Thursday, 27 November 2008

Manchester Congestion Charge - Yes or No?

As many local papers and websites are now hightlighting (e.g. This Is Lancashire), all residents across the 10 regions of Greater Manchester have until 10pm on 11th December, in 2 weeks time, to cast their vote in determining whether a congestion fare should be introduced in Manchester or not. The congestion fare would work by drivers paying up to £5 a day for crossing in and out of an outer ring (the M60) and an inner ring (the city centre) at peak times between 7 and 9.30 am, and 4 and 6.30 pm. The fare, to be provisionally introduced in 2013, would help make £1.2 billion of the £3 billion needed for improvements to public transport in Greater Manchester. Many agree, many disagree...what's your view?

The improvements to public transport across Greater Manchester would include:

  • An extra 22 miles of tramlines

  • 41 upgraded train stations

  • New direct buses from the north to the south of Manchester

  • 120 extra yellow school buses

  • More carriages and seats on trains

  • More park and ride service on rail and tram networks

  • More cycling provision

For full details on how the scheme will affect each region in Greater Manchester click here.

Some believe that the fare will help to reduce traffic levels in the city, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, in practice 9 out of 10 people across Greater Manchester wouldn't have to pay a charge. Campaigns in favour of the charge also argue that without the fare much needed transport improvements and extensions in Greater Manchester wouldn't go ahead, as highlighted on Vote Yes website.

On the other hand, some disagree with the charge, as it could cost commuters an extra £1,200 per year to travel around the city. Similarly, SMEs may consider relocating, as the extra financial burden may affect their ability, and their customers' ability, to travel around Manchester, as examples on the First Voice website show.

Still unsure how the congestion charge works? The BBC website has a useful FAQs page on the matter.

What do you think about the fare?

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Oldham Chronicle Business Awards

The Oldham Chronicle today launched the ‘One Oldham Business Awards’, to take place in March 2009, in conjunction with Oldham Council, and the Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest Business Banking’ sponsorship. The awards aim to find the ‘cream’ of the business community in Oldham, in order to reward and celebrate their achievements. Between now and February the Chronicle will publish an entry form for each of the 8 categories available. The 8 categories will be:

  • Business of the Year
  • Start-Up Business
  • Businessman of the Year
  • Businesswoman of the Year
  • Innovation and Design
  • Young Entrepreneur
  • Retailer of the Year
  • Small Business of the Year

To enter you will need to download a form here and send it to the address on the Oldham Chronicle Business website.

For those wishing to attend what should be a memorable evening, tickets cost £35 per head, or tables of 10 are available for £400, for which you also get an advertisement in the programme.
God luck to all entrants!!

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Monday, 24 November 2008

VAT Standard Rate to Be Reduced

During his pre-budget report this afternoon, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, announced that the standard rate of VAT will be reduced from 17.5% to 15% from 1st December 2008 to 31st December 2009, and then revert back to 17.5% as of 1st January 2010, as a means of helping to improve the current economic climate. For more information on this change please visit the HRMC website.

In relation to the rest of the pre-budget report; there will be an increase in child benefit from January, pensioners will receive a one-off payment of £60 on top of a £10 Christmas bonus, and duties on petrol, alcohol and tobacco will increase. For more information on the pre-budget report please click here.

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Telecoms Industry Giants Cut Thousands of Jobs

Last week BT announced that they were to cut 10,000 jobs worldwide, with 7,000 to be cut in the UK. This news shortly after BT announced a shock £80 million drop in profits, and UK unemployment levels were reported to be as high as 1.83 million. BT is the 4th large telecoms company to announce job losses in the past week; Virgin Media plans to cut 2,200 jobs over the next three years, yellow pages group Yell is cutting 1,300 posts this year, and Vodafone wants to reduce costs by £1bn a year with an unspecified number of job losses.

BT’s Chief Executive, Ian Livingston, explained that BT’s cuts were part on an ongoing efficiency programme: 'This reflects the fact that our prices have been falling every year for several years now,' he said. 'Since that is the case we have to deliver costs savings every year. But we also anticipated reasonably early on that economic conditions were worsening.”

