Work
About
Work
About
Reopening the property market during lockdown
Reopening the property market during lockdown
From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the government’s agenda?
From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the Government’s agenda?

Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Sustainability Disclosure Requirements: Where do we go from here?

Sustainability Disclosure Requirements have long been on the industry’s radar, supported by wider international actions surrounding the need to combat climate change and protect our environment. However, more recently, clarity around what these requirements entail and how we can appropriately implement them has been notable by its absence – leaving many to wonder, what comes next?

The history of SDR

In July 2021, the Chancellor announced the new Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) at his Mansion House speech. These requirements were to be focused on combining existing requirements with new ones in an effort to create a new sustainable investment labelling regime which would make it easier for consumers to navigate the investment products available to them.

The SDR were then fleshed out three months later in October, when, just before hosting COP26, the Treasury laid out its roadmap to sustainable investing: Greening Finance.
This detailed what the SDR would need to include, and when; how the SDR should report against the (forthcoming) UK Green Taxonomy; considerations to be made in the day-to-day running of business to ensure responsible stewardship; the potential for ESG data and ratings providers to be brought into the scope of the regulator and Government expectations for asset managers, asset owners and service providers as part of the UK’s transition to net-zero.

Details were “subject to further consideration” and in November, the FCA opened a consultation on SDR and investment labelling, inviting views from the industry at large on the pending obligations. Responses came from far and wide in support of the SDR, with suggestions around labelling, how to make the requirements accessible to consumers, and how the SDR could fit in with other standards.

That consultation was closed in January of this year and the next steps for the SDR were lauded to be in the Queen’s Speech in May. However, while the Treasury stated that it “remained committed to implementing sustainability disclosure requirements” and would “proceed with the necessary legislation in due course”, a reluctance to impose any new regulations on businesses at that time meant that the SDR were notable by their absence in the Financial Services Bill.

This decision was met with notable frustration across the financial industry, with some suggesting that the postponement of the SDRs was a missed opportunity for the UK to reaffirm its position as a global environmental leader as well as denying business the much-needed guidance, clarity and confidence in aligning their processes with a 1.5C future.

Now, the FCA has said it will publish a consultation paper on the sustainability disclosure requirements, including sustainable investment labels, in July, but that formal engagement will not be until Q4 this year.

So, with a moving timeline and a distinct lack of clarity around what the SDR is going to look like, where do we go from here?

 

Join us

On 30th June, WA will be hosting a panel discussion to explore where the industry needs to go next. We’ll explore the Government’s latest developments of the regulation, the main concerns facing the industry and what effective SDR really look like.

 

Confirmed panellists

 

Andrew Death, Deputy Director, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Andrew Death is a Senior Civil Servant in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. He has been a civil servant for 21 years and is currently Deputy Director for audit and corporate reporting. His responsibilities include delivering changes to the corporate reporting framework to implement Government policy of ESG reporting, as well as delivering legislative change to increase competition, choice and resilience in the audit market.

 

Louisiana Salge, Senior Sustainability Specialist, EQ Investors

Louisiana is responsible for overseeing EQ’s ESG and impact integration strategy across all assets, its stewardship efforts and sustainability data reporting.

 

Louisiana first joined EQ Investors in 2018 on an internship during her master’s degree programme at Imperial College London, where she conducted research on impact measurement for her thesis. This formed the groundwork for EQ’s award-winning Positive Impact Report, and she joined the firm as a Sustainability Specialist after graduating. Over the last 2 years, Louisiana has developed, and implemented common sustainability standards across all assets managed at EQ. She also leads as a specialist across the three sustainable portfolios managed at EQ: Positive Impact, Future Leaders, Climate Action.

 

James Alexander, CEO, UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association
James Alexander joined UKSIF as Chief Executive in October 2020, with a strong vision and mandate to further enhance the organisation’s key role in promoting and expanding sustainable investment and finance in the UK.

 

James has a background in international climate finance and infrastructure finance as well as many years’ experience in leadership roles in membership organisations. Most recently, James supported global megacities to overcome the substantial barriers to financing climate action as Director of the City Finance Programme at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Head of the C40 Cities Finance Facility – a project preparation facility he developed, now supporting cities across the world to structure nearly a billion dollars of sustainable infrastructure transactions. James has worked on international climate finance issues at the UN level and supported cities across the world to invest their pensions and reserves more sustainably.

James is Treasurer of Eurosif, the European Sustainable Investment Forum, a member of the Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG) providing advice to the UK Government on implementing a UK green taxonomy and a member of the Disclosures and Labels Advisory Group (DLAG) providing advice to the FCA on the UK’s SDR and fund labelling regime.

 

When:
Thursday 30th June,
08:00 arrival for 08:30 start, close at 10:00

Where:
WA Communications,
6th Floor, Artillery House,
11-19 Artillery Row,
London, SW1P 1RT

 

RSVP AnaNogalesGarcia@wacomms.co.uk

Share this content:

The By-Elections and Boris Johnson’s Future

By-elections often trigger a minor political explosion but before very long the noise subsides. What happened in the early hours of this morning is different. There were three significant eruptions before most voters had woken up. The noise is about to get louder.

The least seismic development was Labour’s gain in Wakefield. In mid-term, an opposition party would expect to win such a seat. But even this win makes bigger waves than might have been the case in different circumstances. Boris Johnson’s great distinctive pitch as a leader of the Conservative party has been his appeal in the so called Red Wall. Most Tory MPs know he is a chaotic figure and is, in many ways, unsuited for government. However, some still dared to hope that only he could keep together the contradictory coalition of support that won them a near landslide in December 2019. There is vivid evidence that he is becoming an electoral liability even in those seats that turned to him at the general election. Let us not forget the Conservatives gained Hartlepool in a by-election a year ago, largely because of Johnson’s appeal. His fall as an electoral asset has been speedy.

Losing Wakefield is made much worse by the outcome in Tiverton. The swing to the Liberal Democrats shows that the Conservatives could face their ultimate nightmare, losing to Labour in some parts of the country and to Ed Davey’s party elsewhere. This was a seat the Conservatives held even in the 1997 general election, when Tony Blair won a landslide.

The third development is the most significant. The resignation of the Conservative chairman, Oliver Dowden, breaks the spell that Johnson is in full command of his government even if many of his backbenchers had no confidence in him. It was when the cabinet turned against Margaret Thatcher in 1990 that she fell. In his own way, Dowden’s resignation letter was scathing not least given he backed Johnson in the Conservative leadership contest and had been devotedly loyal since.

What happens next? Having spoken to some Conservative MPs this morning, I sense the mood is even more febrile than in the build up to the vote of confidence in Johnson earlier this month. Some are wondering if other cabinet ministers might resign. As I write, there is no indication of that. They had the chance to act when that vote of confidence took place and they opted to stay. Dowden did not consult cabinet colleagues. He acted alone.

For sure Johnson will seek to stay in Number 10. He is not going voluntarily. I am told he has convinced himself that he has a personal mandate from the 2019 election, and nothing can override the voters’ endorsement of him then, at least until he calls the next general election.

In theory there can be no vote of confidence in Johnson for another year, but that rule can be revised. The chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady, though not a great fan of Johnson, is extremely reluctant to bring in rule changes. It will take a new development to bring about another vote of confidence in the coming weeks or months, more cabinet resignations or Tory MPs who voted for Johnson in the vote of confidence now saying publicly he must go. But look out for elections to the 1922 executive to be held before the summer recess. Almost certainly the balance will move towards Johnson’s critics within the parliamentary party.

The by-elections have intensified the storm over Johnson’s leadership when there are many more mountainous challenges to come this summer and autumn, most specifically the cost-of-living crisis and the related industrial action. Crises tend to feed on themselves. Capable of fleeting introspective melancholy, Johnson will wonder whether the strategy of seeking new Brexit style divisions is working. Some in Number 10 had hoped that the strikes, the new Rwanda policy for asylum seekers, and further battles with the EU over Northern Ireland would help them at least win the Tiverton by-election. These policies did not do the trick. Others in Number Ten have had their doubts about this provocative strategy. Their doubts will be reinforced and internal tensions within Johnson’s team are inevitable amid political and economic crises.

I would also follow closely Johnson’s relationship with Rishi Sunak in the build up to the autumn budget. They do not get on. The differences are not just ideological, though Sunak’s “fiscal conservatism” clashes often with Johnson’s big spending instincts. They are also incomparably different personalities. Sunak is diligent and methodical. Johnson is erratic and disorderly. The contrast infuriates Sunak. Relations between Prime Ministers and Chancellors are often tense but can be managed when a leader is strong, which Johnson is not.

But critical Tory MPs I have spoken to are still unsure what to do next. There is no easy route to remove a Prime Minister who is determined to stay. They hope cabinet ministers make a move in the coming weeks or months. Let us see.

By-elections are not a wholly reliable guide as to what might happen at a general election, not least when it is possible that the Conservatives will have a new leader by then. But a hung parliament seems a likely option, in which case a minority Labour government will almost certainly be formed. The other parties, including the SNP, would not keep a Conservative government in power for a fifth term. In the meantime, Keir Starmer expects to get the verdict from Durham police within days. This will be a volatile summer and autumn.

Share this content:

WA webinar recording: Boris Johnson’s last stand?

WA webinar recording: Boris Johnson’s last stand? The implications of the vote of confidence in Johnson’s premiership and the wider political landscape.

 

Following the dramatic events in Westminster in early June, which saw 148 Conservative MPs votes that they have no confidence in Boris Johnson, WA hosted a webinar with leading broadcaster and journalist Steve Richards on 8th June to discuss the likely implications and ramifications of the vote for the future of the Boris Johnson premiership.

During the session, Steve provided insight into what is happening behind the scenes, answering questions about the rebels’ next steps, the likelihood of a general election, reshuffle and emergency budget, and the future of this Government’s legislative agenda.

 

Share this content:

Natasha Egan-Sjodin wins Mark of Excellence at the CIPR Awards 2022

We are extremely proud of WA’s Natasha Egan-Sjodin for winning the Mark of Excellence award in the Outstanding Young Communicator of the Year category, at last night’s CIPR 2022 awards ceremony.

 

 

The highly regarded award commends the outstanding work of young professionals in the industry who are making a valuable contribution to the organisations they work for and show considerable promise in their future career.

Natasha’s triumph is recognition of her many work-related achievements, hard-fought campaign wins, and her contributions to the wider industry – a well-deserved win!

We thoroughly enjoyed the evening celebrating excellence in the UK’s PR industry and offer our congratulations to all the winners.

 

Share this content:

What’s happening in health inequalities?

What’s happening in health inequalities?

Health inequalities vastly pre-date the pandemic, but evidence demonstrating that a person’s postcode or ethnicity could be a determinant of COVID-19 outcomes has combined with a wider focus on societal inequality – and Levelling Up – to create renewed policy attention.

It is a complex and deep-rooted challenge to reduce health disparities across the country. WA recently produced a The Health Inequalities Policy Map, to explore some of the different policy levers and influencers shaping the landscape: some are explored in more detail here.

NHS reforms can create change – but are not without challenges

The Health and Care Act passed in April, establishing long-awaited NHS system reforms to formalise Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Included in the legislation was a statutory duty for Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to reduce health inequalities.

