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SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE: Will the ‘Help to Grow’ campaign be successful in enabling SMEs?

REFRESH: The new updated Help To Grow campaign package will see the introduction of a new ‘Small Business Council’

THE Government has recently announced the steps it will take to refresh the Help to Grow campaign, which it says will reassert its ongoing commitment to make the UK the best place to start and grow a small business.

This package includes the introduction of a new ‘Small Business Council’ to be launched as early as next month.

The Government has said the Council will build on the Department of Business and Trade’s (DBT) existing support for SMEs and provide a bespoke forum for small businesses to be represented within Government. The refreshed Help to Grow campaign will also see a new one-stop shop collating information on funding schemes, support, guidance on how to set up a business, and other resources all in one place for SMEs to help them grow.

A 12-week intensive management course that is 90% subsidised by the Government will also be on offer to improve SME leadership and management skills.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) supports this announcement and after advocating for SMEs for several years, appreciates the recognition of the importance of SMEs to the economy.

NFB TEAM: Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the NFB and Rico Wojtulewicz NFB’s Head of Policy and Market Insight

Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of the NFB, said: “This announcement is good news; however, it will be vital for the council to understand the needs of specific industries, as well as promoting existing regulations that already support them. SMEs within the construction industry train 7 in 10 apprentices and makes up 90% of training capacity, so their health is front and centre to the construction industry, delivering 9% of the UK’s GDP and employing 2.7 million people.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, NFB’s Head of Policy and Market Insight, added: “The Small Business Council must identify and tackle the specific policy barriers to support and enable small businesses. In planning, as one of many examples we can offer, design codes will bring much needed certainty, but disjointed decarbonisation and environment policy will remove those gains and add new costs and complexities, which will disproportionately harm SMEs the most.”

  1. NFB is the longest standing and most representative construction trade body representing over 1,000 members with 28,500 employees with a combined turnover of over £8bn (FY 2023)
  2. The NFB represents builders, contractors and house builders across England and Wales. Founded in 1896, its members range from the sole traders to large, billion-pound construction companies, with turnover ranging from below £500,000 to £1.1 billion. The NFB provides advice, training, and business services to ensure members stay up to date.
  3. The NFB campaigns on the issues that affect the construction industry such as procurement, skills, sustainability, and funding. It represents the industry to government and industry forums and is an active media commentator and policy influencer.
  4. For further information please contact the NFB press office on 03450 578 160 or email:

TAP TECH: Bristan unveils range of water-saving products in new ESG pledge

WATER WORLD: Bristan has introduced innovative Eco Start technology on bathroom taps

THE UK’s market leader for taps and showers, Bristan, has released its new Environmental, Social Responsibility and Governance (ESG) report which shines a spotlight on its water-saving products – including its new Eco Start technology.

The report outlines the organisation’s commitment to sustainability with one of the key focuses being the innovation of energy and water-saving products.

Recently, Bristan has introduced innovative Eco Start technology on bathroom taps, which saves energy by having cold water as the default central start position of the tap handle. This means that hot water is only activated when the tap lever is moved from the central position, so your boiler is not unnecessarily fired up.

Also featured in its comprehensive water-efficient portfolio are pre-fitted flow limiters, infrared taps that automatically turn off when not in use, and BREEAM-certified self-closing ‘push button’ taps.

As with all Bristan products, the water-efficient range is rigorously tested to comply with key regulations and industry requirements, so that specifiers can have complete confidence when working on a project.

Plus, Bristan’s UKAS-accredited lab recycles 90% of the water used to carry out endurance testing of our products, further demonstrating its commitment to sustainability.

ECO-FRIENDLY: Bristan’s new Eco Start technology saves energy by having cold water as the default central start position of the tap handle so hot water is only activated when the tap lever is moved 

Craig Rendall, Bristan Group Specification Director, said: “Whether working in the housebuilding or commercial sector, we understand that sustainability targets are a key consideration when specifying for a project. That’s why we’re proud to offer our range of water-saving products, to make it a trouble-free decision for specifiers every time.”

