UK Economy in Good Health

UK Economy in Good Health, Business Lobby Groups Say
The UK economy is in good health according to two major business lobby groups, the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The CBI says growth reached a record high in May, marking the best reading since it began gathering data in 2003.

Meanwhile, the BCC upgraded its growth forecast for 2014 from 2.8% to 3.1%, which, if achieved, would be the highest rate since pre-crisis 2007.

That figure is well above the 2.7% forecast by the OBR.

The OBR, or Office for Budget Responsibility, is the government’s independent fiscal watchdog.

Latest official figures showed that the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the first three months of 2014.

The CBI’s growth report suggests the UK economy has continued to perform strongly in the second quarter of this year. Stronger economic performance was seen across the board, it said.

Sectors including retail sales and professional and consumer services did well in the three months to May, while manufacturing output continued to grow at a “solid pace”.

Andrew Graham, the chief executive of wallpaper manufacturer Graham & Brown, told the BBC he was cautiously confident: “The economy is improving, but that is from a very low base. “I think we are just starting to see recovery. As a business, we have starting investing seriously again over the last 12 months.”

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said the improvement was down to increased confidence in the UK economy, easier access to credit, and better global economic conditions.

However, Ms Hall said there were risks to the UK’s outlook from global developments, including the “possibility that the situation in Ukraine and Russia could impact on global commodity prices”.  She added: “With the eurozone crisis still far from being fully resolved, the UK continues to be exposed to a prolonged period of subdued activity in the region.”

The BCC also said the economic recovery was not guaranteed. John Longworth, the BCC’s director general, said: “Our forecast confirms that Britain is leading, rather than following, other major economies when it comes to short-term growth, which is great news. “But make no mistake – we still have a lot of work to do.” He added that the UK was “overly reliant on consumer spending” as a driver of growth.

Serco Wins Franchise for Caledonian Sleeper Train Service

Serco Wins Franchise for Caledonian Sleeper Train Service
Serco has been awarded the contract to run the Caledonian sleeper train service between Scotland and London. Transport Scotland announced the company would take over the franchise from Aberdeen-based First Group.

Serco already offers luxury sleeper services in Australia. The new 15-year franchise will start in April 2015.

The Caledonian franchise connects Inverness, Fort William, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow to London. Serco will be responsible for operating all aspects of the Caledonian Sleeper including marketing, sales, passenger services, station facilities and fleet maintenance.

More than £100m will be invested in new rolling stock by the summer of 2018, part-funded by a £60m grant from the Scottish government.

Serco is promising improvements including en-suite berths, “pod flatbeds” and a brasserie-style club car. The rolling stock will be built by CAF, which also built Edinburgh’s new trams.

Serco chief executive Rupert Soames said: “Serco has a strong track record of providing high quality and efficient rail services around the world, as well as experience in managing large-scale tourism-focused transport services.  “I am delighted that we can use this unique blend of expertise to transform the iconic Caledonian Sleeper into a modern, high quality hospitality service to make Scotland proud.”

The company said customers would also benefit from being able to book through a new website with a much broader range of fares and earlier boarding.

Total revenue to Serco over the 15-year period is estimated at up to £800m, of which approximately £180m will be in the form of franchise payments.

Three companies bid for the contract; Serco, Arriva Night Trains and First Group which runs the service currently as part of the ScotRail franchise.

First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole said the sleeper service only represented a very small part of ScotRail’s business.  He said: “We will continue to provide sleeper passengers with the best possible service until the new franchise commences, and will work closely with the new operator to ensure a seamless handover.  “We are tremendously proud to have provided this important service, providing a key link between Scotland and London, for the last decade and wish the team every success for the future.”

The ScotRail franchise is also up for renewal with an announcement due in the autumn.

HMRC Tax Crackdown Yields Record Additional Tax

HMRC Crackdown Yields Record £23.9bn in Additional Tax
The government has raised a record £23.9bn in additional tax for the year to the end of March as a result of a crackdown on tax avoidance. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said it had secured the money – the highest amount since records began – as a result of its investigations.

