April 2016 Policy Update

No More A14 Delays in Suffolk  

Following the success of the 'No Toll Tax on Suffolk' campaign opposing the introduction of tolling to fund the proposed A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvements, and our Spring 2015 launch of ‘No More A14 Delays in Suffolk’,Suffolk Chamber of Commerce hosted a business leaders’ campaign update on 8 April 2016 at The Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds. 

Speakers were: Stephen Britt, Chair, Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board; Jo Churchill MP; Mark Pendlington, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Board; Councillor James Finch, Suffolk County Council; and Simon Amor, Asset Development Manager, Highways England. 

The presentations covered issues including: the capacity of the A14; its importance to the economic and business growth of all of UK plc; the support of the 7 MPs in Suffolk; the prioritisation of supporting economic growth in the £15.2 billion Highways England budget; and scope to address the major pinch points along the route. 

The presentation from Councillor James Finch and Simon Amor are below:

Further details about No More A14 Delays in Suffolk including the campaign brochure are here

Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board heard at its meeting on 18 April 2016 that Suffolk County Council had commissioned a WSP / Mouchel A14 capacity improvements study and a WSP road capacity to the North of Ipswich study, both to be completed within 6 months and to feed into the Government’s next Roads Investment Strategy which will cover the period 2020-2025. 

A1307 Haverhill to Cambridge  

In October 2015 Haverhill Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign calling for the urgent dualling of the A1307 from Haverhill to Cambridge. 

The A1307 is the major route joining Haverhill to the main UK road network and the stretch to the A11 is a critical piece of infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose. Its upgrading is essential for the 4,000 new homes and 8,000 new jobs that are planned for the West of Suffolk. 

Following positive meetings with Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP in December 2015 and more recently with West Suffolk and Cambridgeshire public partners, Cambridgeshire County Council has commissioned a comprehensive traffic survey for the A1307 corridor on behalf of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board. At the same time growth forecasts for Haverhill will be reviewed and we are confident that these two pieces of work will strengthen the business case for dualling the A1307. 

In addition Haverhill and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce have secured a meeting on 20 May with Lucy Frazer MP through whose constituency much of the A1307 passes.

Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills responds to Suffolk business leaders  

On 27 January Suffolk Chamber hosted a business leaders’ lunch at the House of Commons with the Rt Hon Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The Suffolk team pressed the case for: devolution; local skills budgets; sectoral targeting; road improvements; business rates reform; and continued funding for Growth Hubs. 

Suffolk Chamber's follow up letter to the meeting is below:

The Secretary of State's response, acknowledging the business and the economic significance of Suffolk and our members' contributions can be seen below:

Devolution  

The Chancellor announced a devolution deal for Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk in his recent Budget and negotiations are now underway with Suffolk Chamber and our business partners determined to ensure that the business voice is heard as plans are developed. 

The deal proposes £30 million pa for the next 30 years to deliver: 275k homes over the period of Local Plans (to 2036) including 95k in Suffolk; £4.5bn economic benefits; 50k new jobs; a multi-year, consolidated and, devolved local transport budget; a New Key Route Network of local authority roads to be managed and maintained by the Combined Authority (CA) on behalf of a Mayor for East Anglia; powers over strategic planning and housing, including £175m  to 2020/21 ring-fenced funding to deliver an ambitious target of new homes; and the responsibility to create a non-statutory spatial framework for the East. 

The proposals would mean the forward-funding of infrastructure development and therefore a significant increase in investor, business and community confidence. 

The timetable going forward (assuming agreements are reached with local authorities and the Order is laid) is: 

  • March – June 2016: an initial period of engagement with stakeholders to develop and finalise the devolution plans, ratify the proposed deal and the creation of the CA and elected mayor
  • July – September 2016: formal consultation on the proposed CA and deal
  • October 2016: final ratification of the agreed deal. Order for the creation of a CA goes to parliament
  • April 2017: CA officially launched
  • May 2017: Mayoral elections

Employer Training Incentive Pilot milestone reached  

The Employer Training Incentive Pilot (ETIP) that pays a quarter of the costs of employee training has just paid out its 1000th grant to a local business, as it celebrates its first year in existence. 

The joint venture between Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce with funding from Suffolk County Council continues to help small and medium-sized businesses to train any of their employees aged 19 years and upwards on both accredited courses such as NVQs and non-accredited training.

