Month: September 2014

Plantation Shutters: The Perfect Window Treatment for Your Home

Plantation Shutters: The Perfect Window Treatment for Your Home

Plantation Shutters: The Perfect Window Treatment for Your Home
So far, 2014 has been a year of bold colours and patterns in home interior designs. Brightly-painted walls and brightly-coloured furniture are the obvious combinations to look for in the ultra-modern home décor, but one should not forget the role that windows play in the overall scheme of things. Your literal windows to the world should integrate seamlessly, but it’s often difficult to know exactly how to make that happen. Surprisingly, the answer for many homeowners is plantation shutters, which add texture, depth and a classic, elegant look to any home décor, traditional or modern.

Traditional interior designs, in which wood and natural colours figure prominently, are complemented perfectly by wooden plantation shutters with a matching wood stain, and well-constructed plantation shutters will also add an element of integrity in a world increasingly taken over by window treatments consisting of flimsy materials that are not made to last. Those with more modern tastes or a love of bright colours needn’t worry that plantation shutters won’t work in their home.

Contrary to popular belief, plantation shutters can be purchased in bespoke colours that suit any home décor. If your home is painted bright yellow or candy apple red to bring the feeling of a Caribbean holiday into your home, all the more reason to complete the look with plantation shutters in pale turquoise or another colour. After all, plantation shutters were invented in hot climates where the heavy window dressing was intended to keep indoor living spaces from becoming too hot!

Fortunately for interior design enthusiasts of the 21st century, plantation shutters confer a variety of benefits. These include increased energy efficiency, privacy and, of course, attractiveness within the home and from the road. They are also considerably more pet-proof than flimsy plastic or nylon blinds. Not that your dog or cat will even try to destroy them, since shutters do not generally impede access to favourite sunny windows.

The Beautiful Shutter Company brings a wealth of experience to the window dressing industry and is committed to providing homeowners with the perfect set of high-quality plantation shutters for any home. To learn more about our wide selection of shutters or to book an appointment, call us today on 01642 688049 or visit the Beautiful Shutter Company website.

Business:             The Beautiful Shutter Company


Mark Carney Warns of Complacency in Financial Markets

Mark Carney Warns of Complacency in Financial Markets

Mark Carney Warns of Complacency in Financial Markets
Complacency is threatening the stability of financial markets, the Bank of England governor has warned. Mark Carney said that in the search for returns on their money, investors were pushing up the price of assets and taking excessive risks.

Speaking at a conference in Wales, he said that the situation increased the risk of a “sharp reversal” in asset prices. He also said that a rise in UK interest rates was “getting closer”.

“We are alert to the possibility that financial markets may be mispricing risks”, Mr Carney told an insurance industry conference.

He referred to a statement issued by global watchdog the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in Cairns, Australia on 18 September, when Scotland was voting in the independence referendum. Mr Carney is the FSB’s chairman as well as the governor of the Bank of England.

He quoted the FSB’s warning that “there are increased signs of complacency in financial markets, in part reflecting the search for yield amidst exceptionally accommodative monetary policies”.

These policies include very low central bank interest rates and measures such as quantitative easing, which are designed to reduce interest rates in financial markets.

Asset prices have become “stretched across a growing number of markets, increasing the risk of a sharp reversal,” he said.

The FSB also noted that: “Authorities are stepping up their monitoring of the migration of risks to less regulated parts of the financial system.”

On interest rates, the time when the Bank of England would raise rates was “getting closer”, Mr Carney said. The Bank’s main policy rate has been at an historic low of 0.5% since March 2009. He restated the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee’s (MPC) position that it had no set date in mind to increase rates, but would respond to economic data.

Two members voted for a rate rise at the latest MPC meeting, and some economists believe a rate rise may come as early as November, though more believe the first rise will come early next year.

Mr Carney also restated that “the precise timing of the first rate rise is less important than our expectation that when rates do rise, those increases are likely to be gradual and limited”.

UK Cuts to Last Five More Years

UK Cuts to Last Five More Years

UK Cuts to Last Five More Years
The outgoing head of the civil service has predicted another five years of UK government spending cuts – and he said making the cuts would be “even harder”.