The figure is almost £1bn higher than the target set by Chancellor George Osborne in the Autumn Statement.

The extra money raised is in addition to regular tax receipts.

HMRC credited “increased activity” on unpaid tax for the figure. “HMRC will pursue those seeking to avoid their responsibilities and will collect the taxes that are due,” said Treasury minister David Gauke. “The government is determined to tackle the minority that seek to avoid paying the taxes they owe,” he added.

HMRC said that of the total amount it had raised, more than £8bn came from large businesses, £1bn from criminals and £2.7bn from tackling avoidance schemes in courts.

In total, HMRC has said it expects to secure £100bn between May 2010 and March 2015 as a result of its investigations into unpaid tax. The “tax gap” – the difference between the amount of tax due and that collected – was 7% for the 2011-2012 financial year, the most recent figure available.

Bird Feeders Help Your Local Bird Population

Bird Feeders Help Your Local Bird Population
Spring is here, and for many, that means time for watching how birds are marking the change of season. Many along the coast are enjoying the kestrels as well as the visiting Arctic Terns; inland, now is the time for seeing house sparrows and other British resident birds at feeders and flying in and out of shrubs where their hatchlings are nesting.

While the uninitiated may view bird watching as a hobby akin to stamp collecting – crossing birds off of one’s “life list” and all that – it really is more than a hobby. With residential and commercial land development rapidly diminishing the natural habitat of birds and other wildlife, homeowners and virtually anyone else with a window or balcony is uniquely positioned to help their local and visiting birds simply by providing food, water and shelter of any kind.

If you have a home with a garden and do not yet have a bird feeder, get one. Better yet, get three or four – or even more – and place them in different areas of your garden so that different bird species that don’t particularly get on with each other will benefit equally from your efforts.

Be sure to stock different feeders with different types of food: suet cakes are a good option while it’s still relatively cool, and peanuts and wild bird seed can be put out anytime. Many birds will happily repay you by preying on insects which would otherwise decimate your flowering plants; they simply need some indication that yours is a bird-friendly yard!

The Home and Gift Shop has been a one-stop shop for gift ideas for your home and garden for over 15 years. With our wide selection of bird feeders, seed tins and other essential items for bird watching beginners and enthusiasts, we are certain that you will love what our products can do for your garden – and for your birds!

To learn more, call us on 0844 573 1656 or visit our website for more great ideas on adding to your garden and helpful the native wildlife.

Business:             The Home and Gift Shop


UK Interest Rate Could Settle at 3%

UK Interest Rate could Settle at 3%, says Bank of England Deputy Governor
The official UK interest rate could settle at an average of 3% in a few years, the outgoing deputy governor of the Bank of England has predicted. Charlie Bean suggested it was likely to reach that level between 2017 and 2019.

The rate has been at the historic low of 0.5% since March 2009 and the Bank’s governor has indicated it will not start rising before next spring.

But Mr Bean told BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend there were economic advantages to beginning earlier. Mr Bean is a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates.

The UK interest rate fell to 0.5% in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis in 2008. It has been kept at that level amid concerns that the finances of many individuals and businesses remain too weak to withstand a rise. But recent worries about rising house prices in parts of the UK and evidence that the economy is strengthening have intensified the debate over when rates might start to increase.

“The bank rate averaged about 5% in the decade or so before the crisis,” Mr Bean told the BBC. “It’s reasonable to think that given the headwinds that are still out there as well as some the global forces that perhaps the level that we go to three or five years out might a couple of percentage points below that,” he said.

At the last meeting of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on 7-8 May, members appeared to be shifting their opinions towards raising interest rates. However, notes from the meeting showed that they voted unanimously to keep rates at a record low of 0.5%.

Mr Bean said: “There’s a case for moving gradually because we won’t be quite certain about the impact of tightening the bank rate given everything that has happened to the economy. “It might not operate in quite the same way as before the crisis. So that’s an argument if you like for being a bit cautious, moving in baby steps to avoid making mistakes. If you want to pursue that strategy you need to start taking those baby steps a bit earlier, otherwise you end up being behind the curve.”

