The CSR Champions at The Wilkes Partnership have set their colleagues a real challenge in a final push to raise much needed funds for our chosen charity of 2020/21, Acorns Children’s Hospice. Well, as with so many things over the last year, it’s taking place virtually but, for those taking part, the challenge is still very real!

Inspired by the Everest Challenge, between 01/03/2021 and 30/04/21 teams from around TWP will be putting their best foot forward to rack up as many steps at they can. Competitive instincts will be at their sharpest as teams aim to be at the top of the leader board each week.

Everyone taking part will record the number of steps they complete and report back to the CSR Champions weekly. We know our teams and trust them all implicitly so we know that every reported step will be counted accurately. But, just in case the competitive spirit does get the better of someone, we’ll be asking for step counter records to keep it all on the up and up!

Over the coming nine weeks we’ll keep you updated with all of the vital statistics: how many steps have been counted, who’s heading the leader board and, most importantly, how much we’ve raised. We’ll share photos from our challengers and give special mentions to those who really get into the spirit of things; a bit of fancy dress is always a nice addition, or sharing some beautiful scenery if they’re out and about for their steps.

Ann-Marie Aston, Partner and Court of Protection Lead at TWP, is leading the charge to help support this inspirational organisation “The Acorn’s Children’s Hospice does incredible work for some of the most vulnerable people. We’re aiming to raise as much as we can on their behalf so please visit our Just Giving page and get involved. Every penny you donate will help Acorn’s continue to provide help and support that is so desperately needed”.

Look out for updates over the coming weeks and, don’t forget, visit our Just Giving page to help Acorn’s Children’s Hospice keep doing the amazing work it does every day.

 Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, has advised the owners of long-term client Nationwide Property Assistance Ltd (NPA24:7) on its sale to Davies, a leading professional services and technology business with a global footprint.

The deal will see NPA24:7 become part of Davies’ existing Claims Solutions business in the UK. Managing Director Nick Haycock will continue to lead NPA24:7 as part of the Davies structure, and all 190 NPA24:7 employees will also continue in their roles.

Nick’s journey with NPA24:7 began as a buyout from Homeserve some seven years ago when Jeremy Parkin provided legal advice and Paul Heaven, Director at Jerroms Corporate Finance, provided the financial expertise. Since then, Jeremy and Paul have continued as NPA24:7’s advisers, helping to bring about a successful exit.

Nick said “I would like to thank Jeremy Parkin and his team at Wilkes for helping us to facilitate the deal and getting us over the line. They helped us to acquire from a plc in 2014 and have been there for us whenever we have needed advice and guidance over the last few years, culminating in the successful completion of the deal on 2nd March 2021. Thanks to Jeremy and his team for all their efforts!”

Over the years Jeremy and Paul have worked closely on matters for a number of clients. The working relationship and complementary services they have developed provide a framework for clients to successfully develop and ultimately exit their businesses.

Seeing NPA24:7 through its lifecycle is a proud achievement for Jeremy “The Wilkes Corporate Team and I are delighted to have been able to support and advise Nick through this journey. He has been able to secure a strong future for the business the NPA24:7 team has worked hard to grow since taking it over from Homeserve. The Davies team has welcomed team NPA24:7 into the family and are keen to develop the new service for their clients.”

On behalf of Jerroms Corporate Finance, Paul Heaven said “It’s always a thrill to get a deal over the line. Our history with Nick and NPA24:7 makes this one even more special. Here’s to continued success for NPA24:7 as it begins a new chapter as part of Davies”.

If you are considering exiting or acquiring a business, Jeremy and his team are keen to speak to you. A transaction like this can take time and patience so you need trusted advisers by your side who will guide you safely through the deal. Contact Jeremy on 0121 710 5931 or at jparkin@wilkes.couk

 

 

As the spring bulbs start to push through and the success of the vaccination programme offers us glimmers of hope for a brighter future, some sort of stability and routine is just visible on the horizon. For many exhausted, working parents that all begins to take shape when their children return to school on 8 March 2021.

The effects of a year of lockdowns combined with home-schooling and working from home are starting to become clear. A recent ONS Study, using data collected from England, Scotland and Wales, shone a light on the effect that home-schooling has had on wellbeing. An average of 50% of parents report an impact on their mental health, compared with 28% during the first lockdown in 2020. It has also been well documented that the demands of home-schooling have often fallen firmly on one parent. Even when both parents are working from home, 67% of women in, a heterosexual partnership, say they feel disproportionately affected.