Sir Bob Kerslake said one of the difficulties was that “easier” savings had already been made. He said the “sense of urgency” would be reduced and the need for cuts would be hard to explain to public sector staff.

Sir Bob stepped down from his role this month and was replaced by former Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood. He said the civil service had “excelled” during his time in charge.

Speaking at the Institute for Government think tank, he said it was clear that “under any government, we face up to a further five years of austerity in public sector spending”. “The first five years have been challenging but the second five years are likely to prove even harder for three reasons,” he said.

“Firstly, the easier savings have already been made.

“Secondly, we are likely to be doing it against a background of a growing economy and greater competition for good staff.

“Thirdly, the sense of urgency that underpinned the first savings programme will be reduced.

“In reality, the task is not yet complete. But this will be hard to explain to those in the public sector, including our own staff, who are looking for some relief.”

Sir Bob said the civil service had “excelled” in its challenge to “deliver big programme savings at the same time as undergoing huge change and reduction itself”.

The roles of cabinet secretary and head of the civil service were split into two jobs when Sir Gus O’Donnell retired as both in 2012.

Sir Bob, who was already permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), took the role as head of the civil service at that time. He will retire from his DCLG role early next year.

Do I Require a Planning Noise Survey?

Do I Require a Planning Noise Survey?

Do I Require a Planning Noise Survey?
Many of our clients often ask us ‘do we require a planning noise survey’. In most circumstances this will be clarified within the developments planning conditions. It should stipulate that a noise survey is required to satisfy the local authority. A noise survey and report should be submitted during the pre-application process and discussions on planning applications prior to any building works taking place and to allow for the correct acoustic design of building facades etc. to prove that the noise standards will be achieved within the living rooms and bedrooms.

When is a planning noise survey required?
A planning noise survey may be required when:
• the proposed development with commercial areas that may create noise which may affect nearby noise sensitive properties. For example, a new commercial activity such as a new restaurant or laundry near existing residential properties. .
• the proposed development positioning will be sensitive to noise and is likely to be affected by existing noise sources i.e. busy roads, railway, airports or commercial activity.

What is the planning noise assessment for?
The planning noise survey report is to demonstrate that: • the source of noise is evaluated and quantified • nearby noise sensitive receptors identified • noise receptors have been determined with reference to noise standards   The planning noise assessment report (where required) will also set out control measures where it is necessary to reduce noise to acceptable levels. For example, the installation of acoustic upgrades to the building façade such as different glazing e.g. from double to triple glazed panels or acoustic trickle vents are installed so that internal noise standards for the relevant rooms are met in line with Table 4 below:

What are Noise Categories and how will it affect the project?
Where the noise levels are shown as NEC category B and above, the local authority will look for noise reduction measures that will achieve the “good” internal noise level criteria in bedrooms and living rooms set out in BS8233:2014 (shown above).  For outdoor garden areas, noise levels should be less than or equal to 55 dB(A) as recommended in the World Health Organisation Guidelines on Community Noise. Where the noise levels are shown as NEC category D, the local authority usually recommends that planning consent be refused.

Suitably Qualified Acoustic Companies
APT Sound Testing is suitably qualified to carry out noise assessments and provide a noise reports. We are a UKAS accredited company and as such is deemed suitably qualified to undertake noise surveys for planning, we also have vast amount of experience and skill in dealing with Planning Noise Surveys for the planning applications for all types of developments throughout the England & Wales. APT can also propose various noise mitigation measures to help you comply with your planning condition..

If you would like more information on noise surveys for your new development, then please contact us at: or visit our website at: 

Business:             APT Sound Testing



UK Postal Service Competition Inquiry Launched by MPs

UK Postal Service Competition Inquiry Launched by MPs

UK Postal Service Competition Inquiry Launched by MPs
A committee of MPs has announced an inquiry into competition in the UK postal sector. It is in response to complaints from Royal Mail, which says it is facing unfair competition from rival firms such as Whistl – previously TNT Post.

The Business Committee said its inquiry would look at how competition was affecting Royal Mail’s obligation to provide a universal service.

Royal Mail says the obligation gives rivals an unfair advantage.

Competitors such as Whistl do not have to provide delivery to the whole country, or guarantee deliveries six days a week, as Royal Mail must continue to do under the Universal Service Obligation, despite its privatisation last year.

