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Damart UK confirms COVID-19 outbreak at its Bingley base

November 20th, 2020

DAMART UK has confirmed that its Bingley contact centre has experienced an outbreak of COVID-19, forcing staff to now work from home.

In a statement, the business – based at Bowling Green Mills on Lime Street – says it is following all government guidance, as well as listening to advice from Bradford Council and Public Health England.

The statement reads: “Damart UK can confirm that a number of cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed amongst staff who were based at its contact centre in Bingley, despite the business having very strict and comprehensive precautions and processes in place.   As a result, the business is now moving to home working for all remaining contact centre staff, joining their colleagues, many of whom have been home working since March.   Some contact centre staff have been asked to self-isolate as a result of the cases, in line with Bradford Council and Public Health England advice.   Virtually all head office corporate staff based in Bingley are now working from home, in line with government guidance, with just a skeleton staff remaining.

“Damart’s Steeton workplace, where parcels are dispatched from, is unaffected and operating as normal, with strict precautions and supervision in place.   Damart has worked in close co-operation with all relevant agencies throughout the pandemic and has provided its Lime Street Bingley car park to be used as a Covid drive-in testing centre, which is fully operational and has been open for the general public to book appointments from yesterday (16 November).”

In response to Damart’s announcement, Sarah Muckle, Bradford Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Following a number of staff working at Damart testing positive for COVID-19, we have been working closely with the business and Public Health England to provide advice and guidance so that the risk of infection spreading is reduced. Staff are aware of their need to self-isolate if they have been a potential contact of someone who has tested positive.  We know that rates of COVID-19 in the district have been high, and so unfortunately we know there are likely to be outbreaks in some workplaces.  That is why it is so important that we all follow the advice to keep a safe distance, wear a face covering and wash our hands regularly.”

Dr Trevor Higgins, a key figure from Bradford’s business community, said that the outbreak at Damart was “unfortunate”, but added that its staff being forced to work from home is a sign of how businesses are changing and adapting amid the pandemic.

Dr Higgins, the chief executive of Bradford Breakthrough, said: “It’s unfortunate that this is happening, and I feel for everybody affected.  But, I do think it is a good sign that Damart has managed to continue operating – it’s a sign of how businesses are changing, as we go forward.  I think that the impact we saw on businesses at the start of the original lockdown will be lessened this time. Businesses are more prepared and are able to operate in different ways.  More companies are beginning to do conference calls and Zoom meetings and I think that will continue throughout the future.

“People are learning that business can be conducted in different ways, and some of the time that was wasted by travelling to and from meetings is ceasing to be seen on a large scale.  But some of the one-man bands and smaller firms – like your plasterers, plumbers and electricians – aren’t getting much support, which needs some serious looking at.  I do worry about the impact this is having on them. They will be at a disadvantage, if no one helps.

“In terms of the virus itself, I think we all need to take personal responsibility, and ask what we can do to keep the numbers down – we have to comply with the rules. We have to ask ourselves if we are socially distancing, wearing masks – where appropriate – and washing our hands.

“I don’t think we can just rely on waiting for a vaccine – that would be great, but we have to start thinking about what we can do, personally, to address things.”

New group CEO at social housing provider InCommunities

November 20th, 2020

INCOMMUNITIES has appointed Rachael Dennis as its new group chief executive in February 2021.

Rachael has extensive experience in the housing sector and moves from her current role as Managing Director (South East Region) at Taylor Wimpey plc.  She previously worked for Catalyst, one of the largest housing associations in London and the South East as their Chief Operating Officer, after joining them as Executive Director of Finance in 2014.

Rachael will take over from Geraldine Howley who is retiring in early 2021 after successfully leading Incommunities since its formation in 2003.

On the new role, Rachael said: “I am passionate about social housing and making a difference to people’s lives and I look forward to working with the board, all the staff, our customers and our partners. I’m really looking forward to getting started.

“I am extremely proud to be joining Incommunities as its new Chief Executive and build on Geraldine’s many achievements.

Rachael has over 20 years experience in social housing with many of those spent at a senior level.  She has also held a number of non-executive roles in housing, the NHS and charity boards.

