All posts by Lisa Baker, Editor, UK Business News

Lisa Baker is an experienced journalist, Owner of Need to See IT Publishing and the Editor of Business in the News. Lisa covers Business, Health, HR and Technology.

EDB Mauritius returns to London for another exciting edition of the Mauritius Property & Investment Forum

The Economic Development Board (EDB) Mauritius is set to return to London this spring, to host the second edition of the Property and Investment Forum, following the success of its 2023 event.

Taking place at the Conrad London St James Hotel in Westminster on Friday, May 31, 2024, this flagship event aims to provide valuable insights into the exciting growth and development opportunities on the island for Business Leaders, High-Net-Worth Individuals, and Property Investors.

Commencing at 09:30 hrs, the Property and Investment Forum will feature esteemed speakers from Mauritius – including government officials, leading real estate developers, legal experts, notaries, tax specialists, prominent banks, and management companies – enabling UK business leaders and investors to understand how the Island has maintained a strong economy in recent years compared to national markets.

Mauritius shines as a beacon of innovation, strategic foresight, and economic resilience. Positioned as the star and key of the India Ocean, the island stands as a testament to the transformative power of innovation and diversified economic strategies. Consistently recognized for its excellence, Mauritius boats impressive accolades, including ranking 13th worldwide and 1st in Africa for ease of doing business. Mauritius unwavering political stability and commitment to economic freedom further solidify its status as a premier destination for discerning investors and ambitious entrepreneurs.

The business opportunities in Mauritius are vast and varied, ranging from financial services, tourism, and real estate to emerging sectors such as information and communications technology, higher education, biotechnology, and renewable energy.

Committed to establishing Mauritius as a leading investment platform for economic growth, the Economic Development Board also plans to leverage the Forum to attract more UK citizens to the island.  For the period 2019 to September 2023, Mauritius has registered 91 million GBP in terms of Foreign Direct Investment from UK. As at date, more than 400 British have pledged interest in its Premium Visa and 395 as Retired Non-Citizens.

The Property and Investment Forums play a key role in enabling us to achieve this and in showcasing what life, business and investment could look like in Mauritius. We are, therefore, delighted to return to London this Spring – particularly following the success of our 2023 event – and look forward to educating more business leaders and investors on the opportunities available for personal and professional growth in Mauritius.”

To find out more about the EDB Mauritius Property and Investment Forum and to register your interest by clicking on the following link:

https://forms.edbmauritius.org/cn/al935/London

In the Welsh Wind Distillery announced April release of first whisky

Award-winning Ceredigion distillery, In the Welsh Wind, is releasing its first whisky at a celebration day later this month.

Only 680 bottles are available of this limited edition and the company is extending an open invitation to join in the launch celebration at the distillery, near Cardigan, on April 26.

Whisky enthusiasts and those curious to know what all the fuss is about are invited to join the In the Welsh Wind team for a day of discovery.

Crafted with care and dedication, the company’s inaugural single malt whisky release is a tribute to Welsh craftsmanship and heritage with an ‘In the Welsh Wind’ twist.

Distilled in a state-of-the-art iStill, each bottle promises a distinctive flavour profile that captures the spirit of Welsh whisky.

“We are incredibly excited to share our first whisky with the world,” said Ellen Wakelam, founder and director of In the Welsh Wind Distillery. “This release marks a significant milestone for us as we make our mark on the Welsh whisky industry.

“We invite whisky enthusiasts and curious minds alike to join us on April 26 for a day of celebration and camaraderie. Come and experience the beauty of West Wales, taste the essence of Welsh craftsmanship and raise a glass to the future of Welsh whisky-making.”

The release event, held at the flagship distillery, offers attendees a unique opportunity to be part of Welsh whisky history.

Guests will have the chance to take a free tour of the distillery, meet the passionate individuals behind In the Welsh Wind and learn about the business’s commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and sustainability. Visitors can also taste and purchase this first edition whisky, while stocks last.

The distillery will be open from 8am until 6pm on April 26. To book a tour, please visit the website: https://inthewelshwind.co.uk/products/whisky-launch-day-tours.

