David Parkin on a devolution dead parrot and the event that sells out quicker than Take That

David Parkin on a devolution dead parrot and the event that sells out quicker than Take That

THE stand off between the Government and a majority of Yorkshire councils over regional devolution is starting to resemble Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch. You remember the one – where customer John Cleese has bought a parrot which is dead but pet shop owner Michael Palin is trying to convince him it is alive. It strikes me that’s how the debate over devolving more powers to Yorkshire is going. The Government has said it wants ‘devo’ deals centred around city regions and has committed to backing one for Sheffield. The only problem is that after squabbling between themselves for years, 17 Yorkshire councils have now decided they all want to work together and have drawn back from a deal based around the Leeds City Region and have proposed a ‘One Yorkshire’ plan. Barnsley and Doncaster councils have walked away from a Sheffield city region devolution deal to join the One Yorkshire “coalition of the willing”, leaving Sheffield and Rotherham councils standing like worried party hosts, wondering whether anyone will turn up to join them. The Government has indicated it will still back the plans for South Yorkshire and is currently resisting the One Yorkshire proposal. It prompted Keighley Labour MP John Grogan to table a debate in the House of Commons the other night calling for the Government to change its stance. He said it was time for Yorkshire to receive long-awaited devolved powers and a £150m annual budget as well as an elected mayor. Mr Grogan said a so-called One Yorkshire deal would create the second most powerful mayor in the UK after Sadiq Khan in London. John...
David Parkin on America’s biggest danger, language differences and fame at last

David Parkin on America’s biggest danger, language differences and fame at last

WITH his sombre tone and measured words, Donald Trump struck a strangely presidential figure as he reacted to the Las Vegas massacre, the kind of scene we have rarely seen since the President took office in January. Similar words on his Twitter feed looked oddly out of place, juxtaposed as they were coming closely after his insults about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un who he has taken to calling “Little Rocket Man” in Twitter taunts. I wonder if Trump would have remained so measured if the biggest mass murder in America in modern history been committed by a Muslim? The sense is that Trump’s immediate reaction would almost certainly not have been to try to unite the nation or articulate its grief, it would have been to propose further measures to restrict Muslims travelling to or in the USA. The reality is that this carnage was caused by an American, somebody born in America, who had lived there all his life and had a professional job and who, as far as we are aware up to this point, was a law abiding citizen. But under those laws to which Stephen Paddock abided, he was able to legally amass an arsenal of dozens of automatic and semi-automatic weapons which ultimately enabled him to kill 58 people and wound almost 500 more in America’s entertainment capital in a way that Isis can probably only dream about. America’s problem is that this evil was not caused by a shadowy radical Islamic terrorist group thousands of miles from its shores, it stemmed from the right that the Second Amendment of its Constitution gives...
David Parkin on an exchange of export success, a Playboy story and a new role

David Parkin on an exchange of export success, a Playboy story and a new role

THE sun was threatening to push itself through the clouds above York Racecourse bathing the Knavesmire in an early morning autumnal hue. There is nothing that compensates for having to get up in the dark than arriving at your destination and being inspired by the setting. As I walked out onto the balcony of the Knavesmire Stand at York early on Wednesday morning I could see joggers and dog walkers speckling the grassland which dates from pre-mediaeval times and which is now the home of York Racecourse. I wouldn’t profess to be superstitious but given I was there to compere a breakfast seminar on international trade opportunities, the sign facing me across the racecourse did seem something of an omen. Above a huge photograph of horses racing at York, it said: “Best in the World”. That’s also the aim of Export Exchange, a the peer-to-peer export knowledge, mentoring and connections network for the Leeds City Region. Launched by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, the Department for International Trade and a number of private sector media, marketing and export specialists in June 2017, the ExportExchange online and offline network is a unique collaboration with the aim of helping businesses within the city region and beyond to increase exports, grow revenues and create employment. ExportExchange (www.exportexchange.co.uk) is growing daily, welcoming new Patrons and helping new and growing exporters across the region, from Barnsley to Harrogate, and Bradford to York. I hosted the launch event in Leeds in June and this week’s event in York was the first in a series of seminars focused on tapping into the experiences of those...
David Parkin looks into the future for Asda, remembers Raging Bull and names from Game of Thrones

David Parkin looks into the future for Asda, remembers Raging Bull and names from Game of Thrones

