Could a recent influx of small businesses be responsible for Teesside’s plummeting unemployment rates?

IN RECENT years, Teesside has seen a rise in the number of small businesses operating throughout the region.

Middlesbrough, having seen the second highest growth in England for businesses within it, is one of the prime locations for new small businesses.

Innovation projects such as the one on Baker Street and that which is planned for Bedford Street have seen the birth of at least fifteen new businesses.

HOME TO MANY SMALL BUSINESSES - Baker Street has opened up many employment opportunities.

HOME TO MANY SMALL BUSINESSES – Baker Street has opened up many employment opportunities.

With the most recent figures showing unemployment to have fallen in Teesside for two months in a row, small businesses in the area may be major contributors to this.

Lisa Williams, a Project Support Officer at Middlesbrough Council’s Economic Development team, thinks the introduction of new small businesses has made a difference.

She said: “The regeneration of Baker Street has created jobs in Middlesbrough by offering start-up opportunities to new businesses.

“We’ve already been inundated with Expression of Interests for Bedford Street, which the demand has exceeded supply, so it will continue to open up more job opportunities here in Middlesbrough.

“Bedford House is going to be refurbished into office space, therefore there will be additional opportunities for office space for small businesses too.”

Having seen the success of such innovation projects and the growing strength of the small business market in the area, Middlesbrough Council are heavily invested in them.

Lisa said: “Middlesbrough Council continues to support small businesses by being a point of contact to encourage business growth.

“In terms of Baker and Bedford Street, the Council have worked closely with landlords in order to offer support initiatives to assist in the business start-up and bring those empty properties back in to use.”

Songbird Bakery, a local specialist cake and cupcake business based in the Teesside area, believe the council’s help will enable them to create employment opportunities in the future.

EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE - Shelley Tyreman, one of the owners of Songbird Bakery.

EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE – Shelley Tyreman, one of the owners of Songbird Bakery.

The business, owned by Shelley Tyreman and Claire Philpott, has only been open for a year and a half.

They said: “The Songbird Bakery journey started just under 18 months ago, producing a range of bespoke designed cupcakes at local craft and vintage fairs organised by Middlesbrough and Stockton councils.

“The council’s help in the last year has been instrumental in our growth as a business.

“The council’s support of our continuing growth means that we would be able to expand our business creating job opportunities within the Teesside area.”

During such a positive time for businesses in the Teesside area, the ladies are looking forward to the future.

They added: “We are really excited to continue the growth of our business within our local community.”

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Review: Infant Hercules starts strong

ONE OF the most recent food and drink trends in the North East seems to be the arrival of the micropub; a pint-sized pub contained in a single room. The regeneration of Baker Street in Middlesbrough has seen the emergence of hugely popular micropubs such as Sherlock’s and The Twisted Lip. The newest addition to Middlesbrough’s growing micropub scene is The Infant Hercules, which certainly lives up to its name.

NEW MICROPUB – The Infant Hercules follows Teesside’s latest trend.

NEW MICROPUB – The Infant Hercules follows Teesside’s latest trend.

The interior is bright, with simple, yet elegant decor. There are various little antique-looking pieces dotted around the micropub which give it the same “individual” style as many other pubs. Almost a whole wall is dedicated to William Gladstone’s quote about Middlesbrough being an infant Hercules, which is a nice touch, explaining the meaning behind the name to any unfamiliar punters. Despite its small size, the micropub can seat around twenty people with bar seating also available.Located on Grange Road in the former home of the Olde Young Tea House, The Infant Hercules is immersed in the heart of the town. It’s a quirky alternative to the more common larger pub chains with a more mellow, relaxed atmosphere.

LIVES UP TO ITS NAME – The cosy interior of The Infant Hercules.

LIVES UP TO ITS NAME – The cosy interior of The Infant Hercules.

The micropub prides itself on its variety of less mainstream beverages, regularly changing what is available on tap depending on what they have in at the time. Due to the fact that a lot of their drinks are sourced from smaller, independent breweries, meaning people are less likely to have previously tasted them, The Infant Hercules has a try before you buy system. Such personal service creates a friendlier atmosphere than most mainstream pubs and makes choosing a drink far more exciting.

It would have been wrong to enter any form of pub, whether reviewing it or not, and not sample some of the alcohol on offer. I selected one of the drinks on tap, the American Pale Ale from Long Man Brewery. I hate to bring up another American Pie reference, but one of the grimmest moments across any incarnation of the series involves a pale ale mention. This is pretty much all I could think of whilst drinking what was actually a very refreshing, citrus-tinged, yet somehow sweet drink.

The intimate setting of the micropub is married wonderfully with the extensive range of intriguing beverages to create what could become one of Middlesbrough’s favourite quirky drinking places. If you’re a fan of pubs, whether little or large, The Infant Hercules is definitely worth a visit.

