Friday, September 30, 2016

News: Rotherham college merger proposed

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A recommendation that Dearne Valley College (DVC) should join forces with the RNN Group - which is made up of Rotherham and North Nottinghamshire Colleges - is set to be taken up early next year as the two Rotherham-based institutions outline merger proposals.

The colleges believe that the merged organisation would offer school leavers the widest range of college courses, apprenticeships and higher education provision within the region, and would educate and train more 16 to 18-year-olds than any other school or organisation in the area, whilst working with over a thousand companies offering specialised training and apprenticeships to support business growth and success.

Under the proposals, DVC's Manvers campus would continue under the name of Dearne Valley College but will become part of a family of organisations supported by the RNN Group, encompassing three further education colleges and five training providers, with a projected annual turnover in excess of £50m.

The move follows the merger between the Rotherham and North Nottinghamshire Colleges earlier this year. It saw transfer of the property, rights and liabilities to the Corporation of Rotherham College of Arts and Technology and the subsequent dissolution of the Further Education Corporation of North Nottinghamshire College.

Rotherham College took on a similar role in the merger with Rother Valley College in 2004 and the statutory notice for the latest merger again shows how DVC would be dissolved after it joins the RNN Group on February 1 2017.

The proposals, now out for consultation, were recommended in a Government review into post-16 education and training across the Sheffield city region (SCR).

The Government is undergoing a restructuring of the further education sector leading to "fewer, larger, more resilient and efficient providers" as it believes that substantial change is required to deliver its education objectives while maintaining tight fiscal discipline.

In addition to the expansion of the apprenticeship programme, reform is proposed to ensure there are high quality professional and technical routes to employment, alongside robust academic routes; and that there is a better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities.

Specific challenges were identified, including a falling numbers of 16–18 year olds, potentially risking the range of courses the colleges can offer, projected public funding cuts for at least the next three years, potentially reducing capacity, and limitations on available funds for significant investment.

The colleges hope to overcome the challenges together as a larger group and better meet the needs of the Sheffield city region (SCR) which needs to raise skill levels and productivity levels.

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Martin Harrison, principal and chief executive at DVC (pictured, left), said: "After some in-depth discussions about the opportunities and challenges we may face in the future, we are delighted to put forward a proposal for Dearne Valley College and the RNN Group to merge, offering an even stronger provision of high-quality and effective training, courses and apprenticeships for school leavers, higher education students, adult learners and businesses. It will also enable us to invest further in our students with additional resources and facilities. Students who are already enrolled with us at Dearne Valley College would not be affected by the merger, and all existing courses would continue to be taught at our Manvers campus."

John Connolly, chief executive at the RNN Group (pictured, right), added: "By pooling our resources, the knowledge of our industry-experienced staff and employer links, we can offer a breadth of provision to ensure students are reaching their career aspirations and contributing to the economy and local community. The proposed merger between two Ofsted "Good" organisations will place us in a strong position for the future."

The enlarged RNN Group would have campuses in Rotherham town centre, Wath-upon-Dearne, Dinnington, Worksop and Retford. Plans are also progressing for a higher education campus in Rotherham town centre.

The prospectus states that the merger will benefit local employers as a larger provider will be able to be more responsive to specific training needs, offer a wider range of training and apprenticeship frameworks, provide more co-investment opportunities to meet skills needs, link employers with a large bank of work-ready students, and be a single point of contact, to make managing training easier.

It adds: "It is not anticipated that the merger will directly necessitate compulsory redundancies of teaching staff, as there are no proposals to reduce the curriculum offer or to close any of the campuses. Over time, some rationalisation of other functions may be possible, mostly through natural turnover."

The corresponding chairs of the colleges, outlined in the prospectus: "The decision of the two Corporations to submit this proposal reflects a positive and deliberate strategy to deliver a stronger local skills offer in a climate where the stability of individual colleges may be challenged in the future.

"The Boards and senior teams have recognised the strength and opportunities created by a single, larger college with one vision, one area-wide curriculum and a singleminded focus on quality, standards and excellence."

DVC website
RNN Group website

Images: RNN Group


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News: Work underway on new Rotherham bar

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A pub in Rotherham town centre, vacant for a number of years, is being brought back to life with a focus on restoring its historic past.

The 1915 Bar & Bistro is set to open on Domine Lane where the former public house was sold after an auction with Allsops earlier this year. The vacant 8,000 sq ft property was previously The Exchange and formerly Yates Wine Lodge. It was given a guide price of £80,000+.

