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March Business Briefing

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Drives Sizewell C Supply Chain Initiative Forward with Inaugural 'Meet the Buyer' Events

In the wake of the official Development Consent Order (DCO) announcement for the Sizewell C Project, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of a ground-breaking initiative aimed at maximising opportunities for local businesses. Read the full article here>>

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Launches Innovative Suffolk Supply Chain Service

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce Secures Funding and Partners with Suffolk County Council to Launch Suffolk Supply Chain Service, Revolutionising Local Business Collaboration and Economic Growth Read the full article here>>

Applications open for new Suffolk Business Board

Suffolk County Council is now inviting applications for membership of the new Suffolk Business Board. The establishment of the Business Board follows the Government’s announcement in 2023 that Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) would be integrated into upper tier local authorities. The Suffolk Business Board will succeed the existing New Anglia LEP Board which ceases on 31 March 2024.

Suffolk County Council states it is seeking:

'Inspirational and influential local businesspeople to form the board, which will represent the local business community and will help steer the local economic strategy to create a stronger and higher-skilled economy for Suffolk. The board will meet 4-6 times a year to help shape economic strategy and priorities for Suffolk, to oversee delivery of funded programmes such as business support and skills training for Suffolk, and to work closely with partners such as district councils, neighbouring counties and national economic and trade bodies. The county council is seeking candidates who represent the diversity of Suffolk’s people and economy, whether that be sector, geography or business type.'

Board membership is a voluntary position and terms are for up to three years from the date of appointment. The Business Board will be supported by a dedicated team of council officers.

Visit the Suffolk County Council website to find out more

If you would like to apply to be a board member, your expression of interest should be emailed to by Friday 22 March, with a short biography or CV and a brief cover letter outlining your interest in the opportunity and what area(s) of expertise you feel you could bring.

Spring Budget

Full details of the Spring Budget 2024 are available on the HM Treasury website. Policy decisions of particular interest to Suffolk businesses are:

• Alcohol duty frozen until February next year
• Fuel duty will remain at its current rate and be frozen for the next 12 months, meaning it will stay at 53p per litre
• Full expensing capital allowances for leased assets, as soon as it is affordable
• VAT registration threshold to be increased from £85,000 to £90,000 from 1st April
• The UK’s windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies will be extended until 2029
• Tax breaks which make it more profitable for second home owners to let out their properties to holiday makers rather than to long-term tenants to rent, will be abolished
• The higher rate of property capital gains tax is to be reduced from 28% to 24%
• The Air Passenger Duty (APD) for business class travellers will be increased
• The High Income Child Benefit Charge will be based on household income rather than individual earnings
• Employee and self-employed national insurance cut
• To improve the functioning of the R&D tax reliefs system, HMRC will establish an expert advisory panel to support the administration of R&D reliefs
• Inheritance tax agricultural property relief extended to certain environmental land management agreements from 6 April 2025
• The Government will set permanent higher rates of tax reliefs for theatres, orchestras, museums and galleries. From 1 April 2025 these rates will be permanently set at 45%/40% for theatres, museums and galleries’ touring/non-touring productions, and at 45% for orchestras
• The Recovery Loan Scheme has been renamed as the Growth Guarantee Scheme and extended until the end of March 2026. The scheme offers a 70% government guarantee on loans to SMEs of up to £2 million in Great Britain, and £1 million in Northern Ireland
• HMRC has published new guidance around the tax deductibility of training costs for sole traders and the self-employed.
• To boost capacity in the planning system, the Government is committing £3 million to match industry-led funding for a skills and education programme to attract more people to take up roles as local planners in planning authorities.
• The tax reliefs available in Freeport tax sites are being extended from five to ten years, until September 2031 in England

Implications for Suffolk businesses

Spring Budget 2024 contains relatively little that will directly improve the lot of Suffolk businesses. Full expensing capital allowances for leased assets will be good, but they will only be introduced as soon as it is affordable.

The budget did not include any funding for infrastructure in Suffolk. Despite this Suffolk Chamber of Commerce will continue to campaign in partnership with others, for vital infrastructure improvements for Suffolk - including crucial rail junction upgrades at Haughley/Ely.

