Friday, 27 February 2009

Charities urged to give regional branches a bigger say in decision-making

Research by the Institute for Public Policy Research has suggested that charities need to have a bigger say in policy at a regional level. The study showed that 80% of charity leaders thought decision-making at a regional level was important. However, 60% admitted that the voluntary sector's voice in policy in those areas was "not very well established". The research was unveiled at an Acevo (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) conference in York yesterday. Katie Schmuecker of IPPR North has said that, “Given the backdrop of the recession, it is more important than ever for economic development plans to support deprived areas as well as areas of opportunity. The voluntary and community sector has much to contribute in this respect."

Plum Communications are happy to work with charities at any level as they deem appropriate, with the aim of providing effective communications at an affordable price.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Plum Communications staff give blood

Three staff members of Plum Communications today gave blood at Queen Elizabeth Hall in Oldham Town Centre on behalf of the National Blood Service. Suzanne Cain, Plum’s Customer Services Manager has been donating blood for 13 years, but for Peter Savic (Managing Director) and Rhodri Lloyd (Marketing Manager) this was their 1st donation. Thankfully everything went smoothly and all 3 are pleased to have made their donation for such a worthy cause. In 16 weeks time they will be able to make another donation. For those interested in giving blood themselves, you can find more information and book an appointment on the National Blood Service website.

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Council tax to rise in Greater Manchester – but not as much in Oldham

As of April council tax charges across the UK are to increase by an average of 3.5%, the lowest increase in the last decade, which means that a household would pay an extra £45 of council tax per year. In Greater Manchester, the average increase across the 10 councils is 3.8%, with the highest increase being 5% in Trafford and the lowest 2.5% in Oldham. This increase will see the charge for Band A properties in Oldham increase by £24.63 to £1,009.39, and the tax for an average Band D house rise to £1,514.07. In Greater Manchester, the council tax increases are as follows:

  • Bolton = 4.22%
  • Bury = 4.73%
  • Manchester = 3.46%
  • Oldham = 2.5%
  • Rochdale = 4.04%
  • Salford = 3.4%
  • Stockport = 4.5%
  • Tameside = 3.93%
  • Trafford = 5%
  • Wigan = 2.58%

However, Oldham residents will still end up paying more council tax than the other regions, with Trafford residents still paying the least. Below are figures showing Band A and Band D council tax prices in the regions:

  • Bolton = £922.39, £1383.59
  • Bury = £933.73, £1400.58
  • Manchester = £877.12, £1315.68
  • Oldham = £1009.39, £1514.07
  • Rochdale = £950.94, £1426.41
  • Salford = £1007.98, £1511.97
  • Stockport = £1003.78, £1505.70
  • Tameside = £891.69, £1337.53
  • Trafford = £846.88, £1270.82
  • Wigan = £895.26, £1342.89

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Greater Manchester rail travel comes under scrutiny

Rail travel in Greater Manchester has been criticised by watchdog groups and commuters over the past few days regarding rail prices and timetables. Recent research by rail watchdog Passenger Focus has found that season ticket prices in the region are the most expensive in the country outside of London. Similarly, research found that rail travel between Greater Manchester and London can be the most expensive, and also the cheapest, in Europe. This journey can be the cheapest as commuters can buy tickets at “buy in advance, one train only” low prices for journeys from Manchester to London, which equates to being cheaper than the prices Europeans pay to travel to Paris, Hamburg, Milan, Amsterdam, Madrid, Stockholm and Zurich. However, at the same time travelling at short notice or needing flexibility about the train you catch can be hugely expensive. For example, 25% of passengers buy a Manchester to London second class return of £247 by buying their tickets on the day, but only 10% manage to get the cheapest £26 return by booking in advance.

The research found that across all of Britain rail prices were 50% higher than in Europe, which the average cost of an unrestricted one day return ticket being nearly 3½ times that of the equivalent in France and Spain. This research came about as current Bolton South MP Ruth Kelly, when she was Transport Secretary, asked for an investigation into why passengers who were generally satisfied with their rail services still said they were poor value for money.

Similarly, the MEN have today reported that members of the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority have been criticised for the way in which the ‘new winter timetable’ failed to be integrated quickly. The largest number of timetable changes to occur in Manchester in over 2 decades was introduced in January, e.g. 3 Virgin trains from Manchester to London per hour, aiming to provide faster journeys, more services and more room for harassed commuters. However, on the first day of changes alone Northern Rail had to cancel 123 trains, with 5 times as many letters of complaint as normal being received by Northern. It has been reported that it has taken until now for punctuality and cancellations to return to normal. GMPTE boss Michael Renshaw and Northern director Lee Wasnidge have defended the problems which have occurred, ensuring that intensive training for both maintenance staff and train crew members, in order to get accustomed to the new timetables and trains, was carried out thoroughly in advance to the changes being implemented.

