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Half of adults want more effort from partners on Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day has been dubbed a waste of money with novelty mugs and cheap underwear amongst the worst presents.

More than half of the 2,015 adults polled, said their partner should make more effort, rather than splurge on presents they don’t even want.

Respondents reported the rubbish gifts they had received included ‘wrong’ perfume, socks, candles and even, a car mat.

But while most said the day of lovers is a waste of time, one in three said they’d be gutted if their better half did nothing to celebrate.

Travel together

The research by Railcard.co.uk, found that one in five said a trip away would be the best romantic gesture with the Lake District top destination in the UK.

Relationship expert and coach, Sarah Louise Ryan, said: “Couples who travel together often end up more fulfilled and happier in their relationship.

“There are many reasons for this; inclusive of the fact it encourages communication and can deepen feelings of commitment as they plan their trips ahead of time, looking towards the future.

“Travel allows more opportunities for romance and time outside of the day-to-day routine, meaning romantic sparks can be reignited.

“Where flowers and chocolates can play a part, this Valentine’s Day I’d encourage all couples to carve out some time to book and experience a romantic getaway, whether for a day trip or a long weekend.”

The study also found 36% had considered a trip together as a way to rekindle a floundering relationship.

Fixed penalties: Almost 1,000 London cyclists fined in nine months

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Nearly 1,000 cyclists have been issued fixed penalty notices for running red lights since the launch of the City of London’s Cycle Response Unit nine months ago.

Since last July, 944 fixed penalty notices have been issued for incidents such as going through red lights and endangering pedestrians.

Yesterday, a cycle roadshow took place outside Mansion House as part of the force’s efforts to educate, engage, and enforce road safety. While it was happening, a cycle operation was being held at Bank Junction to address anti-social behavior and traffic violations.

Cyclists who were caught running red lights and jeopardising the safety of pedestrians and other road users, were invited to attend, with those refusing facing a £50 fine.

Lord mayor, professor Michael Mainelli and lady mayoress Elisabeth Mainelli were at the event, where they met the City of London Police and partners organising the roadshow.

Those who attended the roadshow had the chance to have their bike looked at by a cycle mechanic from Nip Nip, have their bike registered and marked and sit inside an HGV lorry to see the road from the view point of a lorry cab.

London Fire Brigade spokem to the public about the dangers of e-bikes and e-scooters, whilst police offers spoke about crime.

Professor Mainelli said: “The Square Mile is a safe area – a world-leading business district and leisure destination that appeals to workers, residents, and visitors alike. It is a vibrant place for everyone to enjoy. The event was a great opportunity to educate cyclists about making their way around safely, for themselves, fellow pedestrians, and road users.”

Since July, the Cycle Response Unit have also seized 192 illegal e-bikes and e-scooters, made 80 arrests and given key advice and guidance to 8,663 people.

Commander Umer Khan of City of London Police, said: “Cycling operations around big interchanges have made a significant difference in reducing anti-social behaviour by road users in the City of London. The cycle team is one of our visible units people see on the streets, however, their vital work cannot be done without a wealth of dedicated officers and key partners such as the City of London Corporations Highways and Transport for London (TfL) working together, helping keep the City streets the amongst the safest in the country.

“The majority of cyclists are safe and obey the Highway Code, however, we are educating, engaging and where necessary enforcing those road users who go through red lights, putting themselves and pedestrians at risk. I’m very grateful to the Lord and Lady Mayor of London for taking an interest in the proactive work of officers are carrying out.”

Free drinks for London marathon runners

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Runners can earn themselves a much-deserved free drink this weekend, if they completed the 2024 London marathon.

To celebrate the achievement of completing one of the UK’s most famous runs, pub company and brewer, Greene King, is offering lucky finishers of the mammoth 26.2 mile run a drink on the house in participating Greene King pubs. 

Anyone who shows proof of completing the run can earn one of a selection of free drinks on offer. These include a pint of Guinness or Guinness 0.0, or a single Beefeater Gin & Tonic. Soft drinks are also available to enjoy as part of the offer including; a refreshing glass of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, Diet Coke, or Schweppes Lemonade.  

Alex Dawson, business unit director, for Greene King pubs, said: “We want to wish the best of luck to all those who will be running the marathon this weekend, which is sure to be a fantastic, yet difficult challenge.  

