April 2017 Policy Update

 

Building Our Industrial Strategy
 
On 23 January 2017 the Government launched its consultation Building Our Industrial Strategy with the aim of developing an Industrial Strategy that addresses long-term challenges to the UK economy and improving living standards and economic growth by increasing productivity and driving growth across the whole country.
 
The green paper set out the Government’s vision for a modern Industrial Strategy and some early actions they have committed to take. It aimed to start an open and collaborative conversation about the skills, research, infrastructure and other things we need to get right to drive long term growth in productivity.
 
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce worked closely with our public partners on the Suffolk Growth Programme Board to produce a single Suffolk response to Building Our Industrial Strategy
 
In particular Suffolk Chamber of Commerce:
 

  • supported the single Suffolk aspiration to work closely with Government in particular across the key sectors of: Energy; ICT and digital; Agri-tech; and Ports and Logistics;

  • placed particular importance on: growing, attracting and retaining the right skills to support business; maximising Suffolk’s international connectivity and global reach; and developing the economy and sustainable places with the right infrastructure; and

  • highlighted the means to deliver inclusive growth: more local autonomy to take longer term, joined up planning and decisions rooted in an understanding of place; innovative investment models; and the use of robust evidence and intelligence.

 
The single Suffolk response can be found here and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce covering letter to Government can be found here.

A better planning system for your business

Accredited Chambers of Commerce provide a powerful voice for local business at the very highest levels of Government.

With the announcement of a General Election on June 8, the British Chambers of Commerce and Suffolk Chamber are working together to understand your experience of the planning system, and the impact of planning decisions on your business.

Enter the 2017 Planning and Development survey here

Why complete this survey? The British Chambers of Commerce regularly meet to inform and influence Government ministers and policy makers responsible for the planning system, so your input to this survey will help to ensure that the needs and priorities of the business community are reflected in government policy at a local and national level.

This survey is open to all businesses and should take around 5 minutes to complete. All data collected is anonymised. Please note that the questions in this survey relate to your business' experience of the planning system. Please feel free to forward this survey on to the appropriate member of your team.
 
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: business voice
 
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has communicated with a number of senior national politicians over recent weeks in connection with a range of issues.
 
Letters were sent to their Rt Hons Sir Michael Fallon MP and Greg Clark MP in support of local businesses being given fair access to procurement opportunities at RAFs Lakenheath and Mildenhall.
 
A letter was sent to the Prime Minister urging that international students be excluded from any future immigration cap.
 
Following a successful business leaders’ event at the House of Commons a letter was sent to Mark Garnier MP setting out the Chamber’s thoughts and recommendations regarding support for international trade.
 
The letters can be read via the linked below:
 
The Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP    
The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP               
The Prime Minister                             
Mark Garnier MP                               
 
A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet improvements: Public consultation
 
Highways England (HE) are consulting on route options to improve the A428 between Black Cat roundabout and Caxton Gibbet. HE also want to hear views on options to improve the Black Cat roundabout, which they have identified as a priority.
 
HE are at an early stage of developing the scheme. Further work is needed to assess the feasibility of the scheme including detailed traffic modelling, environmental survey work and economic assessments.
 
All views received by HE will help them to develop their proposals and understand what is important to businesses and local communities.
 
You can take part in the consultation via the following:
 
Complete the online questionnaire here.
 
Download a copy of the questionnaire here
 
To email your response click here.
 
The consultation is open until 23 April 2017 and the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce response can be found here.
 
Business Brexit Priorities
 
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has published a business blueprint for the UK Government regarding the current Brexit negotiations.
 
Titled Business Brexit Priorities the report synthesizes feedback from over 400 businesses at 16 Chamber-hosted focus groups, along with nearly 20,000 responses to Chamber surveys. It puts forward priorities for action across seven key areas where business communities want practical solutions and certainty.
 
BCC evidence confirms that Europe will remain a key market for UK exporters and importers well into the future. As a consequence, it is imperative that the Government achieves a pragmatic UK-EU deal that facilitates continued trade.
 
The key recommendations in the report are:
 

  • On the Labour Market, the Government should provide certainty for businesses on the residence rights of their existing EU workers, provide clarity on hiring from EU countries during the negotiation period, and avoid expensive and bureaucratic processes for post-Brexit hires from the EU;

  • On Trade, the Government should aim to minimise tariffs, seek to avoid costly non-tariff barriers, grandfather existing EU free trade agreements with third countries, and expand the trade mission programme;

  • On Customs, the Government should develop future customs procedures at the UK border in partnership with business, seek to maintain the UK’s position as an entry point for global businesses to Europe;

  • On Tax, the Government should guarantee that HMRC is appropriately resourced to help businesses through the transition process, and provide clarity on whether VAT legislation will continue to mirror current core VAT principles

  • On Regulation, the Government should ensure stability by incorporating existing EU regulations into UK law and maintaining these for a minimum period following Brexit, and ensure that product standards are aligned with, and recognised by, the EU to keep UK products competitive

  • On EU funding, the Government should maintain UK access to the European Investment Bank, and ensure there is no funding ‘cliff-edge’ for areas in receipt of EU funding; and

  • On Northern Ireland, the Government must avoid any return to a hard border, so that businesses can move people and goods as freely as possible.

