Entrepreneur ups his game with loan

A 22-year-old businessman is expanding his gaming controller modification business following a £30,000 loan from the Business Enterprise Fund (BEF).

 Custom Controllers UK, Europe’s leading manufacturer for customised gaming controllers moved into its new 5,500 square foot premises in South Leeds and required additional funding to develop the warehouse. The loan from BEF, which has offices across Yorkshire and the North East, allowed the business to buy new computers and equipment to support the growth of the operation.

Founder, Ben Lawton, started Custom Controllers UK when he was 16 from the garage of his family home in Manchester. After moving to Leeds in 2012 for university, Ben won The Duke of York’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015 and now has contracts with the UK’s leading games retailer, Game, and employs 24 people.

Ben said: “I’ve always loved gaming and I identified a gap in the market for customised controllers when I was still at high school. Unless you had $180 to spare there was no way of getting unique, bespoke controllers. So I turned to modifying them myself and soon started taking offers from school friends!”

He added: “After selling my controllers on eBay and Amazon, I set up and launched my own website. In my final year at university, Custom Controllers UK, which was once just a logo and a few social media platforms, truly blew up and I rented a small office just outside Leeds and employed 6 staff.  We became the top seller on Game’s online marketplace and after passing a 13 store trial with the retailer in November 2016, our products will now be placed in 120 stores around the UK in the coming weeks. The business is growing from strength to strength.”

Custom Controllers UK has worked with hip-hop artists JME and Wretch 32 and has partnered with internationally known gaming vlogging group, Sidemen. With a social media following of over 215k, Ben, who is running the 2017 London Marathon on behalf of Age UK, has plans to further expand his business into the European market over the next 12 months.

Jeremy Meadowcroft, investment manager at the Business Enterprise Fund, which has recently been named a regional manager for the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, said: “I was thrilled to offer our support to Custom Controllers UK. It’s another great example of a thriving Yorkshire-based business. Ben and his team are a fantastic success story which I’m very pleased to be part of. There’s some exciting things in the pipeline for his business and I’m looking forward to watching it continue to develop and grow. Watch this space!”

Ben added: “As a 22-year-old businessman with little previous trading experience I found it extremely difficult to source outside support and funding. I’m very thankful to BEF for its backing, the loan has allowed Custom Controllers UK to grow and meet high demands. The continued support from my mentor, Jeremy, has been great. He’s always there to offer advice when needed – if things get too much, I know he’s there ready to catch up over a coffee.”

For further advice about funding for businesses visit www.befund.org.

Industrial Action Update Service Information for Friday 28 April

You will be aware that RMT has announced its intention to hold a further strike day on Friday 28 April.

As we have said in the media over the past few days, we are disappointed that RMT has called another day of strike action. More than anything, we are sorry for the disruption it will again cause our customers, but we have robust contingency plans in place.

On Friday we will be operating around 1,000 services between 7am and 7pm and we will keep as many people as possible on the move. As before, we are asking customers to plan ahead carefully and consider whether their journey is absolutely necessary.  A special page on our website gives specific information on the services we will be running.

In addition, more than 130 operational managers and other colleagues will be carrying out conductor duties to help operate the revised timetable.

To keep customers updated we have been communicating through a variety of channels.

These include:

  • Distributing 200,000 leaflets to customers on stations
  • Prominent posters at stations across the Northern network
  • Adverts in print media – including press releases with service information
  • Emails to customers who have registered to receive communications from Northern
  • Supporting and engaging with customers through social media – with Facebook advertising to boost the reach of our social media activity, and
  • A special northernrailway.co.uk/industrial-action page on the Northern website providing specific information on the services we will be running. An interactive map is also live on this industrial page.

Northern is at the start of a significant modernisation programme and everyone has a big role to play in bringing those plans to life. It is hugely disappointing that RMT continues to say no to change rather than working with us to develop our plans. There is so much to discuss and we are urging them to get back round the table as soon as possible.

Virgin Trains runs extra services to support Tour de Yorkshire

Virgin Trains will run an additional train from London to take cycling fans to Harrogate on Saturday (29 April) to see the Tour de Yorkshire.

The prestigious annual cycle race will hold its second stage from Tadcaster to Harrogate on Saturday afternoon, with the one-day Asda Women’s Tour de Yorkshire also taking place in the morning.

Virgin Trains is this year sponsoring the Tour’s pink King and Queen of the Mountains Classification jerseys for both races.

And it has now announced an additional service will depart from the capital on Saturday, with tickets on sale from just £16 from London King’s Cross to Harrogate, departing at 07.35 and arriving into the North Yorkshire town at 10.19. An additional direct return service will leave Harrogate at 17.00, just prior to the end of the race.

Natasha Wilding, general manager for Virgin Trains on its east coast route, said: “The Tour de Yorkshire is a special three days for the county – an amazing spectacle which is watched by millions of cycling enthusiasts.

“We were delighted to put on the extra services to help spectators travel to Harrogate to see the end of the second stage on Saturday.

“There are very affordable prices on offer to travel there and a good range of options to travel back from either Leeds, or from Harrogate the following day for those who decide to make a weekend of it.”

Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive Sir Gary Verity said: “It’s fantastic that Virgin Trains are going the extra mile to help people come and see the Tour de Yorkshire. Cycling fans in and around London now have a cheap and convenient way to experience and the action first-hand and they’ll be treated to two world-class races on their arrival.”

Travel to Harrogate on Saturday 29 April starts at £16 from London King’s Cross and can be booked via Virgin Trains’ website:  www.virgintrainseastcoast.com.

