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Do ticket exchanges give fans a good deal?
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Food blogger Fay Nyberg unearths the secret and not-so-secret foodie meets happening under your nose in the north of England and tells how you can get involved
If there’s something Northerners enjoy more than the sharing of bread, banter and beer I am yet to come across it. It’s this sociable disposition and desire to fill more than just our bellies that’s at the centre of an explosion of food-focused clubs across the North.
Whether you’ve got a penchant for pie, you’re cuckoo for cake or you’re a total turophile, there’s a club waiting to welcome you. But the first and sometimes only rule of every club – for there are very few rules – is that those who come along are prepared to take a seat, share some food or skills and mingle with folk who are equally food-obsessed.
Take a tasty trip through the North’s finest food clubs with our guide, and you may find just the club for you:
When: MeatClub was recently set up by husband and wife team Patrick (architect) and
Major deals are being struck about which we know nothing. If they are such good value, why be so shy?
The high court was told this week that it is extremely rare for the facts of any of the tax settlements between the revenue and large businesses to become public. The National Audit Office came to the same conclusion. What they called “bespoke governance settlements” represented good value for the country and were properly carried out. That is, of course, until the details of any such “sweetheart” deal are leaked – such as the “handshake” deal between Dave Hartnett, former permanent secretary of HMRC, and Goldman Sachs. As we now know, this was anything but transparent. It nearly came apart when it was rejected by the revenue’s high-risk corporate programme board because it failed to collect any interest on the sum owed, but was nodded through to prevent the bank pulling out of a new code of conduct George Osborne had just announced. Up to £20m waived? All in a day’s work. According to Hartnett, deals in excess of £1bn are “not uncommon”. HMRC say that a lot of dosh is collected by protecting taxpayer confidentiality. But Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, surely has a point when she asks that if we got £4.5bn from four settlements alone, how many more billions have slipped under the thickly piled carpet? The fact is that major deals are being struck about which we know nothing. If they are such good value, why be so shy? Wherefore the modesty? Why not publish the details of each one as a matter of course and let the public judge for itself?
But choosing ‘ethical’ firms to invest in is not always as simple as ‘good’ or ‘bad’
Ethical bank Triodos is branching out into green investment with the launch of two funds. People can choose between supporting companies doing innovative work in the field of sustainability – combating climate change, encouraging healthy living and so on – or household-name brands delivering “superior social and environmental performance”.
Both funds can be held within a stocks and shares Isa, and mean more choice for those looking to invest their cash in a socially responsible way. However, Triodos looks set to spark a debate over just how “ethical” some of these companies are after it emerged that one of the funds invests in several major names that have been sharply criticised for alleged tax avoidance, including Google and Starbucks.
Netherlands-based Triodos Bank has been operating in the UK for 18 years and describes itself as “a world leader in ethical and sustainable banking”. However, this is the first time it has offered stock market-linked investments to UK small investors.
Of Triodos’s two new funds, Sustainable Pioneer is the greenest – it is a global fund investing in smaller and medium-sized companies involved in sectors such as sustainable energy and medical technology. Only those companies deriving more than 50% of their revenue from climate protection, healthy people or clean earth themes are eligible. Firms that are way ahead of the pack on corporate social responsibility will also make it in. Companies in its portfolio include beauty products firm L’Occitane, US-based natural and organic food company Annie’s and Smith & Nephew – Europe’s leading maker of artificial hips and knees.
Triodos Sustainable Equity is arguably a more “mainstream” fund, investing in companies “that combine a strong financial position with solid social and environmental performance”.
It includes plenty of the sorts of companies you might expect – natural and organic food retailer Whole Foods Market, Japan-based bicycle parts manufacturer Shimano, Canadian National Railway and several solar firms – but also some that might raise eyebrows, such as sportswear brands Adidas and Nike, car manufacturers BMW and Volkswagen, drinks giant Diageo, and a couple of banks, including Dutch group ING and National Bank of Canada.
The fund’s biggest holding is Google, whose chairman Eric Schmidt was this week defending the search engine’s tax avoidance policies after it paid just £6m in corporation tax in the UK in 2011. The second and ninth largest holdings are telecoms giant Vodafone and coffee chain Starbucks, two of the most high-profile companies caught up in the tax avoidance accusations.