The ESG report also details the wider sustainability commitments of the wider Bristan Group.

As a zero-to-landfill company, it has extensive measures in place to ensure that approximately 295 tonnes of waste produced each year are recycled, reused or repurposed.

What’s more, Bristan Group is in the process of having 1666 solar panels installed on the roof of its Tamworth-based head office, which is expected to generate 600kw/hour of electricity to support business operations and will equate to a CO2 saving up to 111,292 kgs per annum.

With a clear roadmap of sustainability initiatives behind them, Bristan Group’s products can be bought with confidence and trusted to help reduce the UK’s overall carbon footprint — one tap or shower at a time.

Bristan Group’s Environmental, Social and Governance Report can be found here.

A GLASS ACT: Optima Systems sets new benchmark with even lower carbon emissions

OPTIMA IN ITS PRIME: By adopting Hydro CIRCAL as its provider of recycled aluminium, Optima has reduced its carbon footprint

OPTIMA, a leading manufacturer of aluminium-framed glass partitions, received industry acclaim in 2022 for adopting Hydro CIRCAL as its provider of recycled aluminium, earning them the lowest carbon emissions on the market.

The company is proud to announce another significant milestone in its commitment to sustainability: Hydro CIRCAL, which is used across the entire Optima product portfolio, now boasts an even lower documented carbon footprint of 1.9 kg of CO2e/kg aluminium, a significant step down from the initial 2.3 kg of CO2e/kg and the European industry average of 6.8 Kg of CO2e/Kg.

In 2022, Optima became the first company outside of Hydro’s own building systems division to embrace Hydro CIRCAL, marking a transformative step towards a circular economy. Hydro CIRCAL is a recycled aluminium brand, featuring a minimum of 75% recycled post-consumer scrap, effectively minimising the embodied carbon in the resulting products. Recycling aluminium requires only 5% of the energy needed to produce primary aluminium, significantly reducing the environmental impact.

Now, through advances in sourcing, sorting and traceability of post-consumer aluminium scrap, Hydro CIRCAL has further reduced its carbon footprint, as presented in a new Environmental Product Declaration (EPD). This benefit is directly passed onto Optima’s aluminium-framed glass partitions and doors, significantly reducing their embodied carbon and reflecting the brand’s ongoing drive to be a market-leading, low-emissions partitions manufacturer.

Now, this new development from Hydro CIRCAL underscores the company’s commitment to playing a key role in the circular economy, a principle that is engrained in Optima’s business model. This represents a pivotal achievement in both companies’ journeys towards their Net Zero goals by 2030/2035.

“For the past two years, we are very proud to have been working with a brand that shares the same drive as Optima when it comes to pushing the boundaries of the environmental performance of our products. It’s great to see such a strong enthusiasm for sustainable, low-carbon fit-out products among our clients, we’re more motivated than ever to surpass their expectations and continue to innovate.” Comments Christian Mabey, Managing Director, Optima Products.

SUSTAINABILITY: Optima, a leading manufacturer of aluminium-framed glass partitions

Christian added, “The initial carbon footprint of 2.3 kg of CO2e/kg was already ground-breaking. We rolled it out across our entire product range significantly reducing the carbon impact of our glass partitions and doors and allowing us to pass these carbon savings directly on to our clients. Now with a market-leading 1.9 kg of CO2e/kg of aluminium, we’ve taken our high-quality, low-carbon glass partitioning solutions to a new level.”

Hydro CIRCAL: The next generation in aluminium

Hydro CIRCAL stands out with the highest achievable recycled aluminium content, establishing it as a significantly more sustainable choice compared to traditional alternatives. With full traceability and independent third-party certification, it’s revolutionised Optima’s product portfolio. Hydro also operates a widespread network of recycling facilities, totalling 30 across Europe, North America, and Brazil. Expansion in recycling forms a crucial component of Hydro’s strategic plan, as the company intensifies its efforts to meet rising demands for low-carbon, recycled goods.

