Thoughts from #SevernGrowthSummit: no ‘powerhouse’ needed

As business events go, the Severn Growth Summit at Celtic Manor was high profile judging by the response it generated.

I was one of about 350 people to attend the conference, which looked at how government can and businesses improve the economies around the West of England, Cardiff and Newport.

Welsh Secretary and Vale of Glamorgan MP Alun Cairns used the recent decision to abolish tolls on the Severn Bridge to press the case for a Western Powerhouse to drive growth across the areas. The comms teams should be delighted with the coverage this generated. I’ll come back to the powerhouse theme shortly.

There is more than a touch of symbolism to the tolls going. For those who use the bridge every day, it’s said by JLL’s Chris Sutton to be worth an extra £1,500 a year. There are 25m journeys made across the bridge each year and thousands of people use it on their daily commute. It’s a good example of how government action can make working between the three cities easier and more successful.

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Why we’re deserting supermarkets – and saving money

Tesco over-egging its profits by £250m (yes, that’s a quarter of a billion quid) is a big overstatement and led to statements of shock across the media this week.

Twice the price; 5kg of spuds for £3.50
Tesco price: 5kg of spuds for £3.50

Explanations for its ‘fall from grace’ centre on issues ranging from being caught in a sector-wide pincer movement between Aldi and Lidl and Waitrose, to a rise in internet shopping hitting its out-of-town megastores and the sense that shoppers have simply fallen out of love with Britain’s biggest retailer. It’s still making hundreds of millions in profit each year. But the CEO Dave Lewis probably can’t afford too many hits like this, even though his response to the outbreak of the crisis was swift and impressive.

I’ve worked as a comms person for Tesco, supporting local consultations designed to inform its planning applications for new stores. I was struck by the dedication and drive of those connected with the business; everyone bought into the vision. We’ve shopped there for years and been devotees of its Clubcard loyalty scheme, which we’ve used to ‘reward’ ourselves with meals at Pizza Express and trips to Longleat.

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Acrobats’ ambush part of a day’s work in Bristol

The weird and wonderful happenings in Bristol’s Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone continue to generate headlines on a local and national stage.

This video of the BBC’s Dave Harvey in the thick of it with the acrobats at Creative Common was one of the more interesting pieces of coverage on the day of the Spending Review statement in Parliament. His piece focused on the contribution creativity and a quality environment can make to economic growth. Bristol’s Enterprise Zone puts these attributes at centre stage as part of the long-term plans to generate 17,000 creative jobs in the city. The result has been nearly 14,000 visitors to Creative Common and enough work for nearly 60 people to be employed in its first year. One hundred thousand people are expected over the next nine months, which makes what’s happening here pretty difficult to ignore.

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How housing helps growth and hits the headlines

A report by the think tank Centre for Cities was published yesterday which generated strong headlines and made a clear link between house-building and economic vitality in major urban areas.

Cities Outlook 2013 calls for more flexibility for local councils in these areas to develop ways of supporting house-building or improvements, which could plug the shortfall in the supply of homes the country needs (currently said to be running at more than 100,000 a year). Its research suggests that meeting this gap could create 150,000 new jobs and add 1% to national economic growth rates, making most of us a winner in the process.

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Why I’ve stayed with my bank – until now

I’m a stickler for good service and can’t stand organisations who don’t deliver what they promise.

Being ripped off is even worse and will result in offenders being dumped. Train companies, utilities and firms like PayPal (one of the worst in my book) have borne the brunt of my complaints when I’ve known who to complain to.

On many occasions, I’ve been offered compensation as a sweetener, which I take and then leave. I’ve worked through the ‘big six’ energy companies and found them all to be a disappointment.

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City Deals: big news outside London

I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.

These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.

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