But Triodos says both funds operate strict minimum standards on a variety of issues, with zero tolerance on arms, nuclear power, hazardous materials and “unconventional” oil and gas.
The funds have been available in Europe for several years and, performance-wise, the Sustainable Equity fund has done well of late, delivering a return of 14.3% over the past year. It has outperformed its benchmark over one and three years. Sustainable Pioneer delivered a return of 9.2% over the past year, but has underperformed over one, three and five years (these figures relate to a euro share class that won’t be available to UK small investors).
Until 28 June, Triodos is offering a 1% discount on the funds’ initial fee, taking it down to 3%, after which it will revert to 4%. The annual management charge is estimated as 1.25% for Sustainable Pioneer and 1% for Sustainable Equity, and the minimum investment is £1,000 per fund (there is no monthly savings option).
However, some may be disappointed to learn that Triodos has decided to launch its funds on a “direct only” basis which means that, for the time being at least, they won’t be available via online fund supermarkets and platforms operated by companies such as Hargreaves Lansdown, where you can buy and manage funds at low cost. You can go on to the bank’s website and request an application pack.
The good news, though, is that you can invest tax-free in a Triodos ethical stocks and shares Isa. If you haven’t used your Isa allowance for this year, you can invest up to £11,520 in 2013/14.
There are dozens of ethical funds to choose from. If you are thinking of taking the plunge you need to decide on your personal priorities. Secondly, do you want to pay a financial adviser to help, or do you feel confident enough to do it yourself? The Ethical Investment Association website (ethicalinvestment.org.uk) allows you to find specialist advisers in your region.
Traditional ethical funds typically use a combination of negative screens (to eliminate arms manufacturers etc) and positive screens to favour businesses with a good record on corporate social responsibility or that are involved in environmentally friendly or low-carbon industries. But, as the ongoing tax avoidance debate has shown, some would say it is not always possible to put a company into a simple “good” or “bad” box.
Your daily visit to a coffee shop could also give you a chance to do a small good deed.
See the original post: VIDEO: ‘Suspended coffee’ helps those in need
Ken Radford, a former miner who was at the Battle of Orgreave, talks to Ann Czernik about how Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will not heal the wounds his family still feels from her policies
In 1984, Ken Radford was a young man who did not want much – just “a decent wage, food on the table, and a better standard of living” for his family and community in Oughton, South Yorkshire. Like his mates, and thousands of other miners across the country, he worried what would happen if the pits closed, and was drawn into a class war.
“Thatcher wanted to crush the miners. That was her goal, that’s all she wanted,” says Ken.
Thirty years on, this is the first time he’s spoken in depth about the strike. Ken and others like him never talk about it. It’s too hard, too painful, too raw still. “A lot of people talk in beer and they go home and sleep it off next morning,” Ken says.
For Ken, Orgreave brings back mixed emotions. He made good friends, good memories; he shook Arthur Scargill’s hand. But he says: “What them bastards did to us, it goes deep, lass. It really goes deep.”
During the strike, police put Ken’s village under surveillance. Men and women were regularly stopped from travelling and police boarded public transport, buses, stopping cars and vehicles going to power plants, coking and steel works. On 18 June 1984 police were directing the miners into Orgreave with smiles on their faces.
“That day at Orgreave was planned,” says Ken. “They guided the lads in, telling us ‘that’s where you go lads, go into that field there’. We didn’t realise at the time what was going to happen but we found out. They gave us shit. You’ve seen the pictures: lads in T-shirts. It was frightening.
“They cordoned us off, there were more police than normal and they were just going to town. They blocked off the gates down at the bottom. All of a sudden they were banging their shields and we knew what was coming. They were animals. I had a lot of respect for the police before but that day I could have killed them. They murdered us.”
Ken carried his haemophiliac father-in-law across the field to prevent him bleeding to death. “There was a war, the ranks just opened up, horses came and they just charged. I don’t know how many were injured, there were a lot of lads just covered in blood. It looked like a battlefield.”
But Ken remembers a better time. His wife stood by him, battling on the street. There was a sense of community, of cohesion. “There were more people together, people speaking.” They called him Red Ken and the name stuck for a few years. He wanted something done to save his community from poverty.
