All posts by Paul Andrews

Paul is the founder and editor of More Yorkshire, the latest digital publication that he has launched.

Scarborough Specialist Becomes Market Leader With Latest Acquisition

Rapidly expanding packaging and stationery specialist Duraweld, based in Scarborough, is continuing its growth journey with the acquisition of the business and assets of Celsur Plastics Ltd, Ambroplastics Ltd and Abbey Stationery Products Ltd, strengthening its position as the leading player in the sector.

Having served thousands of customers in the bespoke stationery, presentation and packaging sector for the last six decades, the three brands have now joined the Yorkshire-based Duraweld group following their liquidation in January 2023. Headquartered in Staines, Celsur is one of the best-known names in the industry providing a wide range of pvc, paper over board and polyprop products and promotional gifts. Sister company Ambroplastics, based in Telford, provides bespoke solutions for plastics and card-based products in the presentation packaging sector.

Duraweld has also strengthened its seven-strong sales team and ensured continuity for customers with the appointments of Emma Morris and Sharon Heath, both of whom have worked for Celsur for more than 20 years.

Founded in 1959, Duraweld designs and manufactures a wide range of packaging and stationery products for customers from the NHS to the FA, working across sectors such as healthcare and retail. Led by managing director Mark Yeung, it has a purpose-built factory which includes in-house screen printing, digital printing, inline paper over board wrapping, high-frequency welding, sonic welding, digital and hydraulic cutting, foil-blocking and embossing. The Scarborough-based business employs over 50 people.

The acquisition was supported by Sue Moul of specialist finance team recruiter Headstar in Leeds who has been working with Duraweld as the company’s finance director for the last two years, providing strategic financial support.

These latest acquisitions follow the merger of leading designer and manufacturer of quality packaging solutions, Prima Yorkshire, into Duraweld in November 2022 which expanded Duraweld’s service and product offerings, cementing its position with key customer groups and adding folding card products to the range.

Mark Yeung, managing director of Duraweld said, “There are some incredible synergies in the mindset and approach of Celsur and Duraweld – we operate in similar sectors and offer complementary products and levels of service. Adding these long-established brands to our extensive portfolio marks an exciting new phase for the businesses – we are looking forward to supporting their former clients, alongside our extensive customer base, all backed by Duraweld’s deep manufacturing expertise.”

“It’s exciting to further expand our customer base during a period of such strong growth for Duraweld, with the move strengthening our position as the go-to business in this specialist sector. We also pleased to welcome such experienced sales professionals as Emma Morris and Sharon Heath to the Duraweld family, and there will be more appointment announcements to come.”

Emma comments: “It has been a challenging period, but I’m genuinely excited to be joining Duraweld. The team have been great, and I’m looking forward to providing continuity and ensuring a seamless transition for longstanding customers.”

Celsur CEO, Phil Caudle, who will work closely with Duraweld during the handover period, added: “We are proud of having created a business with a passion for disruption and a vision to shake up the packaging and stationery industry. While the pandemic and geopolitics presented us with many challenges, having got to know Duraweld in recent months, we have been impressed by their capabilities and are confident that the businesses have a great future ahead as part of the Duraweld group.”

Corporation Tax Hike Could Cripple Struggling Businesses

The UK’s business community will be under pressure to find an extra £18 billion per year of Corporation Tax payments by 2025/26 following a 31.58% proportionate increase in the Corporation Tax rate due to take effect in April.

Corporation Tax, which is currently 19%, will rise to 25% on 1 April 2023 and will raise an estimated additional £12bn in the first year, rising to £18bn by 2025/26. UK businesses currently contribute around £68bn in Corporation Tax per annum, equating to 2.9% of UK GDP.

A leading SME expert is warning that the additional tax burden could lead to a significant reduction in investment and the risk of businesses closing.

Nicola Campbell, Partner at UK Top 10 accountancy firm Azets, said: “Last October, the Government announced that it will persevere with an increase in the baseline Corporation Tax from 19% to 25% on annual profits of more than £250,000. Businesses across the UK will be paying an additional £18bn per annum by 2025/26.”