For those who prefer not to indulge in whisky, coffee and cake will be available from local coffee truck Tarten. For those unable to visit the distillery, some bottles may be available online after the launch event.

Auction success for Mid Wales sellers as snuff box collection makes £12,000

Two Mid Wales vendors are in the money following a successful Asian art auction in Shrewsbury yesterday (Wednesday).

The owner of a large collection of Chinese snuff bottles saw her 43 lots make £12,000, including buyer’s premium, while another seller from the Welshpool area saw an small Tibetan gilt bronze figure make £4,600 at Halls Fine Art’s auction.

Top sellers in the snuff bottle collection were a group of eight Chinese jade and hardstone snuff bottles from the 19th and 20th centuries which made £1,400 and a Chinese blue and white porcelain snuff bottle bearing the Yongzheng mark which sold for £1,350.

“The snuff bottles were collected over a long period by a couple, but the husband has now passed away,” explained Alexander Clement, Halls Fine Art’s Asian art specialist “His widow, who lives on the Mid Wales coast, has kept some of her favourite pieces but decided to part with the rest because they were being kept in boxes.

“I was delighted with the prices achieved for the snuff bottles, with all but a couple of the lots selling.”

The 18th or early 19th century Tibetan figure of Padmasambhava, one of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism in the eighth century, was originally purchased by the seller’s late grandfather.

The 9.5cm high figure was acquired by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Moore Kirkwood (1865-1933) while serving with the Indian Army in Tibet from 1903-04.

“These figures are normally hollow cast and they either have a flat metal plate on the base or are completely open,” explained Alexander. “Those with a plate are filled with prayers and offerings.

“The one we sold didn’t have a plate but it did have tiny paper scrolls that were rolled up tightly inside, which made it an interesting example.”

Top seller in the auction was a Chinese carved celadon-glazed ruyi vase and cover bearing the Qianlong seal mark which sold for £21,000.

“The main message from this auction is that the Asian art market remains very selective but the right objects are still able to make headline grabbing hammer prices,” added Alexander. “These objects are still out there waiting to be discovered which is really exciting for us as auctioneers.”

Specialists from Halls Fine Art are holding an antiques valuation event at the Monty Club, Newtown on Wednesday next week from 11am to 2pm to raise money for Newtown Marie Curie Fundraising Group.

The AFA Group Celebrates Substantial Team Expansion

Manchester-headquartered AFA Group, the parent company of Clear Start Accountants and AFA Insolvency, has significantly bolstered its employee base over the last quarter with twenty three new appointments.

Welcoming half of the group’s recent recruits, leading personal insolvency specialist AFA Insolvency, has considerably extended its team. In the past three months, the firm has appointed individuals to a series of positions including Debt Advisor, Drafters and Quality Monitoring roles.

The AFA Group’s accountancy and personal budgeting division Clear Start Accountants, has also made a series of appointments, strengthening its customer service department. The business offers accountancy services for sole traders and smaller firms provided by a team of qualified accountants, as well as its pioneering, tech-enabled, personal budgeting service for both business and private individuals.

The significant growth follows hot on the heels of another record period for the group, which closed the year (2023) with a highly impressive 87.5% uplift in value of sales – rising to a noteworthy £15 million, from £8 million in 2022.

Fiaz Ashraf, Founder and CEO of the AFA Group, commented: “As we continue to experience monumental growth, it is a pleasure to offer a variety of job opportunities in the region and welcome a wealth of new team members to the AFA Group. Expanding our dedicated team is absolutely crucial in helping us to maintain an exceptional level of service for our customers, as we continue to support them with various aspects of financial management.”

With an employee base of over 150 people, and operating from its state of the art, contemporary headquarters in Universal Square, Devonshire Street North, Manchester, as well as from its offices in Stockport and Canada, the AFA Group is the parent company of several high-growth businesses including AFA Insolvency and Clear Start Accountants. The group offers via its various divisions a suite of services to support individuals and companies with financial management – from monthly budgeting services and debt management, to general accountancy support.

