How to reach us — update

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Our usual BSSEC email account is temporarily out of order

This means that until further notice all correspondence for BSSEC should be sent to this address.

We are still able to offer a free email circulation service for readers wishing to circulate news, information, events.

We also post items on this blog and these also go to Twitter and to my LinkedIn network.

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iSE is seeking a new chief executive

iSE’s CEO, Sarah Crawley — the search for her successor is again underway

I’m not going to embarrass either myself or Sarah Crawley by repeating everything I said in this post when last her departure from iSE was announced.

She didn’t leave. Her plans coincided with the outbreak of the Covid pandemic and lockdown and she delayed her departure at the request of iSE’s Board which wanted Sarah at the helm to steer the organisation through the crisis.

Well, she has done that and a new recruitment exercise is underway to find her successor as iSE’s chief executive. Roots HR CIC is handling the recruitment.

Trust me when I say that jobs of this significance in the social enterprise support sector don’t come up every day.

The closing date for applications is Thursday 12th March 2021 at 12 noon.

 Advert and full details here.

WMCA launches Community Recovery Innovation Challenge — three top prizes of £15,000

West Midlands Combined Authority has launched a brand new competition for bright ideas that will help people in communities across the West Midlands get through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The Community Recovery Innovation Challenge will provide three top projects with up to £15,000 in investment and coaching. There will also be cash prizes and support for an additional 20 shortlisted projects.

» Are you based in the West Midlands?

» Do you have an innovative idea or project that can improve the lives of citizens as we build back better from the pandemic?

» Would you like the chance to get coaching and support that could take your project to the next level?

Entries close on Sunday 21 March 2021.

Read the full story on the WMCA website

University of Birmingham’s fully-funded Impact Internships

Not to be confused with the internships programme covered in this earlier post, the University of Birmingham also operates a scheme called Impact Internships.

These are designed specifically to enable start-ups, social enterprises and SMEs to recruit talented students or graduates from the university to provide support with specific projects.

The scheme offers fully funded internships, taking place over the summer for a period of 20 working days, either on a full time or part-time basis. The intern could contribute to a specific project or their work could involve whatever best suits your business requirements at this time. If you have a graduate role you would like to recruit for, you may wish to offer an initial trial period of 20 working days and utilise the funding this way.

The programme will be advertised to final year students and recent graduates in March 2021, with recruitment taking place in April 2021.

If you wish to recruit an intern through the scheme, please complete this short registration form by Sunday 14th February 2021.

If you have any questions or need more information please email the team.

Read more about the University of Birmingham’s Impact Internships 

WMCA launches new creative & cultural social enterprise support pilot

The West Midlands Combined Authority has just launched a pilot project to test new approaches to developing cultural & creative social enterprises. The programme is supported by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP, Black Country Consortium (LEP) and Arts Council England.

WMCA says the project is designed to provide a rapid pilot to address challenges raised by the Covid-19 epidemic, particularly for smaller, diverse-led organisations operating hyper-locally within their communities. It will provide an opportunity for selected cultural & creative social enterprises to focus on business development through a core grant and a tailored training & mentoring support offer. Participating organisations will also be resourced to support micro social enterprises in their area.

Key facts

WMCA is looking to award two £30,000 grants to eligible cultural & creative social enterprises to enable them to develop their own business models and in turn support five micro-social enterprises with advice, business support and a small grant.

No match funding required.

Applications for the two host organisation roles are now open and close on 1st March 2021.

Read full information and applications details on the WMCA website

The state of economic justice in Birmingham & the Black Country 2021 — major new report published

The funding that The Barrow Cadbury Trust invests in its Economic Justice programme continues to help break new and important ground.

The New Policy Institute (NPI), supported by The Barrow Cadbury Trust, has just published its second major analysis of economic justice in Birmingham and the Black Country.

The State of Economic Justice in Birmingham and the Black Country 2021 examines the state of ‘economic justice’ in Birmingham and the four local authority areas of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton under four headings:

» Population and public.
» Household and community resources.
» Productivity and jobs.
» Employment, pay and job security.
» Housing.

The report follows the IPPR’s definition of economic justice as ‘an economy that fairly generates and distributes its rewards’.