“It is a significant increase, and some businesses may not yet be fully aware of the implications. There is concern that the scale of the tax increase along with rising interest rates and inflationary pressures will restrict inward investment opportunities and in turn growth.”

“The tax burden on business has become higher than we have seen in the last two decades across the board, from National Insurance Contributions (NICs) to Corporation Tax.”

“My greatest worry, though, is the impact on owner managed businesses who can’t invest in growing their business as they need the profits to pay the household bills.”

“With an increase on this scale it is more important than ever that UK SMEs actively manage their Corporation Tax liabilities. Cash and liquidity are critical for every business so we would encourage owners and directors to take full advantage of available tax reliefs, including the following:

  1. Maximise the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) of £1m
  2. Claim R&D tax relief
  3. Maximise pension contributions
  4. Maximise staff benefits and invest in staff well-being
  5. Buy electric vehicles.”

New Community Woodland Set To Be Created

A new community woodland is set to be created in Dinnington. Funding has been secured to create a new community woodland off Athorpe Road in Dinnington, where 7,700 young trees are set to be planted on former grazing land.

The woodland will be named the Queen Elizabeth II Community Woodland, as a tribute to Her Late Majesty and her Platinum Jubilee Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.

This project has been supported by the South Yorkshire Woodland Partnership and will be funded through the Woodland Trust’s Grow Back Greener programme, as part of the Northern Forest.

The new woodland will be a space for the community. The design reflects this with walkways and space provided for sledging days over the winter months.

Biodegradable tree guards will protect the newly planted tree whips and this will ensure that there is no plastic waste on the site.

Work has already taken place to prepare the site. Children from Laughton All Saints CofE Primary School took part in a litter pick day recently.

A community planting day will take place on Saturday 25 February from 10.30am to 3pm. This will be a drop-in session and local residents are encouraged to come along. Gloves and spades will be provided on the day. The meeting point will be off Athorpe Road (opposite Tesco car park).

Planting days with schools and community groups are also set to take place over the coming months.

The Council has made a commitment to achieve net zero by 2030 and is investing in staff, resources and schemes to contribute towards achieving this target.

As part of the Council’s pledge to tackle climate change, a target has been set to plant 10,500 trees in Rotherham every year for the next 10 years. Last year, the Council exceeded the target and planted 22,139 trees in the borough.

Councillor David Sheppard, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion at Rotherham Council, said: “Climate change is an important issue and as a Council we are taking steps to respond to the climate emergency.”

“The Queen Elizabeth II Community Woodland forms part of our efforts to create a greener and cleaner local environment for residents.
“There will be lots of opportunities for people to get involved in this exciting project, including a planting day, which is set to take place later this month.”

Matt North, Programme Manager at the South Yorkshire Woodland Partnership, said: “We work with public and private landowners to develop and fund woodland creation that’s of benefit for people and wildlife. We really enjoyed working with council officers designing a woodland that will be a home for nature that the public can enjoy.”

“It’s fantastic to see the local community being able to take part in helping create and care for this significant project in Dinnington.”

Strategic Partnership For University Of York

The University of York has signed a strategic partnership agreement with O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU) that will support student mobility opportunities and academic collaboration.

JGU is ranked as India’s Number 1 Private University and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two institutions will lead to a number of initiatives, including PhD projects, academic research partnerships, and student exchanges in areas including politics, law, sustainability, film and music studies, and public health.

JGU is recognised as an Institution of Eminence by the Ministry of Education and was established through a philanthropic initiative of its Founding Chancellor, Mr. Naveen Jindal.

International Learning
Professor Charlie Jeffery, Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, said: “I would like to thank our colleagues in India for this opportunity to work together to provide our students with a truly international learning experience, and collaborate on research that will make a difference to people’s lives globally.”

“Underpinning our relationship is our shared mission to bring graduates into the global workplace fully equipped to deliver their knowledge in a way that allows communities anywhere in the world to flourish.”

Lasting Benefits
JGU is ranked as India’s Number 1 Private University by the QS World University Rankings, and was also recognised among the Top 150 universities globally under the age of 50 years by the QS Young University Rankings 2022.

Professor C. Raj Kumar said: “We welcome our colleagues from York, and look forward to an exciting future together where our combined expertise will create lasting benefits for society.”