To find out more about Clear Start Accountants visit: https://clearstartaccountants.co.uk/

Wecasa partners with Plan A to measure and disclose their Corporate Carbon Footprint

Wecasa has partnered with Plan A to measure and disclose their Corporate Carbon Footprint (CCF), and to ultimately implement a sustainability strategy that is in line with the vast constraints that come with being a tech scale up facing steep growth. 

Founded in 2016 and based in Paris, France Wecasa is a data-driven marketplace that transforms care services by focusing on user experience. Expanding into the UK market in 2021 the platform has quickly become the go-to online booking platform for at-home wellness and care services. Wecasa helps its clients find time to take care of themselves and bring greater balance into their lives, no matter how busy their schedule. In doing so, Wecasa has employed over 10,000 independent workers.

For Wecasa, providing greater balance in people’s lives also comes with environmental balance. Wecasa strives to lead by example within the home services sector through supporting sustainable value creation in all aspects of their operations – for the business users, customers and employees.

Wecasa’s solution

Accordingly, Wecasa leveraged the following solutions to ensure sustainable value creation is supported in all aspects of their operations.

  1. Wecasa used the Plan A Sustainability Platform to calculate their company emissions – with a key focus upon scope 3. 
  2. Specific focus has been placed on the business users commuting to the customers, including a recurring in-depth analysis based on distance travelled by these professionals, the geographic location, as well as the type of service provided (e.g. massage or cleaning).
  3. Decarbonisation workshops with the Wecasa executive team were led by Plan A’s Sustainability experts and Customer Success team in order to analyse Wecasa’s CCF report, and to discuss how Wecasa can implement a decarbonisation strategy as a hyper-growing company.

While Wecasa encountered several challenges relating to their rapid expansion and a significant emphasis on scope 3 emissions, Wecasa demonstrates its resolute aspiration to emerge as a prominent figure in the realm of sustainability by actively addressing indirect emission reduction. The leadership team at Wecasa is dedicated to embedding sustainability as a foundational principle within the organisation with objectives entailing instigating strategic and operational advancements across the enterprise and its value chain.

Antoine Chatelain, co-founder and CEO of Wecasa said: “Wecasa is an at-home services app that connects clients with self-employed pros. Yes, Wecasa is a business platform, but a responsible and sustainable one. Our ambition is to showcase another side of platforms, all while making at-home services more accessible. This starts with making the invisible visible and being inclusive as well as taking environmental responsibility. Our partnership with Plan A sets us up for a result-based method that keeps us accountable.”

Their forthcoming strategy involves the integration of Wecasa into the new Plan A Sustainability Platform. This strategic move will empower Wecasa to scrutinise and assess emissions through customisable dashboards, marking a significant step towards the achievement of their sustainability objectives.

Wecasa’s results to date

As a business, Wecasa is best in class in terms of their direct emissions, or emissions they can easily influence (i.e. scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions, excluding suppliers and the commuting of their business users). This is thanks to the sustainability practices that Wecasa’s leadership have implemented as foundations of their operations, such as:

  • Energy-efficient buildings (utilising renewable energy)
  • Strict internal business policies (i.e. sustainable sourcing policies for food and beverages)
  • Limited employee commuting by car
  • Optimised and environmental-friendly Cloud servers
  • Office waste recycling and favouring of recycled products (IT, phones, office supply)

As Wecasa continues to grow steeply, they commit to engage in sustainability across three key areas to mitigate their carbon emissions – each sponsored and driven by their executive team:

  1. As a SaaS platform, Wecasa holds little further opportunity to reduce the emissions which they have direct control or influence over (i.e. scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3 emissions, excluding suppliers and the commuting of their business users). As such, they commit to continually optimising their data collection processes, and becoming net-zero by investing on high quality carbon removal projects with Plan A’s carefully selected partners.
  2. With regards to the platform’s business users, Wecasa is committed to support these professionals with their carbon transition. They intend to do so by developing new functionalities in the platform to improve commuting measurement, reduce the average distance travelled by the professionals to go to their customers, and optimise their appointment schedules. They also plan to do this through educational communication campaigns to their professional users (e.g. providing information on available subsidies and success stories) to influence them to transition to greener mobility.
  3. Finally, concerning their supplier emissions, Wecasa aims at kicking off a supplier engagement strategy focusing on optimising their investments with media partners. Wecasa strives to make their voice heard as sustainability pioneers – paving the way for larger players. 

