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Accolade for revered pub; A round up of the most popular stories from the past week on birminghampost.net.

A traditional Black Country pub with no gaming machines or music was named runner-up in the Campaign For Real Ale's hunt for the nation's best pub.

It is the first national accolade for The Beacon Hotel, in Bilston Street, Sedgley, which has previously won CAMRA regional honours.

The Victorian pub started brewing its own beers in the adjoining Sarah Hughes Brewery in 1921, its legendary six per cent ABV Dark Ruby Mild being particularly revered among experts.

Hampson to cut debts Brierley Hill-based aerospace group Hampson Industries said closer to a decision about selling assets to bring down its debt levels.

The firm said in an interim management statement that it remained cautious about expectations for the next financial year as it presses ahead with restructuring initiatives.

Hampson said net debt at the end of January was pounds 99 million, an increase of approximately pounds 10 million since the half year.

It added: "The reduction of net borrowings remains a key strategic priority for the group and, in this regard, the board has previously indicated that selective asset disposals may be pursued."

Funding cut for 'Big Society' group The Birmingham group praised by David Cameron for inspiring his Big Society vision is facing a 30 per cent funding drop.

The Prime Minister said the drive to turn around Balsall Heath, which was once a crime and prostitution hotspot, was behind his Big Society initiative.

But St Paul's Community Development Trust, which was set up in the 70s to improve education in the area, will see its budget from Birmingham City Council cut by almost a third this year.

The charity currently employs about 150 people to work with volunteers, and has already lost 100 posts since the Future Jobs Fund ended.

Dr Anita Halliday, chief executive of the trust, said more job losses may be on the cards.

EG Solutions reveals sales rise Software firm EG Solutions has revealed its turnover is expected to rise by 21 per cent - boosting profitability three-fold.

Staffordshire-based EG said sales for the year to January 31 were about pounds 5.1 million, compared to pounds 4.2 million last year.

The improvement in fortunes is set to help the company to post a pounds 300,000 profit, compared to pounds 100,000 last year.

The growth in revenue reflects contract wins, from both new and existing customers, during the year, the company said.

It was boosted by the performance of its South African subsidiary, which saw new business revenue rise from pounds 350,000 to more than pounds 1.2 million.

In a statement, the firm said: "Underlying demand continues to be driven by financial institutions seeking to improve efficiency, business processes and decision-making, and growing industry recognition of the value added by EG's products to this effort."

Islamic school closed over safety fears A Birmingham Islamic school has closed for a month amid safety fears after it was featured in a Channel 4 documentary.

Teachers at the Darul Uloom Islamic High School, in Small Heath, held meetings with police chiefs and fear that youngsters could be targeted by the far right.

The Dispatches documentary, Lessons in Hatred and Violence, showed footage of a preacher making offensive remarks about Hindus and ranting: "Disbelievers are the worst creatures".

But teachers at the school insist the undercover reporter captured an isolated incident where a 17-year-old senior student was talking to pupils.

They have provided a letter which shows that he was expelled for his views last August - five months before the school was made aware of the tapes by producers.

Empty rates put firm in jeopardy A Birmingham electrical supplier faces a permanent blackout - thanks to an "incorrect" rates demand for more than pounds 66,000 in a row over a derelict floor.

Bosses at Bordesley-based Borshch Electric are furious over rates bills they claimed could tip the firm over the edge and jeopardise the jobs of 32 workers.

The row centres on rates being demanded for the firm's top floor which bosses said had been empty ever since the Upper Trinity Street premises were opened.

Borshch Electric director Phil Cox said: "Ever since we moved in, it has always been an empty, derelict floor - there is no power or anything."

Private equity boost for safety firm Safety solutions firm Kee Safety has been boosted by a significant investment from private equity firm LDC.

The will help support the roll-out of new products, further expansion of international markets and future acquisitions at the Meriden-based firm.

Key supplies collective and personal fall protection designed to seperate people, working at height or on the ground, from hazards.

The business operates through a number of brands including KeeGuard, Kee Line, Kee Walk, Kee Access and Kee Klamp.

The value of the investment is undisclosed, but is thought to be a multi-million-pound deal.

Kee Safety employs approximately 180 staff and exports to over 35 countries.

Citizens Advice offices to remain open Citizens Advice Bureau offices across Birmingham are to stay open after a bitter row between the city council and bureau managers was finally resolved.

The five offices had been set to close -depriving residents of essential advice as spending cuts mean hundreds of public sector jobs are lost in the city.

But managers at the Birmingham Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) network and senior councillors managed to hammer out their differences at a crunch meeting. The CAB is to apply to a Government fund which is to provide pounds 100 million to voluntary and charitable bodies across the country.

Budget cuts 'will hurt Birmingham' Council budget cuts will see dole queues grow, services slashed and leave Birmingham's fragile economy reeling, the leader of the city's largest business group has said.

Opposition groups and trade unions have also dubbed the budget the "St Valentine's Day massacre" and an attack on the vulnerable, after it was agreed by the Tory-Lib Dem cabinet on Monday.

Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, has painted a bleak picture of the city economy in which the cuts could add to the misery.

Mr Blackett said: "Job creation in Birmingham is not strong. We have a few successes like Jaguar Land Rover, but on the whole large companies are not creating jobs."

Titan to beat market expectations Engineering group Titan Europe is expecting a big jump in full-year sales after a strong fourth quarter.

Kidderminster-based Titan expects to report a turnover of pounds 355 million for 2010 - approximately pounds 7 million ahead of market forecasts.

The group has seen an increase in revenue in 2010 over 2009 in all its key market sectors but particularly in construction, up by 47 per cent and mining, up by 40 per cent.

In a statement, the firm said: "It is pleasing to report that revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010 were 69 per cent higher than the corresponding period in 2009, with quarterly revenues in agriculture up 44 per cent, construction up 61 per cent, mining up 104 per cent and 'other' up 375 per cent as a result of the increased penetration of the railway brake component business."

Bullies blamed for girl's death Friends of a 15-year-old girl who died when she was struck by a train have claimed bullies are to blame for the death.

Natasha MacBryde's body was found on a railway line near Bromsgrove in the early hours of Monday morning.

Tributes have flooded in for the Year 10 pupil at Royal Grammar School Worcester, who lived in Warmstry Road, Bromsgrove.

The youngster was a keen athlete, who was part of the school athletics team and qualified for the county championships.

But bullying had been mentioned by many friends on Twitter and Facebook, along with those who have left floral tributes at Bromsgrove railway station.

CAPTION(S):

Alex Marchant ,23, general manager at the Beacon Hotel, with Martyn Powell, head brewer, and Simon Massey
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 17, 2011
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