“International collaboration is essential to breaking down barriers, providing solutions to significant global challenges, and producing the next generation of experts in fields that will improve the ways in which we live and work.”

New Study Into Interference For Trilingual Speakers

People who speak more than two languages are more likely to mistakenly use words from the language they’re least proficient in, new research has shown.

Participants were asked to name pictures in their three languages
The study, led by Dr Angela de Bruin, from the Department of Psychology at the University of York, looked at which of the other languages spoken by trilinguals ‘interfered’ when they were speaking their second language.

Dr de Bruin said: “Intuitively, you would expect these intrusions to mostly come from your most proficient language, for example the first language you grew up speaking from birth. However, our recent research shows that when having to use a less proficient second language, multilinguals actually experience more interference from another less proficient third language than from their native tongue.”

The study, conducted at the University of York and the Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, looked at two groups of trilinguals: Spanish-Basque-English trilinguals in the Basque Country and English-French-Spanish trilinguals in the UK.

Participants were asked to name pictures in their three languages in response to a cue. For example, when seeing the picture of an “apple” with the Spanish flag, they would have to say “manzana”. The participants were presented these pictures for a short period of time to make the task difficult.

The team then assessed which language interfered more when trilinguals had to use their second language. In both groups of trilinguals, participants more often accidentally used their third language than their first language, showing that this interference between non-native languages can be found across different trilingual groups.

Supressed Words
The research team also studied why this might be the case. In two other tasks, they tested how participants suppressed words in the other languages while using their second language. They found that the trilinguals suppressed words in their first language more than in their third.

Dr de Bruin says: “This could explain why these trilinguals experienced more interference from their less proficient third language: they might have suppressed that language less, leading to them accidentally using that language instead.”

Many people are able to communicate in more than one language and approximately a quarter of the European population can even speak three or more languages.

Role & Influence
The research conducted by Dr de Bruin is based on personal experience. She says: “When I tried to speak German in Germany after moving to Spain I was trying to buy a bus ticket and I noticed I almost uncontrollably switched between German and Spanish and inserted Spanish words like “por favor” without wanting to. Although my native language Dutch is very similar to German, this interference was not coming from Dutch but rather from Spanish, a language I was far less fluent in.”

She concludes: “This study shows that just knowing words in a language might not be enough to ensure fluent communication. It is also crucial to retrieve the words in the intended language at the appropriate moment and to avoid interference from the other language(s). Trilinguals might have less experience with, or might be worse at, suppressing a less proficient language and might therefore experience more interference from that language.”

“Interestingly, whilst we often focus on the role and influence of a first language, our study highlights the importance of understanding how languages that are acquired later in childhood or adolescence can influence each other. Fluent communication in those languages might not just require a certain level of knowledge in that language but also efficient control over the other languages.”

The study is published in the Journal of Memory and Language

Career Opportunities In The Spotlight In Leeds Festival

Manufacturing employers from across Leeds will come together next week to launch a programme of events aimed at highlighting the latest career opportunities available in the modern manufacturing and engineering sectors in the city and the wider region.

A high-profile launch event kicking off the Leeds Manufacturing Festival will take place at Leeds City College’s flagship Printworks Campus on 22 February, with keynote speakers West Yorkshire Mayor Tracey Brabin and Stephen Phipson, chief executive of manufacturing employers’ organisation MAKE UK topping the bill.

West Yorkshire is home to around 5,600 manufacturing firms employing over 104,000 people and Leeds is the UK’s third largest manufacturing centre by local authority area.

Leeds Manufacturing Festival, now in its sixth year, will focus on connecting young people with potential employers, addressing the recruitment challenges that continue to affect the industry, with 85% of employers in the sector struggling to recruit new talent, according to a British Chambers of Commerce survey published this month.

The 2023 festival programme, which runs until July, will include a manufacturing careers showcase, where employers will meet students to talk about the varied roles on offer within the industry; a careers panel enabling school students to question employers and current apprentices face-to-face about the realities of working in manufacturing; as well as factory visits to firms across Leeds.

A highlight of the festival will be the return of the Next Gen Awards, in April, celebrating the achievements of outstanding young people working in the industry and a new category recognising the commitment of employers to training and development of their employees.

