Does your car have a Spare Tyre?

Does your car have a Spare Tyre?
Does your car have a spare tyre? Most people with a new car are unlikely to have a spare wheel and this is likely to have caused many drivers problems. The disappearance of the spare wheel is a result of the car manufacturers looking to improve fuel economy and help make cars lighter. Although the manufacturers provide tyre inflation kits, many owners have found these unsuitable and, at times – perhaps at the roadside, difficult to use.

To try and overcome this problem, the RAC have developed a new ‘universal’ spare wheel and tyre intended to assist drivers get back on the rod quickly and safely. Why have they done this, in 2013 the RAC alone responded to nearly 94,000 breakdowns involving a puncture on a vehicle with no spare wheel. This being an increase of a third on the previous 12-months.

The universal spare wheel invented by the RAC should help minimise inconvenience and reduce time spent at the roadside for drivers. The RAC claim this spare wheel can be fitted to over 95 per cent of vehicles that don’t include a spare.

Tams Tyres offer you a FREE tyre check, including tyre wear and pressures. We can help ensure your tyres are legal, safe and if required, can supply new tyres for all types of vehicles – cars, vans and 4X4’s, all fully fitted, balanced and inflated correctly for a great price.

We stock a massive range of car tyres, van tyres, 4×4 tyres and high performance tyres and maintain high levels of stock including all major brands such as Pirelli, Michelin, Dunlop, Continental, Firestone and Goodyear tyres, plus a range of quality new economy tyres.

Not only can we help you enjoy better fuel consumption but we can also help with better road holding and safety. Call us now on (0191) 4604809 or visit the Tams Tyres website for further information.

Business:             Tams Tyres


Help to Work – New Unemployment Rules in Force

Help to Work –  New Unemployment Rules in Force
A new government scheme aimed at helping the long-term unemployed get jobs comes into effect on Monday. Those who have not found work after two years on the existing Work Programme will have to enrol on the Help to Work scheme or face reduced benefits. Participants will have to go to the job centre every day, some will be offered community work placements and others will receive intensive coaching.

Those who fail to take part could lose jobless benefits for fixed periods. They will lose jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for four weeks for their first failure, then 13 weeks for a second failure.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said: “Everyone with the ability to work should be given the support and opportunity to do so. “The previous system wrote too many people off, which was a huge waste of potential for those individuals as well as for their families and the country as a whole.”

The programme was first outlined by Chancellor George Osborne at last year’s Conservative Party conference.

Employment Minister Esther McVey said the scheme was “absolutely not” about punishing people. She said she and others involved cared “deeply” about helping people into work and “fulfilling their potential”. The people targeted by the Help to Work scheme were the “hardest to help” and the government wanted to give them “extra support”, she added.

Labour says that the government has mis-diagnosed the problem. Stephen Timms, shadow employment minister, said: “Under David Cameron’s government nearly one in 10 people claiming JSA lack basic literacy skills and many more are unable to do simple maths or send an email.  “A Labour government will introduce a basic skills test to assess all new claimants for JSA within six weeks of claiming benefits.”

BBC social affairs correspondent Michael Buchanan said the government had signed up more than 70 organisations to provide work experience under the scheme. However, he also added that the Salvation Army is not taking part, because it believes if someone has not found a job after two years of intensive support, their lack of work experience is not their only barrier to employment.

Robert Jones, 56, who has been unemployed for more than three years and has been on the Work Programme for almost two years, said the government “don’t care” if people are unemployed. “If you listen to the rhetoric of MPs it’s not about getting people into work, they always talk about getting people off benefit, and I think that’s their emphasis,” he said. And Mr Jones said the work experience element of the Help to Work scheme could “destroy jobs” by giving employers access to “free labour”.

Also on Monday, those wanting to claim JSA will have to prove they are ready for work before they can apply.

The government has said the changes will help to put an end to the “one-way street in benefits”.

But the TUC says the rules could discourage more people from claiming it. “Making the JSA rules tougher and tougher will put people off claiming the benefits they need without doing much to help them get jobs,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said there was no evidence that people would be put off claiming.

UK Retail Sales Edged up in March, says ONS

UK Retail Sales Edged up in March, says ONS
Retail sales edged up in March compared with the previous month, official figures have shown, beating forecasts. Sales volumes were 0.1% higher in March than in February. Analysts had expected sales to drop because of the Easter holidays falling in April this year.

