Liverpool’s most famous sculpture after the Liver Bird is proving to be a big hit with visitors at the World Expo in Shanghai.
The Superlambanana, called Architecture, has become the focal point for people wanting their picture taken when visiting the Liverpool pavilion at the global six-month event.
The sculpture’s decoration by artist Debbie Ryan, was chosen because it best reflects the city with its mosaic design showing sights like the Chinese Arch, Metropolitan cathedral, the Albert Dock and St George’s Hall.
Ms Ryan, who has just returned from Shanghai, said: “I’m so pleased that my Superlambanana is proving so popular at the World Expo.
“Hopefully it will inspire more overseas visitors to come to Liverpool.”
Chris Heyes, Liverpool pavilion technical and operations manager, said: “I’ve lost count of the number times I’ve had to take snaps of visitors wanting their picture with Superlambanana.”
During the six months at World Expo, 200 ceramic Superlambananas are being given away as competition prizes to visitors.
Confidence among businesses has fallen according to the latest ICAEW/Grant Thornton UK Business Confidence Monitor (BCM), indicating that the economic recovery will slow in the second half of 2010. Despite uncertainty as to the impact on the recovery of the Coalition Government’s plans to reduce public spending, the BCM’s financial performance indicators suggest that the financial health of UK businesses continues to improve.
Key findings for Q3 2010 include:-
• The Business Confidence Index (BCM) has declined since Q2 2010. It fell from +25.5 to +21.5, a fall of four points
• Nearly a fifth (19%) are now less confident about the coming year – up from 14% in Q1 2010 • Despite this, turnover and profit growth returned to positive territory for the first time since the start of 2009. Growth of 1.6% and 1.7% respectively are reported for the year to date
• Businesses expect to increase prices by only 0.9% in the next twelve months which points to limited inflationary pressures and no need for interest rate rises for some time
Michael Izza, CEO of ICAEW, said: “UK businesses that came through the recession are now facing the challenge of surviving the recovery. They still don’t know what the future holds and are uncertain about how the mood of fiscal austerity will impact the economic recovery. Government needs to deliver on its commitment to ensure Britain is open for business while taking the tough decisions required to tackle the deficit.”
Scott Barnes, CEO of Grant Thornton, said: “There is a mixed picture for business across the UK’s regions and some sectors continue to struggle more than others. Clearly economic conditions remain tough but there are signs that some companies are looking to switch from short-term survival measures to opportunities for growth. The recession has changed the business landscape and the measures businesses have taken to survive may make them stronger as the recovery begins to take hold.”
Fall back of confidence
Since the last BCM, the coalition government formed and undertook an Emergency Budget which outlined a combination of public sector spending cuts and tax rises. A Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and Pre-Budget Report (PBR) are also expected later in the year. Economic growth was unexpectedly high in Q2 2010 (1.1%) and is anticipated to slow down as the effects of the inventory cycle wear off. Further down the line, cuts and tax rises will start to take effect on overall economic activity. All these factors have lead to a degree of uncertainty among businesses.
Improvement in financial performance
There has been a noticeable improvement in the financial health of businesses. Turnover and gross profits have increased and the yearly growth rate in exports has risen to 2.2% from 1.3% in Q2 2010. Looking ahead, capital investments are expected to grow by 2% over the next 12 months, from static growth, and R&D budgets are set to increase by 1.4% – positive signs, but still well below pre-recession growth rates.
Small increase in recruitment expected
Businesses have reported the smallest annual fall in staff numbers since Q1 2009, expecting the number of employees to increase by 1.1% in the next year. With more vacancies becoming available, employee movement becomes more frequent. 13% of businesses feel that staff retention is a greater challenge compared to a year ago though only modest salary growth is expected – 1.5% in the next twelve months.
Inflationary pressures ease
Businesses expect to increase selling prices by on average 0.9% over the next year, while they expect input prices to rise by 1.4%. The number of firms with below normal stock levels continues to fall in this quarter, with the share of businesses with below normal stock levels down to 14% from 26% a year earlier. These findings suggest that businesses’ price expectations remain relatively anchored.
The latest half year statistics from the Registry Trust Limited have revealed the number of County Court Judgments (CCJs) in England and Wales are down 23.4% on this time last year.
There were 355,922 CCJs in total in the first half of 2010, compared to 464,556 in the first half of 2009.
The average judgment amount for consumers was found to be £3,765 – which is 5.4% down on last year, when the figure stood at £3,982.
The average corporate judgment amount was slightly more, at £4,384, although this has still declined by more than 10% since last year, when the average amount was £4,901.
Commenting on the figures, Kevin Still, debt expert and director of Atlantic Financial Management, said: “There has been a marked drop in the number of County Court Judgments (CCJs) in England in Wales, representing a reduction of over 71,000 in CCJ volumes.
“The majority of these are now processed through the CCBC, bulk processing centre, in Northampton. The average debt balance on a CCJ has dropped to £3,765 from just under £4,000 in the first half of 2009.”