The extra service will depart London King’s Cross at 07.35, before calling at Stevenage at 07.56, Grantham at 08.42, Doncaster at 09.15, Wakefield Westgate at 09.35, Leeds at 09.48. For those wishing to make quick exit, an additional return direct service will leave Harrogate station at 17.00 with fares available from £16. Those spectators wanting to watch the very end of the race after this time can return on services via Leeds later that day.

Virgin Trains welcomes decision to suspend industrial action

Virgin Trains has welcomed the decision by the RMT to suspend industrial action and continue talks about further improving the on-board changes.

The union suspended the walk-outs today after Virgin Trains repeated its assurances that the RMT members would be docking pay for no reason and moving forward with the customer-centred revolution.
Virgin Trains had promised a full timetable during the 48hr strike making the union’s threat futile. It has also given assurances on each point raised by the union at the start of the dispute – including keeping the safety critical duties on-board.

David Horne, Virgin Trains’ Managing Director on the east coast route, said: “We’re pleased that the RMT has agreed to suspend industrial action and continue talks. We had put in place detailed contingency plans which would have seen our timetable run as normal, nevertheless this news will be welcomed by our customers and people.

“We’re making exciting changes on the east coast as part of the customer-centric revolution which has seen us embark on a £140m investment programme in our trains and stations.
“The on-board changes have already resulted in an improved customer.”

Since taking over the east coast franchise in 2015, Virgin Trains has completed an ambitious programme to completely refresh its train interiors. Next year it is planning to introduce a new fleet of faster, greener, more comfortable Azuma trains.

Aligned with this investment, Virgin Trains is making changes to customer-facing roles which will help deliver clearer lines of responsibility for the customer experience on our trains. This will have no impact on safety, and will result in a better experience for customers.

Employers’ Brexit preparation guide

Brexit Principles Established

A ‘Brexit preparation’ guide has been published for employers.

The guide, published by XpertHR, sets out how employers can prepare for likely changes affecting EU nationals working here.

Employers may need to take several steps, including identifying any skills gaps and reviewing employment policies. The guide may need to be updated as negotiations progress.

The guide is available when registering with the website here.

900 EU Directives in force in UK

EU Info

The House of Commons Library has published a paper listing the 900 EU Directives currently in force in the UK.

The ‘Legislating for Brexit: EU directives’ paper provides information about the regulations which implement the directives in the UK and will require amending after Brexit.

More information is available on the Parliament website here.

Immigration Skills Charge

The introduction of an ‘Immigration Skills Charge’ has made it more expensive for UK employers to hire skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Workers from outside the EEA must be sponsored before they can apply for permission to work in the UK. Under the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations 2017, employers must pay the charge for every sponsorship certificate they assign to a skilled worker. The charge is set at £364 for small firms, charities and universities.

Read more from Pinsent Mason here.

Train timetable announced despite strike action

Virgin Trains has announced it will run a full timetable during the industrial action declared by the RMT. The union says its members will walk-out for 48 hours on 28th and 29th April on Virgin Trains east coast route.

However, Virgin Trains’ detailed contingency plans mean a normal timetable will run and the attempt by the RMT leadership to disrupt communities the length of Britain will fail.

Virgin Trains has made changes to customer-facing roles on board which see a single person on each train take overall responsibility for the customer experience on our trains, supported by a team of hosts. This will mean a better experience for customers. It also has zero impact on safety. We have repeatedly assured the RMT that the safety critical role of the guard will remain on board, with the new Train Manager role taking responsibility.

David Horne, Managing Director for Virgin Trains on the east coast said, “I’m pleased to announce that we will be able to run a full timetable during the RMT strike, and would like to reassure customers that they can plan and book their journeys as normal and with confidence. The Bank Holiday weekend sees a number of exciting events on our route including the Tour de Yorkshire, so we wanted to do everything we possibly could to ensure we offer a full timetable, and continue to support communities and local economies along our network.

“The changes we have made are part of the customer-centric revolution that’s underway. We’ve already completely refreshed our entire fleet of trains with all new interiors, and next year we will have our ground-breaking Azuma trains coming into service. Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition – one that focuses firmly on the customer.

“The on-board changes came into force on March 31st 2017 and have already seen us achieve our second highest customer satisfaction score since taking over the franchise, so we are confident the changes are benefitting customers.

“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during the walk-outs, this pointless strike will cost RMT members pay for no reason.”

BBC Radio 5 Live Request

BBC Radio 5 Live Drive is planning an election programme in Morley on Thursday 20th April. We’ll be broadcasting from a café on Queen Street between 1600-1900 and we’re looking to speak to local people about news of the General Election. We’re after a range of people – local workers, business owners, young people etc, asking….Are you up for an election? Do you know who you’ll vote for? If not what more do you need to hear to help you decide?

If you think this is something you’d like to take part in please could you drop me an email with a bit of information about yourself and I’ll call you back for a chat? I can be reached at tara.mcdermott@bbc.co.uk or you can call on 0161 335 6503

MIPIM delegation to feed back at Chamber lunch

Interest from developers and investors in the Leeds City Region has increased following MIPIM, the property investment forum, with a number of meetings with global investors taking place.

Roger Marsh, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said the scale of the Leeds City Region’s vision and economic opportunity had excited delegates at the international expo.

Marsh said: “Leeds City Region undoubtedly had an excellent event and we continue to see our profile, momentum and position on the global stage being positively built on.  MIPIM was about showcasing Leeds City Region and its component parts on the international stage: our scale, drivers for growth, key opportunities and priorities.  The LEP, and other members of our delegation to MIPIM, have had a number of meaningful conversations with parties excited about what Leeds City Region has to offer and we look forward to continuing these over the coming weeks and months.”

For a more detailed insight into the delegation’s visit and how the local property sector can exploit the upcoming opportunities, don’t forget about the Chamber property lunch on Thursday 20 April in Leeds – see here.