Volumes in March were up 4.2% compared with a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. The cold weather a year ago was a key factor in the year-on-year rise, the ONS said.

Non-food stores showed the biggest year-on-year rise in sales since April 2002, up 9.6%.

The ONS said this was helped considerably by the comparison with March 2013 which was the second coldest March on record. This year the weather was much warmer, leading to more people heading out to the shops.

Retail sales figures for the first quarter of the year were also produced by the ONS. Sales volumes were up 3.8% in the first three months of the year compared with the first quarter of 2013.

The figures add to evidence that the UK economy grew strongly in the first three months of the year.

Earlier this week it emerged that the Bank of England had raised its growth forecast for the quarter to 1% from 0.9%.

The ONS figures showed that sales of clothing and footwear were particularly strong last month. “Thoughts had been that consumers would take a slight pause in March from retail – a breather before the late Easter spending spree, but sales of clothing increased by 3.1% on the month and took the overall average into positive territory,” said Jeremy Cook, chief economist at currency brokers World First.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at research firm Markit, said March’s better-than-expected sales were “not just a temporary growth spurt”. “There is a fundamental improvement in household finances underway which should help drive further on-going growth of consumer spending as we move through the year,” he said. “The improving job market, and especially rising wages, combined with lower inflation are helping boost consumer spirits and starting to reverse the squeeze on real incomes that has been so damaging to the economy since the financial crisis.”

Government Hits 2013-14 Borrowing Target

UK Government Hits Borrowing Target in 2013-14
The UK government borrowed £107.7bn in the financial year to April 2014, lower than the £115.1bn amount it borrowed the previous year. In the Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had estimated a deficit for the full year of £107.8bn. The government wants to eliminate the budget deficit by 2017-18.

Borrowing in March fell to £6.7bn from £11.4bn a year earlier, excluding financial interventions, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Meanwhile, the figure for February was revised down from £9.3bn to £8.8bn. The annual figure is the first provisional estimate of the financial year, and will be revised as more data becomes available. It excludes the effects of both the transfer of the Royal Mail pension scheme to the government, and gains from the Bank of England’s asset purchases for quantitative easing (QE).

The UK’s public sector net debt, excluding financial interventions, is now £1,268.7bn, equivalent to 75.8% of GDP. This compares with a figure of £1,185.2bn, or 74.2% of GDP, at the end of March 2013. The OBR has forecast that the ratio will peak at close to 79% in 2015-16.

Howard Archer, chief economist at analysts Global Insight, said Chancellor George Osborne had been “helped enormously by the March shortfall being limited to £6.7bn”. “While in reality, it made little difference whether the chancellor just hit or just missed his fiscal target for 2013-14, the fact that he did make it provides a psychological boost for the government and it may support belief that he can hit his longer-term targets,” said Mr Archer. Nevertheless, a deficit of £107.7bn in 2013-14 highlights the fact that here is still an awfully long way to go in getting the public finances into decent shape.”

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the figures showed that gradual progress has been made over the past year in stabilising public finances. “However, bringing down our budget deficit remains a difficult task. Since the financial crisis, we have seen falls in oil and gas output and weaknesses in the financial sector,” he added.

“These structural changes have reduced the country’s ability to generate tax revenues, and future public spending must factor in these challenges.

“Although progress may be gradual, reducing our public sector debt is necessary, as it will help businesses drive the recovery, and create jobs and wealth.”

Ceiling Treatments to Improve Sound Testing

Ceiling Treatments to Improve Sound Testing
When our clients have a problem with sound transmissions through floors we generally advice that secondary ceilings are a minimum of 100mm deep, however if the available ceiling height is in place, such as a Victorian house with ceilings in excess of  2.8m the optimum improvements are achieved with depths of 250mm. Generally the greater the ceiling void depth and the less direct connection between the secondary ceiling and the original floor structure, the better the improvement in your sound test results.

Where we have encountered much tighter ceiling tolerances where secondary ceiling depth is at a premium the choice of fixing mechanism may compensate for the limited depth, in this case the use of composite supports such as timber battens and metal resilient bars can improve sound insulation with ceiling voids depths of 70mm which invaluable if you existing ceiling is 2.5m or less.