Herringbone Is the First UK Kitchen Company to Ban the sale of High-Silica Quartz Following Disturbing Reports from America and Australia

Herringbone Is the First UK Kitchen Company to Ban the sale of High-Silica Quartz Following Disturbing Reports from America and Australia

In response to recent reports highlighting the health risks associated with high-silica quartz in engineered stone, Herringbone, the family run bespoke cabinet and furniture maker, is the first UK firm to announce it will be phasing out the sale of high-silica quartz worktops to its clients. This is the first company in the UK to take a stand against high-silica quartz, which is the dominant worktop material currently in the industry. While there appears to be no risks to clients or installers of this material, the risk comes when it is produced and cut by stonemasons. The decision comes in the wake of alarming findings from reputable sources, such as the report from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and the announcement of Australia becoming the first country to ban high-silica engineered stone due to health concerns by July 2024.

The UCSF report sheds light on the health risks posed by the use of high-silica quartz in engineered stone, linking it to serious respiratory illnesses amongst workers in California. This revelation prompted widespread concern, leading to increased scrutiny of materials used in worktop surfaces globally. Similarly, Australia’s proactive decision to ban high-silica engineered stone by July 2024 underscores the urgency of addressing the potential risks associated with this material. Silica is naturally occurring in stone such as granite and marble at between 5-40%, however, in engineered quartz it can be as high as 97%.

Being a progressive industry leader in their field, Herringbone cannot sit back and watch – the company’s owners William Durrant and Elly Simmons want to act with immediate effect. This family run business, based out of Canterbury in Kent, recognise the responsibility to priorities the health of all stonemasons by taking immediate action against the use of high-silica quartz in its products.

William Durrant, owner Herringbone, said Our priority is to keep our staff, suppliers, and clients safe and so we will no longer be offering high-silica quartz options to new clients. Our stonemasons are confident that they have the strongest health and safety measures in place to protect their team and use water cutting to ensure this is safely done in their factory. However, for us these risks are not necessary when there are alternatives on the market. We apologise to our clients that this is quite a big change for us in a short period of time, however, we wanted to act quickly to prevent anyone from being harmed. We are the first company in the UK that we know of to ban the sale of high-silica quartz, but we hope that more companies follow suit in the coming months. We hope you can understand why we made this decision and can stand behind us in working to keep the industry safe and accountable.”

This stone is currently one of the dominant products in the market in the UK. While this product is not currently being considered for a ban in the UK, it will be banned in Australia from July 2024 and other countries are considering similar bans. Importantly, there are no risks to clients once this product is installed or installers of this material on-site, however the risk comes when it is produced and cut by stonemasons and dust is created. For us, these risks are just a little too close to home and not necessary when there are alternatives on the market.

Herringbone is staying true to their ethos of using sustainable materials ethically sourced by asking their clients to pay slightly more for a worktop that is safer for stonemasons. 

Property buyers discover “West is Best” when it comes to homes in the Algarve

Holidaymakers and property buyers have long been drawn to Portugal’s Algarve, thanks to the region’s signature blend of sunshine, stunning scenery, top-rate amenities and welcoming atmosphere. However, while many buyers previously looked to the central Algarve to find the perfect holiday home, in recent years there has been a push further west. Gerry Fagan, the Irish entrepreneur who serves as Chairman of DDM and Reserva da Luz, explains:

“There has been a definite sense of ‘West is Best’ in recent years when it comes to property purchasers in the Algarve. Irish buyers, particularly, are heading west in search of more authentically Portuguese areas. They’re looking for the same high-quality standards that can be found in the central Algarve, but with greater authenticity and spectacular ocean views.”