ICSs have responsibility for larger geographical areas than their predecessor CCGs. This means that they may have greater success in taking a population health perspective that can drive improvements to health inequalities, and the introduction of NHS England’s CORE20PLUS5 approach provides a supportive framework for ICSs to refine their thinking.

ICBs bring together health, public health, and other partners to organise provision of care. That should mean that services can be better designed to respond to the needs of the population, creating an ideal environment for supporting communities experiencing health inequalities.

However, there are also likely to be challenges.  ICSs are under enormous pressure to address immediate and pressing local challenges, including waiting list backlogs, overstretched emergency care and workforce crunches. Longer-term issues like health inequalities require time, capacity and holistic approaches, and can easily be deprioritised, particularly if there are not incentives in place to drive action.

Technology can only help to reduce disparities if designed carefully

Digital technologies have the potential to reduce burdens on the NHS workforce through automation and artificial intelligence, freeing up staff resources and establishing uniform processes.

But health tech must be designed so that it does not perpetuate existing inequalities. Much has been discussed about lower access or confidence in digital tools for different cohorts, such as older people or those with lower digital literacy. The newly re-integrated digital teams in NHS England will need a clear focus on how tech can enhance outcomes for all communities, not just the lowest hanging fruit.

There are also more complex barriers that need to be addressed, as demonstrated by an example in skin cancer diagnosis.

The creation of an algorithm to diagnose skin cancer was a significant achievement. However, in the paper announcing the algorithm, the examples of images used in the build process did not show diverse ethnicities[i]. This led to concerns that an automated diagnostic tool could actually lead to worse outcomes for different ethnic cohorts.

What is the Government planning to do next?

With a White Paper on Health Disparities due, a Health Secretary committed to tackling “the disease of disparity”, and a new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the Government has shown its commitment to resolving health inequalities. They were elected in 2019 on a manifesto which promised to “Level Up” the country.

But when the Levelling Up White Paper was published earlier this year, it was clear that the economic impact of the pandemic has had a significant impact on the Government’s ability to deliver their agenda, and the subsequent budget further underlined the narrow focus on reinvigorating the economy. As the cost-of-living crisis grows, it’s difficult to imagine that the Health Disparities White Paper will be supported by the kind of long-term funding commitment needed from the very top to make a real difference on the ground.

With many avenues and levers for change, there could be huge potential to make a meaningful difference in health inequalities; but without careful planning to overcome challenges, renewed policy attention and NHS reforms could prove a wasted opportunity.

 

[i] Esteva A, Kuprel B, Novoa RA, Ko J, Swetter SM, Blau HM, Thrun S. Dermatologist-level classification of skin cancer with deep neural networks. Nature. 2017 Feb 2;542(7639):115-118, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28117445/

Share this content:

From the Queen’s Speech to the next election: what now for the Government’s agenda?

The Queen’s Speech on 10th May will be one of the Government’s last opportunities to set out its policy agenda ahead of the next general election.

With the Conservatives trailing in the polls and expected to lose seats in this week’s local elections, will Boris Johnson take the opportunity to reset and galvanise his premiership, or will rising inflation and the cost of living mean that the Government continues to lose ground as the general election approaches?

WA’s new report on the Queen’s Speech takes a close look at the Government’s latest legislative agenda, assessing where its priorities are likely to lie in the coming months and what that will mean for businesses.

You can download the full report here:

Queen’s Speech 2022: A look ahead (PDF)

Share this content:

How businesses can support the people of Ukraine

Like many other businesses, WA is doing what it can to help support the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. We’ve pulled together some information on what businesses have been doing and some resources to use if you’d like to help on an individual or company wide level.

 

How businesses can support the people of Ukraine (PDF)

 

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports LDC’s investment in Shaken Udder

WA Investor Services is delighted to announce that it has advised LDC on its successful minority investment in Shaken Udder, a premium milkshake company which supplies major retailers including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, ASDA, Co-op and Boots. LDC’s investment will support Shaken Udder’s management team to expand the business’s customer base, including into convenience stores, and to expand its product range. LDC will also support the business to focus on brand marketing and exploring international expansion.

WA Investor Services provided political and regulatory due diligence in support of the investment, drawing on our extensive network of policymakers to provide a detailed assessment of the policy outlook for Shaken Udder. WA’s insights gave considerable reassurance to LDC and were a key input to their investment decision.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “It has been a pleasure to have worked with LDC on their successful transaction. With our deep networks across the relevant policy areas, WA’s Investor Services practice were really well placed to support the LDC team in understanding the regulatory outlook for Shaken Udder. Their investment will undoubtedly represent an exciting new chapter for the business as it seeks to expand. We look forward to seeing it develop over the coming years.”

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports Trilantic Europe’s investment in Kantar Public

WA’s Investor Services team is delighted to announce that it has advised Trilantic Europe on its successful acquisition of Kantar Public, a global consulting business providing bespoke research services to governments and public-sector organisations.

Using our extensive network of senior policymakers and officials in the UK, and working with WA’s international partners across Europe and Australia, we provided an in-depth analysis of the regulatory and procurement landscape for large-scale and longitudinal population research services in government, as well as a detailed assessment of the political drivers for evidence-based policymaking in each territory.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “It has been a pleasure to have worked with Trilantic on their successful transaction. WA’s Investor Services team, and our international network of partners, have unrivalled access to key officials directly involved in procuring population research services in the territories we analysed for this project. We were able to bring this network to bear to help the Trilantic team understand the appetite for such services in government, and the demand for Kantar’s bespoke methods in shaping policy decisions. We look forward to seeing the business go from strength to strength in the coming years.”

Share this content:

Leadership on a precipice

Boris Johnson stands at the edge of the precipice, his fate in the hands of parliamentary colleagues, many of whom see him as an electoral liability. It is a stark contrast to the aftermath of his 2019 electoral triumph which saw him become the most powerful sitting Prime Minister since Tony Blair. It is now very unlikely he will lead the Party into the next election.

But as Westminster awaits the publication of Sue Gray’s report, exactly how and when might his fate will be sealed remains unclear. So what are the possible scenarios, and what do they mean for organisations seeking to engage with political stakeholders?

Scenario 1: Sue Gray’s report delivers a killer blow

What happens in this scenario?

The contents of Sue Gray’s report are sufficient to trigger the critical threshold of 54 Conservative MPs delivering letters of no confidence to Graham Brady, the 1922 Committee Chair, and the Prime Minister loses the subsequent confidence motion. In this scenario a Conservative leadership election will commence with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss the clear front-runners.

What does this mean for policy development and political engagement?

All formal Government policy processes will be put on hold pending review by the new Prime Minister and a newly assembled Cabinet. In many areas there will likely be consistency, albeit after a delay of some weeks/months. But there are clearly opportunities for business to seek changes of direction or emphasis in a number of areas under a new administration.

New faces will rise to positions of power and influence within the government. It will be important to quickly engage with new ministers and advisers, and ensure you have a broad base of advocates within the Party. Any policy agendas that were not explicitly backed in the last manifesto will be most subject to change and there will be an opportunity for a new leader to row back on anything controversial, such as the planned National Insurance increase.

However, the core challenges filling the new Prime Minister’s in-tray will remain the same: tackling the cost of living crisis, decarbonisation, post-Covid economic recovery and defending ‘Red Wall’ seats in the Midlands and the North.

Scenario 2: MPs attempt to wield the knife but the Prime Minister clings to power

What happens in this scenario?

As in scenario 1, Sue Gray’s report triggers the necessary 54 no confidence letters but the Prime Minister manages to win the subsequent no confidence vote. Under current Party rules, a formal leadership challenge using this mechanism could not be triggered for another twelve months. The Prime Minister’s authority would still be severely damaged but his administration would limp on.

While his team would attempt to present the leadership issue as having been resolved, Theresa May’s experience showed that the danger would still remain. A poor performance at the local elections in May or inability to pass a significant piece of legislation could still trigger another crisis, albeit with less clarity over the mechanism to remove him.

What does this mean for policy development and political engagement?

In this scenario, policy development and delivery of key Government priorities could be slowed down or changed in any area that is remotely controversial given the Prime Minister’s diminished political capital. The Cabinet would become stronger and backbench Conservative MPs would be emboldened to press their own agendas. Whereas before almost all policy was ultimately dictated by and decided in No 10, there will be much more opportunity to influence policy via a wider set of stakeholders.

Controversial issues such as the National Insurance increase will become much harder to push through and the Government’s overall direction will increasingly be subject to influence from the various factions on the Conservative backbenches. For example, No 10 will be under severe pressure from backbenchers to take a more interventionist approach to tackling the cost of living crisis, with energy bills the next high profile lightning rod. Furthermore, there will be a significant shake-up of personnel in No 10 – officials and advisors – in an attempt to draw a line under recent events and move on.

However, uncertainty will continue to hang over the future of the Prime Minister with potential candidates to replace him continuing to cautiously prepare for the day when the ball might “come loose at the back of the scrum”. This all means it will be important to factor in a broader, more diffuse range of stakeholders who can influence policy when conducting engagement campaigns.

Scenario 3: MPs keep their powder dry a little longer

What happens in this scenario?

The Sue Gray report comes and goes without seeing 54 letters submitted to Graham Brady. The Prime Minister is damaged, embarrassed and forced to refresh the Number 10 team but his Government limps on. This is similar to scenario 2 but his authority is in some ways even more diminished with the threat of a confidence vote constantly hanging over his administration. Every political challenge in the coming months is viewed through the prism of Johnson’s leadership and every mis-step could prove his last. The May elections and any big tests in Parliament will take on added significance.

What does this mean for policy development and political engagement?

This would look and feel very similar to scenario 2 but with a greater sense of the Prime Minister living on borrowed time. Every major political and policy challenge would be viewed through the prism of whether it could trigger 54 letters and the bleed of power from No 10 to Cabinet members and backbenchers would be even more pronounced. All eyes would be on the potential leadership candidates to see how any comment or pronouncement would indicate a shift in policy.

The local elections in May would be framed as a de-facto referendum on the Prime Minister’s leadership and his policy agenda would face challenge at every turn. Broadening out the stakeholders you engage will still be critical as you will need to demonstrate that any change is backed by as many factions and influencers as possible. There will also be more opportunities to slow down or amend any policies that could attract the ire of mutinous Conservative MPs.

In all scenarios, we are about to enter a new, less predictable political phase in Westminster. The landscape of decision makers and influencers looks drastically different to that of twelve months ago and anyone seeking to influence change will need to navigate it with care.

 

Share this content:

Award-winning political commentator, Steve Richards, joins WA’s advisory board

WA Communications has today announced that political commentator, author and presenter, Steve Richards, will join its advisory board, bolstering the breadth of strategic insight and counsel to be offered to clients.   

Steve has written political columns for the Sunday Times, Guardian, Financial Times, and Independent. He’s a regular commentator on Sky and BBC.  

In addition to providing political intelligence and strategic counsel to WA’s extensive client roster, Richards will support WA in thought-leadership and media training.  