“To complete a marathon is an amazing achievement that takes a lot of planning, perseverance, and often months and months of training and dedication. Anyone who completes this mammoth run can be truly proud of themselves, and to celebrate this year’s finishers, we wanted to give them a drink on us – it’s the least we could do!  

“The three day offer means if you’re exhausted and want a much-needed rest after your marathon, you can pop down to one of our pubs until Tuesday (23rd) and enjoy your hard-earned free drink.” 

The offer is available in over 115 pubs in London between April 21– 23. Guests must bring their medal and proof of results on TSC London Marathon official website, along with ID to claim their free drink.

For a full list of participating pubs, T&Cs or to book your table for your post-marathon pint, visit: https://www.greeneking.co.uk/london-marathon  

Elwood Advisors Welcomes Christine Wilson as New Director of Communications

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In a significant development for the boutique consultancy firm Elwood Advisors, Christine Wilson has been appointed as the new Director of Communications. This move marks a new chapter for the firm, underscoring its dedication to growth and the expansion of its service offerings in the challenging sector of business consultancy.

Founders George Kefalas and Michael Ariti, who have propelled Elwood Advisors to a prominent position in the industry, have cultivated a portfolio of tailored solutions ranging from corporate finance to brand strategy and stakeholder engagement. Their visionary approach has consistently delivered success for their clients.

The addition of Christine Wilson to the team underscores Elwood Advisors’ commitment to ambitious growth. George Kefalas expressed his excitement, stating, “Bringing Christine into the fold is a game-changer for us. Her track record is impeccable, and her familiarity with our operations makes her the perfect choice to lead our communications efforts. We’re looking at a bright future ahead with Christine on board.”

Wilson comes to Elwood Advisors with a robust background in leading significant campaigns and initiatives, perfectly aligning with the firm’s ethos of providing bespoke consultancy services. “Working alongside George and John in the past has been a highlight of my career. I’m thrilled to be joining Elwood Advisors officially and am excited to contribute to the firm’s narrative and growth,” Wilson remarked.

Her role is pivotal in Elwood Advisors’ strategy to enhance its consultancy services and reaffirm its commitment to excellence in client service. Michael Ariti noted, “Christine’s approach to communications is exactly what we need to propel our growth and enhance our market presence. We’re confident that her leadership will enrich our team’s dynamics and help us achieve new milestones.”

With Christine Wilson at the helm of communications, Elwood Advisors is set to embark on a period of invigorated focus and strategic development. The firm remains dedicated to navigating clients through the complexities of achieving prosperous and sustainable business ventures.

Allegations of Mismanagement and Market Manipulation Plague Lottery.com Inc.: Shareholders Demand Accountability

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In a saga of corporate intrigue, Lottery.com Inc. finds itself embroiled in a controversy surrounding alleged mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and market manipulation. Shareholders, representing a substantial stake in the company, have raised serious concerns about the conduct of key executives and board members, casting a shadow over the once-promising enterprise.

On April 12, 2024, a coalition of shareholders led by Nicola Usaty, collectively holding 55,670 shares of Lottery.com Inc., made a decisive move. They conducted an exhaustive due diligence review of Lottery’s governance structure, focusing on developments since the appointment of Matt McGahan as Chairman of the Board in November 2022. Their findings prompted a letter addressed to the Board of Directors, urging the immediate removal of Matt McGahan from his roles as Chairman, CEO, President, and Secretary of the company. Many other shareholders have started to join the petition as Conflict of Interest and Suspected Market Manipulation started to emerge.

Central to the shareholders’ concerns are allegations of a glaring conflict of interest involving Matthew McGahan and Barney Battles, key figures within Lottery.com Inc. The shareholders suspect potential market manipulations orchestrated by members of the Board of Directors, further exacerbating the company’s tumultuous situation.

A pivotal moment in Lottery’s recent history revolves around a proposed investment from OneStream Invest Ltd. (OneStream), a UK-based company. Despite initial agreements and shareholder approval, Lottery seemingly veered away from OneStream’s offer in favor of an investment from Prosperity Investment Management (Prosperity) through UCIL’s financing vehicle. The abrupt stock price surge following the announcement of the Prosperity deal raised eyebrows, only to plummet shortly afterward. Four months down the line, Lottery has yet to receive any financing from Prosperity or any other investors, leaving shareholders disillusioned and suspicious.

