Orchestra is to close at the end of its current season
April 1, 2019

MILTON Keynes City Orchestra is to close at the end of its current season in June, its board has announced.

Tax regime, rates hike and pension costs will bite small firms, warns FSB
April 7, 2019

SMALL businesses across Bedfordshire will be faced with hikes to their business rates bills, with councils across the county set to take in £227 million over the next year.

Teenagers advise government as period poverty campaign goes national
April 27, 2019

THE TEENAGE girls who inspired the decision by Milton Keynes Council to provide sanitary towels and tampons to schoolgirls across the borough are now advising the government on taking the initiative nationwide.

Teenagers Paige Pilkington and Megan Head travelled to Westminster to meet Milton Keynes North MP Mark Lancaster  and  Nadhim Zahawi, the Children and Families Minister.

Paige , a student at Milton Keynes Academy, began the Girl Pack campaign as a 13-year-old when she began giving out her own products for friends to use when she noticed they were not coming into school when on their periods.

Pictured: Paige (left) and Megan with MP Mark Lancaster at Westminster

Girl Pack brought the issue to the attention of former Milton Keynes mayor Cllr David Hopkins who gave a passionate speech before a motion was passed for Milton Keynes Council to provide tampons and sanitary towels to schoolgirls.

Now the  Department for Education has asked for the girls’ advice and Paige and Megan are hoping to make a difference nationally and end period poverty for good.

 “I’m very proud of how far we have come but, although the government will be putting sanitary products in schools as of September, girls still need access to sanitary products at weekends and holidays,” said Paige. “Girl Pack will carry on supplying to the schools, food banks and community areas and I am looking forward to exploring other options outside of Milton Keynes.” 

Milton Keynes became the first authority in England to issue sanitary towels and tampons in schools when it passed the motion in September last year, a month after the Scottish government launched a similar scheme.

Mr Lancaster said: “I am pleased the Department for Education has asked the girls for their advice and feedback on what more can be done to support girls facing these issues. Girl Pack are amazing campaigners who have already done excellent work, and I know they’ll continue to do Milton Keynes proud in the future.”

Paige’s co-campaigner Megan said: “We are immensely proud to be part of the process that will enable girls to access free sanitary wear in schools. The whole experience has been amazing and we look forward to working with MPs to make it work in and out of school.”

Brexit stress means MPs must look after themselves
May 5, 2019

THOSE MPs who are feeling the stress of Brexit must maintain clear thinking by looking after their well-being, says a leading academic.

 Ask for professional help if you feel you need it was Professor Richard Kwiatkowski’s message to Parliamentarians at a conference this week. He urged them to balance their constituency and Parliament work.

“Though it may be an unpopular thing to say, MPs need to look after themselves,” said Professor Kwiatkowski. “Their physical and mental state has a significant impact. High levels of stress have a negative impact on clarity of thought, and at the moment we need our MPs to think clearly. Addressing these issues directly can help MPs – and anyone who is suffering serious stress at work.”

Mr Kwiatkowski, Professor of Organisational Psychology at Cranfield School of Management and a trained psychologist, has spent 20 years studying the psychology of MPs. He presented the findings of his latest research to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society.

In his speech, he urged MPs to:

  • Acknowledge the stress they are under and the reality of current threats to their personal identity and safety. Seek social support from family and friends – including, but not limited to, MPs – and ask for professional help if they need it;
  • Ensure a balance of activities and not devalue routine work, such as helping constituents, committee work and All-Party Parliamentary Groups;
  • Remember they are critical to democracy and recognise that it is their duty to maintain their own optimal functioning, as stress impacts clear thinking. Consider if the culture and mode of working of parliament is conducive to good health and clear thinking.

“The well-being of MPs is crucial for all of us,” Mr Kwiatkowski told the conference. “They have to be able to make good decisions on difficult matters on our behalf. The strain, pressure, publicity, threats, anxiety, long hours, fatigue and risk to one’s self-image conspire to make the job a difficult and often thankless one.”

His paper is based on in-depth interviews with MPs conducted before and after the Brexit referendum in 2016. Being part of a 20-year study allows comparisons with other times of crises for Parliamentarians, such as the Iraq War, the Syria vote and the expenses scandal, as well as the threat of losing office.