Economist and former government adviser Will Hutton explained why the Bank was being so cautious: “Typical mortgage payments could double over the next three years. “If you look in the financial pages, you’ll see that you can fix your mortgage for 2% for two years or 3% for five years. In three years’ time those rates will double.”

Mr Bean also voiced concern that financial markets were being complacent, failing to factor in risks to the global economy, from instability in the Ukraine to rate rises in the US.

Nigel Farage: UKIP to be ‘Serious Players’ at General Election

Nigel Farage: UKIP to be ‘Serious Players’ at General Election
UKIP leader Nigel Farage has said his party will be “serious players” at the 2015 general election, in with a chance of securing representation in the House of Commons for the first time.

As results came in from England’s local elections, showing gains for UKIP across the country, he said: “The UKIP fox is in the Westminster hen house.”

Despite its gains, the party does not yet control any local authorities.

Labour is also making gains with Tories and Lib Dems both losing councillors.

Turnout looks set to be about 36%. Most results in 161 English councils are still to come. Euro election results are due on Sunday. Eleven councils in Northern Ireland are also up for grabs.

The surge in support for UKIP has sent shockwaves through the main parties at Westminster, with just a year to go before the next general election.

Mr Farage said: “There are areas of the country where now we have got an imprint in local government. Under the first-past-the-post system we are serious players.” The success of UKIP in Essex cost Labour control of Thurrock council.

Hoopstarz – Helping Make Exercise Fun for Kids

Hoopstarz – Helping Make Exercise Fun for Kids
Obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the UK and throughout the Western world, and one of the top reasons for this is a decline in physical activity. Because parents these days live with more modern conveniences (like being less reliant on public transport) and are not able to spend as much time with their children because their lives are too hectic, more and more young children are growing up without early exposure to physical activity or even unstructured playtime.

As a result, the current generation of school-age children is more overweight – and beset with more cases of type II diabetes – than any that has come before, and fitness and healthcare professionals are alarmed by the very real possibility that in this generation we will see a decrease in the average life expectancy.

The obvious solution is to bring physical activity back into children’s lives, but how do we go about making exercise fun for children who have been watching television, playing video games and using iPads almost from the time they could walk and talk?

One important thing to remember is that many children growing up today are taking on a host of preventable health problems, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, even before they have fully mastered fine and gross motor skills and various types of functional movement. In order to entice children to participate voluntarily in exercise and to form a healthy habit that will last a lifetime, it is important to teach them how to do something.

Preadolescent children in particular soak up new information like sponges and will jump at the opportunity to learn how to do something, anything, if it looks like fun and they can participate in groups with other children. It need not be a team sport; anything fun will do if it offers a challenge that seems within the child’s reach.

The Hoopstarz programme
Hoopstarz is a fun and exciting way to get kids of all ages moving and to have fun at the same time. The Hoopstarz programme uses up-to-date music and friendly competition to motivate participants while improving balance and coordination and providing a cardio workout that your children won’t even notice because they’ll be having so much fun! The Hoopstarz licencing package includes a complete start-up package, lesson plans, instructor training and support for the duration of the licencing period.

Let Hoopstarz take the guesswork out of making exercise fun for your kids and get them on a path to good health! For more information, call us today on 0191 4387632 or visit

Business:             Kidz R Fit


Fire Enclosure Testing

Fire Enclosure Testing
Enclosures protected by gaseous fire suppression system – such as server rooms should be tested for air-tightness upon commissioning of the system and annually thereafter. This is critical to ensure that the system will work effectively when activated; too much air-leakage will result in the concentration of the fire suppressant agent falling too quickly resulting in rapid fire spread.

Air Pressure Testing provides the necessary Room Integrity Testing to the required NFPA 2001 or ISO 14520 methodologies. We have undertaken thousands of enclosure integrity tests around the UK and Europe.

We can also arrange an annual test plan and remind you when the fire enclosure test is required to make sure your buildings insurance is not at risk.

Smoke Testing and Remedial Works The majority of enclosure test failures are caused by the lack of enclosure integrity or the ability of the enclosure to adequately retain the extinguishant. The correct initial design concentration is achieved but the enclosure is not able to retain it for the required/recommended holding period which is usually 10 minutes.