The 1000th grant was awarded to Interex, an exporter of high performance engineering automotive and motorsport parts based in Needham Market. Interex contracted Darrington Training to deliver a negotiation and communication skills course to seven of their sales team. 

The total value of grants awarded by ETIP has now exceeded £230,000 resulting in about £900,000 worth of additional investment in training local employees. 

For more information about ETIP contact Mick Biegel OBE or Patsi Long 

Skills Deals  

New Anglia Skills Deal Programme is an opportunity for employers, alongside training providers, to seek funding for project proposals that address a gap in – or barrier to accessing – training provision. Skills Deals funding is available to co-fund projects that will raise skill levels, create jobs and drive enterprise and economic growth in Norfolk and Suffolk. It is a competitive pot of funding and once it’s gone it’s gone! Any interested parties should visit here 

Apprenticeship funding employer guide 

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills has published an employer guide to the Apprenticeship Levy. The guide, which will be updated regularly, gives information on how employers will access funding for apprenticeships, what they will be able to spend the funding on and how, so that they can prepare ahead of levy implementation in April 2017. 

You can access the guide here and of course information for employers on apprenticeships in Suffolk is always available from theApprenticeships Suffolk Business Service 

ICT Digital Skills Accelerator  

On 11 May 2016 from 16:00 to 20:00 hrs University Campus Suffolk will be hosting an evening focused on training and apprenticeships in the ICT and Digital sector. The event is primarily for businesses, training providers, students and parents. It will provide information on the current training offer, the benefits of taking on an apprentice and how to do so, as well as all the current funding opportunities available to help businesses enhance their ICT Digital skills base. Businesses will also be invited to help develop a sector skills plan for the region. For more information and to register visit here

ICanBeA now live  

The new ICanBeA web platform, a joint venture between the Mason Trust, Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils, is now live and nearing completion. The website www.icanbea.org.uk showcases the breadth of career opportunities available to young people in the local area. Employers profiled on ICanBeA will be able to use the site to communicate with young people on what working in their sector is all about and ultimately help them to source their future workforce. 

If your company or organisation is interested in being profiled on ICanBeA please contact Jasmine Joolia atjasmine.joolia@suffolk.gov.uk  for more information.  

EU funding opportunities  

The Government Managing Authorities have published a number of further Calls under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and European Social Fund (ESF) Programmes in the New Anglia area.  All of these recent calls can be accessed from the national ESIF ‘Funder Finder’ website

The local Calls are: 

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 

  1. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 1 (Research and Innovation) – Up to £2m is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 3 February 2017 with staged review dates of 27 May 2016 and 26 September 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  2. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 3 (SME Competitiveness) – Up to £2m is being made available under this Call, with the final deadline for applications being 3 February 2017 with staged review dates of 27 May 2016 and 26 September 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  3. An Open Call under Priority Axis 3  (SME Competitiveness) – Up to £2.8m is being made available under this Call which is targeted at projects that aim to deliver business support activity through working closely with, and involving local communities in embracing a ‘bottom-up’ approach that complements, and does not duplicate, existing and mainstream business support.  This call is designed to be complementary to four new ESF Calls detailed below which have been designed to offer an integrated opportunity to deliver aligned activity under the two ESIF Funds.  The deadline for applications under this Call is 27 May 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  4. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 4 (Low Carbon Economy) – Up to £1.5m is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 3 February 2017 with staged review dates of 27 May 2016 and 26 September 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here

Partners who are considering or developing ERDF projects are advised to make contact with the local ERDF Facilitator team (Hugh Goldring – hugh.goldring@norfolk.gov.uk or Rachel Kirk – rachel.kirk@norfolk.gov.uk) to discuss their project at the earliest opportunity.  Hugh and Rachel can provide support in helping to shape your project and understand programme requirements. 