The Board then declined an alternative investment proposal of $10 million from Woodford Finance (Woodford) in January 2024. As Lottery grapples with its financial woes, the specter of bankruptcy looms large. Woodford, poses a significant threat, with the potential to seize control of Lottery’s assets in the event of default. The company’s assets, including valuable domain names, serve as collateral for a loan from Woodford, intensifying the stakes of the ongoing power struggle.

In their quest to safeguard shareholder rights and uncover the truth, the coalition of concerned shareholders has submitted a comprehensive list of questions to the Lottery Board.

Nikola Usaty, one of the shareholders, questions Lottery Board decisions with the following comment:

“We want to know why did the Board turn down offers from legitimate investors like One Stream and Woodford, opting instead for a deal with Prosperity and UCIL? The latter being directly connected Matthew McGahan and Barney Battles. We have suspicions about who profited from the surge in Lottery’s stock price following the UCIL deal announcement, despite the absence of actual investment funds. We are determined to uncover the truth and hold accountable those who may have exploited the situation.”

Lottery.com Inc. stands at a crossroads, grappling with allegations of corporate malfeasance and financial instability. As the investigation into governance practices and market dealings unfolds, shareholders remain vigilant, determined to unearth the truth and restore integrity to the embattled company. The coming days will undoubtedly be pivotal, shaping the fate of Lottery and its stakeholders amidst a backdrop of uncertainty and scrutiny.

Alarming surge in landlord possession claims and repossessions, reported

New research from LandlordBuyer found that in the last quarter of 2023, there were 23,282 landlord possession claims and 6,649 repossessions in England and Wales.

Comparing the last quarter of 2022 to the last quarter of 2023:

  • Landlord possession claims increased from 20,457 to 23,382 
  • Orders increased from 16,145 to 18,003 
  • Warrants increased from 8,778 to 9,833
  • Repossessions increased from 5,427 to 6,649 

These figures aren’t just exclusive to the rental market, there has also been an increase in UK mortgage claims and warrants:

  • Mortgage possession claims increased from 3,163 to 4,384 
  • Orders increased from 2,482 to 2,702 
  • Warrants increased from 2,131 to 2,200 
  • Repossessions by county court bailiffs decreased from 735 to 593 (19%). 

LandlordBuyer managing director, Jason Harris-Cohen, said: “I don’t think any of the LandlordBuyer team was surprised to see the rate of repossessions, warrants and claims increase.

“Despite the average UK private rent increasing annually by 9%, landlord costs have risen exponentially, which has created a negative disparity. The most worrying element has been mortgage rates. Landlords coming off fixed-rate, buy-to-let mortgages have found new rates are double what they may have fixed in to five years ago. 

“Refinancing in the buy-to-let sector now means very slim margins to work with and even heightened rents can’t make up the short fall – especially as insurance policies, maintenance and materials have all risen in cost. It’s a simple case of the rent being received doesn’t always fully cover mortgage repayments.”

In February this year, UK Finance figures found there was an 11% rise in repossessions of buy-to-let properties. It also found homeowners in mortgage arrears increased by 7%.

Will the rate of landlord repossessions continue to rise?

“Potentially,” says Jason.

“The industry is still focused on the Renters’ Reform Bill and how landlords may have to adapt. We know the Bill includes the application of a Decent Homes Standard in the private rental sector, and finance may have to be found for improvements. 

“If landlords’ only way of raising money for improvements is to remortgage, they will potentially overextend themselves and tread a fine line between profit and loss. It only takes an unexpected turn in the economy for rents to fall, tenant demand to decrease, and mortgage rates to rise. We really need the stars to align to see a fall in repossessions.” 

Over £500,000 of cannabis seized as three charged

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City of London Police, working with the National Crime Agency, has seized multiple strains of hybrid Californian cannabis estimated to have a street value of over half a million pounds.

The team arrested and charged three people in connection with bringing a large quantity of cannabis into the UK.

Luke French (35) of Moat Lane, Birmingham was charged with fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of class B drug and possessing with intent to supply cannabis.

Joanne Parkes (47) of Benedon Road, Birmingham was charged with fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of class B drug and possessing with intent to supply cannabis. She was also charged with possession of criminal property.

Roberto Martinez (32) of Huntingdon Park, California, was charged with fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of class B drug and possessing with intent to supply cannabis.

Officers seized cannabis believed to be worth upwards of £500,0000 and around £5,000 in cash.