Also by installing absorption layers within the ceiling void such as AW sound insulation can also increase sound insulation for airborne noise and impact noise helping you to pass the Part E sound testing. However, care should be taken the correct installation of electrical cables to prevent overheating. In all instances the installation must comply with BS 7671.

You must also consider the additional weight of fixings, boards and insulation will increase loading on the original structure. If you are removing lathe and plaster and installing a resilient layer and a single layer of sound board then this shouldn’t be a problem. However if a large amount of upgrades are required then specialist advice from structural engineers should be sought to check if the existing structure can accommodate the additional loads.

In our experience one easy way to provide adequate isolation is the through the installation of metal resilient bars. The resilient bars are typically 11–16mm thick and vary in design and resilience. Resilient bars should never be mounted directly to the underside of an existing ceiling as this creates full contact between the ceiling and the resilient bar for its full length which may result in a sound test failure.

When your existing structure has both concrete and timber floors, where the existing ceiling is not being removed and resilient bars are being used, it is always preferable to install a 50 x 50mm timber batten and then mount the resilient bar perpendicular to the brander, i.e. the resilient bars should run across the batten’s to allow for the minimal contact.

If you are utilising an existing concrete floor and you are removing the existing ceiling the timber battens should be used prior to installing the resilient bars. In the case of joist floors the resilient bars may be directly connected to the joists provided they are perpendicular (at right angles) to the direction of the joist.

Using absorption layers, such as mineral wool within the ceiling voids can improve sound insulation for speech, TV and general living noise. However, the primary pathways for sound may not always be through the floor or ceiling cavities but via the floor joists and perimeter walls. In such cases, placing quilts or absorbent layers within the floor voids may only a limited effect. Mounting additional ceiling boards directly to the existing ceiling, where the ceiling is directly fixed to joists, will marginally increase the mass and ceiling however it doesn’t always make much difference to the overall sound insulation performance. In this instance you may also need to install a resilient layer to the walls or build an independent wall in front of the existing walls to pass the Part E sound testing.

Another common source of complaint of poor noise levels in flats can be related to drainage runs, drainage stacks or soil and vent pipes (SVPs). The most common method to reduce noise transmission from services is to enclose pipe runs or stacks in a generic lining or proprietary lining system.

In our experience generic solutions are normally less expensive than proprietary systems but may be more time consuming to fit. In both cases the wrapped insulation should completely surround the pipe and the boxing and gypsum board should not come into direct contact with the pipe or pipe fixings. It’s often prudent to use two layers of lapped gypsum board for the outer lining.

Where there are horizontal pipe runs through separating floors either in the ceiling void or in floor cavities between timber joists these may require to be wrapped and boxed with two layers of lapped gypsum-based board. In some cases it is difficult to box these services and so heavy proprietary pipe wrap systems involving multi-layered materials may be required.

We believe in working with our clients whether they are existing home owners needing minor acoustic upgrades or large developers requiring a more expansive service to achieve sound testing compliance. We believe that by being involved at the beginning of a project we can often save our clients expensive and difficult remedial works at the completion stage of a project by avoiding sound test failures

If you would like more information on our full range of services please contact us now at or call us on 07775 623464

Business:       APT Sound Testing


Europe to get Universal Mobile Charger

Europe to get Universal Mobile Charger
The European Parliament has ruled that all mobile phone chargers on the European market must use a standard charger by 2017. This is likely to be a micro USB charger, which most mobile companies already use, but iPhones still use either lightning or 30 pin connections.

The ‘Which Magazine’ mobile phone experts have suggested that this is potentially good news, but it still remains to be seen how Apple will respond. In the past

Apple have said that they would not redesign its phones and would only provide adaptors to make them compatible.

UK Inflation Rate Falls in March

UK Inflation Rate Falls in March
The UK inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) fell to 1.6% in March from 1.7% in February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It is the third consecutive month inflation has been below the Bank of England’s 2% target rate, and the lowest rate since October 2009.

The rate of Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation also fell to 2.5% from 2.7%.

The largest contribution to the fall in the rate came from petrol prices. Petrol prices were unchanged between February and March, compared with a rise of 2.2p a litre a year earlier. A smaller rise in the prices of clothing and footwear, compared with last year, also contributed to the drop in the inflation rate.

The fall in the rate of inflation means that the gap between average wage growth and the rise in prices has continued to narrow.