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracey Brabin said: “Young people are key when it comes to building a green and resilient manufacturing sector – and there are so many exciting opportunities for them across our region. Whether it be as a budding engineering specialist or a bespoke furniture craftsperson, innovative new ways of manufacturing will help us to achieve our ambition of becoming net-zero by 2038.”

“This unique festival will provide insight into selling West Yorkshire products in the UK and beyond and is sure to inspire the next generation to boost their skills and pursue a career in manufacturing.”

MAKE UK’s Stephen Phipson added: “Manufacturing already provides 2.5m jobs across the whole of the UK, jobs which pay higher wages than the whole economy and give lifelong opportunities for career progression and development. The sector is responsible for 64% of all UK industrial research and development and just over half of Britain’s exports are goods.”

“However, there are currently 78,000 manufacturing vacancies across the UK with many companies saying that key roles are remaining unfilled for 12 months at a time. This chronic labour shortage highlights the vital importance of events like Leeds Manufacturing Festival in attracting new talent into our vibrant, innovative and exciting sector.”

Ben Wilson, chair of Leeds Manufacturing Alliance and director of Leeds-based glass reinforced plastic moulds manufacturer MPM, said: “As we get ready to launch the sixth year of the festival there’s a real buzz around the initiative, with both manufacturing employers and students across Leeds excited about the upcoming programme of events.”

“The festival is all about highlighting the huge range of exciting and well-paid careers that are on offer in the sector. Modern workplaces and innovation are hallmarks of manufacturing in Leeds and we should look to a bright future, and not the misplaced stereotypes of the past. People working in the sector derive immense satisfaction and pride from being part of a practical process that is, actually making things – it’s a hugely creative industry and a great sector to work in.”

Also featured in the Leeds Manufacturing Festival launch event on 22 February will be a panel of industry experts who will take questions from the audience. The line-up will include Amanda McLaren, managing director of iconic Leeds textile company AW Hainsworth; Mitch Scott, head of engineering at Leeds City College; Matt Booth, business manager from manufacturing and engineering sector recruiter E3 Recruitment’s, as well as manufacturing festival chair Ben Wilson.
To find out more about the festival and get involved, visit the event website here

Opera Event At Pontefract Castle A Huge Success

Photo Credit: Tom Arber

Over 100 people enjoyed a free, fun, family-filled adventure at Pontefract Castle this weekend, and even more events are planned across the district this year.

Based on the music and story of Janáček’s opera, ‘The Cunning Little Vixen’ was hosted by Opera North and led by a cast of professional opera singers and musicians. Families enjoyed this interactive and relaxed concert where singing and moving around were encouraged.

Cllr Michael Graham, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Sport, said: “This was an absolutely fantastic event for Wakefield residents to experience the magic of opera, storytelling, and music, whatever their age.”

“Going to the theatre can be an expensive outing and being able to offer this to families for free this year is our way of helping to bring opera to our communities and to audiences who may not usually be able to access traditional Opera North performances.”

“But don’t worry if you didn’t get tickets, we have lots of wonderful events coming up this year that everyone can get involved in.”

Rhubarb Festival returns to the district this weekend (17 – 19 February) with a food and drink market, chef demos, street entertainment, music and much more.

Residents can also look forward to the return of WordFest in May, the Castleford Roman Festival in June and Pontefract Liquorice Festival and Proms at the Castle (Pontefract) in July.

For more information about all the events taking place across the district this year, please visit the Experience Wakefield website here

Celebrations For Anne Lister’s Birthday Festival

Organisations across Calderdale and the wider West Yorkshire region are coming together to celebrate the life, loves and legacy of Shibden Hall’s most famous resident, Anne Lister.

The famous landowner, entrepreneur, mountaineer, scholar, traveller, and lesbian, Anne Lister was born in Halifax on 3 April 1791. To celebrate the anniversary of her birth, Calderdale Council is supporting a packed programme of events as part of the Anne Lister Birthday Festival.