The report acknowledges that the existence of many deeply deprived local areas in Birmingham and the Black Country will “not be news to people who know the area well”. But its aim — and it is a vital one — is to ensure “that what is known through experience is reflected in official statistics”. And this is what the report does an excellent job of — setting Birmingham and Black Country data in a national context.

The wealth of data and analysis in NPI’s new report will act as a source-book for a long time to come for anyone whose work touches on social and economic justice in Birmingham and the Black Country.

ChangeKitchen CIC — order your click+collect Valentine’s Day supper and donate a community meal for four

ChangeKitchen CIC has announced a new Click+Collect supper club, starting 14th February with a Valentine’s soul food menu that ‘shares some love’ by also reducing food poverty in Birmingham communities. Now you can treat someone you love to a delicious Valentine’s meal while also donating a nutritious family meal for four to the community.

With so many people wanting to connect in new ways while in lockdown, it’s more important than ever to show those we love just how much they mean to us.

ChangeKitchen’s three-course pan-African vegan Valentine’s meal is one way to celebrate those who are special in your life. So set the table, light the candles and let ChangeKitchen CIC provide that romantic restaurant quality meal to share. Order today to pick up in person from anytime between 5-7pm on Sunday 14th February and heat at home.

Read the full story & order here

Harness the power of smart phone tech to make better videos — watch the workshop replay

Image: courtesy BVSC

I wrote in a recent post about a free online workshop on smart phone video production skills being offered by Ruth Duggal of Make Your Own Video Training Academy (MYO VDO) in conjunction with BVSC. That webinar took place on 20th January but you can still view the recording here (on YouTube). In a brisk 57 minutes Ruth covers a fantastic amount:

  • Why video is such an effective method of communication.
  • What is a “well-made” video?
  • How and why you should be “authentic”.
  • Video and the “trust factor”.
  • Building a viewer profile.
  • Common barriers to make-your-own video production and how to overcome them.
  • Video as part of a communications strategy.
  • Storyboards and how to use them.
  • Gaining confidence and overcoming camera shyness.
  • The 5 Ps of presenting.
  • DIY vs call-in-the-professionals.
  • Equipment — what you need and (more importantly) what you don’t need…


… And more.

There are also download links to free templates — such as analysing your viewer profile and 50 types of video you can make.

If you didn’t manage to catch the webinar then tune-in for a complete replay. I must say, video is a complete mystery to me and I found this an hour well-spent.

Watch the webinar recording

Ruth Duggal and the MYO VDO academy

Could your social enterprise benefit from the support of bright and motivated University of Birmingham students?

Last year we helped promote placements for University of Birmingham College of Arts & Law students and this was extremely successful — the take-up amongst Birmingham social enterprises was excellent.

The university’s 2021 placement offer is just in — please see below.


Could you benefit from the support of bright and motivated University of Birmingham students?

Placement students from the College of Arts and Law can help your organisation in a host of ways through the Professional Skills Module, which co-ordinates 70-hour work placements running from June-December. Our students are keen to work with charities, social enterprises, start-ups and SMEs as they provide a more rounded experience and responsibility.

We are seeking virtual roles, with a dedicated project or research focus and remote supervisory guidance; or location-based roles, within Covid guidelines, with a virtual contingency. The extra capacity and support you gain will help towards the students’ degree.

What could you achieve with the energy, creativity, writing and research skills of some of our brightest minds during these challenging times?

Download the PDF for further details

Or send mail to Lesley Griffiths, Placements Officer

BVSC/Shuut Videos — harness the power of smartphone video tech in a free online workshop

Image: courtesy BVSC

Free workshop: How To Get Better At Video
Date: Wednesday 20th January 2021
Time: 10.00-11.00

Charities and voluntary organisations have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Demand for services has increased yet fundraising opportunities – especially in-person – have disappeared overnight. It doesn’t take an economist to work out that the funding gap is getting wider.

The key for many will lie in effective digital communications. But executing an effective digital comms strategy is not so simple, especially for smaller organisations. With every penny spent on frontline provision, there’s often nothing in the pot to pay communications professionals — and overstretched staff and volunteers often lack the time to organise and run digital campaigns, even if they know how.