However, Mr Still warned that processing debts through the courts can be expensive. He said: “As a Debt Management Company we would much prefer to negotiate a viable repayment arrangement with the creditor before legal action is enforced.
“Where a client on a Debt Management Plan (DMP) has taken a responsible action by seeking debt advice then there is usually a basis for negotiation with company they owe money to.
Car maker Vauxhall’s US parent General Motors (GM) has revealed a robust second quarter performance, with losses narrowing for a second consecutive period in its European division.
The Detroit-based group announced £21.14bn of sales during the second quarter of 2010 and earnings, before interest and tax of £1.27bn.
Its main North American market delivered £1.02bn of earnings before interest and tax during the reporting period, which was up from £764m in the first quarter.
The group, which filed for bankruptcy protection and was bailed out by the US and Canadian Governments last year, incurred losses before interest and tax at its GM Europe division of £127m – £191m better than the previous quarter.
A spokeswoman said this was “predominantly driven by increased industry volume and favourable foreign exchange, mainly due to a stronger British pound.”
GM ended the second quarter with £20.7bn of cash and securities.
Vice chairman and chief financial officer Vince Liddell said: “I am pleased with our progress on achieving our business objectives.
“We have delivered strong product, maintained cost discipline, progressed strategic initiatives such as restructuring Europe . . . and delivered two consecutive quarters of profitability and positive cash flow.”
Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port site employs 2,200 staff making the Astra.
It escaped relatively unscathed in GM’s European restructuring, which will cut about 9,000 jobs at car plants across the Continent.
GM had considered selling the loss-making European division to preferred bidder Canadian car parts maker Magna and its Russian banking partner Sberbank as part of its business plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
Magna’s proposals involved up to 840 redundancies at Ellesmere Port and limited production volume.
However, last November the US car maker decided to retain its European division and institute its own recovery plan with most cuts falling in mainland Europe.
British importers and exporters’ confidence in the economy leaped in July, as positive economic data fuelled hopes for a return to strong economic growth. The Travelex Confidence Index (TCI) jumped 12 points in July to 116, from 104 in June. Analysts said the strong gains were driven by Quarter 2′s GDP figure, as it showed the UK grew at its fastest pace in four years.
Sentiment was also bolstered by David Cameron’s overseas trade mission, as nearly half of those interviewed (44%) expressed increased confidence in the Coalition’s trade policies, compared to 35% in March.
Paddy Earnshaw, Director of Customer Relations at Travelex Global Business Payments commented, “July’s sharper-than-expected increase in confidence will help improve importer and exporter morale and allay concerns about the medium to longer term growth outlook. It is particularly encouraging to see the new Government’s international trade efforts injecting confidence into the UK’s SME importers and exporters.”
Despite their renewed confidence in the UK economy, Earnshaw believes it is too early to say whether their optimism has been accurately placed, as many uncertainties remain for British importers and exporters. “Even as the UK recovery broadens, June’s dip in confidence suggested businesses are fearful of austerity measures and the impact they will have on consumer buying power. I would expect confidence to remain volatile, as harsher fiscal tightening approaches.”
The deteriorating picture in the U.S. may also crimp confidence in the upcoming months, as 84% of respondents are now feeling the threat to business development comes from the current health of the global economy. The figures underpin growing concerns in the financial markets that the U.S. recovery has slowed and may lead to a double dip recession.
Despite the concerns over U.S. recovery, expectations for the U.K. economy, international trading conditions and business development were all on the up, according to Travelex Global Business Payments. Its Expectations Index rose 9 points in July to 103.
Research for the Travelex Confidence Index was carried out between 12th and 26th July.
Liverpool Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the decison by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to hold interest rates at their record low of 0.5%.
The MPC also left its programme to boost the money supply unchanged at £200bn.
Maresa Molloy, head of policy and information at Liverpool Chamber, said: “The Q2 Merseyside Economic Survey showed many businesses are experiencing cash pressures and we are far from secure as far as recovery is concerned. This is the right decision to encourage growth.”
This month, we have received a number of new instructions from a large tourist complex based in the Canary Islands. Instructions have been received from this firm for several years and we are pleased that our proven track record in recovering their accounts has resulted in us being instructed again.
We are also in discussions with other resorts throughout Europe who wish to utilise our expertise in this field
If you would like to discuss how CBC International can help your firm, or you would like to discuss any aspects of our services, please contact us by telephone on +44 151 515 3014 or email us and we will be happy to discuss any requirements you may have.
Since our blog post in November 2009, we have secured work from another two large Vacation Membership organisations who are based in Malaga & Tenerife respectively.
We now provide our services to a number of main Vacation Membership resorts throughout Europe and we are looking to approach further operators within the industry to discuss our services in 2010 and beyond. We now have an in depth knowledge of the industry enabling us to resolve a number of issues and ultimately recover more outstanding fees for our clients.