Committing to a minimum of 75% recycled content, Hydro employs advanced aluminium sorting technology to maximise the use of end-of-life materials. The term “post-consumer scrap” refers to aluminium from demolished building projects, food and drink containers, or even cars, which undergoes a meticulous process of collection, sorting, shredding, and reintroduction into circulation. This ensures that the recycling process is conducted without any unnecessary expenditure of excess energy.

The beauty of Hydro CIRCAL is its infinite reusability, positioning Optima as one of the UK’s most forward-thinking manufacturers of commercial glass partitioning systems.

WINNING TEAM: Living Local Estate Agent is Moved by Prestigious Award

DREAM TEAM: Staff from Living Local Estate Agents

LIVING Local Estate Agents has recently been honoured with a prestigious award from the Best Estate Agent Guide.

This accolade distinguishes Living Local who are based in Winlaton in the UK, as one of the top 500 Estate Agents nationwide, a remarkable achievement considering over 13,000 Estate Agents were assessed across the country.

The rigorous evaluation process involves mystery shopping and assessment of performance criteria.

Unlike many awards in the estate agency industry that can be self-nominated or involve fees, the Best Estate Agent Guide relies on an impartial judging process.

The evaluation encompasses various criteria, including property marketing, customer service and results. Living Local’s commitment to excellence has positioned them among the elite in the North East, showcasing their dedication to providing a top-notch service.

The Best Estate Agent Guide Awards were founded in 2017 with the aim of improving service standards in the property industry. The criteria used are based on what matters most to buyers, sellers, renters, and landlords and create a standard of excellence that estate and letting agents strive to achieve which helps customers choose the best agent in their area.

AWARD WINNER: Owner of Living Local Estate Agents, Emma Mansell with her award

Emma Mansell, owner of Living Local was delighted with the award, said: “As an independent business owner, you shoulder a lot of responsibility for the standards of the service offering. Unlike working as an employee of a big national chain (which many Estate Agents are), my business can deliver the very best experience to our customers.

“Buying or selling a house is a huge part of your life and there’s a lot at stake. Every Estate Agent will claim that they are the best, but this award proves that we are providing a truly excellent service. We work in a transparent way so that everyone knows from the start what we will do and how we do it.

“Our customer service and marketing techniques all lead to fantastic results for our customers, and I am so proud of my team for helping Living Local win this award, especially since more than 13,000 Estate Agents were assessed” she said.

Living Local were judged on the service they offer as well as their marketing technique which includes high-quality photographs, accurate floor plans, and engaging video tours to ensure potential buyers are captivated by the listings.

Emma expressed her passion for helping people, emphasising that being part of significant life events is the most rewarding aspect of her role. “We become an integral part of people’s journeys, whether they are starting a family, downsizing, or navigating the loss of a loved one. It’s a privilege to make a positive difference in their lives at what can be an extremely stressful time, and I feel truly blessed to be able to do this every day. To win an award is the icing on the cake.”

LEADING THE WAY: Jason Hemingway leads a new team at construction products distributor SIG

MAJOR PROJECTS: Construction products distributor SIG

JASON Hemingway has been appointed to lead a new team at construction products distributor SIG to focus specifically on the early stages of major projects and infrastructure.

Reflecting this early-stage intervention, the team includes industry specialists in the fields of geotextiles, concrete repair, waterproofing and specialist fixings, and rationalises the experience gained in working on mega projects such as Hinckley Power station and HS2.

With over a decade’s experience at SIG, Jason Hemingway, now National Sales Director for Major Projects and Infrastructure, highlights the unique SIG offer saying: “Every project starts below ground level and this new offer assembles an unrivalled range of expertise and specialist products for the first stages of any construction.