In his work, Mr Kwiatkowski describes how ~MPs voted in 2016, their anxieties about the result, their reactions after it and the resulting impact on their thinking and effectiveness. He found that, as the Brexit vote approached, there was increasing anxiety from pro-Remain MPs who were noticing on the doorstep that, despite what the polls were saying, opinion was shifting.

By contrast, those who were pro-Brexit were more relaxed, particularly if their constituents were also in favour of the UK departure from the EU. The unexpected result of the referendum, coupled with the murder of MP Jo Cox, caused shock and confusion. In the aftermath, as with other collectively challenging events, MPs found their day-to-day functioning in a complex and demanding situation difficult.

£1m grant boost to develop electric-powered Airlander
May 5, 2019

THE MANUFACTURER of the world’s largest aircraft is preparing to develop an electric-powered version of the Airlander.

Hybrid Air Vehicles is part of a partnership that has received more than £1 million in grant funding to develop electric propulsion technology, using the Airlander 10 as its testbed.

The E-HAV1 project will deliver a full-sized prototype 500kW electric propulsor for ground testing and technologies ready for future production. These will be directly applicable to a future Airlander 10, with the goal of replacing its fuel-burning forward engines as the first step towards an all-electric version of the aircraft.

The UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme has awarded the grant to Bedford-based HAV in partnership with Collins Aerospace and the University of Nottingham.

Airlander 10 already operates with a significantly lower fuel burn than other aircraft of similar capability. The integration of electric forward propulsors will increase its advantage and Airlander 10’s ability to support activities from passenger travel to fisheries protection makes it an ideal platform for pioneering electric propulsion in civil aircraft.
Each of the three partners in project E-HAV1 is a leader in their sector: HAV in aircraft design capability, Collins in electric power system development, and the University of Nottingham in electric propulsion research and testing.
HAV chief executive Stephen McGlennan said: “Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the biggest challenges facing aviation today. We have to find ways of further reducing the impact we have on our environment. This project will move us closer to our goal of zero-carbon aviation.”
The Aerospace Technology Programme is a joint government and industry investment to maintain and grow the UK’s competitive position in civil aerospace design and manufacture. The programme is delivered via a partnership between the Aerospace Technology Institute, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK.
Business Minister Lord Henley said: “The UK has world-leading capabilities in aerospace manufacturing. The testing of this new electric engine, is our modern Industrial Strategy in action. This is a vital step in aerospace manufacturing to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of hybrid-electric technology, using the best talent, industry and innovation to transform the way people, goods and services move across the UK.”

Firms are missing out as apprenticeship numbers fall
May 5, 2019

BUSINESSES risk missing out on a valuable opportunity to upskill and develop the next generation of talent to support their growth, say new figures that reveal a continued decline in the number of new apprenticeships.

The number of apprenticeships started in the 2017-18 academic year fell by more than 24 per cent despite the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017 to encourage businesses to invest in and train new and existing employees.

Confusion over how the levy operated and an initial mixed reception led to limited uptake.  

To date, only 20pc of levy-paying employers have taken on an apprentice, leaving more than £3 billion of funding untouched by UK businesses.

Now a leading business adviser is warning that employers that have not used their full funds are set to lose their initial levy contributions. “Now is the time to seize the opportunity and incorporate apprenticeships into your growth strategy to reap from the long-term benefits of having a highly skilled and motivated workforce ready for the future,” said Fiona Baldwin, practice leader at Grant Thornton’s office in Milton Keynes.

The Levy requires all organisations with a wage bill of more than £3 million to pay an annual 0.5pc tax on their payroll. The funds go into individual Digital Apprenticeship Scheme accounts, with government providing a further 10pc top-up.

Businesses can spend the accrued money on apprenticeship training and assessments. Smaller firms also benefit as they only need to pay 10pc of qualifying training costs with the rest provided by the government.

However, employers have had only two years to spend the money in their DAS account. Since the start of April, any unused funds have started to return to the government on a month by month basis with the money no longer available.

The Apprenticeship Levy provides an alternative, low-cost avenue for businesses to secure the talent they need to support growth through upskilling their existing workforce or investing in the next generation of leaders, Mrs Baldwin said. “Businesses continue to operate in a market of uncertainty as the Brexit saga continues. Having the right people in place to weather the road ahead or seize new opportunities as they arise will be a key differentiator of successful firms.