The western Algarve certainly has much to attract both holidaymakers and property buyers. Its beaches include huge, family-friendly expanses of sand, such as Praia da Rocha, which features jet ski hire, an off-shore inflatable climbing experience and a pretty boardwalk with restaurants and shops. There are also smaller cove beaches, such as Praia da Dona Ana (a former candidate for “Best Beach Destination” at the World Travel Awards Europe), reached by descending dozens of wooden steps down the cliff face, but well worth the climb for the calm, clear waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

It’s not just the incredible beaches that attract holidaymakers and property buyers to the western Algarve. The area is also increasingly popular with those for whom sustainability is a priority. The western Algarve municipality of Lagos took third place in the Green Destinations Top 100 Story Awards at ITB Berlin 2024, having demonstrated significant commitment to recovering and valuing nature and making tourism an increasingly sustainable activity.

Ten minutes from Lagos, Reserva da Luz showcases why the western Algarve is such a hit. The large, elevated, south-facing plots deliver panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Buyers can build personalised detached homes that suit their specific needs, with full planning permission already granted. The pretty village of Praia da Luz, which is packed with shops, supermarkets, restaurants, healthcare clinics and all essential amenities, is within walking distance of Reserva da Luz. The nearest golf course is just five minutes away, while Lagos’ Marina and stunning Meia Praia beach are just 10 minutes away. Faro International Airport, which provides direct flights to a huge range of destinations in Ireland, the UK and Europe (as well as further afield) is a 50-minute drive from Reserva da Luz.

The western Algarve is also known for its superb golfing facilities and its gastronomic scene. Courses such as Penina Golf Course, which was the first 18-hole golf course in the Algarve, and the Sir Henry Cotton Championship Course, which has previously hosted the Portuguese Open, attract golfers from across the globe. Those who’ve worked up a hearty appetite on the fairways can enjoy fresh, seasonal produce at a wide range of outstanding local restaurants or opt for something fancier at one of four Michelin star restaurants in the Lagos area.

For those interested in finding out more about the Portuguese lifestyle and property ownership in the Algarve, the Moving to Portugal Show and Seminars will take place in Dublin on 18th April 2024. The free-to-attend show will be held at the Herbert Park Hotel, Ballsbridge Terrace, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, running from 11:00 am to 7:30 pm on 18th April. Attendees can book their free tickets online in advance. In addition to the Algarve, the show will serve anyone interested in buying property in Portugal or Madeira, whether as a holiday home, a primary residence or an investment. The expert speakers will also cover the tax, pension and legal aspects of moving to Portugal and starting a new life in the sunshine.

“Moving to Portugal – whether to the western Algarve or any other part of the country – can provide a significant lifestyle upgrade. Making such a move involves plenty of research into practical arrangements. At the Moving to Portugal Show and Seminars, we aim to provide a concentrated dose of information to enable anyone interested in buying property in Portugal or in moving there to be fully informed.”

Christina Hippisley, General Manager of the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce

Senploy Expands Portfolio with New Client Win

Cheshire-based, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) job board and career portal Senploy has expanded its client roster by adding The Denbigh Alliance, a Milton Keynes multi-trust academy, to its flourishing portfolio following a successful pitch. 

The partnership between Senploy and The Denbigh Alliance, signifies a collaborative effort to enhance recruitment within the SEND sector.  

Senploy will use its expertise to help The Denbigh Alliance find teachers suited for the SEND sector, focusing on individuals passionate about supporting students with special needs.  

For The Denbigh Alliance, an accomplished and growing multi-academy trust that is boosting efforts to support its diverse study body by ensuring it’s providing tailored support for SEND pupils, this new partnership means it has access to a pool of candidates aligned with its vision and ethos, ensuring it is getting the best possible education for its SEND students.  

Amy Allen, founder and managing director of Senploy, explains more about the partnership with the new client: “SEND staffing has always been challenging, but finding the right people can make all the difference. Unlike other job boards, Senploy offers sector-specific expertise to attract like-minded individuals with a shared interest and common goal. 