Jan Ormondroyd, Group Chair of Incommunities said: “We are delighted to be making this appointment at an exciting time for the Group.  Rachael has extensive leadership experience as well as a strong knowledge of the sector and is keen to deliver our ambitious strategy for growth and achieve our potential.  Both the Board and I are looking forward to working with Rachael and taking the business forward in line with our strategic aims.”


Amjad Pervez awarded honorary doctorate from University of Bradford

November 20th, 2020

AN entrepreneur who went from a corner shop to cash and carry king has been has been awarded with an honorary doctorate.

Bradford’s Amjad Pervez, who owns one of the UK’s largest cash and carry/food retailer chains, the Seafresh/Adams Group, has received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University of Bradford.

The university presented the accolade for “his valuable and continuous support for the City of Bradford, to the University and for internationally championing a culture of enterprise”

Looking back on his youth, Amjad recalls: “When I first came to Bradford I was fascinated, imagine somebody coming from a village environment in Punjab and you come to an urban bustle. In the 60s, Bradford was the epicentre. It was one of the most thriving cities that I’d known. It was very exciting.  “It was a welcoming environment which allowed us to grow and become stakeholders in society. Bradford has a long history of welcoming immigrants and I think that is one of its strengths.”

Mr Pervez completed his A Levels at college and graduated from the University of Huddersfield with a degree in business and marketing in 1983.  He found work with Yorkshire Building Society but soon joined the family business, a humble corner shop, with dreams of becoming his own boss.  “I enjoyed my work at the Yorkshire Building Society,” he said. “I don’t know what it was about me, I didn’t like hierarchical structures, the reports and wait again and be given the greenlight. I was a very impatient man, I wanted to do things, I wanted to change the world.  We saw a double fronted shop and we took the risk. It came together.”

In the late 80s, the businessman was mentored by Jason Fuller of Fullers Foods who told him about the growing food services industry.  More families were choosing to eat at restaurants or buy package holidays so the businessman took a risk – his mantra to aspiring entrepreneurs in today’s world.

The father-of-six, who also has 10 grandchildren, said: “Invest in good, honest friends because they are difficult to find. In your chosen sphere, find someone who is much more experienced to guide you. Why? Because such people will help and support you when you make mistakes.  I would say to young people do not be afraid of making mistakes. So long as you are not reckless or foolish, when you are young and you have bounce and energy, that’s the time to make mistakes. I have made many and learned from them. Take risks, be audacious in your aspirations; it’s not the lack of education that limits people, it is imagination. Remember, you are the privileged few who got to this stage. There are others who are less fortunate.”

In a city known for its business-minded population, Mr Pervez thinks there is a culture of “entrepreneurialism”.  “I think the culture of Bradford is that we don’t envy people. We have success but we’re not jealous of success. If you see somebody with a nice car we don’t all go scratch it or get jealous. We go up to them and say well done. That culture of success and hard work, it’s the Yorkshire thing; that grit, it’s being hard working. That’s what created it.  We’ve got some really good businesses and in the history we’ve got some of the best names. Our youngsters are starting this chai craze. There’s entrepreneurialism.”

Former long-standing T&A editor joins Bradford Breakthrough

June 20th, 2020

The longest-serving modern-day editor of Bradford’s award-winning Telegraph & Argus newspaper is the latest recruit to Bradford Breakthrough.

Perry Austin-Clarke, who led the newspaper from 1992 to 2017, left to launch his own PR and communications business, Yorkshire Media Partners Ltd (YMP).

Perry Austin-Clarke

When he decided to step down from the role, Perry was also Yorkshire Group Editor of Newsquest Media Group and was directly responsible for The Press, in York, the Keighley News, Craven Herald & Pioneer, Ilkley Gazette,

Wharfedale Observer, York Herald, Yorkshire Gazette & Herald, Asian Life and Bradford Business Voice as well as a host of associated websites and other standalone publications.

In the year he left, the York Press was voted Regional Daily Newspaper of the Year in the Regional Press Awards and the Telegraph & Argus was the runner-up.

Under his editorship, the T&A raised millions of pounds for charity, including buying Bradford Royal Infirmary’s first MRI scanner and setting up a chair of cancer research at Bradford University which has led to major advances in treatment. In 2015-16, the T&A’s Crocus Cancer Appeal helped raise another £1 million for a mass spectrometer to aid the development of new cancer drugs.