So what can you do? Get smart about your communications — by making videos with your phone…

Read more about the free online workshop that BVSC and Ruth Duggal of Shuut videos are offering and book your place.

School for Social Entrepreneurs is promoting three new programmes

The School for Social Entrepreneurs is currently promoting three new programmes of support for social entrepreneurs and we said we’d help get the word out. The programmes are as follows:

Black Social Entrepreneurs Futures Programme

This programme is for people who identify as all of the following:

  • Black.
  • Supporting predominately Black communities.
  • Based in and working in the West Midlands.
  • Have already set up your Social Enterprise.


The programme will help you:

  • Strengthen your project with our free learning programme.
  • Grow your income from trading, so you can increase your social impact.
  • Gain a network of peers, who will help you develop your plans and act as a sounding board.
  • Get 1-to-1 advice from a business expert.
  • Get mentoring from a senior manager from Gowling WLG.


Apply no later than midnight on 31st January (sooner would be better).


Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme

The Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland Social Entrepreneurs Programme is run in partnership with the School for Social Entrepreneurs, and jointly funded by The National Lottery Community Fund.

The programme formally opens for applications in the new year but is now open for Expressions of Interest.

It could support you with:

  • A free learning programme, shaped by your needs, to help you adapt to a post-Covid new normal.
  • A grant (£1,000 – £7,000).
  • Mentoring.
  • A supportive community of like-minded peers.


There are 3 levels you could apply to:

Start Up
» Your project is in the planning stages but ready to start, or less than two years old. It makes £0 – £15,000 a year.
» You want to learn how to establish your organisation.

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

Trade Up
» Your project has been running for at least a year.
» It makes at least £15,000 a year.

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

Scale Up
Your project was probably established two or more years ago, and probably has two or more paid members of staff.
» It makes at least £75,000 a year (no upper limit).

Register interest in the 2021-22 programme and SSE will email you when applications open.

For more information and advance expressions of interest.

Heritage Trade Up Programme

Are you looking to strengthen the financial resilience and governance capabilities of your heritage organisation? This programme, in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, will offer eight months of capacity building support for a broad range of heritage sector organisations from across the UK.

SSE will support you to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes you need to develop enterprise models and deepen social and/or environmental impact. You will be part of a safe and supportive group of like-minded peers.

The programme offers:

  • Eight days of cohort-based learning between October 2021 – June 2022.
  • Up to £10,00 Match Trading grant.
  • Support network of like-minded peers.


The application window opens in February 2021 – register your interest to be alerted when recruitment goes live.

Green Paper aims to ‘transform’ public procurement

New plans to radically reform public procurement regulations have been published in the Green Paper ‘Transforming public procurement‘ (Dec 2020, CP 353).

The end of the Transition Period offers an “historic opportunity to overhaul our outdated public procurement regime,” the Green Paper says, and calls for the opening up public procurement to a more diverse supply base so that it is easier for new entrants such as small businesses, social enterprises and voluntary and charitable organisations to compete and win public contracts.

Yes, we have heard this before, and we will have to wait to see how these proposals actually play out in practical terms. However, if fully implemented, the Green Paper lays out changes in procurement legislation that would:

  • Sweep aside over 300 individual rules and introduce a single unified rule book.
  • Overhaul numerous complex procedures and replace them with three simple modern procedures.
  • Allow more freedom for suppliers and the public sector to work together and innovate.
  • Allow buyers to include the wider social benefits of a supplier when assessing who to award a contract to.
  • Give buyers the power to properly take account of a bidder’s past performance and exclude suppliers who have failed to deliver in the past.
  • Establish a new unit to oversee public procurement with powers to improve commercial skills of public sector contractors.
  • Introduce a single digital platform for registering contracts.


The proposed new rules will allow the public sector to ‘buy British’ for contracts not subject to international trade rules and ‘reserve’ public works contracts under £4.7m and goods and services contracts under £122k for small businesses, voluntary, community and social enterprises, or to bidders in specific geographical areas. (UPDATE 21/12/20: Further government guidance on the ‘reserving’ of contracts has just been issued — Policy Note PN 11/20 — and Andrew Millcross on Anthony Collins Solicitors’ blog makes interesting observations this.)