Sian Kenkre, family lawyer at The Wilkes Partnership comments, “We usually see a peak in requests for family law advice in September after the long school holidays, and then again after Christmas. This pattern extended as we noticed a sharp increase in enquiries at the end of the first lockdown in 2020”.

Many of those enquiries came from women saying that the effects of the lockdown had brought problems in relationships and domestic arrangements into sharp focus. Under ‘normal’ circumstances these issues may have gone unnoticed as so much time is spent separately; different working routines, time away from the home, but the latest data suggests that this will continue to be a theme in the breakdown of relationships.

With the impact on mental health after an extended period of isolation, worries about job security, finances, and uncertainty about the future, it is not surprising that family lawyers expect to see another surge in divorce enquiries as the restrictions are gradually eased.

The effects of the pandemic on mental health and relationships could be described as the perfect storm. In times of economic uncertainty we know that relationships suffer. Sian continues “I have spoken to many clients during the lockdown period who are struggling to cope with the uncertainties created by the pandemic. Some feel trapped and are worrying about a separation while still cohabiting.

The decision to end a marriage or relationship is deeply personal and, in many cases, a time of great anxiety and sadness. My best advice is to find a lawyer you feel comfortable with. Taking early, practical advice from them to alleviate some of the stress will help you plan for the future”.

Finally, Sian said “Taking initial advice does not mean that you have to follow through with a divorce or separation. It does mean that you are well informed which can help to clarify some of the uncertainties that may be adding to stress levels. A good family lawyer will listen to your concerns, talk you through all of your options, and provide you with clear costs information so that in times of such uncertainty you can have some clarity.”

If any of this feels familiar and you do have questions about divorce or a relationship breakdown, contact Sian  on 0121 733 4316 or at skenkre@wilkes.co.uk.

Statistics from Q4 2020 indicate that retailers have faced significant hardships as a result of the nationwide lockdowns which were introduced to help supress the spread of Covid-19. As footfall plummeted and shopping habits shifted significantly towards safer online options, retailers have struggled to survive.

News reports have shown that it hasn’t just been smaller, independent retailers who have suffered; well-established names have also succumbed as the implications of lockdown became apparent. As our high streets begin to emerge from lockdown over the coming months, some key names will be missing: department store Debenhams will be a significant loss to many shopping districts, as will outlets under the Arcadia Group brands such as Top Shop, Top Man and Miss Selfridge.

Like the Arcadia Group, Debenhams entered into administration when faced with no other alternative. There was a glimmer of hope when Boohoo Group, the online retailer, bought elements of the Debenhams business from its administrators but, for the high street, that hope was short lived. The deal with Boohoo included only the Debenhams brand assets and website operations, meaning its high street presence would be committed to the history books as it makes the move to an online only operation. The ups and downs of the business over recent years had been well reported but few would have predicted such an outcome, certainly at such a pace, before the Covid-19 crisis erupted.

To see them through the uncharted territory of a pandemic, many smaller retailer businesses are likely to have made use of government backed schemes. The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (“BBLS”) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”) were introduced to provide financial support to businesses which were adversely affected by the impact of the virus. In the form of term loans, overdrafts and the like, businesses could borrow up to £50,000 under the BBLS, while larger figures of up to £5 million were available under the CBILS.

Both schemes have proved incredibly popular, but it is widely expected that they will play a key role in many insolvency cases over the coming months. Recent press reports mention that HMRC sent a first batch of 24,000 letters last year, followed by a second batch of 11,000 letters, to businesses seeking confirmation that they were eligible for such assistance. Recipient businesses had 21 days to respond; failing to do so would see them barred from applying for future support.

By restricting the presentation of winding up petitions and suspending statutory demands to ease creditor pressure, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 is one reason that an increase in the number of insolvency cases has not materialised. However, the protection afforded many businesses by this act comes to an end on 31 March 2021. This deadline has been extended and may be extended again, but once the suspension is lifted it is expected that a large backlog of petitions will develop driving more businesses along a similar path to that taken by Debenhams and the Arcadia Group.

At the end of March 2021, businesses will have to account for VAT receipts between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. However, following the introduction of the new VAT deferral payment scheme, businesses are no longer required to pay the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021, but can pay their deferred VAT in equal instalments, interest free.