 
Brexit
 
Following the triggering of Article 50, the Department for Exiting the European Union is producing a series of regular e-bulletins to keep businesses up-to-date with the latest relevant information.
 
You can subscribe here.
 
Lower Thames Crossing: Preferred Route Announcement
 
The Secretary of State for Transport has announced the preferred route for the Lower Thames Crossing, following an exhaustive review of options and extensive analysis of more than 47,000 responses to the Highways England 2016 public consultation.
 
The preferred route consists of: a new bored tunnel under the River Thames east of Gravesend and Tilbury (referred to in the consultation as Location C); a new road north of the river linking the tunnel to the M25 between junctions 29 and 30 (Route 3), and a new road south of the river linking the tunnel to the A2 east of Gravesend (the Western Southern Link).
 
According to Highways England a new crossing at this location offers improved journeys, new connections, network reliability and economic benefits that only a new, alternative crossing away from Dartford can provide. It offers the best balance between improving journeys, minimising impacts on local communities and the environment, and providing value for money. 
 
This will unlock billions of pounds worth of economic benefit and create thousands of jobs. It opens opportunities for investment, for much needed housing and for businesses to grow. This will connect communities and improve access to jobs, housing, leisure and retail facilities either side of the river.
 
You can stay up-to-date about the project here.
 
KEEP+ programme open for business
 
A £9.3million programme to unlock access to EU funding, university expertise and graduate talent is now available for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the East and South East of England.
 
The KEEP+ programme is open to SMEs across four Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Areas, enabling those businesses to develop and launch new products and services. Funding has been provided by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
 
KEEP+ is a partnership that unites eight delivery partners including: Anglia Ruskin University as lead organisation; East of England Local Government Association; University of Brighton; University of Suffolk; University of Essex; University of Greenwich; University of Hertfordshire; and University of Kent.
 
The programme is running for three years and will be open to SMEs registered and actively trading in four LEP areas: Greater Cambridge/Greater Peterborough; Hertfordshire; New Anglia; and the South East LEP.

Benefits available to local companies include being able to access expert advice, funding and support from graduates and researchers across the whole of the UK research base and to accelerate innovation projects and reduce the risks involved in new product development.
 
SMEs that are interested in taking part in KEEP+ can email Carole Randall for further information at carole.randall@anglia.ac.uk
 
New Anglia Skills Deals

 
Do you have a skills gap or barrier to accessing training provision for your adult workforce?
 
Does this affect the growth of your business, and do you believe it affects other employers across Norfolk and Suffolk?
 
Can you create a partnership between employers and providers to deliver a solution to your skills need?
 
New Anglia LEP is welcoming proposals to address skills gaps and offering to co-fund up to 50% of the costs (bids up to £500,000) to employer-led partnerships, looking to make a difference.
 
For more information, including the Programme Prospectus, Application Form and a case study of a current project click here.
 
 
2017 National Apprenticeship Awards
 
The Awards are held annually and hosted by the National Apprenticeship Service, which manages and funds Apprenticeships in England from within the Skills Funding Agency.
 
The Awards recognise the achievements of employers in England that use Apprenticeships to improve business performance, as well as the hard work and commitment of young people currently on, or who have completed, an Apprenticeship.
 
Eligible entrants are apprentices and employers throughout England. The deadline for entries is 26 May 2017. To find out more click here.

Green Business Fund
 
The Carbon Trust Green Business Fund is a brand new energy efficiency support service for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in England, Scotland and Wales. It provides direct funded support through energy assessments, training workshops, equipment procurement support and up to £10,000 capital contribution towards the purchase of energy saving equipment.
 
As part of this initiative, the Carbon Trust is currently working in partnership with a number of local authorities to deliver FREE training workshops in England and Wales. There is a forthcoming workshop in Ipswich on Wednesday 19 April and delegates can register for the workshop by 

clicking here.

  
For more information on the Green Business Fund, please click here.
 
New ERDF calls in Norfolk and Suffolk
 
DCLG, the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme in England, has published a number of further Calls for projects under the ERDF Programme in the New Anglia LEP area.  All of these recent calls can be accessed from the national ESIF ‘Funder Finder’ website: https://www.gov.uk/european-structural-investment-funds
The details of the Calls are:
 
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
 

  1. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 1  (Research and Innovation) – Up to £3.2m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here.

 

  1. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 3  (SME Competitiveness) – Up to £4m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here.

 

  1. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 4 (Low Carbon Economy) – Up to £3.4m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  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 for New Anglia Hugh Goldring to discuss their project at the earliest opportunity.  Hugh can provide support in helping to shape your project and understand programme requirements.
 