Average total earnings, including bonuses, rose 1.4% in the three months to January compared with a year earlier, according to ONS figures released last month. Excluding bonuses, wages grew by 1.3%.

The ONS will release its latest figures for average total earnings in the three months to February on Wednesday.

Sound Testing and Noise Flanking

Sound Testing and Noise Flanking
Part E of Building regulations require that buildings are to be sound tested prior to completion in order to confirm they meet or exceed the ISO 140-4 & 140-7 standards. The person carrying out the building work should arrange for sound insulation testing to be carried out by a test body with approved qualifications and affiliations such as a UKAS accredited company.

The test organisation should be able to schedule the tests; however this will need to be confirmed by the relevant Building Inspector. If the building fails the sound test the sound insulation will need improving and the partition re-tested.  Should the building fail the sound test we can undertake a design review of the partition and make recommendations to help you pass part E.

APT Sound Testing are UKAS accredited  to carry out the required sound insulation testing on new build or conversion projects and we can a very competitive price. All our engineers carry out the sound test measurements in compliance with the current British Standard: The airborne and impact sound insulation tests carried out in full accordance with the measurement procedures of BS EN ISO 140-4.

The field measurements are with a single figure DnTw and LnTw in accordance with BS EN ISO 717, the Spectrum Adaptation Ctr – which is a correction factor calculated from the measured DnT.w and the corresponding third octave band DnT values are also included within the measurement. This is applied to airborne test results and is measured in dB.

The Sound testing procedure is quite simple and our engineer will be happy to explain this on site. There are three types of sound insulation tests. For party walls there is one type of sound insulation test which is airborne sound test and for floor partitions there are two types of sound insulation tests which are airborne and impact sound insulation tests.

The airborne sound insulation test is carried out by means of a dodecahedron loudspeaker emitting a steady noise source on one side of the wall or floor partition. The corresponding sound levels are then measured on the other side of the partition. Impact sound insulation tests are carried out by means of a tapping machine placed on the floor sample to be measured and the noise measured in the room or space below.

Calculations are undertaken based on these measurements and parameters and are compared to the Building Regulations Part E sound insulation requirements for the given type of the building, i.e. a refurbished or new build project.

Flanking Noise Transmission
When attempting to make any sort of construction compliant to the Part E Regulations, it is important to note that sound does not always go straight through the building element.

To reduce the risk of this is extremely important that measures to minimise flanking sound transmission are employed at the design stage and the builder installs the specified products correctly as to manufacturer’s guidelines. If the wall or floor concerned has good sound reducing capabilities but the floor wall junctions are weak then the sound will simply escape at this weak junction.

Flanking Transmission often occurs when sound travels along elements shared by adjacent structures. If measures to tackle Flanking are not correctly specified or constructed, Flanking Transmission can often exceed the direct noise transmission through the test partition resulting in a failure even if the actual partition is capable of passing Part E.

One way of dealing with sound flanking issue is to use isolation strips around the perimeter of the partitions at the edges of floors and walls. Acoustic sealant should also be incorporated wherever possible. One of the main reasons for sound test failures due to noise flanking failures is when the inner leaf of the perimeter wall is built with light weight blocks.

This acts like a large snare drum and the sound simple travels straight up the wall from one flat to the flat above and/or below. If you have used lightweight blocks in your onsite construction and the building fails the sound test you may need to construction an independent internal plasterboard lining throughout the inner perimeter wall, this should isolate the lightweight blocks and ensure the flanking path is minimized.

If you would like more information in regards to sound testing please follow our blog at:, or contact us at: or visit our website at:

The Heart Bleed Security Bug

The Heart Bleed Security Bug
This week it has emerged that a major security flaw at the heart of the internet may have been exposing users’ personal information and passwords to hackers for the past two years. It is not known how widely the bug has been exploited, if at all, but what is clear is that it is one of the biggest security issues to have faced the internet to date. Security expert Brue Schneier described it as “catastrophic”. “On the scale of one to 10, this is an 11.”

The BBC website offers what they describe as a guide to ‘everything you need to know about Heartbleed’.

Here UK Business News copies a part of the BBC article describing the basis of the threat and the need to consider updating your passwords.

The Threat
The bug exists in a piece of open source software called OpenSSL which is designed to encrypt communications between a user’s computer and a web server, a sort of secret handshake at the beginning of a secure conversation.