All three appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court on April 10 and were remanded in custody until a hearing at Inner London Crown Court on May 8.

Detective superintendent Richard Waight, City of London Police said: “This is a significant haul in our fight against the illegal trafficking and supply of drugs in the city and across London. Drugs in London severely impacts our communities, drives violence and organised crime and can lead to vulnerable people being exploited.

“City of London Police are committed to bringing organised crime groups to justice and making our streets safer.”

Grant programme returns to back small, independent operators in London

Small independent restaurants in London can now apply for an £11,000 business boost as the American Express-supported grant programme returns for a third year.

Run by the International Downtown Association (IDA) Foundation in partnership with the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM) in the UK, the global Backing International Small Restaurants programme is back in the UK and has expanded to nine major cities across five countries in 2024.

A total of 20 eligible restaurants of community significance across both London and Manchester will each receive a grant of £11,000 to enhance their business operations and the experience for diners in the months ahead.

These improvements will have a long-term impact on business growth and sustainability, allowing owners to grow their customer base and increase community vibrancy.

The grant programme comes at a time when hospitality operators continue to face a challenging market and rising costs across all areas of their business. The programme will help boost a hospitality sector with its sights set firmly on growth over the next 12 months.

According to new American Express research, in the UK, one third (33%) of hospitality businesses plan to invest in their premises over the next 12 months. The top factors driving this investment are the desire to win new customers (43%) and improve the customer experience (36%).  

Dan Edelman, vice president and general manager of UK Merchant Services at American Express, said: “We’re delighted to once again back small independent restaurants and this year, extend the grant programme to cover venues in Manchester. Our hope is that the grant funding offers a welcome boost to its recipients.”

David Downey, Executive Director, IDA Foundation, said: “We’re excited to be partnering with American Express again for the third year of the Backing International Small Restaurants programme. This year’s expansion to nine global cities demonstrates our shared commitment to boosting long-term sustainability for culturally significant and independent restaurants. By increasing the grant amount, we can provide even greater support to these businesses, empowering them to thrive and continue to be cultural cornerstones within their communities.”

Gordon McGowan, owner of Buster Mantis in Deptford (pictured) received a grant last year. He said: “I’m delighted to see this programme return for its third year. Last year’s grant allowed us to carry out essential upgrades to our restaurant – something which ultimately allowed everyone at Buster Mantis to remain focused on our mission of providing people in our community with great food and drink, in a welcoming atmosphere.”

Restaurant owners in London can learn more about the programme, eligibility and apply for the grant at downtown.org/foundation. The deadline for applications is May 30.

Michael Smith Engineers joins forces with Pump Hygienic to enhance GB Hygienic Pump offerings

Michael Smith Engineers Limited proudly announces a strategic alliance with Viking Pump Hygienic (formerly Wright Flow Technologies), designed to enhance the range of hygienic pump solutions available throughout Great Britain.

This partnership combines Viking Pump’s acclaimed hygienic products with the highly respected distribution capabilities of Michael Smith Engineers, recognised as the premier pump distributor in the UK. This move builds on a strong foundation established in 2007 when Michael Smith Engineers began distributing Viking Pump Industrial products.

The collaboration broadens Michael Smith Engineers’ range, introducing a comprehensive selection of rotary lobe and circumferential piston pumps to its hygienic pump portfolio. With its offices in Surrey and Yorkshire, Michael Smith Engineers will help to extend Viking Pump Hygienic’s presence across England.

Jason Downing, Sales Director at Michael Smith Engineers, shared his excitement about the partnership: “We are thrilled to align with Viking Pump Hygienic, a brand synonymous with quality and performance. This collaboration enables us to offer hygienic positive displacement pumps to our extensive customer base in the pharmaceutical, food & beverage, and chemical industries across England, Scotland, and Wales.”

Paul Cuttell, Business Line Leader at Viking Pump Hygienic, also spoke highly of the partnership: “Michael Smith Engineers Limited has a long history of excellent service and experience solving customer’s pumping challenges. With a long-standing relationship with Viking Pump, adding our hygienic product line to their portfolio is a natural step in providing ongoing support and product availability in Great Britain.”

Viking Pump Hygienic, headquartered in Eastbourne, has over four decades of experience in crafting hygienic pumping solutions and proudly works with authorised and factory-trained distribution partners worldwide, such as Michael Smith Engineers.

