Thousands of small business jobs under threat in steel crisis


Port Talbot steelworks PICTURE: Chris Shaw/Creative Commons


Thousands of jobs in small businesses could be at risk alongside the threat to the livelihoods of more than 4,000 steel workers if Tata closes its Port Talbot plant.

Local councillor Tony Taylor said there are more than 4,000 jobs directly under threat inside the town’s steelworks, the UK’s largest. He said there are also 3,000 contractor jobs and 6,000 in the supply chain who rely on steel plants as a source of work. Their jobs are also under threat if Indian firm Tata Steel closes its plants while it looks for a buyer, he added.

Tata says the Port Talbot site alone is losing £1m a day, highlighting high energy costs and cheap steel subsidised by the Chinese government flooding the market as major problems.

Taking into account potential knock-on job losses in other small businesses like local shops as the local economy contracts from such a shock, Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

Cllr Taylor told reporters: “You’re talking about 15,000 jobs which could be lost in a community like Neath Port Talbot.”

The councillor called for short-term action to stop the closure or the mothballing of plants: “In the short term, we need the Welsh Government and the Westminster government to work in partnership to get in a short-term impetus into the plant so a new buyer can invest in confidence and ensure there’s a sustainable steel industry left for the future generations.”

There are likely to be thousands of contractor and other small business jobs facing a similar threat at Tata’s other remaining UK sites including Llanwern near Newport, Rotherham, Corby, Trostre at Llanelli, and Shotton in North Wales. In total, Tata directly employs more than 15,000 people in the UK.

Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones talked to company bosses to press for breathing space for the workers today. Tata has warned that it needs to find a buyer in weeks, rather than months, for its plants. A worker-management buyout would need an investment of £300 million, experts say, and government support short of nationalisation could fall foul of EC rules.

Prime Minister David Cameron staged an emergency meeting in Downing Street today amid growing pressure from opposition parties and unions for government action to keep the sites open and save the British steel industry. Unions and opposition politicians, including Neath MP Stephen Kinnock who travelled with union leaders to Mumbai in a last-ditch bid to save the site, criticised the government.Some claimed the government is in “chaos” in the face of the threat, and the Labour leadership called for nationalisation as a short-term measure to prevent mass unemployment in Port Talbot.

Mr Cameron said he did not believe nationalisation was the answer, and said the government was doing “everything it can” but warned there are “no guarantees of success”. He added the threat to the UK plants was of “deep concern” and that the steel jobs were “vital” to their communities.

Chancellor George Osborne told reporters the government is taking action to cut energy prices and to make sure British steel is used in major UK construction projects.

A petition lodged by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanding Parliament be recalled to debate the crisis reached the 100,000 signature level needed to trigger a Westminster debate today. As this blogpost  was written, it had attracted more than 126,000 signatures. A date for a debate was awaited. See the petition here.




5 effective tips for anyone outsourcing their blog


When you decide to outsource your blog, you do it for very good reasons.

Usually, saving time is top of the list. Often, you take the decision to bring in an expert writer who can craft your blog posts because they have both the time and experience to do so.

Finding a great professional blogger is a major boost for your marketing campaign. A good blogger will be able to understand your company, know the style in which you’d like them to write, and do their research about your ideal customers.

They can write you social media headlines to maximise your SEO when sharing your posts, and emails to help you share your new post with your database.

If you’ve never used a professional blogger before, here are some tips to get the most from that relationship:

Be specific.

If you want something done a certain way, be as specific as possible with your blogger. They want to give you copy you’ll love, and which gives you a great return on investment. The more detail you give them the better. If you want a headline with a figure in it and a post based closely on data you’ve collected, tell them. Don’t assume they’ll know exactly what you’re thinking, even if they are on your wavelength.

Embrace their creativity.

If you’re not sure what to do with a post, ask your blogger. They may have tried and tested ways of delivering something great which you hadn’t thought about. A good blogger will be able to come to you with ideas, and you can agree with them what you’d like them to work on. Part of the time-saving in hiring a professional blogger is that it frees you from having to come up with all the ideas yourself. That can be a real headache after a few months of consistent blogging.

Copy them in on your calendar.

That helps them spark off ideas for new posts around events you’re attending, sales, product launches, or new directions you’re taking in the business. Blogging calendars will also contain major events like film launches and holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but the more relevant the blogger can make it to your individual business, the better.

Let them mix it up when it comes to length.