It was dubbed Heartbleed because it affects an extension to SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) which engineers dubbed Heartbeat. It is one of the most widely used encryption tools on the internet, believed to be deployed by roughly two-thirds of all websites. If you see a little padlock symbol in your browser then it is likely that you are using SSL.

Half a million sites are thought to have been affected.

So do you need to change your Passwords?
Some security experts are saying that it would be prudent to do so although there is a degree of confusion as to when and if this needs to be done. Many of the large technology firms including Facebook and Google have patched the vulnerability.

Confusingly though Google spokeswoman Dorothy Chou specifically said: “Google users do not need to change their passwords.” A source at the firm told the BBC that it patched the vulnerability ahead of the exploit being made public and did not believe that it had been widely used by hackers.

Some point out that there will be plenty of smaller sites that haven’t yet dealt with the issue and with these a password reset could do more harm than good, revealing both old and new passwords to any would-be attacker.

But now the bug is widely known even smaller sites will issue patches soon so most people should probably start thinking about resetting their passwords.

“Some time over the next 48 hours would seem like sensible timing,” the University of Surrey’s computer scientist Prof Alan Woodward told the BBC.

Mikko Hypponen of security firm F-Secure issued similar advice: “Take care of the passwords that are very important to you. Maybe change them now, maybe change them in a week. And if you are worried about your credit cards, check your credit card bills very closely.”

How do I make sure my password is robust?
The exploit was not related to weak passwords but now there are calls for a mass reset of existing ones, many are reiterating the need to make sure they are as secure as possible.

People should regularly change their passwords, said Prof Woodward, and they need to make sure that they choose something that does not relate to themselves, such as a pet’s name. Words that don’t appear in a dictionary are preferable as is a mixture of words and numbers.

For people whose attitude to passwords is to reset them each time they visit a site because they have forgotten them, there is help on hand.

Tools are now widely available that will store and organise all your passwords and PIN codes for computers, apps and networks. They can also generate passwords and can automatically enter your username and password into forms on websites.

Such tools store your passwords in an encrypted file that is accessible only through the use of a master password. Examples of such services include KeePass, LastPass and 1Password.

Some firms are starting to offer alternatives to passwords.

Mobile firms including Apple and Samsung are integrating fingerprint-readers which allow users to access their phone and certain functions on it just by swiping their finger on the screen.

Searching for Gifts for the Home

Searching for Gifts for the Home
Moving into a new home is can be without doubt one of the most stressful experiences any family can have, particularly if the process has been over an extended period and fraught with difficulties, such as organising the property chain ‘exchange’, managing the removals and all of the other such issues. However, moving to a new home should also be a time to celebrate and the perfect time to treat ‘the home or new occupant’ to a new rather special and personalised gift for the home or garden.

One of the first things most people do, often even before the removal van leaves is to put the kettle on and make all concerned a welcome cup of tea or coffee.  A new kettle or coffee machine is often an ideal ‘new home gift’ and will help everyone settle in quickly and help them feel at home. However, gifts for the kitchen are not the only gifts to help the new home experience, which could include a luxury bath set or some new bedding.

For visitors to the new home, it’s also often considered a good idea to have a gift in hand when you visit, helping them celebrate their new home with a gift that may be practical, useful, and a potential memory maker. We’ve come up with some ideas for both traditional gifts and new, and these include decorative scented coat hangers, Egyptian cotton towels, Sherpa throws or luxury bath and pedestal mats.

But where to find the time to go shopping for these home ware gifts? Moving into a new home is almost certainly a time consuming and stressful experience, with little time to go to the local shops searching for such items.

Online shopping websites such as the Home and Gift shop offer convenience and range, offering everything for the home and garden, including a diverse range of home & garden furniture, including a range of gift ideas for the kitchen and bedroom, many of which you probably never knew existed.

The internet now allows the consumer to be able to search a far wider choice of shopping merchandise than is sometimes available in out of town shopping malls or on the high street. And for those living in smaller towns or in the more rural locations, online shopping has become not just a convenience but, in many cases, can be a life line. The internet has also helped many shopping retailers to expand their business by giving them the opportunity to market their home furnishings and gift ideas to a much wider audience.

Buying a new home gift is simple with the great selection of practical, relaxing and celebratory gifts available in the Home and Gift Shop, offering everything for the home including kitchen gifts, bedroom furnishings and much more.

Business:             The Home and Gift Shop