This partnership highlights both companies’ dedication to providing top-tier pump solutions and exceptional customer service. It signifies a key development in Michael Smith Engineers’ mission to deliver state-of-the-art and dependable pump technologies to address the changing needs of its clientele.

INTO University Partnerships’ Foundation Medicine Programme: A Beacon of Success

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INTO University Partnerships’ foundation programme in medicine and health has witnessed remarkable success, with the majority of its students obtaining conditional offers to study medical degrees in the UK and internationally.

This academic year, 70% of international students from the 2023 cohort who are focused on pursuing medicine have been granted offers for a five-year MBBS degree.

The programme at the INTO London Centre began in April 2022, with the first intake of international students in September 2022. It provides foundation students with pathways to numerous prestigious universities worldwide, including several in the QS Top 150, and to a range of competitive degrees in the health professions.

Students in the programme study core modules in biology, chemistry, mathematics, and research skills, in addition to two exclusive medicine modules developed for and taught only at INTO London. These are Advanced Sciences for Medicine, which extends students’ scientific foundations with medical-specific content, and Professional and Communication Skills for Medicine, designed to cultivate the necessary skills for succeeding in medical interviews and in the healthcare profession.

Nara from South Korea, who was among the first cohort, successfully secured unconditional offers to study medicine at Aston University and at Queen Mary University of London, Malta Campus.

Nara noted, “As an international student, it’s very important to know how to communicate well. At INTO, I take part in English classes and improve my academic writing, and how to prepare for presentations – this really helped me when writing personal statements. I also have 1-1 sessions with the university progression and career manager, during which I discuss personal statements and they provide feedback for applying to university medical schools.”

An impressive 95% of the programme’s students have received offers from UK universities for various medical-related degrees. For those who did not receive offers for medicine, opportunities have been secured in programmes like Biomedical Sciences, Medical Sciences, Pharmacology, and Biology at universities such as Bristol University, Queen Mary University of London, Aston University, and University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Robin Peel, the Centre Director at INTO London, stated, “We have designed this foundation programme in medicine and health professions to give our students the best chance of getting into and being successful on their chosen health degree with excellent progression options, a guaranteed interview at a UK medical school and unique specialist modules.”

INTO University Partnerships supports students throughout the university application process, including offering a part-time online University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) preparation course during the summer prior to the commencement of the foundation programme.

Students benefit from personalised support in one-on-one sessions, and through group sessions, they navigate the application process together. The University Progression and Careers Manager at INTO London also organises personal statement workshops, guest lectures, and masterclasses with medical professionals, in addition to providing interview preparation and practice.

INTO London students regularly attend practical classes in the ‘Superlab’ at London Metropolitan University’s modern campus, which features one of Europe’s largest laboratories. This lab serves as a critical resource for academic and professional development, where students refine their lab skills, enhance their English for scientific communication, and learn to confidently use advanced lab equipment.

The INTO London Centre offers tailored university preparation programmes that guarantee entry to over 100 universities across the UK and Europe. Situated near London’s bustling financial district and the culturally rich areas of Spitalfields, Brick Lane, and Shoreditch, the centre provides an enriching educational environment.

Over the years, since its establishment in 2005, INTO University Partnerships has helped over 150,000 students from more than 180 countries to achieve their academic ambitions at leading universities in the US, UK, and Australia.

Vanquish Academy Launches 21-Day Close Protection Training with Specialised Grants for Women

As part of its global expansion, Vanquish Academy proudly announces the launch of its 21 Day Close Protection Training Course. This course is specifically crafted to meet the global demands of close protection roles and signifies the academy’s commitment to inclusivity and excellence in security training, particularly as it moves into the Middle East and other regions.

In an unprecedented move, Vanquish Academy is offering eight half-price grants solely for female candidates, affirming its commitment to supporting women in the close protection field. All interested applicants must pass through the academy’s rigorous selection process, ensuring the highest level of training and professionalism.

“Our goal is to empower more women to enter and excel in the security industry, which has traditionally been male-dominated,” stated Michael Chandler, Chief Operating Officer and course founder at The Vanquish Group (owners of Vanquish Training Academy).

“By offering these grants, we hope to not only open doors for aspiring female close protection officers but also to enrich the field with diverse perspectives and skills.”

Applications for the 21 Day Close Protection Training Course are currently open, with the first course scheduled to start in May 2024. For more information and to apply, visit VanquishAcademy.com/close-protection-training.