Statistically, posts which are between 1,200 and 1,700 words get the best engagement. Shorter posts, however, are also excellent ways of getting information across quickly, especially if you’re blogging every week, and longer posts tend to be more expensive. The best way forward for your business could be having a longer read every month or two, helping to build engagement with your blogging audience.

Images are important.

Most bloggers have good sources of stock images. The best ones have good contacts among freelance photographers. If they offer you free stock images, take a look at them. If they’re relevant and good images, why not use them? Most social media platforms have far better engagement when pictures or video is used, so take any opportunity you can to embed them into your blog. Would it be worth getting  a new image taken for your post? Could you use it elsewhere in brochures or flyers, or on an advert? It’s worth thinking about that, too.

Here’s to a fruitful relationship between you and your pro blogger!

Maria Williams is a professional blogger, copywriter, and PR for small business at Words You Can Use Limited.


Businesses asked to help save threatened animal sanctuary


Businesses are being asked for urgent help to save a closure-threatened animal sanctuary.

Time and money are running out for All Creatures Great and Small, based near Cwmbran.

Now, businesses are being asked to adopt the cause to save the sanctuary from closure, and allow the animals being cared for to remain there.

Spokeswoman Heather Short said: “This is a serious S.O.S appeal for All Creatures Great and Small. The sanctuary has grown over the years and so have the running costs.

“Without support, it is feared that All Creatures will be no more. It has always been difficult keeping afloat, relying on the kindness of the public. We have always had some pretty special supporters and understand that people’s income has dwindled with these austere times.

“So we are asking people to spare £1.25 per week to save us. With your support, we can continue, without it the unspeakable will happen.”

Businesses are being asked to give whatever they can. Some animals like Trevor one of the sanctuary’s farm cats can’t be rehomed as he cannot be house-trained.

Ms Short said: “He has a special and safe home with us, we understand him and love him. What would happen to Trevor if the sanctuary closed?

“What would happen to Faith, our dear resident pig? She has arthritis and receives medication. This is her home, she knows our voices, loves having her tummy rubbed and her back scratched. We cannot contemplate what would happen to her.

“Chelsea our beautiful horse has Cushing’s Disease and receives daily medication which is expensive, nobody would want her.

“A lot of the creatures here hold sad stories, we want to continue to improve their lives with a good diet, cosy bed, veterinary care and, of course, lots of TLC.

“Our three new pigs Ruby, Rosy and Rebecca had nearly starved to death after their owner died. They have required large amounts of food to rebuild their bodies which of course is costly.”

Another cat, Luna, may well have to have her ear removed because of cancer, and the sanctuary has to raise funds for the vet bills.

Businesses able to help are asked to download a standing order form or send a cheque made payable to All Creatures Great and Small. Please visit the website for more details:

Businesses and individuals can also donate online by clicking the following link:

Small businesses welcome Budget help on rates and tax


Chancellor George Osborne announced a raft of measures for small businesses in today’s Budget.

The announcements will mean 600,000 small companies will not have to pay business rates from April 2017, saving nearly £6,000, the Chancellor said, and a further 250,000 will pay lower rates.

After months of pressure from small businesses, many of whom have complained bitterly about planned changes to dividends and consultation on quarterly tax reporting and the potential impact on their companies, the tax burden will be shifted on to larger firms.

Mr Osborne capped larger companies’ debt interest payments to 30% of their earnings. Those payments had been used to cut their corporation tax bills. The Chancellor said he expected that cap, and other measures, to raise £8bn over the next five years.

Corporation tax will also be cut to 17% by 2020 in what the Chancellor called a “Budget for small business”.

The threshold for small business rate relief is raised permanently from £6,000 to a maximum of £15,000. Higher rate relief goes up from £18,000 to £51,000.

The Federation of Small Business welcomed the changes. Its policy director Mike Cherry said: “The Chancellor has listened to our calls for the tax system to be made simpler for small businesses and the self-employed and taken important action on business rates.”

The government is also taking measures to stop foreign retailers storing goods in Britain then selling them online without paying VAT, a bugbear for many UK small businesses who had felt there was not a level playing field for them.

There are also two new tax-free allowances worth £1,000 a year for “micro-entrepreneurs” who make money from occasional jobs or rent out property they own.

Companies making more than £5m a year in profit will have their past losses carried forward to offset corporation tax capped to 50% of current profits.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked cuts to disability benefits and criticised what he called “mates’ rates” corporate tax deals. He called the Chancellor’s statement “a Budget of failure” on the deficit, investment and inequality.

He attacked cuts to disability benefits and criticised “mate’s rates” corporate tax deals. However, Mr Corbyn welcomed a new tax on sugary drinks.

Mr Osborne has promised a £10.4bn surplus by 2019-20, but he has revised down growth forecasts and that could hit tax receipts in the future.

Severn tolls to be cut

Businesses in Wales have been campaigning for years for a cut in the cost of the Severn Crossings tolls, saying they are a serious dampener on growth in the Welsh economy. Mr Osborne announced they would be halved by 2018 when the bridges return to public ownership.

The current toll is £6.60 for a car, £13.20 for a van, and £19.80 for a lorry.

FSB police chairwoman in Wales Janet Jones said: “We welcome the 50% reduction in the Severn Bridge tolls announced by the Chancellor. A wide variety of our member businesses regularly use the Severn Crossings, and a study from the Welsh Government suggests that the tolls cost more than £100m each year in lost trade.

“This cut will have a positive impact for many small businesses, reducing the cost of trading across the Welsh border, and boosting confidence among small firms both sides of the border.”

Maria Williams is a copywriter, professional blogger, and PR for small business. Visit


More than 1,000 set to attend FSB national conference

Fraser Doherty

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell are keynote speakers at the Federation of Small Businesses national conference in Glasgow this week.

The event at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre will be hosted by Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark. Other speakers on the line-up include Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White, SuperJam entrepreneur Fraser Doherty, and Jackie Baillie MSP, Labour’s Scottish finance spokeswoman.

Mr Doherty, the 2007 Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year, started his jam making business at the age of 14 from his grandmother’s kitchen. He went on to create a multi-million pound business which now exports worldwide.

He’s the founder of SuperJam and Envelope Coffee, and is the co-founder of Beer52, and was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2014.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘invention, innovation, investment’.

The conference, which is free to attend and open to both members and non-members, is expected to attract more than 1,000 small businesses from across the UK. Alongside the programme of speakers, there will also be networking sessions, seminars, and a number of exhibitors.

Ms Sturgeon says the Scottish government is committed to supporting small businesses, as the backbone of the Scottish economy.

The event takes place between March 17 and 19.

Maria Williams is a copywriter, professional blogger, and PR for small business at



Could your business help save a rare bee – by networking?

The Shrill Carder Bee

Gwent Wildlife Trust has set up a networking event for businesses, to help companies make useful contacts while boosting its coffers. It’s also encouraging companies to become corporate members.

Networking In Nature will be staged at Magor Marsh Reserve between 4pm and 5.30pm on April 21. The cost is £10 per person, though it is free for Gwent Wildlife Trust member businesses.

As well as the usual opportunity to network, and a chance to find out about the important work of the trust, those attending will be given light refreshments and a guided nature walk.

The trust’s corporate members include Tata Steel, Cogent, Advanced Elastomer Systems, General Dynamics, International Rectifier, Solutia, Marshall’s Newport, Ancre Hill Vineyard, DS Smith Triwall, Frank Sutton, and Mandarin Stone.

Its corporate memberships start at £250 plus VAT, which entitles members to benefits like  acknowledgement in the magazine Wild About Gwent, and on the GWT website, invitations to talks, and volunteering opportunities. There are silver packages at £500 plus VAT, gold membership packages at £1,000 plus VAT, and platinum membership is at £2.000 plus VAT. Gold and platinum memberships include some staff discount tickets for GWT events. For the full details see here.

The trust works to restore “living landscapes” – areas of high quality wildlife habitat – protects local wildlife, and campaigns on wildlife and environmental issues across Gwent.

It runs externally-funded projects including the reintroduction of European water voles to the Gwent Levels, charcoal production at Croes Robert Reserve near Monmouth, and a project with farmers, landowners, and conservationists to save the Shrill Carder Bee, a tiny bee smaller than a thumbnail which is now only found in half a dozen sites in the UK. It’s vital to prevent the Shrill Carder Bee’s extinction – the loss of one bee species can lead to the loss of more in a domino effect, conservationists say, hitting plant pollination.

The trust’s People and Wildlife Project, based in Ebbw Vale and set up with a Big Lottery grant, is also helping to discover the wildlife on their doorstep in places like the Silent Valley Nature Reserve.

To book your place at the Magor Marsh networking session, call 02921 111 232, or book online at

Maria Williams is a copywriter, professional blogger, and PR for small businesses at


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