Today, he says the area wants flattening. His wife works at Meadowhall, the cavernous shopping centre between Sheffield and Rotherham built, ironically, on a former steel plant. Ken laughs: “That makes sense doesn’t it: knock down a rolling mill and build a shopping centre.”
He says of the traumatised landscape: “We need jobs and industry. There is always spare land round here. Every time I go to me mam’s, I go past pit head. It hurts. My kids have never seen a pit head. I keep saying I’m going to take them to Wakefield to the mining museum but I can’t do it.”
Ken has two daughters, one son and four grandchildren. He’s seen his lad, now 25, defeated by lack of work and opportunity since being laid off by a local engineering firm five years ago. Ken shakes his head . The social stopped his money because “they said he wasn’t proving he was looking for work – he’s been looking for years.”
His eldest daughter works for her sister-in law’s debt recovery business. His other daughter – on her own with two children since her husband left – works behind a bar.
During the strike, Ken was the poorest he’d ever been, but still remembers it being one of the best Christmases ever: “My wife got a fur coat out of it. I had a pair of real Italian leather shoes.” Help came from all over – often from unlikely sources. And half the time, miners couldn’t understand the descriptions on food on packets or the games that well-wishers sent.
Every child of striking families went to school in a parka because a factory sent a job lot. The fur coat came in handy when Ken was cutting up cloth and anything else he could find to keep his family warm. Now, he asks himself if it was worth it. “There’s times I start doubting, and I think ‘no, I took a stand’”. He clenches his fist. “It’s killing me that there are still people round here who say ‘Our lad hasn’t got a job. I don’t know what he’s going to do when I go’ – I say fight.”
Thirty years on, Ken says the hope, heart – and jobs – in this once-thriving community have gone, and the pubs are empty. “People would pop in after work. Late shift finished at 10pm – straight in for the last couple of pints. Days, you’d pop in for a couple of pints. It was a lad thing, we were just all lads. It were brilliant … That’s gone. Thatcher and her kind, they took it all away.”
The ‘advanced manufacturing plant’ on the site of the former coking plant will only provide a fraction of the number of old jobs and are predominantly highly skilled, postgraduate positions. Around the site, dozens of private, executive-style homes are being built in readiness – a million miles away from the high density, social housing and type of employment skills available in traditional mining villages.
As for Thatcher’s legacy, Ken says: “My lad’s out of work. He’s 25, he’s had three, maybe four years’ work in the past nine years. He’s a good lad. Thatcher destroyed him through no fault of his own … Thatcher took everything away – hope, everything – just for her own pride.”
Last week a panel of experts advised readers on how to expand their small businesses. Here are the best bits from our live Q&A
Sourcing supplies at wholesale prices: Finding wholesale suppliers can be difficult. Some wholesalers are a little bit stuck in the past (I have one supplier who still supplies the catalogue on a CD-rom). Also, you would be surprised how much price can vary between companies supplying similar products. Make sure you get a few prices before choosing a supplier and try and use as few suppliers as possible. This will cut down on delivery charges and staggered supplies. It’ll probably cut carbon emissions too.
Use the phone to get in touch with potential suppliers. In my experience I have received the best service when dealing with a real person. You can build up a relationship with your supplier which can help down the line with cost cutting and problems.
Personalising packaging: There are lots of things you can do to regular stock packaging to make it yours. Stickers are a perfect example. We now have all of our packaging custom-made, but in the early days and until not so long ago, we used boxes and other types of packaging that were held in stock with our suppliers and we simply pasted our flyers or stickers on to them. Sounds ropey but it actually looked really great. Getting custom packaging made can be incredibly expensive so make sure you shop around for the best prices.
Getting the word out: The golden rule with all social networks is to ‘engage rather than broadcast’. People don’t want to be sold to on social networks. They want you to listen to them, share useful information and get to know you. Frustratingly, this takes time but you sow the seeds to reap the rewards over time. Use Twitter or Facebook to get know your audience and position yourself as an expert and resource for your potential clients and the people who influence them.
