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April Business & Policy Briefing

Skills for Life – training schemes for your business

With challenges such as cost-of-living pressures sitting high on the agenda for businesses in 2024, the Skills for Life campaign’s ‘Skills Horizon 2024 Barometer’, has found 64% of SMEs in England are deploying lower-cost recruitment tactics to continue investing in talent.

Businesses considering hiring employees can access a range of government training and employment schemes. Understanding the flexible options available will be important for employers, and the Skills for Life campaign aims to help SMEs understand the schemes available to them, including:

• Apprenticeships - Available for individuals over the age of 16 and combines on the job training with study. You can offer this opportunity to new or current staff members, allowing you to develop your workforce and business.
• T Levels: industry placements - Hosting a T Level industry placement gives you early access to the brightest young people and the opportunity to develop your workforce of the future.
• Skills Bootcamps – Flexible training courses for those aged 19 and over to fast-track specialist skill development, for existing or new talent for your business.
• Multiply - Free maths courses for your employees who are aged 19 and over. Multiply can help reduce numeracy related mistakes at work, and boost productivity.
• Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) - Level 4 or 5 qualifications with no work placement but flexible for employees to study while working.

Over the past year, nearly three-quarters of SMEs reported seeing other businesses benefits from available technical education schemes, including the opportunity to shape young talent, upskill existing team members, and address skills gaps in the business.

To find training and employment schemes for your business, as well as support on how to implement these, visit:

A Devolution Deal for Suffolk

Suffolk County Council and the Government have signed a proposed, in principle, devolution deal which would transfer certain powers and funding from the Government to Suffolk. It would mean more decisions about Suffolk’s future being made in Suffolk, rather than nationally.

If the proposed deal is finalised, Suffolk would receive new decision-making powers and greater local control of funding in areas including adult education, regeneration and transport, as well as control of a new investment fund worth £480 million over the next thirty years.

Suffolk County Council is now running a public consultation to help Suffolk county councillors and Government ministers decide whether or not to proceed with Suffolk’s devolution deal. The consultation runs to 26 May.

You can either complete a survey online, via , or in hard copy. You can also send comments via letter and email to

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is in principle, in favour of greater devolution of powers from central Government down to a local level. We believe it could open up a world of opportunities for Suffolk, from faster decision-making to a deeper understanding of local business needs. The current devolution proposals are a first step in the right direction. But, this is just the beginning. We see devolution as a journey, not a destination.

Boosting 5G

An initiative aimed at boosting business awareness of 5G mobile technology and speeding up the rollout of the most advanced communications infrastructure across Suffolk goes live in May.

For the last 18 months, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been tracking business awareness and take-up of 5G technologies and hosted a summit last year involving the mobile operators, council leaders, MPs and businesses. Read the full article here

Chamber research: “R&D Tax Relief - a good system gone bad”

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Government to urgently implement reforms to a longstanding tax relief scheme that is now hurting the very small companies it was set up to help.

Established in 2000, Research & Development (R&D) Tax Relief incentivise firms who invest in genuine product innovation through the Corporation Tax system. In that time, it is estimated that thousands of Suffolk-based SMEs, across a range of market sectors, have benefited, which in turn has contributed to boosting jobs and further investment in the local economy... read the full article here

Overcoming the skills challenge

Last year Suffolk and Norfolk Chambers of Chambers of Commerce brought together employers, further education colleges and training providers to identify the skills issues faced by employers and discuss local solutions to tackle the issues. A report on issues, solutions and roadmaps for change was carefully studied by the Department for Education. As a result £4.75 million was awarded to Suffolk and Norfolk to help in improving local skills. Read the full article here

We are holding forum meetings across Suffolk so that you hear about the new skills initiatives that are being planned and you can give your views on what needs to be done to overcome skills challenges. The meetings will also be a great opportunity to network over refreshments, with other leading business people in your part of Suffolk.

The forum meetings are free of charge for Chamber members, but meeting numbers are limited so please book your place as soon as possible.

The date and location for the next forum meeting is:

East Suffolk Forum – 8:30 to 10am, 15th May, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre

Our meeting will be kindly hosted by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. Carlton Marshes comprises a jigsaw of grazing marsh, fens, peat pools, short fen meadow, tall fen (called 'tall litter fen'), dykes, pools and scrub. Mostly man-made, these habitats have developed over hundreds of years of traditional management and now host specialised wildlife.

Please book here

Do you use the A47?

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Norfolk Chambers of Commerce, Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce and other members of the the A47 Alliance are calling on business leaders, like you, to support the case for A47 dualling.

The A47 Alliance’s ambition is full A47 dualling from Lowestoft to Peterborough. In the short-term, the priority schemes are:

• Acle Straight dualling (Norfolk)
• Tilney to East Winch dualling (Norfolk)
• Peterborough to Wisbech dualling (Cambridgeshire)

To help support our campaign, we are asking if you could provide a short written testimonial in support of A47 dualling which can be used on the A47 Alliance’s social media platforms and website, and as part of campaign material that we share with decision makers.