The festival runs from Monday 27 March until Monday 3 April and includes over 70 events, ranging from walks, talks, lectures, painting workshops. The full programme and how to buy tickets is available here. Some events have already sold out, so fans are encouraged to book as soon as possible.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Cllr Jenny Lynn, said: “The life and legacy of Anne Lister continues to inspire, and we’re delighted to be able to present a full programme of events to celebrate this extraordinary woman.”

“The incredible success of Sally Wainwright’s, Gentleman Jack brought Anne’s story to a wider audience and we’re expecting visitors from across the world to festival events and Calderdale’s cultural venues.”

“Some events have already sold out and we’ve had a lot of interest, particularly from the USA. In fact, we’re already expecting over 300 people to make the trip from the states to Calderdale for Anne’s birthday.”

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, Cllr Jane Scullion, said: “Screen tourism is increasingly important to Calderdale’s visitor economy and the ongoing popularity of the borough as a filming location is bringing further tourism benefits to the area.”

“Gentleman Jack has been a cultural phenomenon and has inspired many visitors to come and walk in Anne’s footsteps and experience our vibrant towns and villages for themselves.”

“The Anne Lister Birthday Festival is an opportunity to explore the places she knew, lived in and visited, and to learn more about her life with new and exclusive events.”

In addition to individual events, Shibden Hall, which was Anne’s home and is the focus of the BBC drama series ‘Gentleman Jack’, will be open daily throughout the festival. Tickets must be booked in advance here, where you can also confirm opening times.

Halifax Minster, where Anne worshipped and was baptised and buried, will also be open every day throughout the festival.

Special events are being held at Bankfield Museum, Halifax Central Library, The Piece Hall and Dean Clough. A special hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus is running throughout the festival, from Halifax town centre to Shibden Hall, Bankfield Museum and Dean Clough on a loop throughout the day.

More information about the festival and other attractions and events happening around the borough, as well as details of where to stay and what to do in Calderdale, is available here

How Technology Can Support The Customer Service Process

Offering top quality customer service is very important for both an organisation and their customer base. Over the years, customer service has evolved to allow automated systems to assist with traditional human interactions. Here, we discuss how the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are being used to provide best-in-class service – with further insight into customers so staff can meet their needs.

A More Efficient Way of Working
The implementation and advances in AI have allowed customer services departments to operate in a more streamlined and efficient way which is beneficial to all parties. Using an automated online chat facility, rather than one staffed by an employee, helps remove unnecessary volume coming into the contact centre. This in turn allows staff to utilise their time more effectively, as they will be dealing with issues that do require human contact. The customer will see a benefit too as the reduction in volume to the contact centre can see shorter waiting times.

Blair Strachan of outsourcing experts Kura, said: “Having a blend of adviser and AI can really help improve the service on offer. If a customer can use a chatbot or navigate a self-serve option, it prevents calls coming into the contact centre which is a huge benefit.”

“Customers really value ease of use when thinking about renewing a contract. If they don’t need to wait in a queue and can resolve any issues using technology it may keep them with you even if you are more expensive. You want AI to deal with the easy tasks so the highly skilled adviser can handle the issues that require more time to resolve.”

“We ran a project that looked at 200,000 data points with a view of reducing handle time for voice and email interactions. As a result of that project, we implemented a solution that reduced average handle time by 3.5% as well as a 30% reduction in email handle time, which is a considerable saving”

Round the Clock Customer Service
The advancement of AI has enabled customer services to have a presence at times of day when staff are not physically working, and in the past would have seen customer services simply closed. Having an automated system in place provides an all-round better service for the customer, and it may be the case that their issue can be solved without the need to even speak to a member of staff.

Outsourcing customer service to a specialist organisation can allow businesses to provide help and guidance to customers at all hours, which they may not have the capacity to do in-house. This could be of particular benefit to start-ups and small to medium enterprises who do not have the resource to fulfil this important pillar of business in-house. Not only that, it also allows staff to spend time on other areas of the business that aren’t outsourced, improving productivity.

A bespoke outsourced solution can also mean a business’ customer services are in the best hands, using best practices and harnessing the latest technological advances to deliver the best service possible.

For the customer service process, if the issue cannot be resolved without human interaction, the initial contact will cut down on the time the employee needs to spend on the issue when they are available. In this situation, AI can enable automation of lower-level tasks that previously would have required a human interaction and would have not been available to customers outside of traditional hours.