The Green Paper also seems to introduce a slightly broader interpretation of social value: “When public bodies are considering how social value benefits can be delivered through their contracts,” the press statement says, “the new rules will make it possible for them to consider full value to society and not just the public body undertaking the procurement. This means more, wider opportunities to deliver social value through public contracts.”

The Green Paper is subject to public consultation until 10th March 2021.

Cabinet Office press statement.

Transforming public procurement — full Green Paper.

→ There is extensive commentary on the proposals over on the How to Crack a Nut blog (which is written by a Professor of Economic Law and member of the European Procurement Law Group).

Roots HR CIC is recruiting

Founded in 2009, Roots HR CIC provides high quality and affordable HR services to social sector organisations. It has just announced the following vacancy:

Founder and Chief Executive, Jan Golding, is leaving her employed role in April 2021 to pursue new goals, while retaining her role as Chair of the Board.

With an unprecedented demand for our services at this time, it is an appropriate point to conduct a strategic review of the organisation with the aim of increasing and improving the support we offer to the social sector.

We are therefore seeking to appoint an Interim Chief Executive who will lead the organisation and conduct this review while overseeing the governance, finance and operations of the business whilst ensuring we continue to maximise our social impact.

Closing date: 8th January 2021.

We wish Jan well for the future, and we wish Roots HR CIC every success in recruiting to this role.


UK Shared Prosperity Fund — £220m extra funding for ‘piloting and testing new approaches’

With thanks to Debbie Assinder who posted this on LinkedIn.

In the November Spending Review, the chancellor announced that £220 million will be allocated in 2021/22 to help local areas prepare for the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

From 2022 the  UKSPF replaces EU structural funds such as ERDF and ESF and will be worth about £1.5bn a year. The UKSPF will be allocated to bespoke employment and skills programmes tailored to the needs of local areas. Funding will also be targeted to the areas most in need, such as ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and rural and coastal communities.

While full details about the UKSPF will not be announced until spring 2021 it’s encouraging to see an explicit commitment to early funds being dedicated to enabling “communities to pilot programmes and new approaches”.

We must ensure that social enterprises and VCOs in local communities are ready and able to access these funds.

Read more on this story in the Local Government Chronicle 

New BVSC report reveals detailed picture of the impact of the Covid crisis on Birmingham’s VCS — and the sector’s contribution

A new report just published by BVSC reveals a fascinating and detailed picture of the impact of the Covid crisis on Birmingham’s voluntary and community sector.

Birmingham Voluntary Service Council: State of the Sector 2020: Digest of Headlines brings together key findings from a survey redesigned from the ground up to furnish as much data as possible about VCOs in Birmingham as they entered lockdown and as lockdown was lifted.

We all know that the VCSE has been instrumental in the civil response to Covid. 89% of respondents report significantly changing their service delivery in order to meet new and emerging need arising from the pandemic – and doing this often with no additional funding. And while some organisations necessarily had to cut back or curtail some services, over 65% of VCOs actually expanded their services during the lockdown period in order to meet rising demand.

If you want to know more about what being part of the civil response to Covid has actually meant in practice for VCOs in Birmingham, including the likely longer-term trends in income, staffing capacity and volunteering, then you’ll find this report interesting.

(And in the interests of full disclosure, yes I did do some of the work involved.)

Go to the BVSC blog to read a full post from chief executive Brian Carr offering a commentary on key headlines — also, download the full report.


Micro-fund opens to grassroots community groups in Birmingham

BVSC has just announced the following:

The Brum Recovery Micro Fund is set up with funding from Birmingham City Council and is aimed at unconstituted and grassroots community groups in the city. Groups can apply for between £500 and £2,000 to support activity that responds to the needs of their local community, and which have been amplified as a result of COVID-19. The deadline for the first round of applications is 8 December 2020.

This is to support activity taking place over the holidays and into the new year. There will be a second round in January with a deadline of 20 January 2021 and applications will be accepted until March 2021, or until all funds have been awarded, whichever comes sooner.