Dominic Church, Managing Director, WA Communications says: “Steve is a hugely respected political figure and we’re delighted to welcome him at what is an incredibly exciting time for WA following a strong string of client wins. He will bring unparalleled insight to our advisory board, both from a political and media standpoint. This unique blend of expertise is a perfect fit for WA as we continue to develop our team of experts and create more holistic offerings for our clients, rooted in deep insight.”  

Steve Richards, Senior Advisor, WA Communications says: “I’ve been really impressed with WA’s strong growth and the expertise and commitment of its staff. At a time when politics is extraordinarily turbulent, I’m hugely looking forward to lending my experience and expertise to this dynamic and rapidly growing team.”  

 

Share this content:

COP26 – What you need to know

At the end of the first week of COP26, Naomi Harris gives her top three takeaways and looks ahead to what next week holds.

Corporate communications haven’t quite gone to plan

The comments by Shell CEO Ben van Beurden that investment in the technology necessary to transition to net zero could only be financed by oil and gas revenue led to questions about the viability of the Anglo-Dutch giant reaching its own 2050 target. Greta Thunberg walking out of a panel on carbon offsetting, arguing that it was just another method of ‘greenwash’ by business illustrated yet again what happens when the corporate world, which is moving – but more slowly than Greta would like – collides with activism. We look to see whether such risks are better managed over the next few days.

The UK (and the UN) are trying to create a drumbeat of announcements but not all the pledges are in tune

More than 130 of the 197 countries attending have so far pledged to reach net zero by 2050, but fewer than a third have pledged to phase out coal. You’d be forgiven for scratching your head and wondering how that circle will be squared. Carbon capture and storage is an option, but the technology and its take-up will have to move on leaps and bounds. Critics argue it won’t and so the net zero pledges of those clinging to coal aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

National political tensions are playing out on an international stage

The Indonesian president committed to halt and reverse deforestation within his country’s borders, but before he could enjoy the warm glow of international approval his environment and forestry minister backtracked by saying Indonesia ‘can’t promise what we can’t do’. The minister added that the country’s natural resources should be used to support development and zero deforestation by 2030 would be ‘unfair’.

Expect another week of wall-to-wall news coverage

The week ahead will touch on the role of innovation and transport in decarbonisation as well as what action needs to be taken across the world’s cities to keep us on track towards net zero.  Going beyond the headlines, WA is conducting primary research to understand what impact COP26 has had on how people engage with the climate debate, how they view business and what this could mean for how organisations choose to communicate.

Share this content:

Rishi goes for broke: Budget balances post-Covid spending with a nod to fiscal conservatism

Rishi Sunak arguably had a difficult balance to strike with this week’s Budget: to position himself as a Chancellor not afraid to splash the cash to support individuals and businesses in a post-pandemic UK whilst also demonstrating his traditional, fiscally responsible credentials. If Rishi has his sights set on the top job in the future, the former was necessary to shore up support beyond Westminster, and the latter within his own party.

This was a very different Budget from this time last year. With the UK still in the depths of the Covid crisis, the Chancellor’s approach last November was inevitably short-termist – a patchwork of support drawn up and implemented on the hoof. This week’s Budget is more considered, with one eye firmly on the future.

The first multi-year Spending Review since 2015 would not, in the Chancellor’s words “draw a line under Covid”. Indeed, the spectre of the economic hardships faced by families and businesses loomed large over the Chancellor’s announcements. Nevertheless, this was the Chancellor’s first real opportunity to step out from beyond the pandemic’s fiscal and practical constraints. This Budget saw the first real movement towards a longer-term, more business-as-usual approach than has been previously possible. This sense of forward momentum the Chancellor’s speech was designed to create was clearly intentional. He will be hoping that this optimism will be welcomed by businesses and local authorities, and that the additional visibility over the financial and economic trajectory of the UK will allow for greater (and potentially more ambitious) planning over the medium term.

Keen to showcase the government’s flagship spending programmes, the Chancellor majored on the Levelling Up agenda. “Levelling Up” is mentioned in the Budget Red Book no fewer than 91 times – once more than the “economy”. Like chips on a pub menu, Rishi maintained the government’s commitment to Levelling Up With Everything. Improving roads and rail networks, expanding digital connectivity, new skills and employment schemes, housebuilding programmes and R&D strategies all fall under its lengthy banner. The Chancellor emphasised that spending would be directed to all parts of the UK, name checking a number of Tory MPs in Red Wall seats which the Conservatives are keen to hold on to at the next general election.

Seeking to appeal to those on lower incomes, Rishi closed his speech by announcing a cut in the Universal Credit Taper Rate from 63% to 55%. The new rate will mean that workers in receipt of UC will keep more of their benefits the more hours they work. Clearly wary of the potential impact of the rising costs of living and rising inflation on the government’s popularity, the Chancellor told MPs that he had written to the Governor of the Bank of England, reaffirming the Bank’s remit to ensure low and stable inflation. This nudge may influence the Bank’s thinking as it considers an interest rate rise for the new year.

Businesses also benefited from the Chancellor’s laundry list of announcements. The £1 million investment allowance will be extended to March 2023, and a 50% business rate discount for hospitality, retail, and leisure companies will be introduced from April, to aid the post-pandemic recovery of sectors which have been among the hardest hit. Investment relief for businesses looking to scale up or decarbonise was also a key feature, and a precursor to a swathe of further green pledges we can expect at COP26 in early November.

In perhaps the clearest appeal to the Conservative backbenches, Rishi vowed that his “goal” was to reduce taxes, saying “by the end of this Parliament, I want taxes to be going down not up.” For the time being, he has at least managed to avoid further tax rises; Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax will be unchanged for 2022, and no further increases in dividends tax rates or National Insurance contributions were announced beyond those already brought forward earlier this year.

But given the murmurings which have already started among Tory MPs that the tax burden is too high, freezes will not be enough for the Chancellor to play to the gallery longer term. His backbenchers will want to see meaningful tax cuts in the coming years but, with record spending commitments and precious little fiscal headroom, Rishi has a very difficult balancing act to pull off.

For the time being at least, “Brand Rishi” remains strong; the Chancellor still tops polls of the most popular Tory politician in the UK. But reconciling his fiscally conservative instincts for low taxes and budgetary restraint with the government’s post-Covid agenda to spend, spend, spend will be no easy task. Only four Chancellors since the Second World War have made it into No 10. Based on today’s Budget, with the Chancellor seemingly trying to offer something for everyone, it seems he is determined to become the fifth.

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports Agathos’ investment in Hunter Healthcare

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Agathos’ acquisition of Hunter Healthcare, a specialist recruiter working across the healthcare and life sciences sectors. The investment will help support Hunter’s ambitious growth plans, providing vital staffing solutions to healthcare providers and medical researchers, including developing its offer in international markets.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of healthcare policy experts providing insights integral to the deal process, working closely with Agathos and other due diligence providers to deliver clarity on how ongoing structural changes to the NHS, the elective recovery and acceleration of the digital transformation agenda will affect healthcare recruitment decisions and priorities.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with Agathos on this deal. NHS staffing is a very high-profile issue at the moment and ensuring the NHS meets patient demand while undertaking fundamental system reform is a priority for political and NHS leaders, not least as they tackle the post-Covid backlog. As a market leading provider of political due diligence in healthcare transactions we were in an extremely strong position to support Agathos’ successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

Hugh Costello, Investment Director at Agathos said: “WA Comms produced a comprehensive report with insightful conclusions that were well supported by desktop research and interviews with sector participants. The team was available for calls as and when required and were always a total pleasure to deal with. Ultimately, the output produced by WA was instrumental in our decision to complete our investment. I would recommend their services wholeheartedly.”

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports Livingbridge’s investment in Everlight

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Livingbridge’s acquisition of Everlight, an innovative 24-hour teleradiology business. Livingbridge’s investment will help support Everlight in building its pool of exceptional radiologists, driving technological innovation and propelling international growth.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of specialist political risk analysts assessing the impact of structural changes in the NHS on the business, NHS strategies for recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the potential implications of long-term workforce and technological issues affecting the sector.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with Livingbridge on this deal. Everlight is very well placed to assist the NHS in delivering cost-effective, high quality services and providing much needed capacity at a time when the health service is experiencing unprecedented demand.  Our market leading expertise in the health sector put us in a strong position to support Livingbridge’s successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports Livingbridge’s investment in AJM Healthcare

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Livingbridge’s investment in AJM Healthcare, a leading provider of NHS wheelchair services. The investment will help support AJM’s continued growth, enabling more users to benefit from its innovative, comprehensive and tailored solutions.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, drawing on its market-leading expertise of evolving NHS commissioning policy, changes to the government’s procurement processes, and the wider reform agenda for health and social care. This insight was supported by the views of key decision makers and policy influencers from across WA’s extensive network.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We were delighted to support Livingbridge on this deal, at a time when the NHS is going through a substantial period of change. The restructuring of the commissioning process and the government’s wider focus on reform in the sector will have a significant impact on all businesses working in health and social care. WA’s deep network in both government and the NHS has informed our understanding of what the new landscape will look like and allowed us to generate valuable insights for Livingbridge. Our congratulations to everyone involved in the deal; we look forward to seeing AJM go from strength to strength in the years ahead.”

Share this content:

WA Investor Services supports Connection Capital investment in Mr Pickford’s pharmacies

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Connection Capital’s acquisition of Mr Pickford’s, an innovative community pharmacy business. The investment will help support Mr Pickford’s expansion plans, taking advantage of its market leading use of technology to deliver high quality services to patients.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of specialist political risk analysists assessing the enhanced role of pharmacies as a partner in public health policy, as well as the outlook for funding in the sector in light of the evolution in government expectations of pharmacy services.

Miles Otway, Partner at Connection Capital said: “The WA Communications team delivered an excellent piece of work that provided insight for both Connection Capital in our deal assessment process but also the management team as they think about the shaping of their offering to patients to align with the wider central government and NHS priorities. We have already engaged WA Communications on another due diligence exercise and look forward to working further with the team.”

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with Connection on this deal. The pharmacy sector is undergoing a period of transition, driven by changing government policy and a renewed commitment to disease prevention in the NHS.  Our market leading expertise in the health sector put us in a strong position to support Connection’s successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

Share this content:

Lizzy Cryar to speak at the German Association for Political Consultants (DeGePol) young professionals annual conference

WA is proud to announce that Senior Account Manager Lizzy Cryar will be a speaker at the German Association for Political Consultants (DeGePol) young professionals annual conference on Saturday 15th May. Lizzy is currently chair of the PRCA NextGen PA committee, representing public affairs consultants in the UK in the first decade of their careers.

The conference will hear from five speakers from across Europe, who will discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected politics and public affairs in their home countries. Lizzy will be sharing her analysis on how Covid-19 has affected public perceptions of the government and opposition in the UK, the future of the union, and the ongoing debate over the need to reform lobbying regulations in light of high profile news stories involving former politicians.

Commenting ahead of the conference, Lizzy said: “I’m incredibly proud to be representing WA and the PRCA at the DeGePol young professionals conference this year. The Covid-19 has had a huge impact on politics across the UK and I’m delighted that I have been asked to share my thoughts on the subject.”