Royal Mail says this allows Whistl to “cherry-pick” easy-to-serve urban areas that are more profitable than rural areas, and choose to deliver easy-to-process mail. “We will play our full part in the committee’s inquiry into the key issues for the Universal Service and the UK,” a spokesman for Royal Mail said.

“Unfettered direct delivery competition threatens to undermine the one-price-goes-anywhere, universal postal service. New entrants are cherry-picking both the populous urban areas and bulk business mail. “We fear that a point could be reached where direct delivery competition leads to the universal service being unviable.”

A spokesman for Whistl rejected the criticism, arguing that Royal Mail’s problems were more about its own efficiency.

“We are happy to take any opportunity to explain the benefits of competition in the UK postal sector and its important role in ensuring Royal Mail continues to work towards meeting its productivity targets, which it has so far failed to do,” he said. “We are proud to deliver innovative, quality and value-for-money services that our clients want and are creating much-needed new jobs across the UK.”

Whistl is the second biggest postal service in the UK, delivering to 1.2 million addresses in Manchester, London and Liverpool, although its delivery volumes are still tiny in comparison to Royal Mail’s, representing less than 0.4% of the addressed mail market.

The committee has requested written evidence to be submitted before 24 October.

Both Royal Mail and Whistl are likely to be called to give evidence at subsequent hearings, though it is not clear when they will be held.

The market regulator Ofcom has so far resisted calls from Royal Mail to hold a similar inquiry.

Winter Clothing for Work and Play from the Country Collection

Winter Clothing for Work and Play from the Country Collection

Winter Clothing for Work and Play
For many, autumn is a favourite time of year. The heat of summer has passed, and long sleeves are comfortable once again. Autumn and winter colours, such as hunger green, indigo and wine, also make it a favourite time of year for many to update their wardrobes with natural-hued sweaters, jackets, trousers and coats.

Dressing for Work
Increasingly over the past two decades, the line between work and leisure clothing has become rather blurred. What with “business casual” attire, casual Fridays and firms in white-collar industries such as technology moving away from having any dress code whatsoever, it can be difficult to know which clothes are most appropriate for work.

The obvious solution is to look around the office at what your co-workers and management at the level above you are wearing and to choose clothes that are neither more casual than what your co-workers are wearing nor dressier than what your boss typically wears. If you’re angling for a promotion, however, it can be a bit tricky because you might find erring on the dressier side to be to your advantage. After all, what better way to position yourself for a higher position within the firm than to show management what the place will look like with you in that role?

In the end, it’s best in most white-collar environments to dress up a bit more than you think you need to. With that in mind, consider updating your winter clothing in early autumn with smartly designed cardigans, blazers, collared shirts, trousers and skirts. For making a good impression, the possibilities are endless!

Dressing for Play
Similar to work, your choice of leisure clothing can and often should be a function of what others around you are wearing in various non-work settings. This does not make you an automaton; people say that you are the company you keep, and in the 21st century, your clothes can be a strong factor in how successfully you find the company you wish to keep.

With the Internet alienating us from genuine interpersonal relationships while breeding superficial acquaintances, the clothing we choose to wear in our leisure time sends a powerful message that others notice, whether you – or even they – realise it or not. What are you saying with your clothes? Are you the perpetually dressed-down type who can always be seen in jeans, sneakers and a t-shirt, or do you prefer blouses and sweaters in flattering cuts and high-quality materials that are both attractive and durable?

How you answer is up to you, but it’s obvious to most how one mode of dress or the other determines who gravitates towards you and how you are treated by others, no matter how they themselves dress. High-quality separates for everyday wear, such as those available from Country Collection, will send a positive message about who you are and what you expect out of life and personal relationships.

The Country Collection Clothing Range
Country Collection has specialised in ladies’ winter clothing for over a century, offering a wide variety of garments in pure cotton, lambswool, merino wool, cashmere and more. Our exclusive designs will help you stand out as someone who likes to look sharp at work and at play, and we are so certain that you will love what you purchase from us that we offer a no-time-limit guarantee.