European Social Fund (ESF) 

Four Calls have been published seeking projects that aim to deliver ESF activity through working closely with, and involving local communities in embracing a ‘bottom-up’ approach that complements existing and mainstream delivery.  These four calls are designed to be complementary to the Priority Axis 3 ERDF Call detailed above which have been designed to offer an integrated opportunity to deliver aligned activity under the two ESIF Funds 

  1. An Open Call under Priority Axis 1, Investment Priority 1.1 (Access to Employment for Jobseekers and Inactive People) – Up to £670k is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 9 June 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  2. An Open Call under Priority Axis 1, Investment Priority 1.4 (Active Inclusion) – Up to £670k is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 9 June 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  3. An Open Call under Priority Axis 2, Investment Priority 2.1  (Enhancing Equal access to Lifelong Learning) – Up to £670k is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 9 June 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here
  4. An Open Call under Priority Axis 2, Investment Priority 2.2 (Improving the Labour Market relevance of Education and Training systems) – Up to £670k is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 9 June 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here

Partners who are considering or developing ESF projects are advised to make contact with the local ESF Facilitator team (Joe Ballard – joseph.ballard@norfolk.gov.uk or Guillaume Gentils – guillaume.gentils@norfolk.gov.uk) to discuss their project at the earliest opportunity.  Joe and Guillaume can provide support in helping to shape your project and understand programme requirements. 

Our understanding is that further local Calls will be announced over the summer and again in the autumn. 

Mobile and broadband checker tool 

Ofcom has launched a new Mobile and Broadband Checker tool. By entering a postcode, you can check mobile coverage, the availability of superfast broadband and average download speeds. 

Roundup of recently published reports on infrastructure  

There are three recently published reports relating to UK infrastructure:

Shaw Report (published 16 March). This review looks into the long-term future of Network Rail. It recommends localising the body (rather than privatising it). Recommendation 6 lists options for securing additional finance at the local level, e.g. via business rates retention or supplements. 


National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016-2021 (published 23 March). This details how the government will deliver its infrastructure plans over the next five years.

Construction Strategy 2016-2020 (published 23 March). This sets out a new plan to increase productivity in government construction and support 20,000 apprenticeships over the next five years. 

Automatic enrolment: completing your Declaration of Compliance and keeping costs down  

All employers now have workplace pensions duties which means they will need to automatically enrol certain staff into a pension scheme and make contributions to it. Employers must assess staff, put those eligible need to into a pension scheme, and tell them about automatic enrolment. Employers should start planning for automatic enrolment 12 months before their staging date which is the date their duties come into effect.  

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is tasked with ensuring employers comply with their duties and to that end all employers must complete a Declaration of Compliance and submit it to TPR who have issued a guide to the process, see The Declaration of Compliance Guide below. 

TPR has also published an online guide here to help employers avoid unnecessary costs. The guide explains that while some pension providers do not have set up costs, others charge up to £500.

BIS Access to Finance inquiry - Chamber input request 

The British Chambers of Commerce will be giving oral evidence to the BIS Committee “Access to Finance” inquiry on Tuesday, 3 May, in Parliament. Please send Nick Burfield any case studies of members' experience on this issue, including the effect of Government policy to assist businesses accessing finance. 

Action required - or be locked out of the Bacs system 

From 13 June 2016, changes are being made to internet security that will affect access to Bacs via Bacstel-IP and the Payment Services Website. 

Organisations that pay salaries, or settle supplier invoices this way, must take immediate action to ensure their Bacs software solution and IT can support the new security measures. Failure to act in time will mean you won’t be able to make critical payments, including payroll or collecting Direct Debits.   

To avoid any disruption to your access, you must make sure your business takes steps to ensure they have appropriate software, and an operating system and browser that can support the move to SHA-256 SSL and TLS 1.1 / 1.2 security updates.  

More information and advice can be found here

National insurance changes 

At the start of the new tax year (April 6) a number of changes come into effect, such as:  abolishing employer National Insurance contributions for apprentices aged under 25; the raising of the Annual Employment Allowance from £2,000 to £3,000; the reduction of Capital Gains Tax rates, from 28% and 18% to 20% and 10% respectively; and the replacement of the Dividend Tax Credit with a Dividend Tax Allowance of £5,000 a year. 

The British Chambers of Commerce issued a press release with the view that abolishing employer contributions would encourage more businesses to hire young apprentices, at a time when the UK is faced with a growing skills shortage, and that the rise in the Annual Employment Allowance would act as boost for small and start-up businesses because it means that the less National Insurance that companies have to pay, the more confidence they will have to hire new staff.

BCC Economic Review for April 2016  

The BCC has published its UK Monthly Economic Review for April 2016, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business. 

This month's headlines are: 

  • Q4 2015 UK GDP growth revised up but current account deficit hits record high; 
  • OBR UK growth forecasts downgraded amid weaker global outlook and UK productivity; and
  • UK's fiscal outlook weakens, but OBR still predicts a small budget surplus by 2019.

Read more at:

Monthly Economic Briefing

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk