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PAYE Code numbers and PAYE Reconciliations – Tax Tips

Welcome to the Hill Lillis & Company Tax Tips.

Tax and National Insurance deductions are made at source from most taxpayers in the UK through the PAYE scheme.  Each employee (or pensioner) is allocated a tax code which the employer uses to calculate the deductions to be made. If your affairs are straight forward then your code is likely to be 810L which indicates you are entitled to the basic personal allowances of £ 8,105.

However if your tax affairs are more complex, you code may be very different as HMRC seek to collect the tax due on sources of untaxed income or make other adjustments. Some of the most common adjustments are for the benefits you receive from your employment (such as a company car or private medical insurance), whereas pensioners may see a restriction in respect of the State Retirement pension they receive which is never taxed at source.

Often these adjustments are estimated, based on information supplied in previous tax years, and problems can arise where someone has multiple employments or pensions, so it is understandable that on occasions the tax collected is not always correct. Therefore after each tax year HMRC issue many PAYE reconciliations (on form P800) showing how they have computed the under or over deduction of tax.

Our experience shows that there has been a great deal of distress caused by HMRC unexpectedly issuing  PAYE reconciliations covering  several years’  tax arrears, and we note that often there are errors on these calculations. We recommend you check them carefully, and seek advice if you think there is a problem.

We offer a free 30 minute consultation, so if you would like any additional information regarding the above or any other tax issues concerning you, then please contact us 0121 351 6777 or visit us in our offices in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield.

This article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to residents in

Walmey and surrounding areas of Sutton Coldfield.


Boggy Brightness and Boots On

I thought that we would not notice the transition from summer to autumn this year . It has been so wet and dark that we can see and feel no real difference except that it is a little chillier . However, the prevailing damp has allowed that British green of our countryside to maintain its brightness. Never have our open spaces been so waterlogged and lush as they have been this year. The scorched browns of high summer have only been spied over the water in hotter climes than ours. The colours of autumn are yet to start showing but I suspect that by the end of the month we shall see some. Unless the rain stops falling there will only be sodden heaps of fallen foliage to wade through rather than the usual kicking of crisp golden and red leaves. ( yes, we all do it no matter what age we   pretend to be !)

Take advantage of any opportunity to get out and enjoy the local green patches whenever the sun shines, it could be a long winter and soon the clocks change and we are into darker nights and shorter days. No matter your reasons for walking, be it for health or exercising the dog, for nature or for scenery, just a short stroll or jog will stop that seasonal melancholy getting a grip and anyway outdoor exercise means that when you get in you can have that chocolate or cake as your righteous reward.

New Hall Water mill has closed for the 2012 season with the last open day in September but rest assured that our maintenance work will continue throughout the winter months to ensure that we open again for the 2013 summer months. If you did not visit this year , we look forward to welcoming next time. Please note that if you come on your bicycle you can only come through the small side gate, NOT the main gate, as this is only for real V.I.P`s.

Article supplies by Jeff Gilbert of Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley Road, Walmley, Sutton Coldfied B76

This article appears in the October edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 4000 homes in Walmley and Sutton Coldfield every month


Personal Allowances – Tax Tips for Sutton Coldfield Residents

Welcome to the Hill Lillis & Company Tax Tips. As a local accountancy and tax practice we will be providing a short, monthly article outlining tax problem areas and our suggestions on what you can do to resolve the issues.

Everyone with income below £100,000 is entitled to a full personal income tax allowance of £8,105 for the current tax year. However if you are over the age of 65 and your income from all sources is less than £25,400  you can claim an increased allowance of £10,500, and if you are over 75 years old the allowance is increased to £10,660. Any income above these levels is taxable, and at present the tax rates are 20% up to £34,370; 40% up to £150,000 and 50% above that level.

Each person within a family is individually entitled to personal allowances, so it is worthwhile regularly reviewing your situation, so that you  make best use of everyone’s allowances.

If family assets are owned jointly, then the default position is that the income should be declared by the owners equally. However in some circumstances you can make an election to confirm that both the underlying capital and income is shared in different proportions.

So, where there is an inequality between the level of income and tax rates being paid by spouses, you may wish to consider how you allocate assets, perhaps by transferring the assets generating the highest levels of income to the partner who pays the lowest levels of tax.

We offer a free 30 minute consultation, so if you would like any additional information regarding the above or any other tax issues concerning you, then please contact us 0121 351 6777 or visit us in our offices in Walmley Village, Sutton Coldfield.

This article appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered each month to over 4000 homes in

Walmley and surrounding areas of Sutton Coldfield.


Europey and Tears dopey

It is only July as I put pen to paper so the Euro footie and Whinebledon have been endured, with the expected results…..

Are the Olympics over yet , how did we fare on track, field, water or bike. Did we do well in some obscure discipline that we are now all experts in (remember Curling last time ? Anyone watched any since? )  Was the   opening show or the closing show a success of world beating proportion? Can we have our twelve billion pounds back now please ? Bet you we could win a World Cup for crying Losers tears or even occasionally Winners wet eyes, what`s that all about ?

Let us now start to give our politicians some real stick over a Referendum about our relationship with Europe. Can we please be consulted as to whether we want to stay as part of the Union or just be a peripheral trading partner or balanced somewhere in between?

If any party is brave enough to give us a straight Yes or No vote on whether to pull out or to stay in, then they get my support. If our rulers were that brave then whatever the result they would have a clear and incredibly strong bargaining chip to take to Brussels for , at the very least, an advantageous renegotiation of our terms of membership. If we did vote to withdraw from the Union are we strong enough to prosper outside ? Of course we are !

And while on that subject , let`s give the Scots and Welsh the same choice about being part of a Great Britain or not. My guess is that our Union will endure and given a fair chance we can build a strong and prosperous future for our children to be proud of. Let`s go for it !

Jeff Gilbert

Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley

 

This article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine

 


Clay and Play

Clay and Play is a great place to visit and its not just for children.  Why not discover your creative side, there are a large selection of items for you to paint, vases, mugs, plates, piggy banks to name just a few.  Either decorate an item as a gift for someone or a gift to yourself.  So how does it work?  Firstly A Studio fee of £2.50 per painter is charged this covers the use of paints, glazing and the firing, secondly choose an item from the extensive range of bisque products..  Next, think of a design and get painting. There are a selection of books and stencils to help if you need it or you can ask a member of staff to help. You don’t need to be an artist to achieve great results.  Finally your item will be glazed with a food safe glaze then fired in the kiln and be ready to collect in 5-7 days time.

As well as items to decorate, Clay and Play offer a moulding service for baby hand and foot prints and other keepsake items for example siblings handprints as a gift on Fathers Day as shown in the photo on the left.  Something to keep and treasure forever.  These are ideal gifts for grandparents or a unique gift for , Mothers Day, Birthdays and Christmas.

Clay and Play also specialise in Birthday Party’s.  Packages are available for  up to 20 people.  If you’re bringing your child, you can relax as tea, coffee and homemade cakes are available to purchase whilst your child is busy creating their artwork.  Packages start at £9 per head and include 2 bisque items.  Party food is also available to order.

Why not drop in and take a look for yourself or visit the website – http://www.clayandplay.co.uk

During the Summer there are several workshops available:-

Monday – July 30th – Olympic Pottery workshop

Wednesday – August 1st -Glass painting Workshop

Friday- August 3rd -Fabric painting workshop

Monday- August 6th –Olympic pottery workshop

Wednesday -August 8th –Birdhouse painting

Thursday -August 9th –Name plaque painting

Monday -August 13th –Fabric painting workshop

Wednesday – August 15th- Olympic pottery workshop

Friday – August 17th -Glass painting workshop

Monday – August 20th –Birdhouse painting workshop

Wednesday – August 22nd –Fabric painting workshop

Friday – August 24th –Glass painting workshop

Wednesday – August 29th –Glass painting workshop

Friday – August 31st Fabric painting workshop

Prices   Olympic pottery workshop £12.50 per head (everyone paints upto 2 pieces from our olympic range)

Glass painting Workshop £10 per head (everyone paints some glass ornamental pieces)

Birdhouse painting £10 per head (everyone paints a birdhouse)

Fabric painting workshop £8 per head (you can paint a fabric shopping bag or pencil case)

Name plaque painting workshop £8 per head (everyone paints a wooden name plaque)

Booking in advance needed – Only 12 places per available workshop – Workshops last around 1 and half hours

 

This article appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine


I Love The Cake

We are a local, Walmley based company who specialise in making cakes in all shapes and sizes, and teaching the world the art of cupcake decorating through workshops! Our chief cake baker and decorator has always had a passion for baking cakes, since being a wee small girl. She dreamt that one day she’d be able to offer delicious cakes of all shapes and sizes – the likes of which she’d only seen in glossy magazines – to anyone who wanted one! It started with cakes for family and friends birthdays and anniversaries, and soon people started to want to give her money for her cakes…I Love the Cake was born in October 2011, and has gone from strength to strength since.

We were finalists in The Mall Retail Factor 2012 – you may even have bought a tasty treat from our time in The Mall over the Easter period this year – and you may have sampled our delights at the Sutton Carnival this year! We make cakepops, cupcakes, celebration cakes, cake truffles and most recently, cookies – nothing sweet is safe from our oven!

We also run a number of workshops each month for adults and children on weekends, evenings and weekdays for people like you (yes, you!) to learn the basics like how to create beautiful swirls, decorations and co-ordinate your colours. Will your friends and family believe you created them yourself? Probably not – depends how trusting they are!! BUT you will go home with 6 cupcakes you have lovingly decorated with your own hard-working hands, in a presentation box and some helpful guides and recipes to help you at home. All you need to bring is 2.5 hours of your precious time, an apron and a sense of humour – we’ll provide the rest. Including copious amounts of tea!!

If you are in a cake pickle, and would like to swing by and have a cuppa, a cake and a chat about how to get out of said pickle, drop us a line – we can help you!

Maria Higginson

Chief Baker and Tester

I Love the Cake – 07793 131918

This article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine


Trust and Rust

Is there any one left that has earned or deserves our trust ? All of our major institutions have recently been tested and all have been found seriously wanting. Politicians on the fiddle and not listening, Journalists with the ethics of the playground, Bankers without any ethics at all . Even Doctors and Police trying to hang on to unrealistic pension rewards that you and I could only dream of. Do these people think that they are entitled to have so much more than “ordinary” folk ? On what basis and at what level do they disconnect from real life to attain their “superstatus” of entitlement that the rest of us have to contribute to? Unfortunately the only checks and levers of control are held in their own hands and in the hands of their peers . They aint going to change it any time soon!   On the brighter side of life , I cannot tell you how relieved I am that the boffins under the Alps have found the Higgs boson. Just like the car keys or my spectacles , I knew we had put it somewhere safe and can now relax. Can the Cern collider now put in a no win , no fee claim for whiplash ?  Butterflies . Could there be any more cheerful or colourful sign of summertime than the sight of butterflies floating over a wildflower meadow? Down in the Valley we must be doing something right. In 1999 there were recorded just 9 varieties of butterfly. So far this year , up to mid July, our hardy if rain rusted recorders, Bob and Steve have clocked up a magnificent 14 species. If the weather decides to improve sometime this year maybe this total can be surpassed. Keep looking fellers.

Jeff Gilbert

Jeff’s Useful Shop, Walmley
This article appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine


June and Jubilee

May has run it’s course and we enter June. This is the month that contains the longest day , so after that it will be all downhill. May seemed to forget that it is supposed to be our best spring month and decided to make liars of the Water Companies who declared a drought. Wetness returned with a  vengeance and our brooks, rivers and lakes filled fast. The countryside greened like never before . All the early flowers and blossom went head down in the drizzle and I expect that lots of us stayed in and missed the first flora of the year. What we did not miss was the arrival of our first swifts and swallows , who could be seen searching the sky for a meagre ration of their favourite insect fare. Also our garden birds started off their breeding season with tits, blackbirds and dunnocks all very active .The tits in particular are now feeding young in a non-stop frenzy. Someone somewhere with nothing better to do has estimated that each year Blue Tit parents feed to their young no less than 35billion moth caterpillars. Even without any of the other sources of food that is a lot of trips to nature’s supermarket !

At last ,as I write this in the last week of May , the sun has come out and we have the sun on our backs and faces . Why does the first real sunshine of the year affect people in such funny ways ?

Please look in the mirror before you come out and ask yourself or your   partner “do I really look OK in this or should it stay in that dark cupboard?”

Finally of course, in whatever way you please, celebrate and enjoy the     Jubilee Holiday, it may be the last time we have such an occasion again. Congratulations to our Queen and mind your step on that boat trip.

 

Jeff Gilbert

This article appeared in the June 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 8,000 homes in

Walmley and surrounding area’s.

 


The Sporting Life

Half the year gone, nights drawing in, what happened? July this year is sandwiched between the Jubilee and the Olympics. Still, not wishing to waste good telly time it seems that there is a football competition occurring to fill the gap, and not to forget Wimbledon. Blimey, I’m worn out all ready. We are now in the real summer of our seasons and hopefully St Swithin will be kind to us and it will not rain on the 15th and stay dry for the Olympics. The vibrant colours of spring are being replaced by the more muted midsummer greens and tans as the early spontaneity of flower and blossom dies away. The young and juveniles of foxes, hedgehogs and muntjac are striving for independence. Birds that not long ago were highly sexed and brightly coloured now seem quieter and subdued. Maybe just cream crackered ‘cos kids can be demanding can’t they ? Oh yes I have just remembered, our school holidays start this month as well. Back to nature, I am often asked whether we should feed the birds during the summer in our gardens. The answer is a definite Yes. If the birds are used to coming to your garden for food, i.e. an established feeding station then keep them coming by still putting out small amounts of their favourite foods but do not overfeed. Water is still also very important. In this way we can help the birds recover from the ravages of the breeding season and ensure a thriving population to amuse us in those short winter days. It is a two way process, you get your garden kept clear of grubs and bugs and the birds get a easy living summer, win win for all. Two months now and no mention of politics and no rants. Can I keep it up? Wait and see.

Jeff Gilbert

Article features in the July 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 8,000 homes in

Walmley and the surrounding areas

 

 


May and Meadows

May is the real heart of an English spring. It is the month when we realize that winter is finally over and summer is before us. The birds and bees are doing that which birds and bees do, blossoms and blooms are fresh and bright. The month holds such promise,…and yet it could also be cold and wet and windy. Who knows what this May holds in store ? We can only hope that our first open day of the year at the New Hall Water Mill will bless us with a fine day. On Sunday the 13th we invite visitors to come and see the mill working as it has for the last three centuries. Grinding local grain by water power into fresh bread making flour. There is no charge to visit , a field to park in and a tearoom to enjoy. If you have not yet visited us please try this year, we are open on the second Sunday of May, June, July, August and September. You will not be disappointed. On the June open day we will be taking a walk into the Valley to search out and try to identify the many varieties of wild flowers that now have established in a couple of the meadows. Come and join us and see what we can discover. The range and diversity of wildflowers seems to have increased greatly since the mowing regime of “cut and collect” has been used over the past couple of summers. This means that while seed has time to drop to the ground ,the cuttings which would enrich the soil if left ,are collected and used for hay.         Wildflowers dislike good soil and thrive on poor ground.

Whilst on the subject of poor ground, I trust that you voted in the local   election. Boring as it seems, it remains the only voice that we civilians have. If you do not vote then do not moan. Remember, we get the politicians and government that we deserve, local or national

 

 

Jeff Gilbert

New Hall Water Mill

New Hall Water Mill

This article appeared in the May 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine, delivered to 8,000 homes in

Walmley and surrounding area’s

 


Health – Sleep

The average adult in Sutton Coldfield now sleeps for less than 7 hours per night, but most of us need 8 hours. Even a minimal reduction in sleep affects your mood, efficiency and energy levels. Sleep is made up of stages and cycles which restore and refresh the mind and so, to stay healthy and perform optimally, getting 8 hours sleep is a necessity rather than a luxury! (more…)


Property – Is spring in the air for property market?

The news in the property market makes pretty grim reading. Average prices have fallen slightly over the last year and are predicted to stay flat in 2012; mortgage lending is still subdued while minimum deposits remain high and sales volumes are close to an all time low. The strange thing is it really doesn’t feel like that to me; it feels like spring is in the air. (more…)


Daffs and Longer Days

What a traditional March we have just had. Worked at the Mill in hot sunshine, walked in freezing sleet across the Valley with the grandkids, went to work in thick fog, took my vest off and put it back on , been warm and wet, cold and dry. Now we have changed the clocks and I hope April is kinder to us all. We have just passed the spring equinox so let`s see if this spring lives up to our expectations (ignoring, of course, the last Budget!) Already the snowdrops and crocuses are over for another year and the daffodils are at their last gasp. Must just mention the Walmley Get Real group who organised last years daffodil planting. To all who took part many thanks, the  village centre has enjoyed a great spring show.

Lots of things to remember this month. Let`s make a show of a few flags for the 23rd , St George`s Day. I realise that George is not a good role model , what with killing endangered species ( dragons ) and running off with maidens but at least he is ours , or Turkish or Maltese or whatever. Early Easter to celebrate in the usual way, Church and chocolate, buns and bunnies.

Down in the Valley the spring surge and urge is there to be seen and heard. From the increase in song from our many and varied birds  (70 species so far) to the flowering of first the blackthorn , followed by the hawthorn. It always gives a lift to the heart of everyone who is alert enough to notice these subtle changes and rhythms.  Remember that you have to get out there to fully experience and enjoy a real British spring, it only comes once a year!

Jeff Gilbert

 

This article appeared in the April 2012 edition of Walmley Pages Magazine,

delivered to 8,000 in Walmey and surrounding area’s


Sutton Coldfield man to undertake End 2 End Cycling Challenge

Local Supporter to undertake End 2 End Cycling Challenge

Local man Derek Wilson, of Sutton Coldfield, will be undertaking a mammoth 1,100 mile cycling challenge in May 2012 in order to raise funds for the Cancer Support Centre.

Derek will be setting off from Lands End, Cornwall on May 5th and will then cycle an average of 74 miles a day aiming to reach John O’Groats, Scotland 15 days later.

Derek said.  “This is the ultimate bike challenge for any cyclist in Britain and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.  However there is another reason for me doing this.  In August 2009, my wife Sue was diagnosed with bowl cancer, it has been a long and hard battle and it’s not quite over yet. “

“Along the way Sue and I have had great support from family and friends but sometimes you need outside support.  This came from customers of my business and the Cancer Support Centre in Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield.  The therapists, staff and volunteers were a tremendous source of help, support and advice at a very difficult time.  So to give something back I want to raise £1,100 which is £1 for every mile I will be travelling.”

Ann Mckeown, Fundraiser of The Cancer Support Centre, Sutton Coldfield said: “Derek is undertaking an amazing challenge and we really are grateful for all that he is doing for us.  I can’t imagine cycling just 74 miles in one day let alone doing the same distance every day for 15 days.”

“The money that Derek is hoping to raise for us will make a huge difference to the Centre.  We are completely independent and receive no government funding and rely entirely on the goodwill and support of local people like Derek.”

The Cancer Support Centre has a whole host of activities and events that people can join in with and is in particular looking for runners for the Great Midlands Fun Run to support the Centre.  For more information about how you can help The Cancer Support Centre and local people living with cancer call Ann Mckeown on 0121 378 6296 or email fundraising@suttoncancersupport.co.uk for details of the latest activities.

 


Recipe – Curry Roast Scallops

Unusual recipe for readers of Recommended Sutton Coldfield and Walmley Pages

Serves 4

Ingredients

16 scallops

1 tsp salt

2 tsp mild curry powder

50g butter

1 lemon

100g peeled & chopped parsnips

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tsp coriander seed

1 tsp fenugreek seed

100ml cream

100ml milk

2 granny smith apples

 

Method Start by making the parsnip puree; toast the cumin, fenugreek and coriander seeds in a pan, then add the chopped parsnip, milk & cream. Cook this mix until tender, then puree in a food processor until it is smooth and lump free. For the apple salad, just grate the apple on the coarse part of a grater, or cut into match stick sized strips.

Now for the scallops; mix the curry powder with the salt and season the scallops well, heat a pan until very hot, then add a little olive oil and allow this to come up to temperature. Add the scallops and cook for just one minute each side, then remove from the heat and allow to cool a little – 2 minutes should be long enough. Add the butter and lemon juice; shake the pan to emulsify the butter with the lemon juice. Serve with a little of the pan sauce and fresh coriander sprouts.

Daniel Jimminson Restaurateur

Recipe featured in Walmley Pages Magazine,

delivered to 8000 home in Sutton Coldfield


Motoring – Convertibles You Can Use Everyday

The appeal of a convertible is plain to see – good looks, especially with the top down, and the joys of wind in your hair motoring. Most of us need to use our cars all the time, though, and need practicality too – space for four passengers and their luggage, good build quality and reliability and, most importantly in this day and age, low running costs. Here are four ways to have your cake and eat it.

 

Volvo C70 (2006 to present) Based on the S40, the C70 is undoubtedly the best looking Volvo you can buy. It has an all singing, all dancing folding metal roof, all the safety features you could wish for and the ride, handling and refinement of a luxury  saloon. There are some hugely powerful   Turbos in the engine line up but I’d go for Volvo’s excellent 2.4 litre D5 diesel; it delivers all the performance you could wish for but still manages 40mpg around town. Better still, there’s plenty of room for 4 adults and a  commodious boot. A 2007 model with 75k on the clock can be yours for a very reasonable £8,500. For: Looks, quality, refinement, performance Against: Antique dealer connotations

 

BMW 320d Convertible (2000 to 2005) I still maintain that the last generation 3 series was the best that BMW has ever made and the convertible version totally proves my point. It is a stunning looker, particularly with the top down, and still sets the benchmark today as an all-round dynamic package. The silky smooth 3.0 litre straight six is hard to resist but I’ve gone for the most excellent 2.0 litre diesel which will punt you up to 62mph in 9.7 seconds but still give better than 50 mpg on a run. They are surprisingly expensive; £8000 puts you in a 05 plate with a hefty 85,000 miles under its belt. For: Lovely looks, great to drive, very economical Against: Last year’s model

Audi A4 Cabriolet (2000 to 2005) Ever since Princess Di bought one, the A4 Cabriolet has been an Audi icon. Underneath the celebrity glamour it is actually a very good car. It combines timelessly elegant looks with peerless build quality and precise handling. Audi makes the best diesel engines in the business and the 2.5 V6 is one of their finest. This is a car that will hit 140 yet still average 39mpg in mixed motoring. The Diana effect is still noticeable in the prices; you will need to stump up £8k for a 2004 version that has covered 60,000 miles. For: Style, build quality, performance. Against: Pricey, overly firm ride

Saab 9-3 Convertible  (2003 to present) Saab has had its ups and downs over recent years but the 9-3 soft top has been a consistent success story. The styling is still crisp 8 years down the line and it retains   several of the quirky features that Saab  loyalists cherish so dearly. Mechanically it has been left behind though; the 150bhp 1.9 diesel takes a painful 11.2 seconds to drag it up to 62 and the scuttle shake and under steer are relics of yesteryear. On the plus side, it is a reasonably well built old bruiser and there is plenty of room in the cabin. It’s relatively cheap too, a four year old with a mere 45,000 miles on it will cost you £7,500.

For: A handsome old brute, Saab individuality, value for money Against: Poor performance and economy, handling

 

Have you been persuaded?  Perhaps we will be seeing more convertibles in Sutton Coldfield soon.

 

This motoring feature appeared in Walmley Pages Magazine,

delivered to 8000 home in Sutton Coldfield


Travel – Viva Riva

I first heard about Riga from friends who had been for a stag weekend there; like Prague and other ex-Soviet Bloc cities, it is well established on the lad’s stag circuit. Unlike my friends, I decided to go for a romantic weekend with my girlfriend and, also rather differently, we went in  February when the temperature routinely plummets to -25°C. An act of madness? – let’s find out! 

Riga is the capital of Latvia, a country I had never heard of, which lies on the other side of the Baltic from    Sweden. Until 1991, it was part of Soviet Russia but it doesn’t feel like a Russian city, although you sometimes sense a world of gangsters and black marketers lurking beneath the surface.  In fact, some of the bars are run by gangs and exist solely to fleece unwary male tourists – a pretty girl will get chatting to you and ask you to buy her a drink; when the bill arrives it will be for several hundred pounds. It happened to a friend of mine so beware!

The main tourist area is  centred around the old town which is incredibly pretty and looks like something from the lid of a chocolate box. If you are into your  architecture, it is apparently the best example of art deco architecture in Europe. There is a nice mixture of         museums, bars and restaurants in the old town and it’s a lovely place to have a  wander around. All of   Northern Europe had been experiencing a seriously cold winter when we went and it was so cold in Riga that  people were skating on the river. We knew what to   expect though and had brought ski clothes along and it was actually good fun wandering around in the snow.

 

Latvia has its own currency, the Lati, and one of them is worth about £1.20.   Everything in the old town costs twice as much as   anywhere else in the city but, even so, a beer is still a very reasonable £2.40. We stayed in a small independent hotel in a lovely old building just outside the old town and it was charming and incredibly friendly. Our extremely  comfortable double room cost just £48 per night. The restaurants in Riga serve just about every type of food you can think of, though quite a few specialise in  Russian or Latvian food. On our first night we pushed the boat out and went to a place called Vincent’s and had a fantastic meal – not bad for £25 per head. The following night we went to a Russian place and ate our fill of stodgy but delicious grub, essential to soak up all the vodka they ply you with.

 

Our second day was taken up with a visit to the central market which sells all manner of things, many of them a bit dodgy, so I stocked up on suspiciously cheap Marlboros. The covered area of the market is built from a recycled   hangar that used to house Zeppelin airships, not   something you see in Sutton Coldfield. In the afternoon we did probably the most terrifying and   exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life, went on a genuine bobsleigh ride. We were the two passengers in between a professional driver and brakeman. I doubt that they go at full speed but you still hit 80mph and it is a huge adrenaline rush – not for the faint hearted!

 

Riga is a great place for Sutton Coldfield residents to go for a short city break; just try to avoid the tourist bars and, if you go in the winter, make sure you wrap up warm!

Matthew Trent

This article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield


Sutton Coldfield Property – Can you afford a sustainable home?

I’ve recently watched the two episodes of Kevin’s Grand Design. Kevin McCloud, the Grand Designs presenter, has previously confined his efforts to observing other people’s attempts to build their dream home. Now he has put his money where his mouth is and has invested in a project to build 42 homes on a new development in Swindon. This development is not just about building a few houses; it is an attempt to build a sustainable “happy” community. Some of the houses are to be sold; can they be sustainable and still fetch the market price?

 

The sustainable features differed from a standard new build in a number of areas. Each house would have a huge “chimney” which was in effect a ventilation shaft. All the houses would be rendered in “hempcrete,” a highly   insulating material which is also carbon neutral. The lofts were insulated with sheep’s wool which is sustainable but also bulky and expensive. Other eco-friendly ideas included a boggy common area that would soak up rainwater, a communal allotment and the concept of parking your car in the garden so that it didn’t clutter up the shared area in front of the houses.

 

The extra cost of the sustainable elements had to come off the budget in other areas; the kitchens were very cheap and nasty and there were no built in storage areas at all. The net result was that the houses earmarked for sale could not be sold at the break-even price of £160,000. As an estate agent trying to sell one of these houses a few years down the line, I’d have a number of     problems. Hempcrete is an unproven product so any surveyor is bound to have issues with it. An upmarket kitchen invariably adds value and makes a house easier to sell. Family homes with no storage space are notoriously hard to shift and off road parking that takes up your garden is never going to work.

 

I love Grand Designs but if I want a few tips on property developing I’ll stick to Sarah Beeny.

 

Craig Brown – Estate Agent

Article features in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield


Walmley Pages – IT and Media – Is the internet losing its sting?

 

The latest internet scam to affect Sutton Coldfield residents comes in the form of Android apps that contain illegal malware. What happens is this; you download a popular App such as Angry Birds from Android Market, which is Google’s version of Apple’s App Store. The download  appears to fail but that’s okay as you haven’t been charged for it. What has actually happened is that you have just given your phone “permission” to send a text message that will add £3 to your phone bill. This is a fairly widespread problem; a  security consultancy identified 27 apps on  Android Market that contained this malware, its name is RuFraud, and estimated that they had been downloaded some 140,000 times. Google has now removed all the infected apps.

It was glaringly obvious that this problem was going to occur. Google has never  vetted any of the apps that are listed on Android Market and even made a big deal of it, claiming they wanted to create an “open” marketplace. They may now have to rethink this strategy, particularly when you consider that Amazon has put its financial weight behind its own app market where every app is vetted before it can be listed.