The property forms part of the Westgate Chambers site, the majority of which has been under offer for over a year after Rotherham Council agreed to dispose of its asset. It is hoped that it will be redeveloped into a residential development with an active commercial ground floor.

Setting out to become Rotherham's finest eaterie and wine bar, fit out work is well underway with an English stitch wall being restored to its natural state and glasswork and detailing uncovered in the eves.

A message on social media reads: "Welcome to 1915. We have been given this exciting new project which is to build our brand in and around Rotherham. We aim to restore buildings which have a focal point to Rotherham's great past..."

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Adjacent to the site is the former post office in a prominent corner building on Main Street and Market Street. It was completed and opened in March 1907 and was designed by Mr W. Pott, ARIBA, of His Majesty's Office of Works. Now used as offices, the building includes stone carving on the pediments over the two principal entrances depicting the Royal Arms with appropriate scroll work. The arms of the Borough of Rotherham also feature in the stonework.

The latest Supplementary Planning Document again outlines that the central block of Westgate Chambers should be brought forward for residential occupation. It states: "This provides an excellent opportunity to complement the residential units delivered at Keppel Wharf, only a short distance away from Rotherham Central via Forge Island."

The new bar will look out on Forge Island were a leisure hub is proposed. With the Council hoping to acquire the site and demolish the empty Tesco store, a cinema development is expected to attract secondary restaurant, shop and bar developments in the surrounding area.

Nearby, the prominent nightclub building on Moorgate Street has re-opened as The Amber Lounge - a cocktail, champagne and craft beer lounge. In addition, plans have been approved for a restaurant in a former bar at the foot of Ship Hill and for a restaurant and bar to operate over 5,000 sq ft of floorspace in the former Santandar bank on College Street.

Across the town centre, at The Crofts, the vacant former Cross keys pub recently sold at auction. Given a guide price of £125,000, it sold for £141,000.

1915 bar website

Images: Tom Austen


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News: Law firm rises to charity challenge

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Local law firm Malcolm C Foy & Co has been working hard to support a cause close to its hearts – our local hospices.

In June, the solicitors which has offices in Doncaster and Rotherham, ran a "Make a Will Month" event, where clients were asked to donate to Rotherham Hospice rather than pay the normal will writing charge, and raised £1,500 for the hospice.

The only adult hospice in Rotherham for the people of Rotherham, Rotherham Hospice is an independent charity and must raise significant sums of money each year in order to pay for the quality care provided free of charge to patients, their families and carers.

Clare Outram, Wills & Probate executive at Malcolm C Foy & Co, said: "We were delighted to support Rotherham Hospice with our Make a Will Month this year. We know from direct experience and from feedback from our clients that Rotherham Hospice do absolutely fantastic work for families' at the most difficult times of their lives. Rotherham Hospice need to raise around £2.2m per year through fundraising to continue providing their services, so we were only too happy to do what we could to offer our support."

Malcolm C Foy & Co have also been participating in the Master Cutler's Challenge, which ran from February to September and aimed to raise as much money as possible to support to vital work of Rotherham Hospice and St Luke’s Hospice Sheffield. Malcolm C Foy raised a total of £3,843 through various events, including a 5k charity run, quiz night, Will donation week, dress down days, book sales and more.

Rotherham Hospice enlisted Malcolm C Foy & Co as one of the companies who would support their fundraising as part of the Master Cutler's challenge, and the company set to work. The Master Cutler's Challenge was launched in 2008, when the Master Cutler for that year, Gordon Bridge from AESSEAL in Rotherham, invited companies to transform a £50 investment into as much charity fundraising as possible. Every year has seen the event grow – more than 500 companies have taken part to date, raising in excess of £1m for a range of charities.

Sarah Hartley, solicitor and director at Malcolm C Foy & Co, said: "When Rotherham Hospice asked us to support them through the Master Cutler's Challenge we had no reservations, but I didn't appreciate how much taking part would benefit us as a company and team. Coming together as colleagues in support of Rotherham and St Luke's Hospices has been really valuable to us as a company, and clients have been more than happy to donate and have been really supportive and proud of what we have been doing, which is great for business long term. We have had so much fun taking part in all the fundraising events, and will definitely do it again."

Malcolm C Foy & Co website

Images: Malcolm C Foy & Co


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Thursday, September 29, 2016

News: That's Entertainment opening in Rotherham

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That's Entertainment, the High Street store that sells used CDs, DVDs, games and electronics, is opening a new outlet in Rotherham town centre.