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How proposed welfare cuts would harm thousands of British families: The mother of a baby with Cystic Fibrosis explains how important state support is

AT THE end of March it was revealed that the Conservative Party were planning to cut £12bn from the welfare budget.

The information, which was leaked to the BBC, included taxing disability allowances and reducing benefits paid outside London.

Millions across the UK are dependent on these benefits to help with the everyday needs of themselves or family members.

As the mother of a baby with Cystic Fibrosis, Emma Corr, from Jarrow in Tyne and Wear, understands just how essential these benefits can be.

HARRIET CORR: Little Harriet is one of over 9,000 Cystic Fibrosis sufferers in the UK

HARRIET CORR – Little Harriet is one of over 9,000 Cystic Fibrosis sufferers in the UK.

With no physical signs of disability, six month old Harriet looks like any other baby to the eyes of those who don’t know her.

Emma said: “Harriet is the most placid, happy and content baby.

“Even through the hard times she always has a smile.”

Cystic fibrosis affects the digestive system and the lungs, leaving them clogged with thick sticky mucus.

This means hospital trips and special dietary requirements are an ongoing factor in the lives of those with the disease.

Mother-of-two, Emma, who has no family history of Cystic Fibrosis, said: “The DLA (Disability Living Allowance) helps to fund regular trips to our local children’s hospital – parking, petrol and public transport costs all add up.

“The DLA we receive is invaluable to our family.”

Upon Harriet’s initial diagnosis, Emma wasn’t even aware that they would receive anything from the government.

She said: “At first I was quite shocked that we would be entitled to something.

REGULAR HOSPITAL VISITS: Those with Cystic Fibrosis will often need medical attention

REGULAR HOSPITAL VISITS – Those with Cystic Fibrosis will often need medical attention.

“As a couple, my husband and I have always worked hard and have never been entitled to any state benefits so this was rather new to us.”

The older Harriet gets, the more crucial the support she receives from the welfare system will be.

Harriet, who is one of over 9,000 people in the country with Cystic Fibrosis, will have to eat a high calorie diet to maintain her weight, face expensive travel insurance premiums and possibly purchase an Afflo vest costing around £9,000 to help shift mucus from her lungs.

Emma said: “When Harriet is sixteen she currently faces the prospect of having to pay for all of her prescribed medicines.

“This is going to cost a great deal and lots of parents feel this is unfair as others with chronic conditions are exempt from paying.

“We will be saving some of her DLA to help with this huge outlay.”

Should cuts to the welfare system affect the amount of DLA Harriet receives she’ll struggle to pay for some of the essential needs in her life.

Emma added: “How on earth she is going to be able to afford a wide spectrum of medication is beyond me.

“These funds are vital to help towards the cost of prescribed medicines for a lifelong condition.”

Even with the current levels of support offered, Emma has spoken with other parents of children with Cystic Fibrosis who have encountered problems.

She suggested that the application process, wide ranging discrepancies with how much DLA is awarded case to case and the time consuming nature of caring for an unwell child seem to be main issues.

HAPPY BABY: Harriet with her mother, Emma

HAPPY BABY – Harriet with her mother, Emma.

She said: “Some children who are less affected by Cystic Fibrosis have been awarded the highest amount whilst in some cases those in the most need have been denied any financial support.

“There needs to be an improvement in how the award is made and also the application process needs to be simpler.

“Parents also feel that the level of extra time put into keeping your child in good health warrants financial aid as it could become very difficult to hold down a full time job if your child needs a high level of care.”

In spite of this, Emma and her family are extremely grateful for the support they currently receive.

Emma, who is optimistic about the future, said: “Cuts to DLA would have a massive impact on those families fighting Cystic Fibrosis.

“As a family we do however, remain hopeful that a cure will be found for Cystic Fibrosis and that we will no longer need DLA assistance.”

To follow Harriet’s story, visit Emma’s website


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Thumbelina makes a big splash: Middlesbrough girl leads the North Eastern blogging revolution

MIDDLESBROUGH GIRL, Megan Lillie, has been making waves in the North East blogging community since she made her debut two and a half years ago.

The 21-year-old started her blog, Thumbelina Lillie, in 2012 due to her love of fashion and beauty and currently has over 5,000 followers.

Her passion started when she was a little girl attending dance classes, enjoying wearing the make-up and costumes.

NORTH EASTERN BLOGGER: Megan Lillie proudly represents the North East

NORTH EASTERN BLOGGER – Megan Lillie proudly represents the North East.

Megan said: “I always used to go to charity shops with my grandma and pick out a random item of clothing that I wouldn’t see on anyone else.

“When I got into school I started experimenting more with colours.”

It wasn’t until she started college, however, that she started reading blogs, and during her gap year before university she decided to make her own.

Megan, who is now a student at Teesside University, recalls finding a girl called Lucy on Instagram and discovering her blog and Youtube channel.