Finally any businesses considering formal restructuring options such as administration in the hope that stakeholders will be able to repurchase the business free of existing debts will soon have their options significantly reduced. The draft Administration (Restrictions on Disposal etc. to Connected Persons) Regulations 2021 are due to come into force on 30th April 2021 and will prevent the sale of all, or a substantial part of, a company’s business and assets to connected parties without the consent of the creditors or an independent written opinion. This hot topic will form the basis of a separate publication but, for now, directors need to understand that their options are increasingly more limited.

The Business Recovery Team at The Wilkes Partnership represents decades of experience in the rescue or restructure of businesses. If your business used either the BBLS or CBILS schemes and you now have questions about what happens next, or if the pandemic has raised significant financial challenges for your business, contact David Cleary or John Cooper on 0121 233 4333 or email them at dcleary@wilkes.co.uk or jcooper@wilkes.co.uk.

 

Jeremy Parkin, Partner in the Corporate Team at The Wilkes Partnership, has advised Angus McKirdy, owner/manager of Crop Production Magazine (CPM), on its sale to Kelsey Media.

CPM was first published in February 1999. Since then it has established itself as the UK’s leading arable technical title. Across both print and digital formats, CPM profiles innovative crop production techniques, new machinery developments and industry leading technologies.

Angus commented “Jeremy Parkin and his team have done a fabulous job in preparing the various contracts and paperwork for the sale of my business – always professional, attentive and knowledgeable; yet friendly, insightful and down-to-earth. This has been my first, and probably last, foray into the world of corporate law and these guys made it relatively painless! Thanks very much for a job well done.”

Assisted by solicitor Matt Hartas, corporate partner Jeremy Parkin led the Wilkes team, while corporate finance advice was provided by David Ellis of Azets.

Jeremy said “It was a pleasure to work with Angus to help him release the value he has built up in the business, whilst giving him an opportunity to develop it further as part of the Kelsey portfolio.”

CPM represents a key addition to the Kelsey portfolio of agriculture titles. The deal will afford Angus, who will continue in the role of Commercial Director at CPM, the opportunity to contribute to the development and growth of the wider business, while CPM’s readers continue to benefit from its reputation for quality, independent journalism.

If you are considering exiting or acquiring a business, Jeremy and his team are keen to speak to you. If, like Angus, it’s your first deal on the corporate scene, or you’ve got more experience under your belt, you’ll need trusted advisers by your side who will guide you safely through the transaction. Contact Jeremy on 0121 710 5931 or at jparkin@wilkes.co.uk.

Cosmetic surgeons have reported an increase in requests for consultations due to “Lockdown face”.

“Working from home” became part of the new normal for many when the country entered a national lock down on 23rd March 2020. As video calls replaced face-to-face conversations, how people looked, or thought they looked, began to take on a greater significance.

The term “Lockdown face” has been coined by cosmetic surgeons to explain the reported surge in requests for consultations as people seek to improve their appearance.

While the number of people opting for surgical and non-surgical procedures is increasing, it’s important to remember that negligent surgery or treatments can be devastating and can result in permanent physical and psychological damage.

It is essential to carry out extensive research before undergoing any kind of cosmetic surgery or treatment:

  • Experience and qualifications: make sure that the surgeon or practitioner has the relevant qualifications to carry out the procedure.
  • Location: cosmetic surgeries or treatments must be carried out in a hospital or other accredited surgical facility. Check that the location is appropriately licenced.
  • Insurance: ensure that the surgeon or practitioner has full insurance in place at the outset of the matter. Without that insurance, if anything goes wrong options for recourse may be limited.

More general considerations include:

  • Will the results be permanent?
  • Does recovery call for time off work?
  • Will undergoing the procedure have any financial implications such as losing time from work, or needing follow up treatments or care?

What happens if the results don’t meet the expectations?

The first step is always to speak to the surgeon or practitioner who carried out the procedure. It may be that the body needs time to heal before the final results can be seen properly. If that isn’t the case, this would be the time to discuss a revision procedure with them.