Ensuring good cashflow: A potentially sound and successful business can fail due to poor cashflow management. For someone starting out I would recommend:
• Get hold of an accounting package. Your accountant will probably have a favourite that he or she likes to work with and will recommend.
• Enter all of your invoices, payments and income regularly – once a week is good. Reconcile your bank statement as soon as it arrives. This way you will know exactly how you stand and will be able to see your commitments at least one month ahead. Estimate future income realistically.
• Negotiate with your suppliers: once you have a relationship with them, many suppliers will give extended terms to customers they trust. They may also be prepared to supply in smaller volume more regularly if you ask, although you will incur more delivery charges.
• Be realistic: don’t assume things will automatically go well, just because you want them to.
• If you see a problem looming, confront it. Contact the other parties that may be affected and explain the situation, what you are doing about it and ask for their co-operation. Knowledge is power and the more information you have the better decisions you will make and the more accurate your planning will be. Keep on top of the stats.
Recognising the importance of your brand: Branding is so much more than a logo. Your brand is the emotional reaction someone has when they say your company name – it’s everything they think and feel about your organisation. Think of your brand as a symbolic representation of your company, from the way you deliver your service and the advice you give to the way you answer the phone. It’s the sum total of everything you do to interact with your customers, colleagues, suppliers and market.
Knowing what help is available: Depending on the type of business there are a few options, such as the enterprise capital funds. They are government-backed venture capital funds that aim to invest in fast-growing small businesses. I think getting a business mentor is probably the best way to move forward, someone who can give you tailored advice.
Recognising the best marketing channels: WIth any marketing channel it’s worth asking ‘What is the purpose?’ first. Just because other people are on Facebook or other businesses are on LinkedIn, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should be there. You could try going door to door? What about sending an email with a free white paper? Maybe send a gimmick through the post or advertise in a trade magazine? There are lots of options and sometimes with marketing it’s a case of trying a few and seeing what sticks. I would try a few channels and see what works.
Having a good mix of strategies: The most important thing is to know who your customer is and what you’re really selling to help you maximise your efforts. Most of these are about sowing seeds to farm in the future. One of the gems that a lot of business owners miss is in the ‘follow up’ process, think of it as relationship marketing that continues to build the trust and credibility to make it easier for people to buy from you.
Working with freelances: I employ quite a lot of freelances and tutors at the shop. Always make sure it’s kept business-like. They are indeed your employee, as you are paying their wages, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly. It’s just important to establish the working relationship from the offset – to make sure they are working for you in the way you want them to.
Taking on employees: Sometimes it’s really difficult to let go and not be a control freak. But unless you can give your employees a degree of responsibility they won’t work to their potential. So sometimes it pays off to let go of things you really shouldn’t be doing. This allows you to move forward yourself and expand your business.
It is risky taking on employees – and all the associated hassles that that brings. But sometimes companies can’t move forward until they do. The most important thing is to find the right people, so keep looking until you do.
It’s worrying to think that your employees might run off with your customers and go and do their own thing, but you need to remain confident in what you do, and try and find staff who just want a job and aren’t entrepreneurial themselves. It’s just a question of advertising and interviewing until you find the right person.
Click here to read the full Q&A
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Neuroscience shows we’re hard-wired for stupidity. Happily, we can change habits, and must do so if we are to survive
We are getting smarter, aren’t we? Or perhaps not. In a speech at the London Library, the novelist Sebastian Faulks expressed dismay at the collapse of knowledge in young people; and in my own life I don’t see much evidence of the improvement. Each morning starts with my dropping an egg into boiling water and neglecting to note the time, so I end up with a hard boiled or runny egg. The kettle steams up my glasses, if I have remembered to bring them down to read the newspapers. The toast burns two out of seven mornings and the fire alarm goes off maybe once a week. Instead of reading the article that is useful to me, my mind wanders off on one of its pointless excursions.
I am prisoner of idiotic and clumsy habits, the worst of which is the faith, renewed with each night’s sleep, that I can time the egg by instinct. My life is full of ludicrous self-confidence; for example, that this article will take one hour, rather than four, to write; that the fuel in my petrol tank will expand according to my need; that butter will not make me fat and that trains and planes are flexible in their departure times.