Let’s put this latest scam in perspective though; admittedly, 140,000 people have each lost £3 and that is annoying, particularly for Google, but it is hardly the end of the world. Compare that to some of the other plagues that have stalked the internet over the years and it pales into insignificance. The most prolific internet scam that has generated the greatest losses has to be phishing which has been around for an         astonishing 15 years. This is where you receive an email purporting to be from your bank or credit card company asking you to enter your account details, user id and password. These details are then used to transfer money out of your account or buy things on your credit card. Countless people have lost thousands of pounds through phishing scams; globally losses are  estimated in the billions of dollars.

Then there are computer viruses, normally  transmitted by email, that do anything from slowing down your operating system to wiping your entire hard disk, many of which seem to have been created simply for the malicious  pleasure of causing the maximum amount of inconvenience to as many people as possible. Or what about malware – spybots, worms and   Trojans that can hijack your computer and use it to send spam emails, or record your keystrokes, or enable someone to spy on every email you send or website you visit.

The thing is, all of these threats are receding and I put this down to three developments. The first is the creation of anti-spam software that is  selective, effective and inexpensive. Computer viruses and phishing scams operate via email so anti-spam software greatly  reduces the threat from them. Secondly, anti-virus software is now highly developed and free versions are available online, from AVG for instance. This means that even if a virus should evade your anti-spam software or arrive on a memory stick, it will be detected and quarantined before it can do any damage. Finally, anti-malware software is now  extremely sophisticated and is usually incorporated in anti-virus software; Windows 7 and the latest version of Internet Explorer also have malware protection built in. Malware is not transmitted via email but rather via the internet – you can pick up a Trojan Horse simply by going on the wrong website – so this is a  major development.

I admit that there are issues around social media these days but these are more to do with privacy than internet security. There’s a simple solution, don’t post information online that you wouldn’t be happy for anyone to see.

The Wild West was eventually tamed. It is my firm belief that one day the internet will be to.

Graham Iek – IT Consultant

Article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield

 

 

 


Smoking Cessation

Smokers in Sutton Coldfield don’t worry – this article is not going to be another lecture about stopping smoking! You have to want to give up the cigarettes yourself; without a strong desire and determination to stop, you won’t achieve it, however much your partner would like you to. These days, we are all aware of the health risks that come with cigarette smoking; if and when you decide to quit, smoking cessation can occur with or without assistance from health care professionals or the use of medication, but there are a few things that can make life a bit easier:

 

Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT), in the form of patches, inhalers, gum, nasal spray, lozenges or microtabs can be really helpful. Your GP, pharmacist or your local NHS Stop Smoking Service can help you choose the treatment that will be most effective for you. This is dependent on many factors, such as how many cigarettes you smoke or whether you light up first thing in the morning. NRTs are a temporary aid to help you through the tough initial withdrawal period. Some smoking cessations treatments, such as Bupropion Hydrochloride are available on prescription only.

 

Cigarette withdrawal can also be aided with complementary therapies such as acupuncture, hypnosis and meditation. These can be used alone or in conjunction with NRT or other smoking cessation medications. Hypnosis has become known for its ability to change behaviours quickly by relaxing the mind enough to identify unconscious triggers. Acupuncture is a technique derived from traditional Chinese medicine that uses tiny needles to stimulate certain points on the body; for smokers, the idea is to help reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms throughout the body. Meditation is intended to relax the body and refocus thoughts; it is claimed that meditation releases dopamine in the brain, a process similar to nicotine triggering, the relaxing feeling that smokers crave.

 

If you are ready to quit, well done to you! Keep strong and motivated and enjoy a healthier and wealthier 2012!

Phoebe Hodge

 

For further information see www.smokefree.nhs.uk

Article featured in Walmley Pages Magazine, Sutton Coldfield


Sutton’s Kidz UK Sponsored Skydive

A number of willing volunteers will be jumping out of an aeroplane at 10,000 feet and freefalling for 5000 feet before floating back to earth on a tandem skydive.  They are doing this to help raise the funds to enable Andi Markham and the Sutton Coldfield based KidsUK team to continue to share the great message in the unique, fun and unforgettable way they do with thousands of children in our local schools.  Many children in Sutton Coldfield will recognise Andi and of course his friends Jack and Grandad. They’re hoping to raise £2000 by doing this.

Can you help?  You can donate online by visiting www.KidsUK.org

Can You help by becoming a KidsUK SkyDiver Yourself?  (There are still a couple of SkyDiver places left. For information please email Andi on info@KidsUK.org)

Kidz UK appreciate any support you are able to offer

 


Style Envy in Sutton Coldfield

 

There are few of us who don’t look forward to having our hair cut and styled, a perfect manicure or a spray tan. A little pampering makes everyone feel wonderful and is worth its weight in gold.