The newspaper campaigned on many important Bradford causes, including dangerous driving, forced marriages, abuse of NHS staff among many others and was outspoken on racial equality. It received three awards from the Commission for Racial Equality for its sensitive and insightful reporting of equality issues, including the two Bradford riots and their aftermath.

Many people will also know Perry from the Bradford Means Business Awards, which he launched and hosted for many years, along with the Bradford & District Schools Awards.

Perry served on the Press Complaints Commission – the forerunner of IPSO – for six years.

Yorkshire Media Partners has rapidly established itself as a trusted and reliable PR and communications business, with clients ranging from Exa Networks to Skipton BID to Bingley Business Expo and charities such as QED UK, Yorkshire Asian Young Achievers (YAYAs) and Children & Families Across Borders on its books.

YMP also became the official PR and communications partner of Bradford Business Improvement District (BID), after running the 10-month campaign which led to it achieving a substantial ‘YES’ vote in the ballot of 630 city centre businesses at the end of 2018.

Perry said: “I have had a long-standing relationship with Bradford Breakthrough, which launched shortly before I became editor of the T&A, and I am very happy to be bringing my own company into membership.

“I have a passionate interest in Bradford and its future and I believe Breakthrough is a very important voice in helping to shape it as well as a vital touchstone for the opinions, knowledge and aspirations of the city’s senior leaders, who have a vested interest in its success, both culturally and economically.”

Breakthrough calls for business to innovate its way out of the pandemic

June 20th, 2020

Bradford Breakthrough says the city’s businesses should try to innovate their way out of the financial difficulties caused by the Coronavirus lockdown.

The organisation, which represents the senior leaders of influential businesses and organisations across the city, says that, with no end in sight to the emergency measures, firms need to adapt to survive wherever they can.

Breakthrough chief executive Trevor Higgins said: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that there is no quick way out of the current lockdown and many businesses could face restrictions on their trading for many months to come.  Even with the unprecedented levels of Government support, it’s likely to be survival of the fittest and, by that, we mean those who are able to maintain their cash flow and revenues by finding new ways to extend and shape their business model.

“Of course, it’s not the answer for everybody – we understand just how difficult this situation is for many small businesses, in particular, who depend on providing a long-established traditional service to a loyal customer base.  But where there is room to develop, where there is scope for a change of direction or the development of an idea that’s been hanging around, now may well be a good time to start looking at building a wider customer base to help bring in business from a new market.”

Dr Higgins said there were already some “brilliant” examples of Bradford firms opening up new markets in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Bob Gomersall , Chairman, BTL Group Ltd.

“For instance, the three successful local businesses run by Breakthrough’s chairman, Bob Gomersall – BTL Group Ltd, Virtual College Holdings Ltd, and Advanced Digital Innovations (UK) Ltd – have all developed online services that can help customers in the current Covid-19 crisis,” said Dr Higgins.

“One of them, Saltaire-based BTL, which has just won a Queens Award for Enterprise in International Trade, has introduced an Online Invigilation Service to help universities, colleges and other educational institutions who are unable to deliver exams on site to monitor students remotely as they sit their tests in a secure home environment.”

Dr Gomersall said: “The company was founded, has grown, and has remained in Yorkshire, and we are very proud that the technology we provide is used all over the world. It is great to think that assessment technology for many organisations around the world comes from Saltaire, Yorkshire.

“We have advocated and embraced remote working technology for 35 years and we are very proud that our technology has a positive role to play in the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Dr Higgins also cited the example of Delifresh, a Bradford-based food wholesaler which normally supplies top chefs and restaurants in the region, which launched an online emergency food store and delivery service.

“Delifresh realised that many people needed to avoid contact in food stores and supermarkets but were struggling to find a source of home delivery,” he said. “So they launched the new service through their website and are reported to have so far taken more than 15,000 orders.  It’s a fabulous example of a company spotting an opportunity to not only help the local community but also develop their business in a new area.”

He added: “There are many more firms already starting to show the innovation and commercial acumen that Bradford is renowned for in response to these very difficult times.

“Our city has a long and proud history of coping with change and we’re sure that with the right support and a dash of creativity, we can come through this crisis with a strong economic future ahead.”


Bradford Breakthrough members meeting in the Houses of Parliament

January 24th, 2019

The image shows Bradford‘s MPs, Parliamentarians and Bradford breakthrough members meeting recently in the Houses of Parliament.