She said: “I just thought it was crazy how she could write a website around her fashion and people wanted to read it.

“I thought ‘I like fashion. I like beauty. Why don’t I do it?’”

When Megan started blogging she found the scene in the North East to be very limited.

However, since then, the regional blogging community has grown significantly and Megan now runs a Facebook group for bloggers in the North East which currently has about 150 members.

She said: “With the North East not being as appreciated as London bloggers it’s quite nice to have a community that is all for each other and supports what each other do.

“It’s just really really supportive.”

AWARD WINNER: Megan with her Cosmopolitan award in 2014

AWARD WINNER – Megan with her Cosmopolitan award in 2014.

Megan believes that there has been an increase in the number of events in the North East, with companies such as Lush and Bodyshop starting to get involved with bloggers from the area.

Megan herself can no doubt be credited with drawing attention here after winning Highly-Commended Best Established Beauty Blog at the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards 2014.

She had previously applied in 2013 for an award for blogs under 18 months but had been unsuccessful.

She recalled: “I was devastated because I had put so much work into my blog.

“It made me come away and think ‘I am going to go back next year and I am going to win it.”

Megan told us of her disbelief when they announced her as the winner in 2014.

She added: “As soon as the editor said my name I got all emotional and teared up.”

Megan has also worked with other big name brands such as New Look.

She worked with them on an Autumn and Winter shoes campaign at the end of 2014, and due to its success, was asked to select prom accessories which she blogged about.

Photographs from her blog were then posted on New Look’s official Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Most recently, she walked down the red carpet after attending the Leicester Square premiere of Insurgent this March, having been invited and styled by New Look.

Check out some of Megan’s top tips below.

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Local businesses look forward to boost from Restaurant Week

RESTAURANT WEEK in Middlesbrough is doing its part to support businesses in the town.

The event, which will run from July 13 to July 19 this year, will be working with a number of restaurants in the area to bring attention to the range of dining options the town has to offer.

Lisa Williams, the organiser of Restaurant Week, believes it’s important to work with local businesses.

MAIN STRIP - Linthorpe Road is home to many of the participating restaurants.

MAIN STRIP – Linthorpe Road is home to many of the participating restaurants.

“The aim for Restaurant Week is to create a relationship with the restaurants and be able to support them and encourage them to grow through these type of initiatives.

“It’s free promotion for the restaurants, which will hopefully create more bums on seats.”

Lisa, who helped lead last year’s Restaurant week to success, is sure the event will attract people who wouldn’t usually visit Middlesbrough to dine.

She said: “Middlesbrough has an excellent and diverse range of restaurants so what better way to showcase them by putting on an initiative like this to celebrate what Middlesbrough has to offer and bring as many people into the town to experience this as possible.”

“The restaurant scene on Linthorpe Road has developed over the last couple of years which sees the area bustling.”

Local business owner, George Ooi, owner of Oodles Noodles on Linthorpe Road, participated in last year’s Restaurant Week.

He said: “I think it benefits the town as a whole.

“You get a better footfall into the main street of Middlesbrough and also it gets an awareness of what Middlesbrough can offer.”

LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER - George Ooi saw the benefits of Restaurant Week last year.

LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER – George Ooi saw the benefits of Restaurant Week last year.

Although he saw an increase in visitors last year, George is expecting bigger things this time round.

He added: “Obviously we would like to see a bit more because that was the inaugural year.

“Middlesbrough Council has been quite proactive in promoting it this year as well.”

Louise Atkinson, manager of Central Park, also on Linthorpe Road, agreed that this year should be busier for the event.

“This year we are hoping for a much increased take up and turnover for Restaurant Week as it will be better advertised, more established and will entice people in as it is in the summer.

“Last year was the first year and we noticed a small percentage increase on the takings over the whole week, but it did not impact us significantly on that first time.”

Louise was adamant that people should pay the family-run business a visit during Restaurant Week.

She said: “People should visit Central Park during Restaurant Week to try our fantastic Restaurant Week special menu in our always warm and welcoming atmosphere and surroundings.

“This year with it being in June it’s the perfect excuse to come along, enjoy some delicious food and drink and soak up the sun on our lovely Roof Terrace overlooking Albert Park.”

Listen to George Ooi discuss Restaurant Week in more detail below.

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Nice words: Post from Tees bit on the side

We’re liking a comment in a recent post on his blog by Derek Yates, Programme Leader of BA Graphic Arts at Winchester School of Art, and co-author of Communication Design, published by Bloomsbury. Having visited us at Teesside University to deliver a guest lecture, Derek describes us as “a course that is rapidly establishing itself as one of the top Graphic Design degree courses outside London”.

That’s what we like to hear!