If tackling any concerns directly with the surgeon or practitioner fails to bring about a satisfactory conclusion, there are other options to consider:

  1. Claim under s.75 Consumer Credit Act 1974: If a payment of £100 or more is made for the procedure by credit card it can be reclaimed under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. The credit card company is deemed jointly liable should anything go wrong, but a claim must be made within six years of the procedure being paid for.
  2. Pursue a medical negligence claim: A medical negligence claim has to prove that a duty of care was established but it fell below the standard expected of a reasonable surgeon or practitioner.

Kate Campbell-Gunn, Associate Solicitor in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence team at The Wilkes Partnership, understands that negligent surgery or treatment can be devastating, with unsatisfactory results leaving a legacy of physical and emotional pain. By pursuing a claim on your behalf, Kate would seek to recover funds to meet the costs of any corrective treatments along with any counselling that may be necessary following the ordeal.

Contact Kate on 0121 733 4314 or at kcampbell-gunn@wilkes.co.uk if think you may have reason to pursue a medical negligence claim.

 

We’ve all heard the old Benjamin Franklin adage, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes”. Even in 1789 tax was a contentious issue!

Whilst we are of sound mind and capacity, we are free to do with our estate as we wish, subject to certain exceptions, which includes the mitigation of inheritance tax (IHT) on death.

But what if we do not get round to it? We never specifically planned to mitigate IHT, but then mental incapacity strikes and a large tax bill ensues after death?

The Court of Protection is the court in England and Wales which deals with decisions on behalf of mentally incapacitous individuals.

The court’s powers to make decisions come from the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 and its exercise of those powers is subject to the principles set out in section 1. This includes the requirement that “An act done, or decision made, under this act for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made in their best interests”.

Indeed this provision also applies to all decisions made by attorneys and court appointed deputies. Section 4 of the Act and the MCA code of practice together with guidance issued by the Office of the Public Guardian should be referred to when coming to a best interest decision for an incapacitous person.

But what is the court’s view on mitigating IHT on behalf of an incapacitous person?

In short, it depends on the particular circumstances of the case but usually involves some lifetime gifting to take advantage of the seven year gifting rule. This means absolute gifts made by a person who then survives seven years do not get counted back into their estate on death for IHT, subject to certain exceptions.

The case of PBC v FMA and Others (2018) specifically examined lifetime gifting on behalf of an incapacitous adult (FMA) for the sole purpose of mitigating IHT on her death. Her estate was around £18m and she had made a Will benefitting her son (PBC), grandson, some other family members, and charity.

The court took a balance sheet approach considering various factors including FMA’s views expressed prior to losing capacity. Senior Judge Hilder stated The MCA does not permit the court to rely on default positions, assumptions or generalisations in making a decision about whether gifts to effect tax mitigation are in the best interests of a particular protected person. The court must decide the application on nothing more and nothing less than a case specific application of section 4.”

In this case, gifts of around £8m were authorised as being in FMA’s best interests.

For advice on any application to the Court of Protection, contact Ann-Marie Aston, Partner and Court of Protection Lead, on 0121 733 4336 or at aaston@wilkes.co.uk, or Sophie Fenn, Associate Solicitor, on 0121 733 4337 or at sfenn@wilkes.co.uk.

The Supreme Court has today conclusively determined that Uber drivers are workers and not independent contractors engaged on a self-employed basis. This Judgment entitles the drivers to be paid minimum wage and holiday pay, as well as giving other statutory rights.

The Supreme Court’s decision means that all Uber drivers employed on similar terms to the drivers in this case are workers within the meaning of Section 230 of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The Supreme Court considered five issues of major importance:

  • The drivers had no say in the remuneration they are paid for their work, which is determined entirely under the contract drafted by Uber.
  • All contractual terms are dictated by Uber.
  • Uber exercised considerable control over the way the drivers delivered services such as control over the type of car used, directing them to the location of the passengers and preferred routes to the passenger’s destination. Uber also encouraged driver ratings on performance to determine whether a driver was permitted to continue to access the Uber App.
  • Once a driver is at work and logged into the Uber App, the driver’s ability to accept or refuse particular rides is constrained by Uber. Failure to attend sufficient number of rides resulted in Uber logging the driver off the App and preventing them to return for a period of time.
  • Uber restricted all communications between the driver and passenger through its App. Uber took proactive steps to prevent drivers from establishing any relationship with the passenger beyond the extent of that single trip.

There is no doubt this is a significant victory for the Uber drivers in the UK and has serious implications for all gig economy workers. Businesses operating this model need to review their terms and conditions in light of this Judgment to ensure their practices and contracts are legally compliant.