“Senploy will be supporting The Denbigh Alliance in finding the best teachers who are suitable for working in the SEND sector. We understand the key to filling SEND vacancies with long-lasting, hard-working team members comes down to reaching people who understand and feel passionately about the industry and the people they support.”  

Sophie Roberts, recruitment coordinator at The Denbigh Alliance, added:  

“We’ve partnered with Senploy to elevate our recruitment efforts for our associate staff vacancies across The Denbigh Alliance. Our aim is to attract a dynamic pool of candidates who are not only highly skilled but also harbour a genuine passion for championing the diverse needs of our students. We’re excited to see what this journey brings and look forward to welcoming individuals who bring talent, empathy and dedication to our team.” 

Senploy was designed to give the SEND sector a much-needed boost, allowing job seekers to find the exact type of work they’re looking for while also giving employers the chance to connect with their ideal candidates.   

To find out about how Senploy can help your business visit https://www.senploy.co.uk/  

Leadership behaviour change is crucial following Nicola Hinds discrimination case

A leading provider of HR solutions and leadership and development coaching is underscoring the need for companies to prioritise good leadership and management behaviour following the recent discrimination in the workplace ruling in favour of Nicola Hinds.

A judge upheld Nicola Hinds’ claims of pregnancy discrimination and constructive dismissal, stating that her male boss had unfairly stereotyped her as ‘an emotional, hormonal pregnant woman’, leading to her resignation upon returning from maternity leave.

According to Aspiring, the ruling serves as a stark reminder of the pervasive nature of discrimination and the need for transformative action within organisations.

Liz Beck, Founder and CEO of Aspiring, remarked on the significance of this case. She commented:

“The treatment Nicola Hinds endured is sadly reflective of a broader issue within workplaces. Discrimination, particularly concerning women, pregnancy, and stereotypes, is unacceptable. It is evident that merely having HR policies in place is insufficient; organisations must actively cultivate a culture of respect and inclusion, starting from the top down.

“True change begins with leaders setting the tone and demonstrating inclusive practices. We cannot underestimate the impact of leadership behaviour on employee experiences. Leaders must actively champion fairness, equality, and respect, and serve as exemplary role models, setting high standards for both managers and colleagues to follow. They have the ability to shine a light or cast a shadow – they need to lead the way.

“We are urging organisations to prioritise good management behaviour and equip their leaders with the skills and awareness to uphold ethical standards.”

Aspiring remains committed to supporting organisations in developing positive workplace cultures through tailored leadership development programmes, coaching, and HR solutions.

QUEST takes expertise to the next level

Electrical contractor and facilities management provider QUEST Ltd has taken its offer to the next level with a major investment in staff training and qualifications.

QUEST engineers are now all CompEx qualified, CompEx is the international scheme for the competency and certification of personnel who work in explosive atmospheres.

The qualifications mean that QUEST engineers can now operate efficiently and effectively in any of their customers’ facilities.

Dominic Miller, Technical Director at QUEST, said: “Our customers were telling us how time-consuming and expensive it was sourcing specialist engineers and we decided that this was an opportunity to demonstrate that QUEST offers a genuine one-stop-shop.

“We always focus on meeting the needs of our customers and on improving the skills and career opportunities for our colleagues and investing in this training was a great opportunity to do both.”

The CompEx certification ensures that engineers are qualified to adhere to DSEAR and  Atex regulations.

DSEAR, which stands for the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, aims to prevent, or limit the harmful effects of fire, explosion, and similar energy-releasing events, as well as corrosion to metals.

DSEAR requires that employers must identify which dangerous substances are present in their workplace and the associated risks. Control measures must be put in place to either remove those risks or, where not possible to control them, furthermore, to identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and to avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas. 

ATEX is an initialism of the term ATmosphères EXplosibles (French for “explosive atmospheres”). ATEX is a European directive that in part regulates the equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. ATEX zones are areas in which there is a risk of explosion due to the presence of flammable gases, vapours, or dust. 

Demand for these services has grown in recent years and many manufacturing and large food production facilities require these qualifications.

QUEST is already accredited by NICEIC, CompEx and SafeContractor.

For more information, please visit https://electrical-contracting.co.uk