With these large companies cutting jobs, what effect will this have on small and medium-sized companies? At Plum we feel that we can adapt to the current market forces and are bullish about the future. We have recently hired business graduate Rhodri Lloyd to help us improve our customers’ experience.

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Friday, 14 November 2008

‘Long way down’ – Lisa’s Skydive

On Friday 21st November, Lisa, Matt and Holly from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce are going to do a sponsored jump out of a plane at 10,000 feet, in order to raise money for the Prince’s Trust Charity. This charity helps young people between 14 and 30 years of age to overcome barriers and get their lives working, by giving practical and financial support and developing skills such as confidence and motivation.

They have currently raised £ 530.00, but still have a bit more to do to reach their target of £2,000. Companies who are already members of the GM Chamber of Commerce who sponsor £10 or more will have their logo and a link to their website placed on the Chamber website . To sponsor them, click here…every penny counts!!!

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Oldham Pensioner Makes a Stand Over £4.50 BT charge

The front page of today's Oldham Evening Chronicle showed a story about John Slater, a 75-year old pensioner from Failsworth, Oldham, who has been fined £13.50 by BT, because he has refused to pay a charge of £4.50 on his last 3 bills he has received through the post. If he had made payments through a direct debit, such costs wouldn't have arisen. Despite being consequently cut off for this non-payment, Mr Slater has vowed to take BT to court over these charges. BT don't look set to back down, stating that their charge for non direct debit customers is already lower than other companies. Read the full article here.

Is such a charge necessary? As a company we do not make such charges. In the case of a pensioner, who suffers from diabetes and arthritis, should BT just let bygones be bygones and not dish out such fines?

Channel 4 have already reported on a similar case back in March, where a customer took BT to court over charges. Similarly, in March 2007, a group of 35 MPs, led by Midlothian Labour MP David Hamilton, signed a Commons motion in protest against the charges. Some people however believe they have got round this problem by simply deducting £4.50 from the bill themselves.

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Monday, 10 November 2008

BlackBerry Storm 9500 Review

Following the recent success of Apple’s touch screen and multi-functional iPhone, and Google’s own touch screen mobile, the G1 Android Phone, BlackBerry have now introduced their 1st touch screen smartphone, the impressive BlackBerry Storm 9500.

As with all BlackBerry phones, the Storm strongly focuses on its ease of use and efficiency for its business users. The BlackBerry phones are traditionally seen as phones which allow e-mails to be sent and received, and Microsoft Office files to be opened and edited. However, the new BlackBerry offers its user a lot more than that. Its media player utilises iTunes syncing and Roxio Media Manager, along with a handy 1GB memory built-in, so users can set up music playlists for themselves.

The 3.2 Mega Pixel camera takes high quality and sharp pictures, thus encouraging picture and video blogging. In terms of a keyboard, users can choose between 3 different styles. The phone also has other useful functions: GPS, BlackBerry maps, Java, 3.5 mm audio output jack, organizer, calculator, voice dial, built-in-handsfree, and voice memo.

Check out these slides from a Vodafone presentation to get further details on the phone.

However, the Storm does have a major disadvantage in that it doesn’t have WiFi, a factor which may affect its popularity and efficiency.

[+/-] Show Full Post...

Important Safety Notice: GN9120 Users

Some cases of battery failures in GN9120 headsets, distributed between January 2005 and September 2008, have been reported. These faulty batteries are possible fire hazards to users, as short circuits in the batteries can cause the handsets to overheat.

GN Netcom, the manufacturer, is asking customers to stop using their headsets until they have received and replaced the affected batteries. Customers can request battery replacements via, or by calling 0808 2381498 between 8am and 4pm Monday to Friday.

GN Netcom has now changed their battery suppliers and battery type for these headsets, in order to prevent possible future faults.

The full text of the safety notice issued by GN Netcom can be obtained here

[+/-] Show Full Post...