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Charlie Duff

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Election Live: Expert Panellists


Meet our expert panel who will be commenting on the results of the general election, live tonight on our Cover it Live page here.

Phil Orford, chief executive, Forum of Private Business
Forum of Private Business chief executive Phil Orford began his career in sales before starting his own business at the age of 21. Between 1983 and 2007, he was involved in a number of start-up companies as diverse as scientific supplies and hazardous waste management. Phil is passionate about supporting the small and medium-sized business sector, which he believes is the backbone of the UK economy.

Mike Sturgess, managing director, SWATUK Limited
In his role as managing director of accountancy training and compliance experts SWATUK Limited, Mike Sturgess provides management support for firms with a view to improving profitability and accountability within firms. He heads up the SWATUK team handling practice mergers and acquisitions.

Sue Acton, founder, Bubble & Balm
Sue is the founder of Bubble & Balm, one of the UK’s first Fairtrade certified beauty companies. Within the space of a year, her business has developed from a cottage industry based in Sue’s kitchen to next month’s launch in selected Waitrose stores . Prior to this Sue spent 10 years  in senior banking roles, meaning she has first hand experience across the business spectrum.

Sam Hart, tax writer and lecturer
Sam Hart is a tax writer and lecturer based in the West Midlands. CTA, ACA and TEP qualified, she also runs her own small business, so knows exactly which issues really matter. Specialising in private client and small business taxation, she has more years tax experience than her shoe size, and she has quite big feet. She regularly writes for the trade and online press and can be contacted on [email protected].

Simon Garrett, partner, Haines Watts
Simon has been a partner at Haines Watts Oxford since the early 1990s. He trained in the City office of a large national firm, now Deloitte & Touche, and was seconded to one of their Australian offices following qualification as a chartered accountant. On returning to the UK, Simon worked in industry initially, principally as financial accountant in a fast food concern. Since joining Haines Watts in Oxford he specialises in audit-related work and in providing general commercial advice to businesses.

Benjamin Dyer, director of product development, Actinic
Ben heads the development of Actinic’s portfolio of ecommerce and retail applications. He is an enthusiastic blogger and Tweeter, and has written many advisory articles for the small business media including Prior to Actinic, Ben was IT programme manager responsible for browser-delivered software services at Xyratex and he began his career at BSkyB and BAE Systems. At BSkyB he was part of the team responsible for relaunching and its supporting infrastructure. He also worked on some of the original ‘red button’ interactive television services.
Steve Collings FMAAT FCCA DipIFRS, audit and technical director, Leavitt Walmsley Associates Ltd

Steve Collings joined LWA as a semi-senior accountant in May 2000 where he trained and qualified. He was later appointed audit and technical manager and recently promoted to audit and technical director. He is the author of ‘The Core Aspects of IFRS and IAS’ and lectures on financial reporting and auditing issues, as well as being a regular contributor to
Emma Warren, managing director, Portfolio Directors
Emma is a professional finance director and has spent 15 years working in a wide range of industries gaining practical experience in senior management and directorial positions. This experience, combined with an MBA in Strategy and Operations Management, has given her invaluable insight into the workings of businesses both large and small. Through Portfolio Directors, Emma and her team have the knowledge and expertise to provide positive and lasting solutions for any business.

Elizabeth Eyre, sole practitioner
Elizabeth Eyre worked as an accountant in business for 12 years before setting up her own accountancy firm, Elizabeth Eyre Limited in February 2009. She is based in Malvern, Worcestershire and is a member of AccountingWEB’s Class of 2009, a project that brings together start-up practices online.

Sarah Felstead, practice consultant, SWATUK Limited
Sarah Felstead graduated from Lancaster University and then qualified as a chartered accountant with Spice and Pegler in Leeds. She has worked for SWATUK, based in East Yorkshire, for over 17 years as a practice consultant, performing audit file and various compliance reviews, writing courses and lecturing on audit and disclosure matters.

Adrian Malpass, coaching and mentoring strategist, Experience Group
Adrian Malpass spent several years in senior management ‘troubleshooting’ roles with a number of blue chip companies including Siemens, Mattel, Spring Ram and INI, before joining the management consultancy and training sector in 2000. He trained as an executive mentor, lead assessor and auditor for standards implementation and gained full accreditation as a business coach in 2005.

Marcus Robinson, founder of political networking site
Marcus Robinson began his career as a shoe salesman in Newcastle and quickly progressed up the career ladder to become a milkman, a holiday rep taking coach parties to Spain and finally a partner at consulting firm Accenture.  Now a partner at PWC, Marcus runs the Central Government Consulting Business. His keen interest in politics inspired him to set up, which aims to engage more young people in the political process by making it simple, fun and inspiring.

Aaron Ross, CEO, FirstCare
Aaron Ross is chief executive of FirstCare, the UK’s largest outsourced absence management company. He co-founded the firm in 2004, aged just 24, and two years later he was going it alone. By 2008, the business had grown, achieving a turnover of £2m. The firm acquired Active Healthcare Partners in November 2009. Ross is also a special constable and chairman of the Diana Award.

Trevor Merriden, workplace practice director, Communications Management
Trevor Merriden is workplace practice director at strategic communications consultancy Communications Management, responsible for managing a range of commercial and public sector clients that deliver staff development and business improvement services for large employers. He was previously a journalist for 14 years and formerly group editor of Human Resources magazine.

Mervyn Dinnen, senior consultant, Courtenay HR
Mervyn Dinnen is a professional recruiter with several years of experience sourcing HR talent for blue-chip companies in the public and private sectors. A senior consultant at Courtenay HR, the UK’s leading independent HR recruitment agency, Dinnen is passionate about using Social Media to engage the HR community, and was one of the team behind ‘ConnectingHR’, the UK’s first ever HR tweet-up. Read Mervyn’s HR blog at

Martin Osborne-Shaw, managing director of Killik Employee Services
Martin Osborne-Shaw is managing director of Killik Employee Services and a partner of Killik & Co LLP. He is the mastermind behind MoneyinMind, a web-based financial education application that aims to improve an individual’s personal financial capability through an intuitive, supported, structured learning programme.


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