Comm Design

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Festival fun at Willowman

FESTIVAL season is revving up, with music lovers countrywide getting ready to pack their tents, torches and toilet roll to join a crowd of like-minded people in the most fabulous organised outdoor party you can go to.

While a handful of festivals have sadly gone to the wall over the past year, others, such as Willowman in North Yorkshire, have gone from strength to strength.

As it approaches its sixth year of fabulous festival fun over the summer solstice weekend, Andrea Barker talked to Willowman director Steve Williams about what makes this event so special.



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Parents Face Fines For Fun In The Sun


MORE PARENTS across Teesside are facing fines in order to enjoy cheaper family holidays during term time.

The number of parental fines handed out across schools in Middlesbrough has risen by more than 41% this academic year, following a government ban on term time holidays.

Head teachers used to be allowed to grant 10 days holiday a year during term time, but after regulations were introduced in September 2013, local authorities have the power to fine parents if their child’s absence is unauthorised.

Parents are fined £60 per child per period of absence, which rises to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

According to a Freedom of Information request to Middlesbrough Council, despite these regulations, a total of 261 fixed penalty notices have been issued so far in this academic year in schools across Middlesbrough – a rise of more than 41% on the figures for the whole of the last academic year.

While some of the fines will have been for truancy and repeated poor attendance, many were for parents who took children on holiday during term time.

Court fines

These latest figures come just weeks after the parents of two Middlesbrough school pupils were hit with court fines over unauthorised term-time holidays.

In the first case, Oumorou Rassidou, 49, and Jayne Rassidou, 40, of Albert Terrace, Middlesbrough were found guilty of failing to secure the regular attendance of their child at Acklam Grange School following a trial at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.

Both defendants were found guilty and were each fined £55 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £40. The pair were also jointly ordered to pay prosecution costs of £530.

In a separate case dealt with by Teesside Magistrates, Acklam Grange parent Mandy Birangwa, 56, of Wibsey Avenue, Middlesbrough, was fined £200 with £80 costs and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge for a similar offence.

Richenda Broad, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Director for Wellbeing, Care and Learning, said: “While the vast majority of parents are responsible, there remains a significant minority who take their children out of school for holidays during term time.

“This authority takes the issue of attendance extremely seriously because the importance of education in the life of every child cannot be overstated. There is strong evidence that missing time at school has a significant impact on a child’s chances of achieving good qualifications and future employability.

“In exceptional circumstances requests for absence during term time will be considered, and enforcement measures are only used as a last resort.

“However, parents who break the law in this way – and harm their children’s prospects in the process – can expect to be dealt with severely.”

For the academic year 2014 to 2015, out of the 261 fixed penalty notices issued by Middlesbrough Council, 146 have been paid and 37 cases have progressed to court, while 39 parents have been given more than one fixed penalty notice.

This compares to 184 fixed penalty notices between September 2013 and July 2014, of which 112 were paid, 49 cases went to court, while 29 parents were issued with more than one fixed penalty notice.

The government’s stance for the parental fines was based on research that showed that regularly missing lessons can damage a pupil’s chances of achieving good qualifications.

But the regulations have stirred up widespread opposition from parents who argue that head teachers should be allowed to take a common sense approach to requests for leave of absence, particularly in view of the rising cost of taking a holiday during half term breaks and holiday periods.
cook_1212069cA recent check on tour operator Thomas Cook’s website illustrates that big differences in price still exist between holidays booked during term time and breaks in official school holidays.

For example a week-long all-inclusive trip to Liberty Hotels, Lykia, Turkey through Thomas Cook would cost a family of four  £2806 at the end of June. Yet the same holiday just a month later during school holidays costs almost twice as much, at £4960.

Meanwhile on the same website, a week long half board trip to Vidama Resorts in Madeira at the end of June would cost a family of four £3084. Yet the same holiday four weeks later during school holidays costs more than a £1,000 more at £4146.

Young mum-of-two Helen Price, of Acklam, Middlesbrough said: “I think it’s disgusting that we have to pay so much more to go on holiday during the school holidays – sometimes the price difference can mean the difference between having a family holiday and not being able to afford one.

“We have taken the children out of school a few days before the summer break to go on holiday, which has meant we have saved hundreds of pounds on flights.

“I think it should be all judged on an individual basis – if your children have good attendance and your break doesn’t interfere with their school work, I really don’t see what the problem is.”

Staggered term times

The issue has re-ignited the debate over councils staggering their term times to stop holiday prices going up during school breaks.
getAssetAn ABTA spokesman said: “Prices for holidays are determined by demand and supply. Prices rise during school holidays because more people in the UK want to take breaks at set times – this increases the demand for a finite number of hotel rooms and flight seats, pushing prices upward.

“We believe a potential solution is for education authorities to look at staggering the dates that schools take their holidays, so the breaks and demand are spread over longer periods. This already works in Germany where holiday dates are staggered by region.”



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