“Preparing ahead by investing in people with an ambition and determination to learn is vital to boosting growth and staying ahead of competitors.”

Charity celebrates a decade of achievement
May 4, 2019

A CHARITY has marked its tenth anniversary with a reception at Westminster to celebrate a decade of collaboration and achievement.

Brain Tumour Research used the occasion to launch its new manifesto Find a Cure which sets out its plans to grow capacity in research into brain tumours, build research infrastructure, accelerate treatment options for patients, and to further increase national investment in the field to £35 million a year by 2025.

Since it launched in 2009, Brain Tumour Research – which is based in Milton Keynes – has:

  • Driven an increase in the national investment in research into brain tumours and grown its own fundraising to around £4 million a year;
  • Empowered patients and their families to have a voice and, through fellow charities, there is now greater access to support and information;
  • Achieved an all-time high of awareness of the disease in the media, on social media and among parliamentarians;
  • Transformed research into brain tumours in the UK through building capacity in pioneering research and establishing its four dedicated Centres of Excellence.

Brain Tumour Research chief executive Sue Farrington Smith told guests at the reception: “The next decade is set to see huge advances in our quest to improve outcomes for patients and their families and we hope everyone will stay with us as we continue our work to improve treatments and, ultimately, to find a cure for brain tumours.”

The celebration was hosted by the Speaker of the House of Commons and Buckingham MP John Bercow, who led the original debate on brain tumours in Parliament in 2004 and has been a dedicated and committed patron of Brain Tumour Research throughout its first decade.

Among those attending were patients, families, and fundraisers from across the UK whose dedication and hard work have played a crucial role in the success of the charity since it started.

Also in attendance was Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart. Representatives of other charities, notably 24 member and fellow charities from across the UK, as well as from Brain Tumour Research, including chief executive Sue Farrington Smith MBE.

She set up the charity after losing her niece to a brain tumour in 2001.

Mrs Farrington Smith said: “We have met so many astonishing, powerful, helpful, angry, devastated, yet determined people. Determined to join us in helping to fund the fight and find a cure for this devastating disease.

“In 2009, 14 brain tumour charities put their heads together to launch umbrella charity Brain Tumour Research with a campaign to raise awareness and increase funding for vital research. The charities highlighted the fact that, despite brain tumours being the leading cause of cancer deaths in children, research was woefully underfunded and a poor relation to other cancers, receiving less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research in the UK.

“Thanks to this collaboration, in ten years we have become a leading voice in the campaign to increase investment in research, created high levels of awareness across the media and amongst parliamentarians, and transformed research in the UK with our model of funding work at dedicated Centres of Excellence.”

There are now 24 brain tumour charities working together under the umbrella of Brain Tumour Research and, between them, income has grown from £1.5 million in 2009 to £7 million funding research and support each year.

Niftylift celebrates double Queen’s Award success
May 3, 2019

STAFF at a Milton Keynes manufacturing company are celebrating after the business became the first in the UK to win two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in the same year for the second time.

Niftylift, which designs, develops, manufactures and distributes mobile elevating work platforms, has won the awards for Innovation and International Trade, replicating its achievement in 2013.

The company will receive its awards at its headquarters in Shenley Wood later this year.

Niftylift’s 28-metre hybrid work platform the HR28 earned the company the award for innovation. It was developed as the world’s tallest electric work platform, this state-of-the-art product combines market-leading performance with innovative safety features and an environmentally conscious power plant.

The company received the International Trade award for its “outstanding” export sales over the past six years, which have grown by an average 132%.

Niftylift was founded by Roger Bowden, who remains its chairman, in 1985 and moved to Milton Keynes in 1988. Today it employs more than 400 people in Milton Keynes and has facilities in Barnsley, Germany and the USA.

Mr Bowden said: “We are honoured to be recognised for not one but two prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 2019. These awards help to illustrate how our dedication to design and innovation, together with our attention to detail and strong customer focus, have allowed us to compete so successfully in this global marketplace.”

Managing director John Keely  added: “This is excellent news for Niftylift and for the powered access industry. We are proud to be a British manufacturing success story and this recognition will help to promote the importance of the UK manufacturing industry around the world. Huge thanks go to our worldwide network of dealers and our valued customers who have placed their trust in our products and company.”

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