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Rob’s 500km bike ride for Prostate Cancer

Rob Booth, Director of In Call Solutions, a partner of Plum Communications, is setting out on 20th February to Saigon, with the aim of cycling 500km over 5 days from Vietnam to Cambodia. He is taking on this challenge in order to raise money for the Furness Prostate Cancer Support Group, a charity who specialise in treating, supporting and advising both prostate cancer sufferers and their families. Any donations would be greatly received. Cheques can be paid to 'Furness Prostate Cancer Support Group' or FPCSG and can be sent to the following address: Suite 3, The Granary, 50 Barton Road, Worsley, M28 2EB. Good luck Rob!

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Ofcom will not get in the way of BT’s ROI on 21CN broadband

BT will now not face any obstacles from Ofcom in its plan to spend £1.5 billion pounds on its super-fast broadband network, 21CN. BT’s superfast broadband offers a speed of up to 100Mbps, more than 30 times higher than the current UK average broadband speed of 3.6Mbps. Ofcom’s CEO Ed Richards, in an interview with the Financial Times, has said that Ofcom, “will not be a barrier to this kind of investment”. BT’s CEO Ian Livingston, said that BT was making a lot of progress with Ofcom on the principles of its planned regulatory regime. Still don’t understand what 21CN is? Click here for the answer.

On announcing their plans for 21CN last July, BT declared that it would only push ahead with its plan for their fibre optic broadband internet if Ofcom set terms that allowed it a decent ROI on the service, so with this now being the case BT has push on with their plans. There was some spectism over the issue as BT's investment case rested on the hope that it would be able to charge rival telecoms groups for using its superfast network. Some analysts believe that this investment is of a high risk as they question whether consumers will be willing to pay a premium on using superfast broadband.

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Anger over BT charges for a phone line which hasn’t been used

In yesterday’s Sunday Times, Hunter Davies wrote a short piece in which he questioned BT’s charges, after receiving a bill for £46.62 on a line which hadn’t been used in the previous 3 months. He discovered that £36.89 of this figure was actually a payment made in advance for the next 3 months, and £4.50 of the charge was for not paying by direct debit. This £4.50 charge has been challenged by many people in the past, such as John Slater, an Oldham pensioner mentioned in a previous blog entry. Davies wants to get his own back on BT, so he has calculated a scale of charges, where he calculates how much it would cost to pay a BT bill, which he intends to send to BT staff in Durham. He considered 5 different costs: Envelope and stamp (62p), writing out a cheque (£5), use of pen (£1), damages (£10) and time spent (£30) These costs add up to £46.62, the precise amount which BT are charging for Davies not to use his phone.

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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Review of Ofcom Telecoms Report Q3 2008

Ofcom have released their telecoms report for the third quarter, or third 3 months (July - September) in 2008. The report aims to highlight emerging trends in the UK telecoms sector, in order to generate a greater understanding of the sector amongst consumers and businesses alike. As stated on the Ofcom website, the main trends in fixed lines and calls, internet, and mobile phones, were as follows:


  • BT’s market share of fixed calls and access revenues fell to 57.9% in Q3 2008, some 4.1% lower than it had been in Q3 2007.
  • Total call volumes declined by 9% lower between Q3 2007 and Q3 2008, with total business call volumes falling by 5% in the same period.
  • Total number of fixed lines and ISDN channels fell by 36,000 to 33.5m in Q3 2008.
  • Total fixed calls and access revenues fell by 2% during the quarter to £2.3bn.


  • The total number of residential and SME broadband connections increased by almost 322,000 to 16.9 million in Q3 2008, with LLU broadband connections increasing by 7% during the quarter to over 5 million for the first time.


  • Total mobile revenue across the four mobile operators increased by 1.5% compared to the previous quarter, driven by an increases in revenue of 2.3% from calls and other charges, whereas revenue from SMS and MMS dropped by 2%.
  • The number of total subscribers grew by 1.2% in Q3 2008 to 68.2 million, with contract subscriptions equating to 85% of network connections during Q3 2008.
  • At 596 million minutes, the volume of international roaming calls in Q2 2008 was some 11% higher than in Q2 2007, with the volume of outgoing international call minutes increasing by 14% to just under 450 million minutes.
  • UK call volumes across the four largest mobile operators feel by 0.05%, in comparison to Q2 2008, the first quarter-on-quarter fall since Q1 2005.