DREAM TEAM: Jason Hemingway has been appointed to lead a new team at construction products distributor SIG

“This newly strengthened specialism will capitalise on the strength of the SIG group. Price is always important on huge construction projects but so is the ability to invest in the specific accreditations, governance and protocols required by publicly funded or high-security sites. The sheer scale of SIG plc gives us the ability to make this investment while working on projects that may not get on site for years, which is an important part of the offer.” he added.

SIG points to its team of sector specialists in ground engineering, waterproofing and concrete repair and points to the vast range of product solutions available to them – including several exclusive supply agreements from specialist manufacturers. The offer is around design expertise to maximise the performance and efficiency of the design solution right at the outset.

The Major Projects and Infrastructure offer combines the strengths of SIG Construction Accessories and Miers Construction Products together with: Complete Construction Products, specialising in admixtures and ancillaries, Kestral Construction Products specialising in concrete repair and formwork, MCP Fixings specialising in fasteners and F30 Building Products providing strong regional support.

OPENING DOORS: Unique teams up with Leicester City in the Community for outreach project

LENDING SUPPORT: Unique Window Systems are one of Britain’s fastest-growing fabricators of PVCu and aluminium fenestration products;

AWARD-winning fabricator of PVCu and aluminium windows, doors and curtain walling, Unique Window Systems has lent its support to an outreach project organised by Leicester City in the Community (LCitC).

The business donated two sets of white PVCu French doors towards a project which involved the construction of a new classroom at Gorse Hill City Farm.

Unique’s installer team, who typically work on high-volume projects for large commercial clients, also carried out the installation of the doors free of charge.

Located on a 20-acre site on the edge of Leicester city centre, Gorse Hill City Farm is a working farm and visitor attraction.

Operating as a registered charity and home to over 100 animals, it enables visitors, and children in particular, to learn more about farming, conservation, and animal welfare in a hands-on, fun, and interactive way.

One of the official charities of Leicester City Football Club (LCFC), LCitC harnesses the power of football and LCFC to inspire individuals to achieve their full potential.

Committed to ensuring everyone it engages with receives the support they need, either directly or through a network of partners, LCitC’s core activities entail education, community outreach and targeted interventions with football and inclusivity serving as underlying themes.

TEAM PLAYER: Leicester City Football Club legend and former captain, Steve Walsh (left), and Gary Burrows, senior project manager at Unique (right), at the handover of the new French doors installed at Gorse Hill City Farm.

The French doors donated by Unique are from a range able to accommodate widths of up to two metres and that is available in seven different colours and finishes.

Ideal for maximising levels of natural light and for opening up spaces such as conservatories, the range also offers a choice of frame styles including straight-edged, chamfered and ovolo.

Emma Lowry, senior manager (education) at LCitC, said: “Every year, Leicester City in the Community, delivers numerous projects which are focused on making a positive difference to local good causes.

“We can only do this with the help of similarly community-minded individuals and organisations like Unique Window Systems.

“On behalf of everyone at Leicester City in the Community, Gorse Hill City Farm and all those people who will ultimately benefit from the new classroom, I’d like to thank the business for its generous support.”

Mir Patel, senior manager at Unique Window Systems, added: “Unique Window Systems has a strong sense of corporate citizenship, and we recognise the need for all businesses, ours included, to leave a lasting and positive legacy on society.

“As one of Leicester’s major employers, we also feel it’s important to give something back to the local communities where many of our team and their families live and spend their free time.”

HELP IS AT HAND: Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity lights up Wellbeing Learning

GOOD CAUSE: The Lighthouse Construction Industry Charity is the only charity that provides emotional, physical and financial wellbeing support to the construction community and their families

IT’S one year since the launch of the Lighthouse Charity’s Wellbeing Academy and this is being celebrated by the unveiling of more new and exciting courses to support everyone in the industry.

The academy offers training including eLearning, Lighthouse Wellbeing Exclusives, MHFA accredited training and bespoke support for wellbeing champions and mental health first aiders.