Remedial work should then be undertaken to reduce the leakage from the enclosure. This remedial work could include;

  • Sealing all holes, cracks or penetrations leading into or out of the protected space
  • Pipe chases and cable trays to be sealed around the outside and inside where they penetrate the perimeter boundaries of the enclosure
  • Walls to be caulked around the inside perimeter at both high and low level
  • Sealing of porous block walls
  • Addition of door sweeps or drop seals, weather stripping around jambs
  • Sealing of windows/glazed sections to the area

Once the appropriate remedial work has been undertaken then the enclosure should be retested to confirm if an acceptable level of enclosure integrity has been reached.Once the appropriate remedial work has been undertaken then the enclosure should be retested to confirm if an acceptable level of integrity has been reached.

If you require our fire enclosure testing services, please call Darren on: 07775623464. Visit our website at  or email us at:

Business:             APT Sound Testing


Time for a Fake Tan with Ellen Conlin Hair & Beauty of Glasgow

Time for a Fake Tan with Ellen Conlin Hair & Beauty of Glasgow
Each summer every one of our glossy magazines run articles about how to apply the perfect self tan. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been advised to exfoliate, moisturise and then apply – we know the drill! What really makes the difference is the product. With so many different brands on the shelves, it can be a long and laborious process to find your ideal tan, from gels to sprays and “light” to “dark” which we all know can be anywhere on the spectrum. So let me introduce you to Nouvatan. (no uva tan!)

The NOUVATAN Self Tanning Mousse comes in a stylish black and white packaging, and a no-nonsense set of directions on the back. There’s a lot of product in there, and after doing my whole body there’s still enough for another 3 full applications. For application, you can use a mitt or plastic/latex gloves (I prefer gloves as I find mitts soak up too much product!).

I showered, exfoliated with a citrus sugar scrub, and moisturised with a light body lotion. I also applied some shea butter to my knees, elbows, wrists and ankles. Starting at my ankles all the way up to my face, it took me about 15 minutes to get it all over me and rubbed in. Then I applied a little extra on my shoulders and down my arms for definition. The great thing about mousse is that it sinks in and dries – you don’t have to stagger around the house all sticky and not touching things! I put my dressing gown on and there was almost no rub-off. There are four hours of developing time that you have to wait out, but it isn’t very inconveniencing.

The final result is an even, warm, natural-looking tan that gives you a healthy glow without masking your skin. I am a redhead with very fair skin and no freckles, so I chose the Light shade. I would describe the colour as “golden latte”. Light brown with a golden hue and no hint of the dreaded orange. The natural shade brings out your features – eyes look brighter and teeth whiter.

Overall, this tan is a real winner! Easy self-application with a professional finish. The result is definitely miles better than any gradual tanner I’ve used, which tend to be very yellowy in my experience. This wonderful product is available from for £16.50 and FREE UK Delivery which is a fantastic price for such a salon-quality finish.

So if you want to know more about the range of beauty products and treatments available from the Ellen Conlin Hair & Beauty salon in Glasgow, why not visit our website at: or call us on 0141 339 8223 (Hyndland Road, Glasgow) or 0141 638 0331 (Fenwick Road, Giffnock).

Business:             Ellen Conlin Hair


Royal Mail Annual profits up 12% to £671m

Royal Mail Annual profits up 12% to £671m
Royal Mail has reported a 12 per cent rise in profits in its first full-year results as a public company. The postal company said operating profit before transformation costs rose to £671 million in the year to March 30 but warned of increasing competition ahead.

Royal Mail yesterday announced it is to test collection and delivery of orders on a Sunday in London amid competition from rivals including Hermes and DPD.

Royal Mail chief executive Moya Greene said: “The competitive environment on the parcels side is more intense. We are taking steps to remain the leader in this growing market.  “On the letters side, the headwind is direct delivery and we have strategies in place to counter its adverse financial impact.”

Group revenue rose 2 per cent to £9.46 billion as a 7 per cent rise in parcel sales helped offset a 2 per cent fall in UK letter sales.