The fund can provide support for services such as room hire, training and facilitation, and goods such as equipment or items needed to start or maintain activity. For more information about what can and can’t be funded, please refer to the fund criteria and guidance document, and come along to one of the two Q&A online sessions organised to answer any questions you may have.

Online Q&A: Tuesday 1 December 12:30 – 13:30

Round 1 — application closing date is 8th December.
Round 2 — application closing date is 20th January.
Round 3 — applications will be accepted until March 2021, or until all funds have been awarded (whichever comes sooner).

Go to the BVSC website to book for the online Q&A and to see full guidance and application details.

Government sets important new trend in social value

After a period during which things have been very quiet on the social value front, the government has recently (Sept 2020) issued new procurement guidelines which explicitly link social value in public procurement contracts to the Covid recovery effort.

At first glance this may seem a somewhat arcane point, but it is a potentially huge change in the social value world because it establishes a new mandatory model for social value, effectively replacing the previous legislation which merely required social value to be “considered” in public contracts in favour of a model requiring its “explicit evaluation”.

The relevant policy note is covered here in this government press statement and the policy note itself Action Note PPN 06/20.

PPN 06/20 says: “Social value should be explicitly evaluated in all central government procurement, where the requirements are related and proportionate to the subject-matter of the contract, rather than just ‘considered’ as currently required under the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.” This new model of social value, it says, “should be applied to all new procurements from 1 January 2021”.

“A minimum weighting of 10% of the total score for social value should be applied in the procurement,” the note says, “to ensure that it carries a heavy enough score to be a differentiating factor in bid evaluation; a higher weighting can be applied if justified.”

An Annex to PPN 06/20 sets out specified THEMES and OUTCOMES that should be used (although commercial teams can exercise discretion in deciding which are most appropriate) and these are in the screen-grabs below:

The guidance neatly sidesteps the thorny issue of how social value in bids should be “measured” by emphasising instead that “evaluation…should be qualitative so all potential suppliers, including SMEs, VCSEs and those new to government business can successfully bid by describing what they will deliver and how they will deliver it (i.e. it is the quality of what is being offered that will count in the evaluation, not the quantity)”.

Application of this model will be mandatory in central government.

Now, as far as I can see, this present guidance therefore applies to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies — but not to local authorities. I’m no legal specialist so I thought I may be misunderstanding the PPN but at least one law firm has reviewed it and drawn the same conclusion. (If any of our solicitor colleagues know/think differently please comment or email.)

However, we have previously seen changes in the social value legislation retrospectively applied to local authorities and I suspect that that is what will happen here.

And frankly, if it doesn’t, then we should be lobbying wherever we can to ensure that this same level of consistency does apply to local authorities, because social value has been neglected of late and this new guidance offers a way of extracting the kind of social value that matters most as we and our public institutions set about the task of “building back better”. 

The relevant policy note is covered here in this government press statement and the policy note itself Action Note PPN 06/20.

Direct link to PPN 06/20.

UPDATE 16/12/20: PPN 06/20 has now been supplemented by new government guidance (initial aimed at central government departments) explaining how this “new Social Value Model” should be used. 

Join iSE for a special Social Enterprise Day 2020

Thursday 19th November is Social Enterprise Day, held as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

As we near the middle of lockdown #2,  iSE wanted to do something to help keep up the spirits of the sector, while also promoting the work that social enterprises do. So join them for a special Social Enterprise Day Zoom quiz from 4pm on Wednesday 19th November.

Places are limited, but iSE is offering a special Christmas prize with social enterprise goodies for the winner!

If you would like to take part please send mail to Paul Barnes.

UK churches create £12.4bn a year in social value

Exercise classes, support for asylum seekers and refugees, community meals, parent-toddler groups, food banks, employment support and job-hunting, credit unions, benefits advice — there are over 40,000 churches in the UK and together they host over 35,000 community projects.

To anyone familiar with the way that in recent decades churches have increasingly become ‘community hubs’ as well as places of worship, it will perhaps be the scale of activity rather than its nature that is surprising.

A recent item in The Guardian (Churches tally up their value to society – at £12.4bn, 18th October 2020) makes this very clear. The National Churches Trust (NCT) has just published House of Good: The economic and social value of church buildings to the UK which reveals for the first time that the social value created every year by church-based projects and activities is equivalent to £12.4bn a year.