This is fine because I am not running a government or a bank. But look at the collapse of HBOS, and you will realise that the same stupid habits and hopeless optimism filled the heads of Lord Stevenson, former chairman of the bank, James Crosby, its megalomaniac former chief executive and his successor Andy Hornby. They weren’t merely rash and greedy; they were stupid, because they ignored one of their own experts, Paul Moore, who warned about the risks that led to a bailout of £20bn and their own richly deserved humiliation.
An organisation that succumbs to this kind of failure suffers from “functional stupidity”, a syndrome that requires such individuals as Mr Moore, who was fired from his job and eventually testified about HBOS to parliament, to stifle their criticisms and go along with the groupthink of powerful individuals. The same functional stupidity gripped the Blair and Bush governments as they went to war with a country that was not conceivably involved in the 9/11 attacks, and the groups of climate-change deniers who, for self-serving reasons or personality-driven prejudice, determine that all the evidence of a warming planet is cooked up by fantasists.
We are dumb beyond words in making the connection between our behaviour and well-understood outcomes – the links between smoking and cancer, fatty foods and obesity, driving fast and death on the roads, impulse buying and going broke, gossipy tweets and losing friends and esteem. We know the likely results but we are convinced we can defy norms with impunity, while denying ourselves nothing but the truth.
The literature on our stupidity seems to expand by the day. Every book on neuroscience and the choices we make seems to underline the reality that we are not in control, that “the two biological bags of fluid” as David Eagleman describes our brain in his book Incognito, are hard-wired for stupidity, or at least the triumph of emotional over rational systems.
Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, an exploration of the psychological reasons for political and religious divisions, denies the existence of the effective force for good and sensible outcomes that we call reason. “Anyone who values truth,” he writes, “should stop worshipping reason” in the social context, because it evolved not to help us find the truth of a matter, but to aid “argument, persuasion and manipulation”.
The scientific thinking does force us to come to terms with the limitations of the two sacks of fluid. Research by the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman in Thinking, Fast and Slow shows that we are given to all sorts of short cuts that lead us to the wrong conclusion. He divides the mind, like many others before him, into two systems – one that operates automatically and quickly, with little effort and no voluntary control; the other that allocates attention to mental tasks and requires a high degree of effort. System one frequently suggests solutions that are not always right, but have a ring of truth about them. Greater knowledge of the way we think is a good thing, yet the reductionism seems to ignore the dazzling chambers of the human mind, which produced the first art in Europe 30,000 years ago, the Antikythera mechanism, the world’s first computer, 2,100 years ago and today performs extraordinary feats of reasoning about the nature of the subatomic world and space-time.
The human brain is one of the most awesome objects in the known universe and the evidence, despite everything, is that we are getting smarter. For a start, the number of highly intelligent people alive is far greater than at any time in human history. If we take population growth since the second world war, we can assume that number of gifted individuals has risen proportionately, from roughly 2 million to 6 million – which, incidentally, happens to be the estimated total human population of the world at the end of the last ice age. We live in a more complicated world, which undoubtedly requires the brain to make more connections at greater speed. And potentially we have unlimited access to the sum of the world’s knowledge at our fingertips.
The last doesn’t necessarily make us brighter, but nor does it make us dimmer. Faulks’s speech suggested that our children’s generation would “capture” and remember far less than ours and that this was a kind of catastrophe for civilisation. I don’t know what evidence my old schoolfriend has, but it seems obvious that the function of memory is being partly outsourced to the internet – what’s the problem with that? – and that the web generation is going to make great leaps of understanding because of the new connectedness of human imagination and endeavour. They are operating in interestingly new ways.
Research suggests global average IQ is rising, but how do we reconcile that with our persistent stupidity, unnecessary wars, damaging inequality and denial of probable catastrophe? What hope is there for humanity if the lazy, self-serving, toast-burning creature of system one cannot change?
The answer, surprisingly, comes from Tony Blair who said when he was being recommended an employee because of their high intelligence, “But does he have good judgment?” After shouting “And well he might”, it’s worth noting that for intelligence to exist, stupidity must be vanquished. That requires judgment, the presence of the other voice in the boardroom or in your head that identifies dumb solutions and customary stupidity. And the good news is that habit can be taught. It will have to be if we are to survive.