CBC International has been the appointed Debt Recoveryspecialists for a large tourist complex in the Canary Islands since 2006. We are pleased to announce that as of today, we have been appointed in a similar capacity by one of Europe’s leading Vacation Membership companies.
Stephen Rose, Client Services Manager of CBC International said, “I am pleased that CBC’s reputation has attracted another large client within this particular industry. I have no doubt we will provide them with an excellent service and we look forward to a long standing business relationship.”
It was described as “the most important development for Wirral since John Laird came to form his shipyard” by Birkenhead MP Frank Field.
And last night the £4.5bn Wirral Waters scheme was unanimously approved by the council’s planning committee.
The meeting at Wallasey Town Hall erupted into applause as councillors voted in favour of a scheme which was described by many of them as “transformative” for the borough.
The outline planning application will allow for the dockland area between Birkenhead and Wallasey to be developed by Peel Holdings with a scheme they say will rival waterfront developments across the globe.
All four of Wirral’s MPs had written in support of the application, which is the biggest of its type in the UK.
Covering 50 hectares of dockland – some of which is operational but vastly reduced from its heyday – the ambition of Peel is to repeat the success they have enjoyed in Salford Quays, with a scheme anticipated to grow over the next three decades.
The planning committee was being asked to effectively set the “ground rules” for the development as it is expected to emerge in the coming years. No detailed plans have yet been submitted and Peel director Lindsey Ashworth has said it would be 2012 at the earliest before any work is likely to start.
Following the meeting, Mr Ashworth said he “could almost cry” at the decision, which he has worked towards for four years.
He said: “Unanimous support is a big thing to me, as well as helping to avoid a public inquiry. If the Government call it in (for an inquiry) we will have serious problems.”
Because of the size of the scheme, it will be automatically referred to the Government by Wirral Council, and will shortly reach the desk of Eric Pickles, secretary of state for Communities and Local Government.
Mr Ashworth said: “If there is a public inquiry, we would either fight it – which is two years and a couple of million pounds – or back off. I don’t want to spend any more money.”
He added: “I was not going to appeal against refusal. I would have picked up my bag and gone away.”
But he declared himself “well pleased” by the council’s decision which is projected to create tens of thousands of jobs during the decades of construction and approximately 27,000 jobs when complete. The aim is to attract major international organisations to the site. During the meeting, councillors were told Wirral’s population had declined dramatically since the mid-1960s, a key indicator of economic fortunes, as people left the area for jobs.
In their presentation, planning officers highlighted the woeful state of some of the areas surrounding the docklands which suffer high rates of worklessness and deprivation. They also pointed to studies which show a lack of office space which prevents companies locating in the borough.
There were objections to the application, primarily from consultants for retail organisations, which were dismissed by committee member Cllr David Elderton as “mealy mouthed”.
Chairman of the committee, Cllr Dave Mitchell, echoed his colleagues in praising council officers who had worked with Peel on the application. He said: “People don’t realise this has been developed over five years and a lot of work has been done by our staff.”
Cllr Phil Gilchrist said he had some concerns about the height of the tallest buildings in the scheme which would dwarf Bidston Hill, but ultimately backed the scheme, as did Cllr George Davies, who said he was “absolutely delighted” to be part of the meeting, and described seeing the transformation of Salford Quays from a similar wasteland.
He said: “I just hope the people of Birkenhead, Wallasey and Wirral can enjoy the same benefits in the future.”
Wirral Council leader, Cllr Jeff Green, said: “This is a fantastic day for the people of Birkenhead and Wallasey and the future of Wirral. We can now look forward to the site’s transformation over the coming years to help improve the economic fortunes of the Borough and that of its residents.”
Cllr Andrew Hodson, cabinet member for regeneration and planning strategy, said: “This is a great day for Wirral.
“We have been working closely with Peel for almost four years to bring jobs and regeneration to the borough.
“The approval of this planning application will lead to the total transformation of what is currently derelict brownfield land within East Float at Birkenhead Docks and when finished will create over 27,000 jobs.
“This has taken place against a backdrop of the worst recession in living memory and it is a credit to both Peel and Wirral council that we have kept the plans moving.”
Cllr Hodson added: “Subject to getting the OK from the Government, we hope work will start on site within the next two years, and officers of the council will continue to work with Peel as we move into the development phase.”
Deputy leader of the council, Simon Holbrook, said it was a “historic moment”, and described the application as a “new chapter” for Wirral and “shows ambition”.
Commenting on the current situation surrounding bank lending to business, Steve Hughes, UK economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“Bank lending is a crucial issue for Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses, and getting the existing concerns resolved quickly is essential if we are going to see a lasting private sector-led recovery.
“The current lending situation is much more complicated than simply forcing banks to lend when demand among businesses is muted. Nonetheless, the banks must be as transparent as possible when decisions are made, and ensure that their decision-making processes are not over centralised, tick box or removed from the front line.”