There were two things about this that surprised me.

The first was this. I was quite surprised that an organisation like the NCT would adopt a method for measuring its social value that relies on attributing financial proxies to a range of activities and using underlying formulae to combine these into an overall financial equivalent. But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. In many ways a financial proxy measurement of social value is perfectly suited to very large organisations (or perhaps more accurately groups of organisations) where there are a multiplicity of hard-to-compare social value outcomes.

But the second thing surprised me more, and that is that the valuation exercise was undertaken not by Social Value Portal Ltd, which has been promoting its ‘National TOMS’ social value methodology since around 2017, but by State of Life, a new entrant into the social value measurement marketplace, a Community Interest Company only launched on the 4th March 2020 — “with the help of David Knott (Director at the Office for CiviI Society in DCMS) and Lord Gus O’Donnell” [previously head of the Civil Service], its website says. And no, I don’t know what that slightly curious formulation means either. The new CIC is a joint venture between Jump Projects Ltd and Reason Digital.

I’ve no doubt that financial equivalence methods for measuring social value are what will eventually come to dominate because in many ways it is the only method that overcomes the thorny issue of ‘comparability’: how do you compare or combine — or even meaningfully report — social value of different kinds? Financial proxies at least provide a headline figure that makes people sit up and take notice — even if they have no idea how that figure has been arrived at.

Anyway, this is an interesting development in social value — both from the NCT’s particular perspective, and from that of there being new entrants into the measurement marketplace. I would dearly love to know how much the National Churches Trust spent in consultancy support because this really has been a huge undertaking and must put it in the forefront of social value measurement and reporting, up there with major national charities and huge non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs).

And on the subject of NDPBs, one can’t help but wonder whether State of Life  has been set up specifically to corner this particular marketplace.

Choose the POLICY ISSUES drop-down menu on our home-page and select PUBLIC SERVICES & SOCIAL VALUE for wealth of material on social value. 

WiSE Wednesday Webinar #9 — Social investment: hear from the entrepreneurs

iSE welcomes you to the last of its WiSE Wednesday webinars for 2020 — a  social investment panel conversation with Melanie Mills, Senior Director, Social Sector Engagement at Big Society Capital and social entrepreneurs who have taken social investment.
Hear expert insights from the world of social investment from Melanie Mills of Big Society Capital. Melanie will chair this session exploring participants’ stories of how social investment has benefitted their organisations, and what they wish they’d known in their investment journey.
The conversation will cover:
  • Taking on debt during a pandemic Some call it brave, some call it some terrifying and taking on debt during a global health pandemic is certainly not for everyone. Yet taking risks can often yield great rewards.
  • Flexible finance?  Covid-19 has shaken up almost every aspect of our lives but what has it been like for someone whose taken on repayable finance. Exactly how flexible is social investment?
  • For better or for worse  Social investors genuinely care about their investees but how has the strain of the pandemic impacted on those treasured relationships and how have they changed?
Ask your social investment questions to the panel in the open Q&A:
Date: Wednesday 14th October 2020
Time: 2.00pm start

Could you be the new operator of a friendly vegan/veggie wholefood shop at The Warehouse, Birmingham Friends of the Earth?

This, just in from The Warehouse/Birmingham FoE:

Could you be the new operator of a friendly vegan/veggie wholefood shop at The Warehouse, Birmingham Friends of the Earth’s community building in Allison St, Digbeth? Or perhaps you have a different ethical retail business idea — books, crafts, hairdressing, or something else entirely?

If so, Birmingham FoE would love to hear from you.

Our friends at Well Rooted Wholefoods have decided to call it a day and the search is on for some new shop-keepers at The Warehouse. 

There has been a wholefood shop operating at Birmingham FoE since the One Earth Shop first opened its doors back in the 1980s. The shop currently trades next to The Warehouse Cafe with a connecting door, but we could also offer spaces fronting Shaw’s Passage or Allison Street.

Monthly rent, including heat, light and business rates, ranges from £300-£600 pcm and the spaces we can offer are 150-450 sq ft.

If you’re interested, or would like more information, please email Birmingham FoE or ring 0121 632 6909.