do just as well if not better this year.

Good luck ITPS!

Banging the Drum for Durham businesses!

Businesses in County Durham are being urged to share their stories about working in the area as part of a new campaign aimed at attracting people to the region.

Durham County Council has been working with businesses on the new campaign, involving a series of short films, to showcase the area.

The Powered by People campaign is aimed at giving businesses, developers and employers the chance to promote Durham as a place to work, with the intention of trying to increase investment and jobs across the county.

Council leader councillor Simon Henig said: “This initiative Powered by People has come from conversations with businesses across County Durham. Businesses have told us they need a way to showcase the county and all that’s going on here.

“This was an opportunity to bring people together and amplify the positivity we see across the county and create a clear message about what a fantastic place Durham is to do business.”

The campaign will be advertised nationally, while businesses are also being urged to share the films online and on social media. Use the hashtag #durhampoweredbypeople

Join in. 

£10k funds available for County Durham businesses

Entrepreneurs who are part of an incubator designed to help companies grow and thrive in County Durham will now be able to access up to £10,000 of funding each.

Durham City Incubator (DCI) is open to businesses that have been trading for under 12 months and are based in County Durham.

It is a unique collaboration between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham, the economic development organisation, which works on behalf of Durham County Council.

DCI has partnered with Northstar Ventures to provide a loan fund of up to £7,500 to successful businesses which secure a place on the programme. Funding has come from the North East Innovation Fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is managed by Northstar Ventures.

Companies will also be able to tap into six months of intensive support designed to ensure they are ready for the next stage of growth, with training and advice ranging from financing and marketing to legal issues and business strategy and much more.

Sarah Slaven, operations director at Business Durham, said: “Businesses can really struggle to secure funding, particularly at a ‘proof of concept’ phase so the partnership with Northstar Ventures is fantastic news.”

The programme is open to any companies trading for under one year.

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North East storage company locates to Drum Estate

MyLockup.com, which also has branches in Thirsk, Northallerton and Scarborough with branches opening soon in Catterick, Darlington and Knaresborough, has opened its new operation at Drum Industrial Estate in County Durham.The expansion follows a five-figure investment.

Managing director, Kevin Doyle, said: “The Drum Industrial Estate provides an excellent base for us which is close to great transport links and surrounded by other successful businesses. The south of the region is a hive of activity and we are looking forward to building on our presence within the North East.

“The expansion is part of a long-term growth strategy which will allow us to provide cost-effective self-storage solutions while creating further jobs and investment for the North East.”
The secure storage units within the MyLockup.com site range from 25 to 350 square feet, up to 8 feet high and are monitored by security cameras.

Nicholas Bramwell, chartered surveyor at Bradley Hall, who facilitated the move, said: “The MyLockup.com team has chosen an excellent place to base their new business – this particular location has great access to many areas of the North East via the A1, making it easy for customers to use their facility.”

Businesses urged to join Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life

Businesses in the North East are being encouraged to get the year off to a great start by making a date to join Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life.

Businesses are being encouraged to enter teams, or to encourage individual employees to take part in this year’s Race for Life.

There are events for people of all ages and abilities taking place over June and July at Darlington, Durham, Sunderland and Newcastle.

Vikki Lambert, Cancer Research UK’s Event Manager, said: “Our Race for Life events are fun, colourful, emotional and uplifting. They help people with cancer by raising money for research, including clinical trials which give patients in the North East access to the latest treatments.

“Our Race for Life events have been women-only since they started, over 25 years ago. But we now feel the time is right to open them up so that everyone – women, men and children – has the chance to participate together.

Thanks to everyone who raises money, Cancer Research UK is able to fund research to fight 200 types of cancer. The good news is more people are surviving the disease than ever before. Cancer survival in the UK has doubled since the early 1970s and Cancer Research UK’s work has been at the heart of that progress.

To enter Race for Life today visit raceforlife.org or call 0300 123 0770.

Chester-le-Street Market Place set for £6m transformation

Work is due to start on a flood prevention scheme in Chester-le-Street, following confirmation of funding for the £6m project.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government approved £2.79m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the works, with Durham County Council having already committed up to £1.5m. The remainder of the cash, £1.9m, will come from the Environment Agency.

The scheme will enable the council to open up a 90m stretch of the Cong Burn, which runs below the Market Place. The authority will also look to provide an economic boost for the town by transforming the existing ‘red carpet’ area of the Market Place, where it will create a space for festivals and events.

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “We are extremely pleased to receive confirmation of the ERDF funding, particularly as it means that all funding for the project is now in place. I would like to thank everyone for all of the hard work that has already gone into this project.”

Work on the scheme is due for completion by March 2020.

Abandoned Chester-le-Street site to be granted million pound transformation

Multi-million pound plans to redevelop a longstanding vacant site on the edge of Chester-le-Street’s town centre have been revealed.

Developer, Imopro SA is seeking to develop the site at Pelton Fell Road, Chester-le-Street, for retail operator B&M.

The development, to be located to the west of the existing Tesco supermarket and the railway viaduct, would include a new B&M Home Store of 1,858 sq m floorspace.

It will also feature 67 parking spaces, hard and soft landscaping, and separate accesses from Pelton Fell Road for customer and service vehicles.

Daniel Gregg, senior planner at Lichfields, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to develop this vacant eyesore site on the edge of the town centre. This scheme will enhance the choice of retail facilities available to residents of Chester le Street and help to reduce the need to travel elsewhere in the region.”

It could create up to 40 full and part-time job opportunities for local people.

New investment fund offers £15,000 to businesses looking to grow

Innovative businesses can access up to £15k of investment with the launch of new business support programme, Innovate:Grow.

Conceived by Generator and Auxin OKR, the latest funding programme, Innovate:Grow, has investment from the North East Innovation Fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund. It’s managed by Northstar Ventures.

It will run two funding cohorts in May and September and is available to businesses from across a range of sectors.

CEO at Generator, Jim Mawdsley, said: “We’re pleased to support our region’s innovative businesses with the launch of this new programme of investment which will provide an invaluable platform for future business success. What we want to see are ambitious entrepreneurs with interesting and potentially market-disruptive ideas, who are confident in their product and their ability to turn it into a scalable business.”

Apply here.