We know that videos can also play an important role in strengthening our case for support. It would also be great if you were able to record a 30 second video of what A47 dualling means to your business or organisation, and why it would be a good thing for Government to commit to.

Please send your testimonial and/or video to by 26 April 2024.

By providing the A47 Alliance with a testimonial, you agree for your business/organisation name and the testimonials to be used for the A47 Alliance campaign. If, at any time, you would like the A47 Alliance to stop using your testimonial, please email:

£800,000 Freeport East Growth Funds Now Open

Two new funds, with a combined value of up to £800,000 in support, are now open for applications, courtesy of Freeport East. These funds are designed to offer vital support to small and growing businesses and play a pivotal role in fostering opportunities for new innovations and individuals seeking careers in high potential sectors, including green energy.

The Freeport East Clean Growth Fund is dedicated to providing financial assistance to local businesses operating within clean energy and Freeport East's other target sectors. Meanwhile, the Freeport East Innovation and Skills Fund will focus on building access to innovation and skills opportunities, particularly in underserved communities.

For more details and to access application forms for these funds, please visit the Freeport East website at

National Minimum and Living Wage rates

The Low Pay Commission is seeking evidence on the broad economic and labour market conditions that workers and businesses are facing, as well as the specific impacts of the rates themselves. The Commission is particularly interested in evidence on the following:

• The affordability and effects of an increase in April 2025 to an NLW rate within the range of £11.61 and £12.18 (with a central estimate of £11.89).
• The impact of increases in the NLW in April 2024 on workers, employers, the labour market and economy.
• The impact of 21-22 year olds becoming entitled to the NLW in April 2024.
• The effect of the minimum wage increases for younger workers on their employment prospects.
• The effects of this year’s increase in the Apprentice Rate, and its continued alignment with the 16-17 Year Old Rate.
• Awareness, use and impacts of the Accommodation Offset.

If you have any evidence that you would like Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and the British Chambers of Commerce to present on your behalf, please contact Toby Warren, Head of Policy, by 29th May.

Global Britain Challenge Report launched

The British Chambers of Commerce has launched its Global Britain report to boost exports and channel overseas investment into the UK. 

Among the 28 recommendations are: 
• The creation of a ‘Team UK’ to champion an updated ‘Brand Britain’ and show the world the best of what we can offer.
• A change in mindset, so the UK takes a more vigorous approach to fighting for its future success.
• Finally stepping out of Brexit’s long shadow, so politicians take bold decisions to make it work better and grab the opportunities it offers.
• An injection of more investment into the UK by targeting the big, and growing economies, with the money and understanding to make the most of what we can do.
• A greater emphasis on services exports in the UK’s trade deals. 

Read the report Global Britain Challenge Report

Public Affairs & Advocacy work 

In March, the Suffolk Chamber Public Affairs team has been actively engaged in various activities focusing on Transport & Infrastructure, Economy, Net Zero & Climate Adaptation, and Cross-theme initiatives.

Transport & Infrastructure

Transport & Infrastructure Group meeting held in March with discussions of FTTP broadband rollout, Suffolk’s Local Transport Plan consultation, the impact of Orwell Bridge closures and the ongoing lobbying over Ely/Haughley rail junctions
• Suffolk Business Digital Champions Group launched. First meeting scheduled for 15th May, with participants confirmed and agenda to cover Mobile UK’s view, results of third wave of Suffolk chamber research and a Maritime Transport case study
• Meeting arranged in May with Louise Haigh MP, shadow Secretary of State for Transport re: Ely/Haughley
• Discussions around setting up an Orwell Bridge Business Contingencies Task & Finish Group to explore the costs and business implications of the current default do-nothing policy vacuum surrounding the roads network in and around Ipswich
• Suffolk Chamber actively involved in an interview panel to select a new independent chair for Transport East.


R&D Tax Relief Task & Finish Group published its report and recommendations. As a result, Suffolk Chamber has met with senior civil servants at The Treasury and HMRC, plus engaged with interested Suffolk MPs to lobby ministers, to push for a reformed system
• Results from Suffolk Chamber’s latest QES suggest that Suffolk businesses, especially those in the services sector might be through the worst of the recent trading doldrums. View the full report here
• Suffolk Chamber staff and members scheduled to meet with Darren Jones MP, shadow Chief Secretary, in April

Net Zero & Climate Adaptation

• Agenda for May’s Net Zero & Climate Adaptation Group meeting in May taking shape with presentations confirmed from Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Cross-theme activities

• Meeting with newly-selected Labour Party Parliamentary candidates confirmed
• Meeting with newly-selected Green Party Parliamentary candidates confirmed
• Suffolk Chamber met with Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP and Jo Churchill MP
• Suffolk Chamber met with Suffolk County Council’s head of communications to discuss improving business engagement in the current devolution consultation

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Suffolk Chamber

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