In relation to business users:

  • The total number of fixed business lines and ISDN channels has fallen by 1.2% between Q3 2008 and Q3 2007, with BT’s market share declining by 5% in this period.
  • The total volume of business calls has fallen by 5.1% between Q3 2008 and Q3 2007, with BT’s market share declining by 4.8% in this period.
  • The total revenue of business calls has fallen by 2.8% between Q3 2008 and Q2 2008, and by 10.9% compared to Q3 2007. BT’s market share has dropped 4.9% in the last year.

Click on the following links to view the Q1 and Q2 2008 Ofcom telecoms reports

Q1 2008 Q2 2008

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

BT Openreach engineering work delayed by recent heavy snowfall

Bt Openreach has published the following declaration on their website regarding the recent heavy snowfall and the effects it has had on their engineering works:

″This MBORC declaration, due to aspects of recent severe weather, is issued as a special alert to all Communications Providers.

Following heavy snow fall Openreach is now declaring a matter beyond our reasonable control (MBORC) / force majeure event in some areas.The declaration is effective from 09:00 am on Monday 2nd February 2009. It applies to all provision and repair activities caused by the severe weather conditions in the specified areas.

The recent heavy snowfall has impacted Openreach in two main ways. Firstly, the reduced mobility of our engineering workforce and, secondly, the reduced numbers of Openreach people able to get to our control centres. This resulted in a number of missed jobs and appointments where, whilst every effort was made to contact those end users, this was not always successful.
We have increased our engineering resource capability for the rest of this week, especially in those areas worst affected, and put our control centre contingency plans into operation. The impact on service, on a regional basis, is as follows and is based upon the current seven day weather forecast.

· Scotland - impact seen in East of Scotland. We are working normally and full recovery is expected by 9th February 2009.
· Northern England - impact seen in the Pennines, Tees Valley, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Full recovery is expected by 9th February 2009.
· Midlands & Wales - impact seen in East & Central Midlands. Full recovery is expected by 9th February 2009.
· London Home Counties - impact seen in London and the Thames Valley areas. Full recovery is expected by 10th February 2009. We have declared MBORC in the following areas: Basingstoke, City, Docklands, Guildford, Heathrow, Southbank, Wembley, Westend and Westminster.
· South West - impact seen in Solent. Full recovery is expected by 10th February 2009.
· South East - impact seen in Sussex, Kent North and South London. Full recovery is expected by 10th February 2009. We have declared MBORC in the following areas: Chelmsford, Crayford, Croydon, Edmonton, Esher, Greenwich, Lea Valley, Richmond, Romford, St Albans and Watford.

We will review this situation on a day-by-day basis and will lift the MBORC in each area as soon as service returns to normal. In addition, we continue to watch the weather and its impact and will advise should we need to declare MBORC in any other areas, or if our recovery times are extended as a result.”

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…again!

Exactly 2 months since the North West was last widely affected by heavy snow fall, more snow has fallen in the area, severely affecting travel across the North West. Heavy snow has caused treacherous driving conditions causing parts of the A62, A635, A66, A6024, A640, A57 and M62 to be closed and caused long delays on the M6 in the area. Drivers can check out the latest news regarding road closures on the BBC website. Domestic flights from Manchester Airport have also been affected due to cancellations at London Heathrow, also caused by the heavy snow, so passengers hoping to make domestic flights today are being told to expect 'cancellations and significant delays' . As reported in the Manchester Evening News, actress Julia Roberts was one of the thousands stranded at the airport, as her flight from India to Gatwick was diverted to Manchester.

Many schools have been forced to close today nationwide, especially in Oldham where 40 schools alone have closed down. However, Oldham City Council has been praised in their work in gritting the roads in Oldham, which helped enable drivers to travel safely across Oldham today. Oldham City Council has reportedly spent £540,000 on a large scale gritting and snow plough operation over the winter to ensure such safe travel. Mark Alcock, cabinet member for infrastructure and the environment praised the work of Oldham City Council, “They have done a terrific job and I am really proud of them”, but criticised the lack of work done by neighbouring areas, “I am really upset that, for whatever reasons, there have been problems on roads at the Rochdale and Kirklees borders”. However, this photo showing 3 cars which have slid back down a hill near our office and banged into another stationary car, suggests otherwise about how well gritted the roads in Oldham are.

Compared to the South East, the North West has appeared to come off more easily from the snow, with the South East supposedly having the worst snowfall it has had in the last 18 years, with all flights and buses being cancelled for the day. A plane from Cyprus to London Heathrow slipped off a taxiway shortly after its arrival due to the heavy snow. A BBC news broadcast about today’s snow can be viewed here. It wasn’t just Britain either, large parts of France and Italy were affected by snow too, as this news broadcast shows.

Have you been forced to stay at home due to the weather? Has this consequently affected your business? Plum Communications can help you and your business to work remotely so no valuable business time and money is not lost today.

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