Lizzie Wills, Partner at WA Communications said: “Lizzy is a superb political analyst and her reflections on the impact of Covid on the UK environment will be hugely useful for all the delegates at the DeGePol conference. Unpacking the many different political dynamics at play in the UK at the moment takes a really mature and nuanced reading of the political forces at work – DeGePol is in safe hands with Lizzy, whose insights and analysis are second to none.”

Share this content:

WA Investor Services Supports Cairngorm Capital investment in E-zec Medical

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Cairngorm Capital’s investment in E-zec Medical, England’s largest independent provider of Non-Emergency Patient Transport Services. The investment will help support E-zec medical accelerate its growth and allow it to strengthen its data capabilities to deliver enhanced performance and innovation to commissioners and patients.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, drawing on its market leading expertise of NHS commissioning policy and the government reform agenda for health and social care. This insight was supported by the views of key decision makers and policy influencers from across WA’s extensive network.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We were really pleased to support Cairngorm Capital on this deal. The NHS is going through a period of significant change, transforming its structure and approach to commissioning, which will affect all businesses operating in health and social care. Our deep networks across government and the NHS, and our understanding of how the next round of structural reform will impact the commissioning landscape allowed us to generate valuable insights for the Cairngorm team. Congratulations to everyone involved – we look forward to seeing the business grow over the coming years.”

Share this content:

WA shortlisted for Agency of the Year awards

WA is proud to have been shortlisted for two Agency of the Year Awards this week.

After winning the coveted CIPR PR Agency of Year award in 2020, WA has again made the shortlist for the 2021 award.

Earlier this week, it was announced that WA has also been shortlisted for the PRmoment Awards for the Independent Agency of the Year.

Adding to the list of recognitions, WA Account Director Jamie Capp has been shortlisted for the CIPR Outstanding Young Communicator Award, and the WA Investor Services team has been shortlisted for the Specialist Advisor category in the Real Deals British Private Equity Awards.

This follows on from WA securing sixth place on the PRWeek Top 150 list for Public Affairs consultancies this month.

WA Managing Director Dominic Church said: “The last 12 months has been challenging for every business, and I am so proud of the dedication and effort shown by the WA team during this time. We have held fast to our ‘people first’ approach. This means we’ve prioritised investment in our team’s wellbeing and training, to ensure they could continue providing outstanding advice and results for our clients.

“We are absolutely delighted to have received such recognition of our success from these industry bodies.”

Winners of these awards will be announced over the coming months.

 

Share this content:

WA shortlisted for legal, compliance & regulatory consultancy of the year 2022

WA is proud to have been shortlisted as a finalist for the legal, compliance & regulatory category at the 2022 Drawdown Awards.

WA’s Investor Services team has established a reputation for providing the gold standard in political risk analysis. Our team give up-to-the-minute advice to clients and uses its unrivalled political network to go beyond the headlines to share the deepest policy insights and the most accurate, actionable advice for clients.

Investors look to WA Investor Services for in-depth and nuanced analysis of the political dynamics impacting their decisions. We help our clients understand risks, forecast and scenario plan, and provide ongoing intelligence gathering to track issues.

WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are incredibly proud to be finalists in the legal, compliance and regulatory advisory category at this year’s Drawdown Awards. 2021 was a year of rapid expansion for the WA Investor Services team. Despite ongoing challenges for investors as a result of Covid-19, WA built relationships with new clients, expanded our geographic reach, and invested in our own services to deliver a sophisticated, data-driven offer which met evolving client needs.”

 

Share this content:

WA shortlisted for Political Due Diligence Provider Of The Year 2022

WA is proud to have been shortlisted for Political Due Diligence Provider of the Year at the 2022 Private Equity Awards.

Over 2021 WA cemented its reputation as the gold standard in political risk analysis. Our team gave up-to-the-minute advice to clients and used its unrivalled political network to go beyond the headlines to share the deepest policy insights and the most accurate, actionable advice for clients.

Investors look to WA Investor Services for in-depth and nuanced analysis of the political risks impacting their decisions. We help our clients understand risks, forecast and scenario plan, and provide ongoing intelligence gathering to track issues.

WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are incredibly proud to be shortlisted for Political Due Diligence Provider of the Year. 2021 was a year of rapid expansion for the WA Investor Services team. Despite ongoing challenges for the investment community as a result of Covid-19, WA built relationships with new clients, expanded our geographic reach, and invested in our own services to deliver a sophisticated offer which met evolving client needs.”

 

Share this content:

WA Investor Services Supports GCP investment in Hippo Digital

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported GCP’s investment Hippo Digital, a digital transformation specialist working across the public and private sector. The investment will help support Hippo’s ambitious growth plan, including meeting a goal of doubling its workforce over the next three years.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of specialist political risk analysts assessing digital transformation policy across Whitehall and the NHS, as well as reviewing recent and ongoing changes to procurement guidance. This insight was supported by the views of key decision makers and policy influencers from within government, parliament and the NHS.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to have worked with GCP on this deal. How government views procurement across the public sector post-Covid will impact businesses in a variety of sectors, from digital transformation to health and social care. Our deep networks and expertise in navigating decision makers’ approaches to decisions in this area put us in a strong position to support GCP’s successful deal and we look forward to seeing the business develop over the coming years.”

Share this content:

What is the future for SPACs in the UK?

Why are SPACs currently such a hot topic?

UK investor circles are increasingly interested in the potential impact of SPACs on private and public markets, and whether the SPAC bubble will turn into a longer-term structural game-changer. SPACs are experiencing a boom in the US. Over 200 SPACs were launched in the US in 2020 and 143 SPACs have already launched there in 2021 so far. In 2020, more was raised through SPACs in the US than through traditional IPOs. This has sparked a worry in the investment industry that the UK is losing out on listing activity as SPACs raised a mere £30 million in the UK in 2020. This in turn could affect the UK’s attractiveness as a place for doing business for financial services companies, with the potential for a drain on talent and jobs from London. There is also a worry that US-listed SPACs could snap up UK companies, effectively meaning that they become US-listed companies, further draining business from the UK, and squeezing out UK private equity firms from deals.

This has fed into demands from some industry figures for the UK to adjust its listing rules so that more SPACs can be launched in the UK. The key barrier to UK SPACs is that trading in SPAC shares must be suspended once a deal is announced. This means that those investors who do not support the proposed takeover cannot exit their investment until the deal is complete, meaning their money is locked up for months. A review into UK listing rules set up by the government and led by Lord Hill has recommended this suspension rule be removed to make the UK a more competitive place to list SPACs

Is a change to the rules likely?

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) controls UK listing rules. To make changes to SPAC listing rules, it would have to undertake a consultation on any proposed changes before implementing them. This is in itself no issue, with many industry stakeholders likely to back the changes. However, increasing the competitiveness of the UK financial services system is not a formal regulatory objective of the FCA, unlike regulators in Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong, for example. The FCA’s objectives are to protect consumers, protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system and promote competition in consumers’ interests. Therefore, the FCA’s priority is managing risks in the system to keep it functioning well and protect consumers. This does not necessarily align with demands to increase the UK’s international competitiveness.

Given the impact SPACs could have on the UK investment environment and on investors’ interests, the FCA may be reluctant to ease regulations. The listing costs of SPACs are significantly higher than traditional IPOs. A forthcoming paper in the Yale Journal on Regulation estimates that the median cost of a SPAC deal, relative to the cash delivered to the company in the deal, is a staggering 50.4%, almost double the paper’s estimate of IPO costs to companies going public. Furthermore, these costs are generated precisely because many investors exit the SPAC just before the deal takes place. Under US SPAC rules, investors who exit the SPAC regain their initial investment plus interest but retain their warrants (right to buy further shares at a fixed price). Therefore, they can buy more shares at an often-reduced price. This process dilutes the shareholding of other investors while providing little extra cash to the SPAC, creating costs for the listing.

These high costs are often then reflected in the poor performance of the post-deal share price, with the median return for investors 12 months post-deal for US SPACs being negative 65.3%, meaning investors in the SPAC are normally the ones who suffer from high costs. Adding to these potential woes is the incentive for SPACs’ sponsors to reach a deal, even a bad one, before the time limit for making a deal (normally 2 or 3 years after the SPAC listing) ends. This is because SPAC sponsors tend to do very well out of deals, making a median return of 32% in the US after 12 months and very few making a loss. Therefore, the FCA has reason to be cautious about opening the UK to a SPAC boom by removing the requirement to suspend trading in shares because, as the regulations stand in the US, SPACs often benefit sponsors at the expense of investors.

Perhaps more likely is a change as a result of the Financial Services Future Regulatory Framework Review, currently at the consultation stage. This a wider review of UK financial regulation in the context of the UK’s increased powers post-Brexit. Lord Hill’s Listing Review advocates using this opportunity to give the FCA a target of making the UK financial services industry more competitive, which could then incentivise an easing of rules on SPACs. However, HM Treasury is sceptical of the benefits of a competitiveness objective for regulators in the consultation paper, saying that it risks undermining the objective of a stable financial system.

The government and the FCA are unlikely, therefore, to seek to replicate the US regulatory system for SPACs anytime soon. Any loosening of regulations is likely to be cautious and come with greater investor protections. This reflects the thinking in government that a stable financial system is also an attractive one to the financial services industry. This position is likely to guide the government through changes to financial regulation in the years ahead meaning a SPAC boom is unlikely to reach the UK.

 

 

Share this content:

What ‘tax day’ tells businesses about government fiscal policy

This year, for the first time, the government has chosen to separate its tax announcements from the main Budget. Instead, tax proposals were published three weeks later on so-called ‘tax day’.

While the government has stated this is to improve transparency around tax changes, there is inevitably some truth in saying that the separation of the two events would allow the Budget to be a “good news day” for the government, minimising the risk that coverage of spending commitments would be drowned out by spending cuts or tax rises elsewhere.

The 2021 spring Budget took place on 3 March and contained no immediate tax proposals beyond a statement of intent to increase Corporation Tax to 25% in 2023. Instead, on 23 March the government published a number of tax-related consultations and calls for evidence.

What has ‘tax day’ changed?

Announcements made on ‘tax day’ included measures intended to improve the tax system for both HM Revenue & Customs and for taxpayers, focusing on removing bureaucratic hurdles and improving tax avoidance measures with the overall aim of reducing the UK’s current ‘tax gap’, or the difference between the amount of tax that should be paid to HMRC, and what is actually paid. The current tax gap stands at a record low of 4.7%.  The government also published an interim report in its ongoing review of business rates, though this provided very little detail on what final measures the government will take to reform the system, indicating that there is significant work still being undertaken as part of the review. The government launched the review in March 2020 following years of debate over the effectiveness of the current model. Though expected to report in spring 2021, the pandemic has delayed progress with the final report now expected in autumn 2021.

The biggest ‘tax day’ announcements relate to calls for evidence on how the government can best innovate the tax system. The launch of a call for evidence relating to how HMRC collects revenue, alongside other structural proposals like changes to how and when tax is payable, are clear indications that the government’s focus is on the underlying structure of the system, aiming to improve the existing legislation, rather than overhaul or change tax rates at this time.

The government is also rethinking how the tax system can help shape the green agenda, launching a consultation on how Air Passenger Duty (APD) could support national and regional connectivity while maintaining the commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. It has also announced that a proposed Carbon Emissions Tax will not be taken forward while the government develops its own Emissions Trading System.