Personalised User Experiences
Approximately 71% of customers would like the ability to solve the problem they are experiencing themselves. AI plays an important role in allowing this to happen, sometimes even before a customer need to contact customer services. Suggestions and recommendations can be sent to customers, based on their search and purchasing history, enabling content to be sent to the customer at the best possible time. By developing an understanding of a customer and creating a customer profile, a personal user experience can be provided.

In addition to this, AI in customer services has allowed the development of augmented messaging to realise when a human operator needs to step in. This is an important step as, while chatbots are useful for smaller queries, a customer can become frustrated if they feel they aren’t getting anywhere with the chat and this in turn leads to a poor customer experience. Allowing the employee to jump in and take over will allow the situation to be resolved more efficiently.

Improved Interactions with Customers and a Data-Driven Approach
Automated chat services allow customer services to be handled partly without the need for human interaction. AI can complete tasks ranging from replying to a simple message through to providing a customer with a refund. By utilising technology, businesses can provide quick responses to customers, and the use of automation allows employees to be utilised on tasks and areas of the business that require a human touch.

Interacting with customers is, of course, a huge part of customer services, particularly when there are issues to be resolved. AI does play another role though; in that it can work with service agents to recall customer data. How can this affect customer services? The system can learn the customer, and if a repeat customer hasn’t been contacted in a while, then this can be flagged, and the customer contacted. This keeps the customer in contact with the business and can help with retention. This feature is particularly effective with AI is paired with a CRM.

Overall, technology and the development of AI plays a huge role in helping customer services departments offer a best-in-class service. It combines well with existing in-house or outsourced customer service solutions to provide the best journey for a customer. Whether it be through chatbots, combined augmented and human live chat services, offering round the clock service, or helping businesses understand customers more through the data aspect – technology and AI allows for a better customer service experience.

UK Firms Need To Overhaul Thinking On Older Workers

UK firms need to overhaul their thinking on older workers, or risk facing the same skills challenges in the future

With skills shortages showing no sign of slowing – with the latest ONS data revealing employment levels are up once again – and pleas from the Government for retirees to re-enter the workforce to help solve this, specialist recruitment firm, Robert Half, has cautioned that without an overhaul of skills development, the UK could be in the same situation in the next few years.

While the Government has encouraged workers over 50 to end early retirement through its midlife ‘MOT initiative’, and the Chancellor having recently announced that he is exploring a ‘slightly shorter type’ of apprenticeship, the firm has argued that these will be a missed opportunity unless employers and Government work together to agree and implement significant changes to engage and train this demographic.

Kris Harris, Regional Director – Midlands, Home Counties & East of England – from Robert Half, explained: “While we support any initiative aimed at bolstering the UK’s workforce and which helps ease the skills shortages currently challenging employers, we feel that without real change, the actions of today will simply delay the retirement cliff further, rather than resolve it. The current hiring, training and talent management landscape isn’t geared towards older demographics. This is a historical trend that we’ve seen and while we applaud the efforts to encourage over 50’s back into employment, this needs to be underpinned by a thorough strategy.”

“The skills and training issue is particularly pertinent. Not only is there a need to support the transfer of knowledge from older workers to those earlier on in their career, but those in the 50+ age bracket also need to be upskilled to ensure they are both working and training to their best abilities. The challenge is that there needs to be purposeful, structured programmes to address such upskilling and knowledge transfer initiatives.”

“And there are some stereotypes that still need to be challenged, such as the perception of apprenticeship considered as more beneficial for those early in their career, rather than as a tool to upskill and reskill workers who require additional development or choose to explore a radically different professional field, such as technology, for example.”

“It is paramount that employers and Government bodies work closely together to ensure that older workers are not only enticed to cease early retirement, but also provided with the upskilling support that will help them navigate the new world of work and be able to pass on their invaluable expertise and practical knowledge to the younger workforce. Time is of the essence and action is needed now, before they once again reach a point when they plan to exit the workforce. It’s rare to get a second chance at engaging with retirees – wasting this chance now will be detrimental to the country’s profile as a skills powerhouse.”