There are also three EAFRD Growth Programme Calls open currently, which all close in January 2018. Expressions of Interest can be submitted at any time.  These Calls can be accessed here.
 
You can register to receive e-mail direct notifications of future calls from gov.uk by completing the ‘Subscribe to e-mail alerts’ prompt at the top of this page and selecting your search  filters.
 
Gender Pay Reporting
 
From 6 April 2017 all organisations with more than 250 staff will be required to publish information showing how large the pay gap was between their male and female employees on a particular snapshot date. Acas and the Government Equalities Office have published practical advice, tools and templates on how to calculate, report, explain and what to do about any existing gender pay gap. The information can be found here.
 
Scottish Widows: Maternity leave – talking to your employees about pensions
 
According to Scottish Widows, pensions may not be front of mind for either the employer or the employee when preparing for maternity leave, but sharing the right information at this point can mitigate the impacts on parents’ retirement savings.
 
Research shows a widening gap between men and women when it comes to saving for retirement and the impact of having children is big factor. Scottish Widows retirement expert, Catherine Stewart highlights the key information employers could be sharing, so employees can make informed choices here.
 
British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Podcasts: the new tax year and the Budget
 
The BCC’s latest podcast, discussing the new tax year and what the changes will mean for business (and how they can prepare) is now live here.
 
The BCC’s previous podcast, discussing the Budget and what it means for business, is here.
 
BCC have now moved over to their new hosting platform on Audioboom – a very easy-to-use hosting platform that works on all mobile devices. You can download the app and follow BCC via the link here.
 
You can also subscribe via iTunes.
 
Key automatic enrolment messages for employers – March 2017

Automatic enrolment: Make sure you tell your staff how automatic enrolment applies to them.
 
As part of your automatic enrolment duties, you will need to write to your staff to tell them how automatic enrolment applies to each of them as individuals. Timing is important.  You have a legal duty to write to your staff within six weeks of your staging date. 
 
The Pensions Regulator has letter templates in a number of different languages to help with this.
 
Does your current payroll solution meet your automatic enrolment needs?
Payroll software will help you with automatic enrolment.  It will help you to set up the contributions that you’ll need to pay into your chosen pension scheme and will also send data to your pension provider on a regular basis. It will also help you to enrol staff as they become eligible.
 
It’s important you make sure your current software meets your needs.  If it doesn’t, you’ll need to make other alternative arrangements. For more information, visit The Pensions Regulator’s website.
 
Automatic enrolment: Do you know what information is needed to complete the Declaration of Compliance?
 
Make sure you know when your declaration of compliance deadline is and the information you will need to complete it.  If your declaration is not submitted on time, then you risk a fine.
 
TPR has a checklist and an essential guide which will help you with your declaration
 
Re-enrolment: Do you know when this will impact you?
 
Employers must complete their re-enrolment duties within a six month window which is three months either side of the third anniversary of their staging date. The Pensions Regulator will be contacting over 20,000 employers about their re-enrolment in March 2017
 
Make sure you know when your re-enrolment window is. 
 
Increase in BME workplace progression could give UK economy a £24bn boost – Baroness McGregor-Smith Review finds

 
GDP could increase by up to 1.3 per cent a year if workers from BME backgrounds progressed at the same rate as their white colleagues, according to Race in the workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review
 
Businesses with more than 50 employees are urged to publish breakdown of workforce by race and pay band and a New Business Diversity and Inclusion Group has been announced to make sure Government and industry work more closely to improve representation, inclusiveness and opportunities in the workplace.
 
The UK economy could benefit from a £24bn-a-year boost if black and minority ethnic (BME) people progressed in work at the same rate as their white counterparts, a government-backed review has found.
 
The independent Baroness McGregor-Smith Review, which has recently been published, found people from BME backgrounds are still being held back in the workplace because of the colour of their skin, costing the UK economy the equivalent of 1.3 per cent in GDP a year.
 
The review also found employment rates for people from BME backgrounds are 12 per cent lower than their white counterparts at 62.8 per cent, with just six per cent reaching top level management positions.
 
People from BME backgrounds are also more likely to work in lower paid and lower skilled jobs despite being more likely to have a degree, the report reveals.
 
In a series of recommendations, the review calls for large employers should lead the way in tackling barriers to BME progression, calling on companies with more than 50 employees to:
 

  • Publish a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band;

  • Draw up five-year aspirational diversity targets; and

  • Nominate a board member to deliver on these targets.

 
British Chambers of Commerce Monthly Economic Review

 
The BCC Economic Review for April has been published, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business.
 
This month's headlines:
 

  • BCC upgrades its UK economic growth forecast for 2017, but downgrades outlook for 2018. 

  • Inflation breaches the Bank of England's 2% target as earnings growth continues to slow.

  • Federal Reserve raises US interest rates and more rises are expected this year.

 
The full Review can be read here.
 

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore

Nick Burfield