Why not visit our Salisbury or Brampton shop or go on our website today and see how we can help you get an early start on updating your winter wardrobe! For more information on our selection of ladies’ winter clothing, call us today on 0844 573 5310 or visit the Country Collection website.

Business:             The Country Collection


Fall in Graduate Unemployment, New Data Suggests

Fall in Graduate Unemployment, New Data Suggests

Fall in Graduate Unemployment, New Data Suggests
There has been a big fall in graduate unemployment in the UK, the latest figures suggest. The Higher Education Careers Service Unit (Hecsu) analysed the destinations of 256,350 new graduates six months after they left university.  Some 7.3% were unemployed in January 2014, down from 8.5% in January 2013 and the lowest level since 2008.

The figures are a “fascinating example” of how quickly the graduate jobs market can change, says Hecsu’s Charlie Ball. The deputy director of research said students should “bear this in mind when deciding which subject to study”.

The report says that although new graduates are likely to “bounce around or can’t find what they are after immediately”, the size of the survey makes it a “reliable snapshot” of how they are faring as a group.

The figures, published jointly with the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, suggest 70% of new graduates were in employment by January 2014.

The researchers suggest better employment prospects have resulted in fewer graduates in further study – some 12.4% of the total, down from 13% the year before. Some 5.6% were combining work and study, leaving 7.3% unemployed and 4.7% listed as “other”.

The figures also suggest more graduates were in professional and managerial work – 66.3% of new graduates, compared with 64.9% the previous year. Fewer were working as retail, catering, waiting and bar staff – down to 13% of the total from 13.7% the previous year.

Graduate employment in recession-hit sectors such as science has picked up slightly but many with science and technology degrees still find themselves in other jobs, say the researchers.

The numbers of new graduates employed as science professionals in January 2014 were still quite small, just over 2,000, but the researchers say this represents an increase of almost a quarter (22.4%) on the figures for 2013.

“There are significant increases in employment across all sectors and the turn in fortune is spreading beyond the South East with graduates in cities such as Birmingham and Manchester doing particularly well,” said Mr Ball. “If you are located away from the major cities and are yet to feel the upturn, there’s a good chance it will reach you in the months to come, assuming there are no further shocks to the economy – although there are no absolute guarantees.”

He said it was encouraging that more graduates were finding work in the science, technology and engineering and construction sectors but cautioned that the story was a complex one “of demand and supply”. “It is vital that students seek careers advice early and take work experience to better inform their decisions and prepare for employment.

The Blow-Dry Bar Experience at Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty

The Blow-Dry Bar Experience at Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty

The Blow-Dry Bar Experience at Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty
Well, the big referendum is over, and people are going back to what they were doing before. No matter which way you voted and whether you’re pleased with the outcome or not, one thing that’s for certain is that your skin and hair don’t know the difference.

If you have colour-treated hair that is feeling the effects of changes in temperature and humidity, then you will probably benefit from a visit to your friendly neighbourhood…blow-dry bar?

Yes, you read that correctly. The blow-dry bar has made its way from sunny California eastward across America and has now leaped across the pond to Scotland, and manes all around the UK are enjoying the boost that comes from specialised blow-dry treatments. Obviously, there’s not enough that can be said for a high-quality cut and style, but some styles require more maintenance than others between cuts, and the blow-dry bar is the perfect solution – especially in our rainy climate!

But you might be asking, what exactly is a blow-dry bar? In a nutshell, it’s an innovative salon service that allows you to choose from an array of specialty blow-dry treatments. The most basic option generally includes a wash plus a choice of “blow-outs” that will achieve a bouncy, sleek or wavy – whichever you choose. A more extensive blow-dry would also include a deep-conditioning treatment or one to freshen up your existing hair colour.

At salons equipped with a deluxe blow-dry bar, clients can also receive a manicure and makeup application for a special occasion or night on the town.

If you’re wondering where in Glasgow you can find such a service, then look no further. Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty has been at the forefront of innovative skin and hair care techniques for years, and we have introduced the blow-dry bar concept to its hair and beauty salon in Glasgow with busy clients in mind who have specific needs that our blow-dry bar can fulfil.

For more information or to experience the ECH difference, simply stop by the salon, call 0141 339 8223 or visit the Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty salon in Glasgow.