However, it is good news that Government appears to recognised as a result of lobbying by Suffolk Chamber and others, that HMRC has made it very difficult for companies to claim R&D tax credits and there needs to be a review of the way it assesses applications. It is also good news that there is a modest rise in the VAT registration threshold. Also the tax reliefs available for the Freeport East tax sites at Felixstowe and Gateway 14 (Stowmarket) are being extended from five to ten years. The tax reliefs should encourage inward investment into Suffolk.

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.

In March and April 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 dates and locations for the next forum meetings are:

Ipswich Forum – 8:30 to 10am, 28th March, Suffolk New College, Ipswich

Our meeting will be kindly hosted by Suffolk New College. Suffolk New College has recently invested in a Net Zero Skills Centre and Health Science Campus. The college is also responding to employer need for a soft skills development programme to ensure the employability skills in young people and adults are supporting their career aspirations and development. Book here

West Suffolk Forum – 8:30 to 10am, 24th April, CLAAS, Little Saxham

Our meeting will be kindly hosted by CLAAS. CLAAS is the European market leader in combine harvesters and world leader in forage harvesters. It is also a top performer in worldwide agricultural engineering with its tractors, agricultural balers and green harvesting machinery. Book here

Try out an e-bike for free

Have you ever considered using an E-Bike for your commute to work?

You can now trial one for free through Suffolk County Councils E-Bike Trial Scheme. The scheme provides you with a top of the range Hurrecane E-Bike, helmet, charger and lock for a 6 week period at no cost.

An employer can normally request up to five e-bikes for a work based trial.

If you are interested or would like more information then please contact and a member of staff will get back to you.

Increasing skills and capacity in Local Planning Authorities

The British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with Aviva, is launching a new five-year industry programme to increase skills and capacity in Local Planning Authorities across the country.

The programme will pay for at least 100 undergraduate and masters’ level qualifications for people entering the planning industry, and for people already working in LPAs who need to develop skills for more senior planning roles. It will pay for the learner’s training and will aim to facilitate work experience and jobs within LPAs. In return, at the end of their course of study, the learner must commit to work in a council planning role for at least two years.

The British Chambers of Commerce and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce are asking businesses from all sectors to contribute to the programme’s fund with the aim of raising at least £3 million. Aviva is contributing £500,000 as the first UK firm to support the scheme. Whilst the programme is industry-led, in the Spring Budget the Government committed to matching a £3 million contribution.

If you would like to know more about the programme please contact Toby Warren, Senior Policy Officer

Ipswich regeneration

The government’s £25m Town Deal for Ipswich includes an £8m town centre regeneration fund. This money is available to bring empty units in the town centre back into use.

This project is now live and you can find all the details on how to access the fund at It’s designed to be a user-friendly portal for anyone who:

• Owns an empty property in Ipswich town centre (either freehold or leasehold)
• Has a great and well thought through idea for an empty property in Ipswich
• Has a viability gap preventing them from bringing an empty property back into use
• Is looking for a property to operate from in Ipswich Town Centre

Empowering local economies - a key to UK prosperity

The British Chambers of Commerce new Local Economy of The Future report sets out 16 policies that could transform the UK’s growth potential by empowering businesses, communities and local government.
Among the crucial changes it recommends are: 
• Devolving more powers to regional and local government so decision-making is closer to the issues.
• Giving the National Infrastructure Commission real teeth to influence long-term strategy.
• Accelerating the role out of electric vehicle charging and digital infrastructure to support sustainable connectivity.
• Boosting resources for Local Planning Authorities to unblock the logjam on permissions.
• Expanding the Banking Hub model across the UK to give businesses and communities easier access to finance.
• Ensuring the voice of business is heard in strategy development and decision making at both a local and national level.

Its proposals aim to increase the productivity of the local economy by letting businesses capitalise on the opportunities provided if their areas are more sustainably focused and digitally enabled.

And it recognises that for places to thrive then three forces need to come together – the community, business and local government.

The British chamber future economy report can be found here

Changes to flexible working laws

From Saturday 6 April, employees will have the legal right to make a statutory flexible working request, from their first day of employment, to ask for changes to when, where and how long they work. Employers will need to manage such requests reasonably and might need to change how they manage flexible working requests in their business. Find out more information on flexible working laws

This is one part of a wider package of changes to rights and protections for workers coming into force between now and April, which also includes carer’s leave, changes to paternity leave and pay, and additional protection from redundancy for pregnant women and new parents.

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Suffolk Chamber

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