James Leo is a Partner in The Wilkes Partnership’s Employment Law team. If this decision raises any questions for you or your business, contact him on 0121 710 5970 or at jleo@wilkes.co.uk.

On 29 August 2020 the Government introduced changes which restricted the termination of residential tenancies; possession proceedings were stayed until 20 September 2020 and all forms of possession proceedings were lifted with effect from 21 September 2020.

Residential landlords should, however, be mindful of the restrictions which remain in place:

• Under a Section 21 Notice a landlord must provide 6 months’ notice to terminate an assured short hold tenancy. This applies to any notice that was served on or after 29 August 2020 and these restrictions will remain in place until 31 March 2021.

• On 8 January 2021 the Government extended the suspension of bailiff evictions until at least 21 February 2021. Bailiffs will be allowed to attend properties to execute a warrant of possession in instances of trespass, death of the tenant, unoccupied property, anti-social behaviour involving the tenant, or where substantial rent arrears have accumulated, and the measures remain under continuous review.

For landlords of commercial properties, forfeiture can no longer be used as a remedy for rent arrears, and the Government’s stay on termination of commercial tenancies has been extended until 31 March 2021.

From 21 September 2020, the Government’s stay on possession proceedings was lifted which gives the green light for possession proceedings to be issued. Existing proceedings can also be reactivated in accordance with Practice Direction 55C of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998.

However, this welcome return does bring with it some additional hurdles as landlords who are bringing possession claims will face new steps in the process:

• There will be a review date when the Court will consider whether to list the claim for a hearing
• Cases will be listed in priority order
• Cases involving rent arrears which exceed 12 months, or 9 months where the amount of arrears constitutes more than 25% of a private landlord’s annual income, and cases involving illegal occupiers, will be dealt with more expeditiously
• A landlord may be asked to set out any knowledge they have as to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defendants and they could be asked to provide an updated rent account.

With the stay on possession proceedings lifted, claims are now beginning to progress but landlords should be aware of the additional procedures in place. These additions will inevitably result in unwelcome delays in obtaining a possession order.

As lockdown has become part of the ab-normal we are used to, changes in the procedure to obtain a possession order can be a source of confusion and frustration for landlords. Contact Alpesh Patel or one of his colleagues in the Property Litigation Team at The Wilkes Partnership LLP about issuing or reactivating existing possession proceedings.

Helen Smart of the Wilkes Corporate Team has advised BOOM Radio UK on its initial investment round as it raised funds to launch a new service targeting the UK’s 14m-strong baby boomer generation.

BOOM Radio is the latest venture of local radio veteran Phil Riley. Phil has an impressive track record in the industry where he has launched a number of successful stations and guided others through significant improvement during a career spanning four decades.

As a new start-up venture Helen worked closely with Phil and the BOOM Radio team drafting documentation to support and implement the initial investment round. She has also provided advice to BOOM Radio on a number of commercial contracts in the run up to the station’s launch on 14 February 2021.

Helen said: “It’s been a fantastic experience working with the team at BOOM Radio. Phil had a very clear plan and The Wilkes Partnership has been able to offer advice in a number of areas to help put that plan into action. Their target audience, the “Silver surfers”, are in for a real treat when BOOM goes live!”

James Leo, Partner and Head of Employment in the Wilkes Employment Team, was also on hand to provide expert knowledge as staffing matters came into the spotlight.

James said: “Advising a new start-up business is always exciting. Working alongside Helen meant that we could share information efficiently to ensure BOOM Radio hits the market in great shape. It’s good to see that Phil’s wealth of knowledge and experience continues to help drive the radio industry forward to service the needs of a growing audience”.

Phil Riley said of his experience working with The Wilkes Partnership “The advice and guidance we’ve received from Helen and James has helped to deliver something that all ‘baby boomers’ have been crying out for: a radio station where familiar hosts play the music that’s the soundtrack to their generation.”

The Wilkes Partnership is proud of the innovative and dynamic teams who support all of our clients, from new start-up ventures to established and growing businesses. If you would like to speak to one of our experts about putting your business plans into action contact Helen Smart on 0121 710 5804 or at hsmart@wilkes.co.uk, or James Leo on 0121 710 5970 or at jleo@wilkes.co.uk.