The key policy changes for businesses are:

Timely Payment – The government is publishing a call for evidence to begin to explore the possibility of more frequent payment of income tax within Income Tax Self Assessment, and of corporation tax for small companies, based on in-year information;

Residential property developer tax – The government will publish a consultation on a new tax on the largest residential property developers. The tax will be introduced in 2022 to help pay for the costs of cladding remediation.

Tax treatment of pension Superfunds – The government will be reviewing the appropriate taxation framework for Superfunds, which are consolidation vehicles for defined benefit pension schemes. This work will proceed alongside the work under way on the development of the appropriate regulatory regime.

New rules to prevent value shifting for VAT – The government will be publishing a summary of responses this summer to the consultation on ‘VAT and value shifting’. Subject to the responses, the government intends to prepare the new rules for introduction and will be providing an update on next steps later this year.

What comes next?

The announcements of 23 March largely represent updates on the outcome of existing policy consultations, or are designed to address strategic and administrative priorities like tax avoidance and how the overall system should be structured. This approach has left unanswered medium-term questions over taxation levels, including the future of Capital Gains Tax, and whether the government will keep its manifesto commitments to freeze VAT, National Insurance and Income Tax throughout this Parliament. While Chancellor Rishi Sunak recommitted to the freeze ahead of the March 2021 budget, there is uncertainty over whether this position can be maintained for subsequent budgets.

Independent analysts, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation, remain publicly convinced that “substantial” tax rises will be required in order to address public finances. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has acknowledged that changes will need to be made, warning that “difficult times” lie ahead, but refusing to be drawn on the future action the Treasury will take while its focus remains on its immediate response to the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring a swift and stable recovery. While tax rises remain highly likely, the Treasury is conscious of the need to balance increasing the tax take with encouraging the economic growth. Deciding how to achieve this is likely to be one of the key strategic decisions the Treasury and No.10 will need to address in the near future.

With so many questions left unanswered, attention within the Treasury and among business leaders will turn to the expected autumn Budget and multi-year Spending Review. With the Covid-19 vaccination programme continuing to progress at speed, these fiscal events are expected to present greater opportunities for the Treasury to make meaningful changes to address public finances.

The Treasury will begin to make preparations for the autumn fiscal events over the summer months as the scale of what needs to be done to reduce the economic impact of Covid-19 becomes apparent. Decisions will have to be carefully balanced, given the roll-back of pandemic support measures over the summer and latter part of this year. With tax changes still highly likely, businesses can prepare for future changes by ensuring that they are aware of the ongoing tax workstreams within the Treasury and wider government. The Treasury has yet to respond to more recent reviews and consultations, including those relating to Capital Gains Tax, meaning more announcements and policy reviews are likely to be undertaken over the summer in advance of the autumn Budget. Responding to consultations, either as an individual or as part of a collective, to ensure that their views are represented and heard by the government is another key step businesses can take in advance of the next Budget. To ensure that they are prepared for any opportunities or risks that arise as a consequence, developing relationships with advisors with links to Treasury officials and ministers to keep on top of the direction of travel is essential.

Share this content:

WA Investor Services Supports Chatsworth Schools expansion

WA Investor Services is proud to announce it has supported Synova backed Chatsworth Schools successful acquisition of Riverston School and Beech Hall School from The Riverston Group. The Riverston Group is a privately owned education group, known for providing a mainstream educational environment with the highest levels of pastoral care, for children with moderate and mild learning needs. The acquisitions take the number of schools and nurseries in the Chatsworth Schools family to fourteen.

WA provided political due diligence to support the transaction, with its team of specialist political risk analysts assessing the SEND policy outlook in light of the ongoing government SEND review and reviewing the funding landscape. This insight was supported by the views of experts from across the sector, representing national and local government, parliament, the private sector, and the third sector.

Commenting on the deal, WA Partner and Head of Investor Services Lizzie Wills said: “We are extremely pleased to work with Chatsworth Schools and Synova to support their expansion. WA is recognised as a leading provider of political due diligence to support transactions in the education sector and we look forward to our future work in this area.”

Share this content:

Intern to a full time job: what I learnt at WA

WA new recruit Owen Griffiths shares his journey of applying for an internship and how that led to his new role as Account Executive.

Searching for that first job to launch your career can be a daunting task at the best of times, let alone job searching to the backdrop of a global pandemic. Yet, that has been the reality for many graduates, myself included over the course of the last year – too few jobs for too many applicants. The time spent in 2020 researching and applying for some of London’s top consultancies gave me an opportunity to really reflect on what I needed at this stage of my career.

Having been fortunate to gain valuable experience in another agency already, I was searching for a company where I could hone my skills, focus on an area that suited my passions and learn from some of the industry’s brightest professionals. I was fortunate to have found that at WA. Having been impressed with the company from the exterior, paying above industry average salaries, recently winning the CIPR PR Consultancy of the Year award, and working with an eclectic range of clients in their roster, I had the inkling that this was a company where I would be valued as an individual. A couple of interviews later I was convinced it was.

No conveyor belt here

Any negative preconceptions I may have had about an internship were quickly dispelled from the outset. The infamous hallmarks of internships that turn many people off to them were not present in WA at all. No conveyor belt of mundane admin tasks, picking up odd jobs for people, or spending most of your day refilling the kettle. Immediately I was briefed on the clients I would be working on every day, introduced to consultants from all departments of the company and put to work developing the skills all graduates need to start their careers in this industry.

What struck me most about WA was the value they placed on encouraging candour across all levels of the business. Despite just being an intern, there were expectations on me to commit to learning, to be intellectually curious, and to strive to deliver excellent work for clients.

WA’s greatest strength by far is its people. A lot of firms profess to be a ‘people-first’ firm, but few fully deliver on that mantra. WA doesn’t feel like a team of individuals who simply share an office space; there is a tangible collective drive towards contributing to the company vision. Directors and Executives are equally willing to chat with you, help you manage your time and ensure you get the best out of yourself. There is no sense of hierarchy when it comes to reaching out for support, which as someone finding their feet in the industry, is crucial.

When my internship came to a close, I knew immediately that I wanted to stay on at WA. Fortunately, on the back of many recent successes, WA’s Health department were looking for an Account Executive in their burgeoning team. Fortunate to have been given the chance to apply, two months into my full-time role I am incredibly optimistic about my future here.

For any graduate looking for the best possible start to the industry I cannot recommend WA highly enough.

Share this content:

How to capitalise on the Super Deduction tax benefit

This roundtable was originally published by Real Deals and features WA’s Head of Investor Services, Lizzie Wills. Please find the original here.

In the wake of the UK Spring Budget announcement, Rhiannon Kinghall Were, head of tax policy at Macfarlanes and Lizzie Wills​, head of investor services at WA Communications, discuss how GPs can take advantage of the Super Deduction tax benefit.

Rhiannon Kinghall Were, head of tax policy at Macfarlanes

The Super Deduction was the surprise in the Spring Budget. There was the expectation around an increase in the rate of corporation tax, which has now increased to 25 per cent as the rumours suggested, and the hike in the rate has been tempered by this new investment incentive. The announced Super Deduction should be a significant incentive to businesses, because not only do they get a deduction for the full cost of investments made in the year of acquisition, but they also get an additional 30 per cent, making it a total of 130 per cent that can be deducted against profits. However, as the Super Deduction is only temporary in nature, companies will feel the full impact of the increase in the rate of corporation tax in 2023.

Unprecedented tax policy

From a global policy perspective, it is unusual that they’ve opted for this measure, I haven’t seen any other country go over 100 per cent before. By way of example, through the Super Deduction if a business makes an investment in plant and machinery of £10m then they get a deduction from their profits of £13m. That provides a potential tax saving of £2.47m.

In terms of where the Super Deduction will impact the PE industry, it will largely be the portfolio companies that invest heavily in ‘plant and machinery’ who will benefit. Many operators in manufacturing, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals and biotech, will be the largest benefactors. Interestingly when you look at total capital allowances claims the financial services sector takes third position, following manufacturing and retail.

Just what is classified as ‘plant and machinery’ isn’t actually defined in legislation but most tangible assets used in business should qualify, whether that’s robots on production lines in factories, electric vehicle charging points or simply computer equipment. If a company is buying new software platforms to be used in business, then that would also qualify. One thing to note is that these deductions do not extend to actually buying a property.

Act quickly

While the 130 per cent deduction is very novel, the extent to which companies will be able to benefit will depend on their circumstances and where they are in their investment cycle.

For instance, the Super Deduction can only be made on new contracts entered into after the budget date. If you had already signed contracts to purchase new equipment that investment would not qualify, as the investment was effectively made before the Super Deduction came into play.

The biggest limitation of the policy is the short window of time. The incentive is only available for two years, from 1 April 2021 through to the end of March 2023. It’s a short timeframe to make a big difference. There is also the caveat that it has to be new items, you cannot deduct the purchase of second-hand items which is significant for manufacturers where there is a good market for second-hand equipment and machinery. My advice to businesses would be to look down the pipeline of where the business is going, if there’s any investments or purchases that you can bring forward now is the time to do it.

Lizzie Wills​, head of investor services at WA Communications

As political risk specialists, WA supports investors and their management teams to understand the often-contradictory messages coming out of government. The last twelve months have shown just how important it is to be able to read these signals, to interpret them, and to be in the strongest possible position to mitigate the risks and capitalise on the opportunities they represent. The Budget has been no exception, and the Super Deduction is a case in point. The announcement has raised several questions about the government’s intentions, not least: What does the announcement tell us about how the government plans to balance the books post-Corona? How is the Treasury going to pull off its ‘spend now, pay later’ promise but minimise the pain that both businesses and taxpayers face in the coming months and years.

Hey Big Spender

The Chancellor’s Budget announcement on the Super Deductions benefit was one of the few that had escaped the extensive media pre-briefing. The Chancellor was understandably keen to soften the ground for many of the planned announcements, not least that the government’s intention to increase corporation tax to 25 per cent in 2023.

Getting to the bottom of the Treasury’s thinking, at least on the face of it, is pretty straightforward. Through measures like the Super Deduction, the Treasury is hoping to supercharge businesses’ appetite to invest – to the tune of £25bn – and to spur on the post-Corona recovery.

It’s an eye-catching pitch, with businesses previously reticent to invest in new plant and machinery potentially now having the impetus to do so. The Government will also be hoping that as an added benefit it supports their headline domestic priority to ‘level up’, given its the big manufacturing firms located outside London and the South East that are most likely to benefit.

What’s the catch? 

There are questions already about whether the Super Deduction is the best way for the Government to spend £25bn. Arguably the majority of the companies benefitting from the tax relief would be making these investments anyway.  It will also add another layer of complexity to a tax regime that already runs to thousands of pages. Not only that, but there are strict eligibility criteria which means that not all firms will be able to access the relief, super deductions are only available to companies subject to corporation tax. Therefore those facing the 25 per cent rise in 2023. Sole traders, partnerships and LLPs are not eligible.

The deduction is also only available for new plant and machinery, rather than second-hand equipment. There may also be additional criteria that firms must meet if they are intending to purchase plant and machinery under a hire purchase agreement, which is pretty standard for SMEs.