With 27 stores, That's Entertainment is part of the business called Music Magpie - the most popular recommerce website in Europe, providing consumers with cash for their unwanted CDs, DVDs, games and electronics.

Established in 2007 by co‐founders Steve Oliver and Walter Gleeson, Music Magpie has developed websites and mobile apps that enable customers to easily sell unwanted items.

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That's Entertainment, which has a store in Doncaster but closed its Sheffield store at Crystal Peaks, has taken on 38-40 College Street in Rotherham town centre and will open this Friday following the recruitment of staff.

The property, which has a ground floor sales area of 2,000 sq ft, has been advertised by retail property consultants, Barker Proudlove. The whole of the historic building on the corner of the High Street is currently up for sale.

Previous occupiers include clothing retailers, Internacionale and Dorothy Perkins / Burtons.

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The Music Magpie business now has sales of around £75m per annum across the UK and US, establishing its US brand decluttr.com in 2014. The UK business employs around 800 people, primarily at its two distribution centres in Stockport and Macclesfield, where the business was founded.

NVM Private Equity invested in the company at the end of 2015 after LDC exited the business following its investment in musicMagpie.co.uk in 2011 to support the business' international expansion.

Other recent openings in Rotherham town centre includes K.D Davis & Sons - The Greengrocers, The £1 £12 Bookshop and PhoneMatic.

Consultants, NLP identified 66 vacant retail/service units within Rotherham town centre in July 2016, which equates to 20.6% of all units.

Music Magpie website

Images: Music Magpie


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News: Crawshaw's sales growth restoration plan

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Rotherham-based fresh meat and food to go retailer, Crawshaw Group PLC has confirmed a reduction in like for like sales but expansion will continue.

The AIM-listed Hellaby firm is undergoing growth plans that will see it invest £200m, opening 200 stores and creating 2,500 jobs. As new stores opened, standardised offers and price points were also introduced into existing stores but the management has now admitted that they "didn't resonate as well with customers as we thought."

In the six months ended July 31 2016, total revenue for the group increased by 29% to £21.6m from the £16.7m reported in 2015. Like-for-like sales however, dropped by 4.4%. Gross profit increased by 31% to £9.8m and EBITDA (earnings before taxes) was £0.3m (2015: £0.5m) with increased operating costs offsetting sales and margin growth.

Crawshaws described the year ending January 31 2016 as a "transformative year" with a new management team and the appropriate infrastructure in place to deliver the rapid growth plan. The following six month saw phase one of the rollout programme complete with the delivery of nine new trading stores across the period. The total number of stores is now 49.

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The group reported record sales for the previous year but the update to the stock exchange explained that sales had dropped since. Standardised offers and prices were introduced and initial results were encouraging, with strong like-for-like sales and margin through the middle of last financial year. With customer loyalty initially translating into additional sales through bigger, better value packs at higher price points in the first instance, this gave way to waning loyalty and lower sales through the first half of this year.

Sales in the the first seven weeks of the second half of the year have continued to be lower, with like-for-like sales tracking at -15.8%.

Noel Collett, CEO at Crawshaw Group, said: "We have now identified the cause of this sales underperformance by spending a great deal of time in stores with our customers and colleagues. The feedback from these visits was relatively straightforward. Our customers want to see some of the old fresh meat pack sizes, price points and offers that were previously on sale in their specific store.

"As a result, we have made immediate changes to give store managers flexibility to re-introduce local ranging products which has been positively received. We have also significantly increased the number and depth of price-led promotions on fresh meat with managers being given the flexibility to choose the promotions that resonate most with their customers."

Expansion will still continue but the board has taken the decision to open up to 12 stores this year as opposed to the 15 originally planned. The group has found success with its new factory shop location and is planning the trial of up to two further factory shops this year.

Collett concluded: "We are acting quickly to restore sales momentum and feel that this can be achieved in readiness for the important winter and festive season.

"Management focus over the next months will be on supporting stores to deliver for our customers and restore sales momentum in like-for-like and newly opened stores.

"We believe our actions can restore sales momentum, and we will invest in margin to sharpen our value proposition to win back customers and drive sales. We are disappointed with current trading and clearly the outlook for the full year will depend on the result of our actions, upon trading during the important winter and festive season, and upon the timing of our store openings. At this stage, however, we expect our full year profit to be materially lower than our previous expectations."

Crawshaw website

Images: Crawshaws


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