North West Business Briefs: Manchester Grammar; Santé; Harrison & Hetherington; Caerus Capital; Westmorland Homecare

Manchester Grammar School has secured a £1.1m funding package from Lombard Asset Finance to provide all pupils from year five to year 13 with laptops.

The independent day school for boys used the finance to invest in 400 Microsoft Surface Go and 800 Microsoft Pro 7 devices which were distributed to pupils from September 2020. The devices have been essential during the third national lockdown as the school’s teachers continue to deliver a complete daily timetable of virtual lessons across every subject.

Following the school reopening to all pupils this month, the Microsoft devices will continue to form an integral part of learning and will be incorporated into classroom teaching methods.

Founded in 1515, the school has built a reputation as one of the country’s top academic schools. It currently has 1,500 pupils aged from seven to 17, and 200 staff.

Higher Master, Martin Boulton, said: “It is part of the ethos at MGS that our boys, and our staff, rise to meet any challenge and in the face of adversity comes an opportunity to innovate. While the educational challenges posed by the lockdown should not be underestimated, at all times, our aim has always been to ensure our boys receive an education of the highest possible quality.”

Lee Thompson, NatWest seniorrRelationship manager, Byron Edwards, Lombard technology relationship director and Jackie Grundy, Lombard senior relationship manager, continue to support the school. Lee Thompson said: “The positive feedback from the boys is testament to the importance of these devices and they will continue to play a crucial role in their learning even when all pupils are back in the classroom.”

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Paul Nugent

Preston-based Santé Group aims to grow its turnover to £10m by 2025 as it builds on its growth in 2020.

The group, which includes employee health insurance and wellbeing company Nugent Santé and life insurance business Santé Life, saw a 28% growth in its insurance premium book in 2020, taking it to £14.8m. The firm’s turnover increased from £1.15m to £1.5m.

Growth in 2020 was driven by an increase in demand from businesses and individuals wanting health and wellbeing strategies, life insurance and private medical cover in place.

Santé Group chief executive, Paul Nugent, said: “We established the business in 2014 to help companies and individuals protect their world and make life a bit easier by removing uncertainty. Over the past 24 months we’ve seen a step change in the attitudes of businesses in terms of how vital employee wellbeing is to the success of a business. Previously it’s been a means to aid employee retention, but now every business we’re dealing with is placing wellness as a central function in helping achieve organisational goals.”

The group employs 27 people, but will be expecting headcount to treble over the next five years as it increases its national footprint through organic growth and acquisitions.

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Borderway Agri Expo 2019

Harrison & Hetherington, organisers of Borderway UK Agri Expo, has taken the decision to announce that the 2021 event will go ahead, following the anticipated end of lockdowns.

If the Government’s roadmap is successful, this highly acclaimed winter livestock showcase will take place on Friday, October 29, 2021, at Borderway, Carlisle. Regularly seeing in the region of 900 head of livestock being shown, Borderway UK Agri Expo is one of Great Britain’s largest and most prestigious livestock events.

Like all other large scale events across the country, Borderway UK Agri Expo was cancelled in 2020. Carlisle-based Harrison & Hetherington has concluded, however, that for this coming year the event can go ahead, given that appropriate rules are in place and adhered to.

Showcasing some of the very best beef cattle and sheep from all corners of the UK, Borderway UK Agri Expo is a key date in the diary of livestock farmers, and Harrison & Hetherington is confident that a way can be found to successfully host the event’s 15th edition.

Scott Donaldson, Harrison & Hetherington managing director, said: “It’s great to be one of the first major show events of 2021. Show after show was cancelled last summer, and all the showing enthusiasts will be looking for somewhere to go. We feel that the timing is right, and that we can start the process of getting plans together to make it work. We have our mainline sponsors already lined up and include Carrs Billington, Norbrook, Morrisons, Lloyds Bank and Farmers Guardian, so it’s just a case of fine tuning – making one or two changes, improvements and updating, and then we can crack on. Everybody is really excited.”

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Ben Maguire

The pandemic has driven a surge in demand for mid to sub-prime car finance, according to Caerus Capital, a dedicated motor finance broker based in Cheadle, Cheshire.

Over the past 12 months it said it has seen a 112% uplift in sub-prime car finance as demand grows from households crushed by the pandemic. Between the first and second lockdowns Caerus saw a 63% increase in applications, while in the final lockdown to date, there has been a 64% increase.

The number of new sub-prime borrowers taking out credit cards has also increased by 143% between August and September last year, according to analysis from the credit reference agency Equifax, more than twice the increase in borrowers taking out cards overall.

Ben Maguire, Caerus Capital commercial director, said: “The pandemic has caused financial hardship for many families and young professionals who have been furloughed or made redundant over the last 12 months. Recent figures from the Financial Conduct Authority estimate that nearly a third of adults have seen their incomes impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As a result of this financial toll, many ‘prime’ consumers prior to the pandemic, now find themselves with sub-prime credit scores. We have experienced a steady increase in car finance applications for sub-prime and guarantor loans, with the average vehicle purchase price sitting at £7,246. Our data also shows that there is a strong regional divide, with the highest number of sub-prime applications coming from the Birmingham and the East Midlands regions.”

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Refurbished space

A Kendal homecare company has spent more than £250,000 to refurbish and bring fully back to life one of Kendal’s oldest buildings.

Westmorland Homecare has just opened its new central hub at 18 Highgate after a building project lasting around 17 months. It will serve as offices for 16 administrative staff, a base for the company’s home care assistants, a state-of-the-art training centre and somewhere people can easily visit to talk about the needs of members of their family.

And, when COVID-19 restrictions allow, it could also become a place for GPs and healthcare professionals to do continuing professional development training.

Dr Chris Moss, one of the company directors, said: “It has been a real pleasure bringing to life a 500-year-old building which will now support and help look after our team. We wanted to create a hub right in the heart of our community for finding out about health and social care and where people can be trained.”

Westmorland Homecare provides hundreds of hours of care each week to enable elderly and often frail people to live independently in their own home. During its long history the building has served as a coaching house for the adjacent Ye Olde Fleece Inn, has been run as a greengrocer by Webbs, and as a Wimpy bar.

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