A further restriction is the tightly defined period for accessing the deduction, meaning that some businesses might inadvertently miss out. Any investment committed to, ahead of 1 April 2021 won’t be eligible for the relief, and any delays between signing new contracts and incurring costs may have implications for what qualifies as tax deductible expenditure under the new scheme.

Mark Bryant, head of manufacturing at BGF

“Specific improvements in capital allowances that encourage manufacturers to invest in equipment will ultimately improve productivity and competitiveness both internationally and domestically. It is a positive move for the UK economy at large. For many businesses across the country that have faced severe disruption over the last year and are confronting the big challenge of rebuilding their balance sheets, there are still concerns that they may not have the flexibility to make significant capital investments at this time. It will be important to continually assess the extent to which smaller companies are utilising these new tax incentives.”

Simon Wax, partner at Buzzacott 

“The main question for PE firms should be how much do tax deductions influence their buying decisions. Arguably the underlying performance of the business is more significant, however, paying less tax will clearly improve the cash flow forecasts for companies which could be another catalyst for PE houses to get more deals approved in the short term. Another opportunity for PE firms would be where they are looking at buy-and-build strategies that would require their portfolio investment companies to invest in order to see growth and realise returns.”

Andrew Aldridge, partner at Deepbridge Capital.

Growth-focused businesses will ultimately be the backbone of economic recovery. Investors will be working with portfolio companies to assist them in utilising Super Deduction and growth schemes which can assist with either short-term working capital or longer-term growth capital. The past twelve-months have seen unprecedented UK Government initiatives for supporting businesses which, coupled with longer-term initiatives such as the EIS, make the UK one of the best places to scale a business.”

Share this content:

Balancing the health of the nation with the health of the economy – 10 key takeaways

On 15th October WA hosted an event exploring the difficult decisions facing government in balancing the health of the nation with the health of the economy.

With a second wave of Covid-19 upon the UK and much of Europe, political, media and public pressure is building, and a difficult winter is approaching.

We brought together an expert panel to consider the issues, hosted by WA Director Caroline Gordon. The speakers included Tom Newton Dunn (Chief Political Commentator and Presenter at Times Radio), Poppy Trowbridge (former Special Adviser to the Chancellor and WA Advisory Board Member) and Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard (Epidemiologist at Imperial College London).

It was a wide-ranging debate (watch here if you missed it), but what were the key takeaways?

Here are our top 10 points made during the discussion:

 

1) The prosperity of a nation is inextricably linked to the health of a nation:

The pandemic has taught us the value of public health cannot be underestimated. A legacy of Covid-19 must be a proper review of how we approach public health and what we ask of the NHS.

 

2) Devolved and regional politics has grown in power:

With healthcare devolved to national governments and Metro Mayors exercising influence over local lockdowns, leadership over the pandemic has often come from politicians not based in Westminster. What will this mean for the Government’s agenda beyond Covid-19?

 

3) Government is still stuck in campaign mode and not thinking long term

It’s no great surprise that a government of campaigners would think in campaign terms, but their focus has been too short term and the messaging too ambitious. With the pandemic creating complicated and long-term challenges they need to find a more nuanced way of communicating.

 

4) The libertarian principles of the Government are holding it back from decisive action

The restrictions being introduced to manage the spread of the virus are unprecedented for any democratic government, but they particularly jar with the PM’s brand of libertarianism. That conflict, manifested in hesitation and delays about enacting measures, has surfaced repeatedly through the crisis.

 

5) No 10 and No 11 have been closely aligned, but that could be fraying

There has often been tensions between the inhabitants of No 10 and No 11 Downing Street, but in Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak there has been unusual harmony up to now. That consensus, however, is coming under strain with the Treasury keen to focus on keeping the economy moving and resistant to overly restrictive measures. How this relationship plays out could come to define the rest of this government’s term, particularly with the Chancellor being tipped as the most likely successor to the PM.

 

6) Internally government realise ‘Test & Trace’ is not working

With no clear vaccine timetable or even the promise that one will work, NHS Test and Trace is the only route back to a degree of normality. A fully functional test and trace system was the only reason SAGE agreed to the unlock over the Summer, but the Government’s centralised approach has been beset by problems. Whilst they have not publicly admitted it, quietly they are beginning to shift people and resources towards local test and trace approach which has been much more effective.

 

7) The government could do a lot more to help businesses navigate the crisis

Government offloaded too much responsibility onto businesses and were not clear about how long restrictions were likely to be in place. This uncertainty has meant businesses can’t plan effectively and many have taken an understandably cautious approach because of this. With unemployment rising, the Government needs to find a way to give business the confidence to invest and create jobs.

 

8) The public consensus is fragile compared to the first wave

People feel ‘cheated’ by being ask to lockdown again – they were willing to trust the process first time around, but a lack of faith in the government a second time around (not helped by the Dominic Cummings affair) could undermine the effectiveness of measures for the second wave.

 

9) England and Wales has one of the worst excess death tolls in Europe

Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard’s research has shown that excess deaths in England and Wales were 37% above normal, second only to Spain’s 38% as the worst performance in Europe. When the public inquiry into the handling of Covid-19 finally comes, there will surely be questions to answer.

 

10) The Government’s long-term ambitions are on hold

It may not feel like it, but we are still in the early days of this Government. Elected back in December 2019 with a strong majority, the crisis has put the brakes on the broader policy agenda as they battle to tackle the virus and shore up an unstable party. The Government is a long way from making strides on its domestic agenda, businesses need to try to understand what each Department is trying to achieve despite the virus and bring solutions and opportunities for good news.

 

These are just a handful of takeaways from a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion, you call watch the full video exploring how to balance the health of the nation with the health of the economy here.

 

Share this content:

Summer Statement 2020: Key Points

The Chancellor has this afternoon given a summer statement to the House of Commons on the government’s economic response to Covid-19.

He said the government was moving the country through three phases, and it was entering the second phase with a ‘plan for jobs’. The third phase, which will focus on the ‘plan to rebuild’, will come in the autumn through a Budget and Spending Review.

He noted that public finances would have to be put on a sustainable footing in the medium term, but he would not accept mass unemployment as unavoidable.  This was outlined in the context of the IMF expecting the deepest global recession since records began, the OBR predicting significant increases in unemployment and the economy having contracted by 25% in just two months – the same amount it grew in the previous 18 years.

He confirmed the furlough scheme would be wound down flexibly and gradually, continuing until October, as measures were introduced to support, create and protect jobs.

On supporting jobs, he announced:

 On creating new jobs, he announced:

 On protecting jobs, he announced:

The Summer Statement will be followed by an Budget, expected in October or November.

 

Share this content:

Webinar – Balancing the health of the nation with the health of the economy

On Thursday 15th October 2020, WA Communications Director, Caroline Gordon, hosted a webinar exploring how the Government can balance the health of the nation with the health of the economy.

We are living through unprecedented times in which a devastating public health crisis is creating a global economic slowdown.

The Government has to make daily decisions that balance the health of the nation against the health of our economy. Political, media and public pressure is building and a difficult winter is approaching. There are no easy answers – just more questions facing every business and organisation in the UK as to how to respond, plan and communicate.

Panellists included:

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

 

 

 

Share this content:

Webinar – In conversation with the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP

On Tuesday 18h November 2020, WA Communications Director, Lisa Townsend, sat down with the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP to discuss her Early Years Healthy Development Review, the first phase of which will report to the government in January.

The first 1,000 days of children’s lives are critical for their development, and hugely impact their physical health, mental health and opportunity throughout their lives. The potential for the ‘levelling up’ agenda to support the early years is vast, and something we know is on the government’s agenda.

 

The webinar covered a huge range of issues, providing insight on subjects such as:

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

 

 

 

Share this content:

Webinar – Innovating out of the crisis: What next for transport?

On Monday 30th November 2020, WA brought together a panel of transport experts to examine how industry is adapting to meet the challenge of Covid-19.

We explored the role of government in driving innovation to secure better consumer outcomes, restoring passenger confidence, advancing the net zero agenda and implementing new business models in a world learning to live alongside Covid-19.

Chaired by Marc Woolfson, WA’s Public Affairs Director, we were joined by Professor Phil Blythe CEng FIET, the Department for Transport’s Chief Scientific Adviser and Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) at Newcastle University.

We also be heard from industry leaders who each brought a unique perspective on the changing environment we all face:

• Emily James, Head of Public Affairs, Abellio Group; and
• Peter Stephens, Head of External and Government Affairs, Nissan

The discussion included a question and answer session with the audience.

 

 

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

 

 

 

Share this content:

Webinar – From Whitehall to Town Hall

On Monday 23rd November 2020, WA Communications Director, Naomi Harris, hosted an expert panel to explore whether the Covid-19 pandemic has caused political power to shift permanently from national to regional and local government.

Watch the discussion to explore:

The panel was comprised of:

  • Joe Anderson, Liverpool Mayor
  • David Collins, Northern Correspondent, Sunday Times
  • Poppy Trowbridge, Former Special Adviser to the Chancellor and WA Advisory Board Member.

 

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this content:

Webinar – Business Restructuring: managing the aftermath of Covid-19

On Thursday 1st October 2020, WA Communications Director, Lee Findell, hosted a webinar exploring to plan and communicate during a business restructuring process.

The business support measures introduced by the government as we went into lockdown were unprecedented, but with these support schemes beginning to unwind over the Autumn, many businesses are facing difficult decisions on their future structure and are preparing for potentially difficult discussions with employees, suppliers, customers, regulators and policymakers.

Lee was joined by Greg Palfrey, National Head of Restructuring at Smith & Williamson, and Chair of the ICAEW Restructuring Insolvency & Advisory Group who provided advice for businesses that are looking to restructure and the top things they should be considering during this time.

Poppy Trowbridge, former Sky News businesses correspondent and special adviser to Phillip Hammond when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, provided insights on how businesses will need to communicate with government policymakers and the media as they undertake restructuring and change.

Finally, WA Communications’ Sarah Gullo provided some tips on effective communications during a business restructuring to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

Share this content:

Webinar: In Conversation with Damian Collins MP – The Future of UK Digital Policy

On Wednesday 2nd September 2020, WA were delighted to welcome Damian Collins MP for a discussion examining the future of UK digital policy.

Damian Collins, former chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee is the Conservative MP for Folkstone and Hythe. Collins has long been a champion of tackling “fake news” and previously led on the committee’s investigation into online harms and misinformation. During his four years as Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee, Collins scrutinised government and regulators as they developed plans for the UK’s full-fibre future and the rapid accelerations of these plans in 2019.

Chaired by Marc Woolfson, WA’s Director, the conversation explores some of the regulatory challenges and key events that lay ahead of the industry, on issues ranging from the UK’s digital infrastructure, our online economy and the emerging policy trends after Covid-19.

WA’s Peter Jones, Associate Director and Head of Infrastructure also joined the discussion to provide insights on how the industry can support the government to deliver on its commitments on digital connectivity, online harms and digital innovation.

 

Watch a recording of the webinar:

 

Share this content:

Novo Nordisk chooses WA Communications for diabetes brief

WA Communications’ growing health team has been chosen by leading diabetes company Novo Nordisk to drive government affairs in their diabetes business, making the first half of 2020 WA Health’s most successful period to date.