The city’s senior business leaders and parliamentarians have pledged to work closely with each other to promote the Bradford District economy. At their regular six monthly meeting at Westminster , the business delegation, organised by Bradford Breakthrough, met with all of the District’s MPs, several Bradford-based members of the House of Lords and The Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling to discuss the transport problems facing Bradford. Specifically they discussed – the provision of a high speed station for Bradford City centre; plans for the Skipton-Colne rail link; the Shipley by-pass scheme and improvements to the transport infrastructure serving Leeds Bradford airport.’

Bradford breakthrough CEO Trevor Higgins said “Breakthrough members were pleased that the Minister had acknowledged that the Transport Infrastructure serving Bradford was simply not good enough. He said that he would consider sympathetically any Bradford projects that were put forward by Transport for the North”

Changes at the top for Breakthrough

September 22nd, 2016

During the past six months Breakthrough has undertaken a full review of its Executive Board and leadership team.

Following Colin Philpott’s retirement, Dr. Trevor Higgins was appointed as Chief Executive of Bradford Breakthrough having moved across from his previous role as Chairman of the Board. Bob Gomersall has taken on the role of Chairman.

The board has been further strengthened by two more senior appointments – Amjad Pervez and Martin Sweeney have been appointed as Directors of the Company.

CEO Dr Trevor Higgins said – “Having held the post as Chairman for nearly seven years, I am delighted to take on the role as CEO of Bradford Breakthrough. I am also delighted that long standing board member and Director, Bob Gomersall, has agreed to take on the role of Chairman. Bob is extremely well respected both in Bradford and, more widely, across the region. Both these appointments, together with the appointments of Amjad and Martin, will ensure continuity at the top of the organisation.

Working with the new Board I am looking forward to continuing the great work that Colin has undertaken to see Bradford positioned where it should be as a leading city in the UK.”

Bradford Breakthrough capitalises on Wembley appearance to launch “This is Bradford” events to boost city’s profile

February 25th, 2013

As Bradford enjoys increased profile through Bradford City’s historic appearance at Wembley, lobbying group Bradford Breakthrough is to stage a series of events inviting key national opinion formers to Bradford to show off the city’s assets.

Bradford Breakthrough, which represents the leaders of the city’s key private and public sector organisations, will be staging the events throughout 2013 targeting people and organisations whose opinions are crucial in forming Bradford’s reputation across the country.

The first three events will be aimed at journalists and editors from media organisations and will coincide with the Bradford International Film Festival in April, the prestigious Academy of Urbanism Conference being held in Bradford in May and the BBC Bollywood Live event in June. Other events involving tourism and investment agencies and other key groups are planned for later in the year.

Bradford Breakthrough calls for early decision on rail link to the airport

February 3rd, 2013

Bradford Breakthrough – the group representing Bradford’s leading private and public sector businesses – is calling for faster progress on plans to establish a rail link to Leeds-Bradford International Airport.

Bradford Breakthrough members have identified a rail link to the airport as one of their three key strategic priorities for the coming year. The group believes that the recent establishment of a £1bn transport infrastructure fund for West Yorkshire provides an opportunity to bring forward plans for the rail link.

The Chief Executive of Bradford Breakthrough, Colin Philpott, said “Other competitor cities like Manchester and Newcastle have much speedier and easier links to their local airports. It is vital for businesses and for local people in Bradford and other parts of West Yorkshire to be able to access their airport by rail. It is also important that Bradford specifically benefits from any rail link”.

Bradford Breakthrough welcomes two new members

January 11th, 2013

Bradford Breakthrough– the group representing Bradford’s leading private and public sector businesses – has welcomed two new organisations into membership as it develops its work of lobbying and campaigning on behalf of Bradford.

The Aaagrah Group of Restaurants and Bradford Grammar School are the latest recruits to the group which represents more than 20 major organisations in the city and is dedicated to making Bradford a better place to live, work and visit and to do business and invest.

The Aagrah Group, which was started 35 years ago, now runs 15 restaurants including a newly opened restaurant in Bristol – its first venture outside its West Yorkshire heartland. The Aagrah Group is based in Shipley from where it also runs an extensive outside catering business.

Bradford Grammar School, based opposite Lister Park in Manningham in Bradford, is a co-educational independent school with over 1,000 pupils. Its alumni include David Hockney and the Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.

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