However, people lead such busy lives it is not always possible to visit a salon when you work until late or have small children. There are also many people with limited personal mobility or without transport.

After four years working as a hair stylist in a salon and spa, Siân Bridges of Sutton Coldfield, decided that everyone deserves an ‘elite’ experience.

She explains: “Style Envy was created for busy people and those who aren’t able to travel or arrange childcare. Our client base includes executives who work long hours, older people who are unable to leave their homes, and small children whose parents work full time.

“I believe everyone deserves to be pampered and think of us as inclusive – not exclusive. We offer everything you would expect from a luxury salon in the convenience and comfort of your home.”

Although the variety of services and products is extensive, Style Envy pride itself on a full range of pamper packages for weddings, proms, and special occasions. The Sutton Coldfield team will even travel to wedding venues to ensure brides look perfect throughout the day.

Hair Style Envy Aveda-trained stylists use only Aveda hair products, which are made from plant and flower extracts and completely natural. They specialise in ‘hair up’ for special occasions and offer an impressive range of styles for all lengths of hair.

Nails Style Envy manicures include Shellac varnish, which is applied like a polish, set under a UV lamp, and lasts for up to two weeks. Most importantly, it doesn’t dull, smudge, chip or damage the nail and can be removed easily.

Body Style Envy use Sienna X, which is the leading tanning system in the UK. It contains moisturising ingredients that nourish the skin and is available in varying strengths.

To make an appointment or find out more about Style Envy packages: call 0121 308 4196 or 07712  671161 email sian@styleenvyuk.com or visit www.styleenvyuk.com

Style Envy also feature in Recommended Magazine Sutton Coldfield


IT’S A CHALLENGING TIME FOR THE CANCER SUPPORT CENTRE

 

 

It’s that time of year when peoples thoughts turn from cosy night’s in front of the fire finishing off the Christmas chocolates to bright mornings and summer holidays.  And the realisation that this year they may have over done the festivities yet again.  So what to do about it

 Why not sign up for a challenge and raise funds for the Cancer Support Centre – a local charity based in Sutton Coldfield, working to help local people affected by cancer. 

Ann Mckeown, Fundraiser at the Cancer Support Centre says “There are probably lots of people out there thinking about the need to tone up and slim down this year. They may even be thinking about ‘challenging themselves’ in some other way.  It’s also a challenging time for the Cancer Support Centre.  We moved to new premises in Sutton Coldfield, February last year and extended our opening hours so knew we would be able to support more people.  However new client numbers are up over 40% and we have already provided more treatments so far this financial year than we did in the whole of the previous year. So it’s putting a real strain on our resources.”

 The Cancer Support Centre is asking people if they have set themselves a New Year’s resolution if they would also add a charity challenge to this as well and raise some much needed funds for the Cancer Support Centre.  There are lots of ready made opportunities that people can take part in.  For example the Great Midlands Fun Run 2012 opens its registration for this year’s event on Friday February 3rd and the Cancer Support Centre has a small number of guaranteed places for the Birmingham Half Marathon later in the year.  The Centre would also love to hear from anyone who may be undertaking a more gently challenge as they can help with ideas and materials such as sponsor forms and posters.

Ann says “We need to raise £110,000 this year in order to continue to provide support, advice and complementary therapies to the many local people diagnosed with cancer this year.  It’s a been a challenging year in lots of ways with high and low points but without more funds the number of people we can support will always be limited.  So if anyone is signing up for the Great Midlands Fun Run don’t forget to support the Cancer Support Centre.”

 To find out more about how you can help The Cancer Support Centre, Sutton Coldfield and local people living with cancer call Ann Mckeown on 0300 012 0245 or email fundraising@suttoncancersupport.co.uk for details of the latest activities.


OLYMPIC SWIMMER URGES SYNCHRONISED SUPPORT FOR 2012 ST GILES HOSPICE SOLSTICE WALK

A 2012 Olympics hopeful from the Sutton Coldfield is encouraging women across the region to grab some glory of their own this summer by taking part in the St Giles Hospice Solstice Walk. Synchronised swimmer Yvette Baker has begun the official countdown to St Giles’ biggest single fundraising event of the year by calling on women to sign up now – and help raise thousands of pounds for the care of local people living with cancer and other serious illnesses. The 2012 Solstice Walk, sponsored by Lichfield-based Florette, the UK’s leading prepared salad specialist, is a high-spirited night-time 9-mile stroll through the streets of Lichfield taking place on Saturday 23rd June. Yvette (20), who is from Sutton Coldfield, says: “Coming from the local area, I’m well aware of the superb work that St Giles Hospice does for people in need – and the Solstice Walk is a fantastic opportunity for women to get together, have a great time and raise money for a really worthy cause.”

 

The Solstice Walk is open to women aged 16 and over, and entry is £15. To sign up, visit http://www.stgileshospice.com/solsticewalk, calling Jenni Dawson on 01543 432542, email jenni.dawson@st-giles-hospice.org.uk.