In 2023 the academy introduced self-paced eLearning to respond to the needs of a diverse and transient workforce, offering complete flexibility around hectic work and home lives. These have been so successful that as well as new courses being added throughout the year, the training has now been augmented depending on individual needs, offering three distinct levels of ‘bronze, silver and gold’ learning,

Bronze introduces each subject, the key topic areas and an understanding of the language used at the next level.

Silver presents scenarios where learners need to demonstrate their understanding by applying the skills learned so far.

Gold uses case studies to illustrate real-life situations and challenges.

As well as an extensive array of emotional and physical wellbeing topics, new modules to support the financial challenges experienced by many of the industry’s workforce have also been added and include the topics of borrowing, controlling credit and tackling debt.

SUICIDE AWARENESS TRAINING: This tutor-led online course is in high demand, reflecting the industry’s desire to raise awareness and understanding of this difficult subject

The academy also offers free ‘Lighthouse Wellbeing Exclusives’ aimed at empowering individuals, teams and leaders with new knowledge and skills across several emotional and physical wellbeing topics.

The Suicide Awareness training is just one of these and the course is designed to give people the confidence to start a conversation and help them identify the signs that somebody is experiencing suicidal thoughts. The tutor-led online course is in high demand with 341 people taking part in 2023, reflecting the industry’s desire to raise awareness and understanding of this difficult and highly-sensitive subject.

New wellbeing exclusive courses for 2024 include Menopause Awareness and Menopause for Management which identify how to support someone experiencing menopause from a workplace perspective either as an employee or as an employer.

The academy is constantly evolving to reflect the needs of the industry and new for 2024 is a six-week course to enhance the professional support already offered by the charity to the industry’s 12,000 wellbeing champions and mental health first aiders.

The training supports those who bear the emotional weight of the workforce and ensures that they can manage their own wellbeing whilst providing continued support to others.

Reflecting on the success of the Wellbeing Academy and the positive feedback so far, Sarah Bolton, Chief Operating Officer for the charity said: “The training on offer supports every person in our industry, so whether you’re a self-employed tradesperson, site operative, project manager or office-based professional there is something for everyone. To support a positive wellbeing culture in our industry, it’s critical that we proactively develop our workforce and equip them with the tools and soft skills to negotiate the challenges of everyday life and working in what can be a very stressful environment.

For more information about the courses available visit the Wellbeing Academy

PICK IT UP: Joel Eakin from Eakin Bros LTD has won the Regional Recognition Award at the Isuzu UK Dealer Awards

REWARDED: Joel Eakin snaps up Isuzu Regional Recognition Award

JOEL Eakin, Marketing Executive for Eakin Bros LTD, has won the Regional Recognition Award at the Isuzu UK Dealer Awards 2024 in Glasgow.

The prestigious award comes as a result of Joel’s unwavering commitment to the Isuzu UK brand, producing excellent marketing material and organising multiple successful events.

As Isuzu UK celebrated the most successful year of D-Max pick-up sales since the launch of the model, it was time to celebrate the biggest achievers at the Dealer Awards. Joel Eakin is a leading example of how Isuzu UK has been able to push to new heights with a shrewd perspective on digital marketing and events, which has helped Eakin Bros LTD and Isuzu UK to succeed in 2023.

Rejoicing his recent award win, Joel Eakin said: “It has been a great year for us at Eakin Bros and to receive this recognition award is an absolute honour. It would have not been possible to win this award if it wasn’t for the amazing work that the team do across all areas of this dealership, which has allowed me to organise successful events and raise awareness of the incredible work we do for our customers.”

The exemplary standard of marketing from Joel Eakin has not gone unnoticed previously, with Eakin Bros LTD receiving Marketing & Social Media Dealer of the Year at the Isuzu UK Dealer Awards 2021.

Regional Sales Manager for Isuzu UK, Alan Coyle, added: “It is totally to Joel’s credit that he has been presented with this award. His continued focus on the Isuzu brand is greatly appreciated and this award highlights this sentiment.”

Eakin Bros LTD has demonstrated its expertise in the automotive industry, having celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2023. It is also a longstanding partner of Isuzu UK, being part of the Pick-Up Professionals since 2003.