Business:          Ellen Conlin Hair and Beauty


Car Insurance Market to Face Overhaul

Car Insurance Market to Face Overhaul

Car Insurance Market to Face Overhaul
Exclusive pricing deals between motor insurers and price comparison websites will be banned, the UK competition regulator has said. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said such deals were preventing insurers from making their products available more cheaply elsewhere. It also said consumers needed better information on no-claims bonus protection insurance.

It is the CMA’s final report into the private motor insurance market.

The planned changes could reduce premiums by about £20 a year, the AA motoring organisation said. It questioned whether such a long inquiry was needed given it would make such a small difference to premiums.

The CMA and its predecessor have been studying the £11bn market since 2012, following a referral from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The inquiry is separate from new rules regarding whiplash claims. It believes that many of the 26 million private motorists in the UK are paying too much for their insurance.  Its research found the deals between insurers and price comparison websites called “price parity” agreements were restricting competition and leading to higher car insurance premiums overall.

The deals stop insurers offering their products more cheaply elsewhere, and again ultimately push up the price of insurance, the CMA found. “They certainly help motorists look for the best deal, but we want to see an end to clauses which restrict an insurer’s ability to price its products differently on different online channels,” said CMA deputy panel chairman Alasdair Smith.

It has ordered the agreements to end, a move welcomed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI). This is likely to take effect by early next year, unless there is an appeal against the order from members of the industry.

The CMA also recommended that the UK’s financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), should examine how insurers inform consumers about add-on products to car insurance policies. “The way motor insurance-related add-on products are sold makes it hard for consumers to obtain the best value,” Mr Smith added.

The CMA said no-claims bonus protection was particularly problematic, with both the price of this product and its benefits often unclear to consumers. “We are requiring insurers to provide much better information,” it said.

However, the CMA said it had been unable to find a way to resolve the issue of high car hire and repair charges for drivers not at fault in an accident.

Premiums are pushed up because the insurer of a driver who was not to blame in an accident arranges for a replacement car or repair, but the at-fault driver’s insurer foots the bill. It said addressing the issue would require a “fundamental change in the law”. The CMA said its research found the extent of the problem was not as high as it first envisaged – amounting to an average increase on premiums of only £3 a year – meaning “it does not warrant such a radical measure”.

This conclusion was a relief for the Credit Hire Organisation (CHO), which represents companies that provide temporary replacement vehicles.  “We welcome the fact that, after a three-year investigation, the CMA has concluded that non-fault customers do indeed require our assistance in their hour of need, and their legal right to a replacement vehicle while their car is off the road has again been reinforced,” said Martin Andrews, director general of the CHO.

EE to Take Over 58 Phones4U Stores

EE to Take Over 58 Phones4U Stores

EE to Take Over 58 Phones4U Stores
Mobile phone operator EE is to buy 58 stores from Phones 4U, which fell into administration last week. EE said the deal, agreed with administrators PwC, would safeguard 359 jobs.

On Friday, Vodafone agreed to take over 140 of Phones 4U’s outlets.

Phones 4U collapsed when it failed to reach deals with EE and Vodafone to sell their services. Last week, those two firms had to deny claims they were behind Phones 4U’s demise.

As an independent retailer, Phones 4U relied on deals with EE and Vodafone to sell their services but both pulled out of negotiations to agree fresh contracts.

Phones 4U founder John Caudwell blamed the demise of the company on the “ruthless actions” of “predatory” mobile phone networks. Mr Caudwell, who sold Phones 4U in 2006, told the BBC’s Today programme last week that it was an “unprecedented assassination”.

EE said its decision to end its relationship with Phones 4U was based on its strategy to focus on its own shops and cut out intermediaries, while Vodafone rejected an suggestion that it had acted inappropriately during contract negotiations.

Mr Caudwell also criticised the private equity firm BC that owned Phones 4U for loading the retailer with more than £200m in debt.

Thousands of jobs remain at risk at Phones 4U, which had operated more than 700 outlets and had almost 5,600 staff.

Administrators PwC confirmed last week that 628 employees at Phones 4U head office in Newcastle-under-Lyme are losing their jobs.

However, Dixons Carphone also said last week that it would hire the 800 people who work in Phones 4U concessions at its Currys and PC World stores.