WA Health won a competitive pitch to secure the retained account with Novo Nordisk, supporting the company with their innovative type 2 diabetes portfolio. Head of Health Caroline Gordon will lead the account alongside Associate Director Dean Sowman, working to Dan Beety, Director of Corporate Affairs at Novo Nordisk.

Dan Beety of Novo Nordisk said:

‘‘We put in place a rigorous selection process and were impressed by Caroline and her team. WA’s insight, commitment and enthusiasm shone through. Their approach brought creative ideas that showed a deep understanding of what we’re trying to achieve.”

The wins cap off a strong first half of 2020 for WA’s health team, who also recently won a five way competitive pitch to work with Sanofi’s rare disease franchise.

Earlier this month, WA Communications also won the coveted CIPR Consultancy of the Year award.

To talk to Caroline about your business needs, please get in touch via carolinegordon@wacomms.co.uk.

 

 

Share this content:

WA awarded prestigious Consultancy of the Year

WA Communications has won the prestigious UK PR Consultancy of the Year award from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the sector’s main industry body.

In a highly competitive field, the CIPR judges said WA “talks the talk and walks the walk.”

The judges acknowledged the great wins and great work done by WA and said what made WA a standout consultancy is the people-first approach.

“WA Communications should be an inspiration to all. This should be what all agencies aspire to be and do: invest in staff first and reap the rewards,” the judges said.

Dominic Church, Managing Director at WA said, “This award recognises the determination we’ve shown to not only consistently deliver exceptional work for our clients, but to make WA a wonderful place to work. We are incredibly proud of our team – each and every one of them are intelligent and dedicated, and just as importantly, wonderful people in their own right.

“Not only am I privileged to work with such an outstanding group of consultants, we also recognise that we are fortunate to work with fantastic clients who trust us to campaign for them and work alongside them to achieve their commercial and communication goals.”

Some of the standout areas of WA’s performance include:

More of WA’s award winning submission can be seen here.

Share this content:

WA promotions as WA Health expands the team

WA Health continues to grow as it welcomes Account Manager Ben Latimer to the team.

His hire comes off the back of several recent high-profile health client wins for WA Health, including the Sanofi Genzyme’s UK rare diseases brief and work with Senzer, an innovative UK-based pharmaceutical company manufacturing respiratory devices.

Ben joins WA from another consultancy where he worked with leading global pharmaceutical brands on high level market access issues and across several portfolios including immuno-oncology, cardiovascular disease and osteoperosis. He also specialised in joint working groups between industry and patient groups, and worked with independent healthcare providers to develop best practise in patient-centred care for NHS services.

Caroline Gordon, Director of WA Health said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to have Ben join our growing team. He will be a great addition across a number of our health accounts, bringing his strong and diverse healthcare experience to the table.”

Ben Latimer added: “WA’s reputation has grown in the sector as they’ve delivered outstanding work for clients and continued to win interesting and large briefs. I’m excited to work with Caroline and be part of this this independent agency which clearly takes great pride in the work they do.”

WA has also promoted three of its Senior Account Executives to Account Managers this month across its Public Affairs and Investor Services teams.

Caitlin Fordham, Cameron Wall and Lizzy Cryar have all been promoted in recognition of the effective work and timely advice they consistently deliver for their clients.

Dominic Church, WA’s Managing Director congratulated all three on their promotions: “Despite the extraordinary circumstances we currently find ourselves in, we still believe it is essential to recognise and thank staff for outstanding performance. Lizzy, Caitlin and Cameron are all integral parts of their client teams and I am really delighted to announce their well-deserved promotions”.

 

Share this content:

WA Communications expands its Public Affairs arm with new director hire

Leading public affairs and corporate communications consultancy WA Communications has appointed a new Director, Naomi Harris, former Chief Operating Officer at Newington Communications, to support its continued growth of expertise.

Naomi brings a love of policy, campaigning and team building to WA Communications, and will be working alongside fellow Director, Marc Woolfson, to drive forward the expansion of the consultancy’s public affairs offer and client portfolio.

A trained journalist, Naomi began her lobbying career at the CBI, first in London and then Brussels, before moving into consultancy. She joined Newington, then Bellenden, in 2012 to build the agency’s award-winning energy practice.

Following Nikki Da Costa’s departure in 2015, Naomi took on the role of Managing Director of the National Public Affairs division. Following a period of sustained divisional growth, she was promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2017 and left at the end of 2018 to go travelling.

At WA Communications, Naomi will be focusing on developing the consultancy’s footprint in specialisms including energy, transport and tech; education, health and social care. She will be working closely with the Directors of Investor Services and Corporate Communications to ensure the consultancy’s offer is tailored to the evolving needs of clients.

Naomi Harris, Director at WA Communications, says:

“I’ve seen how key sectors – such as the energy and transport – have come under increasing public scrutiny. Just look at how the average person is now far more aware of climate change and how more people than ever are actively involved in campaigning – whether that’s through changes in buying habits, community transport initiatives to improve air quality, social media, or participating in Extinction Rebellion protests.

“This growth in public awareness, understanding and activism is not specific to climate change. All businesses must be aware of these shifts in opinion, as well as clearly communicate their views to the public. My role at WA will build upon the agency’s sterling reputation in public affairs and ensure we are best placed to respond to the changing landscape of policy, politics and communications for the benefit of our clients.”

Dominic Church, Managing Director at WA Communications, says:

“A fundamental part of agency growth is ensuring we are able to offer a comprehensive service to our clients. As issues surrounding sectors such as energy, the environment and transport continue to grow in importance, we want to make sure we’re at the front of these developments.

“Ensuring that our clients continue to receive high quality policy guidance, with a modern-day perspective in mind is integral to our service offering. It is fantastic to have Naomi join our team, allowing us to continue pioneering effective ways of working, supporting our continued agency expansion and innovating practices.”

Share this content:

Double hire to spearhead corporate communications growth

WA Communications has hired Lee Findell and Sarah Gullo to lead the growth of its corporate communications practice.

Findell joins as Director and Head of Corporate. He brings 19 years of agency experience including Weber Shandwick, Freuds and FTI, and for the last four years as Senior Director at MHP, where he led a team focused on corporate communications and reputation management for brands such as L’Oréal, Coca-Cola, Zurich Insurance and the RAF.

He is joined by Associate Director Sarah Gullo, who has rejoined WA Communications after living abroad for the past 18 months. Formerly in the WA Health team, Gullo has a wealth of in-house and agency corporate communications experience across the health, utilities and development sectors and was a senior political media advisor in Australia.

Together, they will be expanding WA’s corporate communications offer to focus on corporate narrative and positioning, integrated campaigns, crisis communications and business change communications.

Welcoming their appointment, WA Communications Managing Director Dominic Church said: “Lee and Sarah bring impressive national and international corporate comms experience to WA and will build an exceptional team as we expand our reach in the corporate communications field. We are absolutely delighted to have them join the WA team as we continue to grow the agency and bolster our corporate communications credentials.”

PRWeek recently named WA Communications in the top 5 of UK public affairs agencies, and ranked the consultancy 81 in the top 150 PR consultancies.

Findell added: “WA Communications has a strong reputation as a leading public affairs consultancy helping business to address complex commercial challenges, and I am excited to come on board to expand the nascent corporate communications practice as the consultancy continues to go from strength to strength.”

Share this content:

Fast growing WA starts 2019 with new hires and promotions across the company

Following 25 percent growth in revenue in 2018 across core public affairs, health and investor services, WA Communications is starting the year with a raft of new hires and promotions. These follow a game-changing year for the company, achieving high-profile clients wins and expansion in its service offer across public affairs, investor services and corporate communications.

Dean Sowman joins WA’s health practice as an Associate Director from Portland Communications, bringing a decade of experience in public affairs, market access programmes, disease awareness campaigns and crisis management. He will work alongside Director Caroline Gordon in growing WA as a leading player in the health public affairs and PR market following significant client wins including Bayer and Sanofi.

Internally, Angus Hill has been promoted to Senior Account Director, recognising his pivotal role in cementing WA’s creds across the transport, utilities, and consumer rights sectors. Further promotions include Josh Aulak becoming a Senior Account Manager, and Beatrice Allen an Account Manager.

Announcing the promotions, Dominic Church, Managing Director of WA said:

“WA Communications is at a really exciting time in its growth. Our insight-driven approach and relentless focus on delivering against our clients’ core objectives are making the difference in a crowded market place.

But more than that, we’re determined to be known for being the best people-centred business in the industry. By showing genuine commitment to supporting and developing our team, we’re seeing our whole business thrive. It’s the solid foundation that we’ll build on – for the benefit of both our team and for our clients.”

Share this content:

WA shortlisted for PR Moment Awards

WA Communications is delighted to have been shortlisted for Independent Agency of the Year in the PR Moment Awards 2019.

The PR Moment Awards are a major fixture in the UK PR and communications calendar and are judged by eminent industry professionals.

The awards celebrate excellence and recognise and reward exceptional campaigns and talent in the UK PR and communications sector.

As a company, WA has had a truly outstanding 12 months.

We’ve moved to new offices, rebranded, won exciting new clients, and bolstered our team with new talent, whilst continuing to deliver innovative and creative strategies for existing clients.

The PR Moment awards aim to celebrate excellence in the public relations industry, reflecting WA’s broad offer across public affairs, corporate communications and investor services.

WA have been shortlisted in the ‘Independent Agency of the Year’ category alongside some other leading agencies. Our independence is an important part of who we are and what makes WA a place that attracts some of the top public affairs and communications consultants in the industry. It allows up to be independent in outlook and ownership, dedicated to big consultancy thinking, coupled with boutique style client service.

Our strong work ethic, commitment to collaboration and real understanding of each of our clients’ businesses mean that we can deliver exemplary public affairs advice on policymaker engagement, corporate communications, crisis management and political risk time and time again.

If you think you have what it takes to work at WA then please get in touch, we are always keen to hear from talented consultants at all levels of experience, or check out our current vacancies on the careers page of our website.

The London & The South awards ceremony will take place at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London on 26 March 2020 – wish us luck!

 

Share this content:

Growth and client success sees WA rise into top 5 PA agencies in the UK

WA has been ranked in the top five in the PRWeek top 150 UK Public Affairs Consultancies 2019, rising from tenth spot last year.

WA’s Managing Director Dominic Church said:

“We are delighted to be recognised as one of the five leading public affairs agencies in the UK.

“This is thanks to the incredible talent and dedication of our team, and reflective of the real results we achieve for our clients.”

WA has continued to build on its significant growth over the past 24 months and was also ranked 77 on the PRWeek Top 150 UK PR consultancies 2019, rising from the 89th spot in 2018.

“We are continuing to expand our wider corporate communications offer and we look forward to providing our clients with a more integrated service for all their communications and public affairs needs,” he said.

Share this content:

Bayer appoints WA Health to lead government affairs for cardiovascular disease

WA Health, the specialist health practice of WA Communications, has been appointed by Bayer to lead the government affairs brief for their blockbuster cardiovascular brand.