NHS TRUST PROJECT: Western Building Systems deliver new two-storey building for Buckinghamshire Healthcare

NEW FACILITY: Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s children’s emergency department

WESTERN Building Systems recently completed a new children’s emergency department – including upgraded, expanded facilities and a new overnight observation ward at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust selected Western to deliver the new two-storey building using modern methods of construction after demonstrating an efficiency that aligned with the NHS commitment to achieving net-zero carbon standards.

Completed in March 2023, the 3,500m2 extension not only provides a dedicated area for children but has also freed up much-needed capacity for adult patients in the existing emergency department and has reduced overcrowding and improved infection control.

This included new facilities to improve access to maternity and gynaecology outpatient services in a modern, purpose-built environment.

A long-term partnership between the NHS and Western has enabled both parties to develop a deep understanding of each other’s needs and capabilities, leading to the successful delivery of several complex healthcare projects in recent years.

DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: The new children’s emergency department features an upgraded and expanded facilities
STATE OF THE ART: The 3,500m2 extension not only provides a dedicated area for children
PURPOSE BUILT: Improved access to maternity and gynaecology outpatient services

PRECISION MEETS TECH: The Exact Group showcases capabilities to Dutch TechZone delegation

WELCOME VISITORS: The Exact Group recently hosted a delegation from the Dutch TechZone at its Newry facility to showcase the capabilities within Northern Ireland

PRECISION engineering and composite finishing company, The Exact Group, recently showcased its capabilities and high-quality products to industry experts, business leaders and government agencies from the Dutch TechZone.

The purpose of the event, which was organised by Invest Northern Ireland and included twenty-six delegates, was to highlight capabilities within NI and The Exact Group was one of two companies selected for the delegation to visit.

The Dutch TechZone group’s focus in Northern Ireland was on the triple helix – industry working in collaboration with the government and academia.

Operating in two distinct areas, Composites and CNC, Newry-based, The Exact Group offers a range of services across industries including automotive, electrical, energy, marine, pharmaceutical and transport, however, it specialises in providing a rapid response service to the aircraft interiors industry.

Widely known for its quality, performance and delivery, along with cutting-edge equipment, The Exact Group’s team of skilled engineers was able to showcase the company’s engineering prowess, share knowledge and discuss best practices with the Dutch TechZone delegates.

DEMONSTRATION: Director of Operations at The Exact Group, Ronan Callan, showcased the company’s engineering prowess

In addition to highlighting the capabilities of the company, there was the opportunity to discuss working solutions on common challenges across the industry such as The Exact Group’s experience of working in a border area, as the Dutch TechZone is in the East of the Netherlands on bordering Germany; the challenges this poses in terms of recruitment, and the measures they need to take to recruit the right people initially and then retain them.

Ronan Callan, The Exact Group’s Director of Operations said, “We were delighted to have been chosen by Invest NI to showcase our work to the delegation from the Dutch TechZone.  It allowed us to demonstrate how The Exact Group works across a range of capabilities and industries and how, from our base in Newry, we service the global market.

“We have a positive relationship with Invest NI, and it has been critical to the growth of our company and in fostering collaboration with other companies in the sector.  Northern Ireland continues to punch above its weight in terms of its engineering and supply chains, and it is important we continue to get the message out that Northern Ireland is the place for growth and investment.”

Following the visit to The Exact Group, the Dutch TechZone delegation visited Andor Technology, which nicely brought the Triple Helix thinking all together with Andor being a spin out from Queen’s University Belfast, an innovation-led company which continues to work closely with government and academia.

The Exact Group was also recently acknowledged as an outstanding organisation in the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Recognised for Excellence (RfE) framework.  This five-star accolade reinforces the company’s commitment to continuous improvement, investment in training and upskilling, and strategic and operational processes, joining some of the highest performing companies in the world.1 Silver, ISO 9001 and AS9100 standards.

Find out more at:

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