IF I’d known writing about Asda would create so much interest, I’d have done it years ago. As well as being emailed out to more than 7,000 people I also publish this blog on Linkedin. Last week’s set a record with 5,850 views on Linkedin and 146 likes. Interestingly 671 people from Asda read the column with another 51 from George at Asda and 50 from Walmart on top of that – as well as 105 people from Morrisons who read it and over 50 from Sainsbury’s. There were plenty of comments posted too – the majority in agreement with my views that Asda has lost its way and needs to find a route back to what made it so successful in the first place. One comment simply said: “What a brutal, frank and damning article…but so true unfortunately.” I take no pleasure in the current predicament in which Leeds-based supermarket group Asda finds itself. Contrary to what it tells the market, in my view most of Asda’s problems are of its own making and I just pointed that out. I used the phrase “frog marching” to describe the way the supermarket has been rapidly exiting its redundant staff at its Leeds head office. What was interesting was that several people who have been victims, or watched it happen, used the same phrase, which suggests we are not talking about isolated incidents here. For a business that prided itself on valuing its “colleagues” it doesn’t say much. Some former employees said it lost its way when it started to put profit before people. Of course profit is key for...
David Parkin on the price of failure at Asda and a Goodfella who hit a high note as a Soprano

David Parkin on the price of failure at Asda and a Goodfella who hit a high note as a Soprano

THEY used to run a scheme at Asda’s head office in Leeds called the Golden Cone Awards. Staff, or “colleagues” as the supermarket likes to call them, voted for the most effective and popular team members who then were allowed to park in a space marked by a golden traffic cone right outside the front door of Asda HQ. Don’t laugh, there were so many people working in the head office that the car park resembled the M25 on a bad day. Visitors to Asda were advised to stick their car in a public car park nearby. I once went to interview the chief executive or “president” as Asda, owned by US giant Wal-Mart, likes to call the boss and got a slapped wrist for leaving my car in a golden cone space. I quite enjoyed it. Not the parking, the slap. One thing is for sure: with the amount of redundancies Asda has made from its head office in the last couple of years I very much doubt that car parking is currently at a premium. Last year the supermarket chain made about 750 redundancies at its headquarters and at the start of this month it announced another 288 job losses – about 10 per cent of the total number of staff working there. For those of us who take a passing interest in the fortunes of the players in Britain’s highly competitive supermarket sector, this didn’t really come as any surprise. In my opinion Asda has been sleepwalking towards this for years. Under Archie Norman and Allan Leighton and several of their successors, the supermarket led the...
David Parkin goes to Hull and back, meets a finance director with a fan club and embraces gender diversity

David Parkin goes to Hull and back, meets a finance director with a fan club and embraces gender diversity

HULL has really embraced its title of UK City of Culture with a gusto that is impressive. Cultural events are happening on a daily basis throughout 2017 and the East Yorkshire city now provides a case study of how to leverage such an opportunity to maximum benefit. It has been so successful that it has almost made people forget about Hull YouTube icon Ronnie Pickering. Who? Ronnie Pickering! I was back in Hull last Friday for what has been dubbed the ‘Jolly Boys Cultural Tour’. Some readers may remember a similar event last year. The idea was the brainchild of Hull businessman Shaun Watts, who wondered how he and fellow members of the city’s business community could make their contribution to the City of Culture celebrations. Shaun and 10 other business contacts decided to each invite a guest from outside Hull to spend a day touring the city sampling some of its rich history and culture…and pubs. To be fair it is a much more palatable prospect than painting yourself blue and standing naked in the city streets. If you are unfamiliar with that story, it happened last year when US artist Spencer Tunick persuaded 3,200 local people to gather in the city centre, strip naked and be painted four shades of blue before posing in various locations in Hull to be photographed for an art exhibition commissioned by the city’s Ferens Art Gallery ahead of the UK City of Culture celebrations. Last year’s Cultural Tour took in the nearby town of Beverley and some East Yorkshire country pubs on board an historic 1947 bus but this year, in...
David Parkin on a nice guy of business, boxing clever and working hard…just like that

David Parkin on a nice guy of business, boxing clever and working hard…just like that