WA was brought in following a competitive pitch and will focus on supporting market access preparations for their expansion into coronary or peripheral arterial disease (CAD / PAD) as well as Bayer’s traditional stronghold in anticoagulation for stroke prevention.

The account is being led by WA Health’s director Caroline Gordon, who joined the company last summer from Incisive Health, reporting to Bayer’s Government and Industry Affairs Manager, Andrew Brown.

Andrew Brown, Bayer’s Government and Industry Affairs Manager said:‘We’re very happy to be working with the team at WA on our cardiovascular disease government affairs brief. WA’s ideas really stood out to us during the pitch process and we’re excited to be working with them during this critical phase. We’re confident it’s going to be a strong partnership.’

Caroline Gordon, Director at WA said: ‘This is a flagship win for WA Health and exactly the kind of work we thrive on. We’re delighted to add Bayer to our growing client list. It’s been a really strong few months for the WA team across our specialisms in health and wellbeing and we’re all hugely looking forward to building on this success in 2019.’

This win comes off the back of a successful period for WA Health, having recently secured projects across Sanofi’s oncology portfolio, corporate communications for Takeda and retained work supporting the UK launch of Camurus’ opioid replacement therapy treatment.

Share this content:

Birmingham Airport launches plan to invest £500 million to grow passengers to 18 million by 2033

It was a privilege to celebrate the launch of Birmingham Airport’s draft Master Plan at The Cube in Birmingham City Centre this morning, detailing ambitious plans to grow by 40% to 18 million passengers per year by 2033.

Birmingham Airport’s Chairman Tim Clarke and Acting MD Simon Richards were joined by Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Leader of Birmingham City Council Cllr Ian Ward and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Transport and Highways at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Cllr Ted Richards, to welcome partners from across the region to mark the launch of this exciting plan that will unlock huge economic potential for the region.

The draft Master Plan sets out a self-financed new investment of £500 million, which will improve, modernise and extend facilities.  This investment will deliver increased capacity and enhance the passenger experience, to drive international trade, investment, employment, inbound tourism and the success of the region’s many universities.

The draft Master Plan further reinforces the integral part the Airport plays as a catalyst for growth across the Midlands and in the UK’s economic prosperity.  It outlines the Airport’s role in driving future economic benefit to the region which will increase by 42%, totalling £2.1 billion a year and 34,000 jobs by 2033.

An ambitious yet sustainable plan, it outlines how the Airport will provide more flights to cultural hubs, business centres and a greater choice of outbound holiday destinations.  Furthermore, the Airport will continue to expand the existing wide range of short-haul and long-haul scheduled and charter services and destinations, with both full-service and low-cost airlines, whilst maintaining its strong commitment to balancing growth with a responsibility to the environment and the people who live and work in the Airport’s vicinity.

Ahead of the final Master Plan due to be published in early 2019, today’s launch triggers the start of a 12-week public consultation, ending on the 31st January at 23:59, for stakeholders to feedback their views on the Airport’s Plans.

Share this content:

WA shortlisted for PRCA’s Public Affairs Award

We are delighted to announce WA Communications has been shortlisted for the Consultancy Campaign of the Year in the Public Relations and Communications Association’s (PRCA) Public Affairs Awards.

A panel of experts from the industry chose our campaign to save the UK’s cash network with Cardtronics as one of the most successful campaigns of the past 12 months. The winner will be determined by the judging panel.

Our strategy blended together hard evidence and emotive storytelling to illustrate the impact of a reduction in access to cash through ATMs would have on people right across the UK including vulnerable groups, rural communities and businesses. Through this we stopped the development of “cash deserts” across the UK. By engaging with parliamentarians, officials, regulators and third-party stakeholders, WA was able to raise awareness of the impact and rally support to scrutinise the decision further and secure political commitments to protect access to cash in the UK.

Commenting on WA’s campaign, Duncan Faithfull, Director of Corporate Relations at Cardtronics, said:

“The WA team were absolutely central to the success of Cardtronics’ campaign to ensure the interchange fee in the UK remains at a level that supports universal access to cash. Their ability to access ministers, officials and parliamentarians was impressive, and they tapped into the agenda of the day to ensure the threat to ATMs was front and centre of the policy debate.

WA applied pressure in all the right places to ensure government was fully aware of our campaign, leading to the Chancellor of the Exchequer confirming his commitment to access to cash in his Spring Statement; an invaluable breakthrough.

WA went to great lengths to understand our business needs, and to make sure they worked with us in a way that suited our culture. They were always on hand to support the team and were a vital resource, both in terms of their insight and responsiveness”.

WA Communications gets to the heart of our clients’ policy, regulatory and reputational issues to develops insight led campaigns with maximum impact. We help out clients engage in the decisions impacting their commercial environment and build bespoke and creative strategies which suit their needs.

The awards ceremony, where the winners will be announced, will take place on 29th November 2018 at Park Plaza London Riverbank, 18 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TJ.

Share this content:

WA Investor Services shortlisted for Specialist Due Diligence Provider of the Year

We are delighted to announce WA Investor Services has been shortlisted as the Specialist Adviser of the Year in Unquote’s 2019 British Private Equity Awards.

The shortlist was selected by a panel of experts from the industry, to showcase innovation and excellence within UK private equity.

The winner will be determined by a public vote, considered alongside the judging panel’s decision. Voting is now open, you can support us by casting your vote here.

Investors look to WA Investor Services for in-depth and nuanced analysis of the political risks impacting their decisions. We help our clients understand risks, forecast and scenario plan, and provide ongoing intelligence gathering to track issues.

Our insight and ability to reach the heart of the commercial implications of the current political situation have proved invaluable for our clients and their investments. Over the last 12 months we have expanded our global and technical expertise, working on projects as diverse as the Polish legal framework and UK broadband regulation.

The awards ceremony, where the winners of the awards will be announced, will take place on 1 October 2019 at The Brewery, London, EC1Y 4SD

 

Share this content:

Prosecco & political insight for WA’s summer party

Thursday 11 July was a warm, balmy evening – perfect for our Annual Summer Party! The evening was a great opportunity for us to celebrate and look back over the first half of what has already been another successful year for WA – and of course to look forward to more success for the rest of 2019.

We were delighted to be joined by Katy Balls, the Deputy Political Editor of the Spectator and host of the Women with Balls podcast, who was on hand to talk us through her understanding of the current political landscape and give us her predictions for the Conservative leadership election. Katy quipped that it was great to be at a Westminster Summer Party where the speaker wasn’t vying for the job of Chancellor – not yet at least.

Whilst much of Westminster has all but accepted that the next leader of the Conservative Party is going to be Boris Johnson, this is not a dead cert according to Katy, who told us that not as many Tory party members have returned their postal ballots as had been anticipated. This means that there is still a lot for both Johnson and Hunt to play for, and a lot of room for both candidates to get things wrong.

As to the candidates’ respective popularity with the parliamentary party, Johnson is now a lot more popular amongst his colleagues than had been previously thought – which we saw evidence of with his dominance of the parliamentary ballots. The parliamentary party needs a Brexiteer like Johnson to fend off the threat of the Brexit Party. However, Katy told us that it could also be put down to the Johnson campaign being a tighter ship than it was in 2016, being comprised of a strong team of experienced and respected advisers.

So, if it is to be a Johnson premiership, what would the government look like? Where May was often perceived to be threatened by the big names in her cabinet (leading her to choose loyalty over ability), Katy’s view is that Johnson is happy to have a team of Tory party A-Listers, and that he wouldn’t shy away from playing factions off against each other. Expect to see former leadership rivals in senior posts, and the return to the frontbench of Johnson loyalists.

Yet it is important to remember that the change in leader does not change the numbers in parliament, and the new leader is set to face many of the same challenges faced by May in terms of trying to push a Brexit deal through parliament.

Interestingly, Katy told us that Johnson is not as opposed to holding a second referendum as many might think, though it would be a last resort and he would, of course, campaign again for the ‘leave’ faction. Yet he would also likely pitch himself as a centrist and a liberal, Cameronite “One Nation” Tory to try to appeal to the middle ground of the electorate.

It was an informative discussion that helped to make the political climate seem a lot less murky – for now at least. We hope that everyone who attended found it as interesting and entertaining as we did.

A special thanks to Katy Balls for entertaining us with her insights, and to all our guests for joining us for a fantastic evening.

We hope to see you all at our next party!

Share this content:

Industry’s future leaders enjoy an evening with The Times’ Esther Webber

This week, WA Communications hosted its first evening for young professionals. This was to demonstrate the importance of young people across the industry sharing networks and information, as well as reflect the diversity of experience here and across sectors. It was an opportunity to ensure often overlooked voices within the industry are heard, as well as for young professionals to find out what was really happening across politics and policy. WA welcomed young professionals from across politics, policy, public affairs and industry to our offices for an evening of discussion on the current political milieu, taking in Brexit, the Conservative Party leadership race and what the future might hold.

Hosted by WA’s own Rebecca Brake, The Times’ Esther Webber delivered the key note speech and summed up the entirety of British politics in just a few short minutes…almost. Esther began by saying she was glad she could make it given this week was supposed to be the last throw of the dice for the Withdrawal Agreement, and although the Prime Minister had since resigned, if anybody could still bring forward the Bill after that it was her.

Reflecting on the relief of journalists no longer having to talk about the Snell Amendment, Malthouse Compromise or the Cooper-Letwin Bill, discussion then moved on to the Conservative leadership race. From Hunt’s foreign languages to McVey’s views on Brexit (she quite likes it!), Esther covered all the key people and what their ascension to the throne might mean. And of course if there was anything we needed clearing up, Rory Stewart would no doubt be along shortly. Unfortunately he was otherwise engaged, but we’re sure he’ll make his way to our offices soon.

Concluding that Boris Johnson was the most likely to combine the necessary characteristics of ardent Brexiteer and populist, discussion moved on to what the year had in store: a first Brexit Party MP; Prime Minister Johnson; Prime Minister Corbyn; and the seventh or eighth splintering of Change UK. The bar for surprise in modern politics seems to be extremely high, and yet we keep on raising it.

In an informative Q&A session, topics ranged from Brexit (surprisingly), the Tory leadership contest, and when things will return to normal (answer: who knows). You can find a full summary of questions and answers on our Twitter feed.

To round off the evening there were drinks, dips and deep house, and no small amount of networking across sectors. This was an opportunity for all attendees to find out what was really going on across the industry and in politics, away from the headlines and official statements. We hope all those who attended found it as useful as we did.

A special thanks to Esther Webber for providing her valuable insights and trademark humour to the evening, and to all those who attended to make it as interesting and informative as possible. We hope to see you all again soon.

WA will be hosting a number of further events over the course of the year aimed at all sectors and demographics, including additional young professionals events. If you would like to stay up to date with what we’ve got going on email info@wacomms.co.uk to subscribe to updates.

Share this content:

Register for insights

Speak to us
020 7222 9500 contact@wacomms.co.uk

6th Floor, Artillery House
11-19 Artillery Row
London
SW1P 1RT
close_pop
Sign Up
Complete the form below to sign up to our newsletter:

    YOUR NAME:

    EMAIL:

    ORGANISATION:

    By submitting this form you agree to WA Communications’ Privacy Policy.