GOLF is not something I spend much time playing these days but when an invitation was received from David Ansbro, the former UK and European boss of law firm Eversheds, I jumped at the opportunity. David is one of those rare individuals who combine warmth, humour, intelligence and wisdom along with a complete absence of ego, despite his many achievements. It made a round of golf at picturesque Skipton Golf Club fly by and I even played pretty well, thanks to David’s relaxed and jovial company. With his half moon spectacles perched on the end of his nose, David resembles a wise owl – perhaps appropriate given he was once chief executive of Leeds City Council, which has three owls on its coat of arms and golden statues of the nocturnal birds of prey atop the city’s civic hall. Such was his success in the public sector – he was the youngest town clerk in the country when appointed by York City Council in 1981 and went on to run Kirklees and Leeds councils and develop one of the first private/public partnerships between a local authority and business – he was headhunted by Eversheds’ forerunner Hepworth & Chadwick to launch its public sector practice. He was quickly promoted to run the Leeds and Manchester offices of Eversheds and then spent three years heading up the firm in the UK and Europe. The legal sector has always been viewed as a bear pit where only the ruthless and selfish survive, but Ansbro did things his way, valuing everyone in the firm equally – from the post room staff to the...
David Parkin on the style of York Races, a Northern Powerhouse and a Brucie bonus

David Parkin on the style of York Races, a Northern Powerhouse and a Brucie bonus

THE BBC 4 channel had a surprising TV hit on its hands last year when it put a camera on the footplate of a train travelling down the East Coast Main Line. I think I’ve come up with a sequel. I’m going to get a drone to fly over the champagne bar at York Racecourse about an hour after racing has finished at Ladies Day at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. All human life appears to be there, and a few other species too. If you could get David Attenborough to do the commentary then I’m sure it would be a box office smash. Some people go to the Ebor Festival to see some of the greatest race horses in the world. I go to observe the people. And I’m never disappointed. Of course my two trips to York this week were purely for research purposes. On Wednesday I was a guest of Richard Larking of Progeny Corporate Law in Leeds. Ever since I gatecrashed the firm’s Christmas party last year and danced on a table wearing a sombrero, Richard has somehow felt duty bound to invite me to all their other social events. And I’ve felt duty bound to accept. Among our number was David Knaggs, the former boss of law firm Irwin Mitchell who is better known as Lord Knaggs and now enjoying a life of leisure. Both Richard and I complimented David on his suit, a mid-blue pinstriped number made by Leeds tailor extraordinaire James Michelsberg. I was also jealous of David’s flowing hairstyle which tumbled over his collar in a manner which reminded me...
David Parkin on the perils of out of office, Uber, the madness of the Premier League and celebrating Elvis

David Parkin on the perils of out of office, Uber, the madness of the Premier League and celebrating Elvis

EVERY week I spend part of my Friday morning deleting several hundred automatic email out of office replies to this blog. Most of them have the usual message about being away from the office on holiday or on a day off and details of when the person will be back at their desk. You spot regular names – there is one person who never seems to be in the office and appears constantly on holiday. But then they do work in banking so you can understand it. Others tend to “over-share” – using the modern parlance – information in their automatic replies. One chap actually said in his message: “I am currently out of the office improving people’s lives.” Who is this impressive individual? Is it a superhero or perhaps someone who spends their holidays volunteering for the International Red Cross? No, he is actually in recruitment. Bonkers and pretentious, but no more delusional than most recruiters I have met, to be honest. They must be, none of them has ever offered me a job. Last week just as I was about to delete one out of office message, I spotted that the person had included names of colleagues working on specific “projects” that could be contacted in their absence. Those projects were entitled Contour, Rocket and Trident. Very impressive, but they sound like team names picked by over-eager contestants on The Apprentice. I used to play in a five-a-side football league in a team named Hey Nonny Nonny, from lyrics in a song in the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing. It took us a while to work...
David Parkin on Yorkshire’s path to the promised land and his Kylie connection

David Parkin on Yorkshire’s path to the promised land and his Kylie connection

I’M always impressed by the passion that the people running Yorkshire’s accountancy and law firms have for the region as a whole. Of course, if the region in which you live and work thrives, then there is a good chance that your own business will do pretty well. But putting in the hours for the benefit of the wider region is a commitment on top of leading your own firm. Chris Hearld, senior partner of KPMG’s leeds office and chairman of the firm in the North, has long been a champion of what devolution and the Northern Powerhouse can do for Yorkshire. When I called in for a coffee with Chris this week I was keen to get his take on the latest move towards devolution in the region. I highlighted last week that council leaders in Yorkshire say they have had positive talks about a move towards wider devolution for the whole region. Is this a movement in the right direction or just posturing? Time will tell. But if local authority leaders are to continue to have the support of people like Chris and others that run the firms that employ so many people and do so much wealth creation across Yorkshire then they have to deliver sooner rather than later. I sense people in business are growing very tired of the backbiting and brinkmanship displayed by too many of our regional politicians. It’s time they put party political differences and their own political ambitions to one side and did something for the good of the whole region. I’m not holding my breath. ::: I was at one...