December 2015 Policy Update

Comprehensive Spending Review

In advance of the Comprehensive Spending Review Suffolk Chamber wrote to the Chancellor outlining what we regarded as business priorities and illustrated them from a local perspective - see attachment below.

Suffolk Chamber then responded to the Chancellor’s Spending Review announcements with John Dugmore, CEO of Suffolk Chamber saying:

On the apprenticeship levy:

“The priority must be delivering high quality apprenticeships, viewed positively by employers such as the Suffolk 500 in 100 apprenticeship programme. It is important that the delivery of the levy doesn’t undermine other types of vocational training and together with Suffolk County Council and out partner TCHC we will be ensuring Government continues to be fully aware of the work underway here in the county and the real positive impact it is having.”

On investment in infrastructure:

“Our transport and digital infrastructure has been in dire need of repair for quite some time which is why Chamber led campaigns such as ‘No More A14 Delays in Suffolk’ and A1307 dualling continue to be so important. Fixing our broken roads and railways and ensuring a world-class digital broadband network is a no brainer if the government wants to support growth and boost productivity. The 50% increase in capital expenditure for transport is good news, but we sorely need the government to crack on and get building.

New tax administration target to reduce the costs to business:

“The cost of complying with the UK’s complex tax system has become a major burden over recent years and so businesses across Suffolk will view positively the new target for cutting the cost of tax administration. The new target will rightly increase the scrutiny on HMRC, but by reducing the number and frequency of changes to the tax system the government can also play a major role in reducing tax administration.”

On supporting exporters:

“We await more details on the government’s future plans for investing in export support. Businesses need in-market support to enable them to break into new markets. Suffolk Chambers is increasingly well placed to provide the help needed for those companies, especially SMEs who wish to trade the world with confidence given our links with Chambers of Commerce in overseas markets.”

On business rates:

“Extending the small business rate relief scheme will support businesses across the county while the broader shape of a reformed business rates system is determined. We will continue to work with local MPs and the government to ensure that business concerns over our broken rates system are met.

"The Chancellor recognises that support of the business community is crucial in implementing a supplementary levy for infrastructure – this should be expressed through a ratepayers vote.”

The full press release from Suffolk Chamber can be found here

The summaries of the Spending Review by the British Chambers of Commerce can be read below:

East Anglia rail franchise

Following The Department of Transport’s shortlisting of Abellio/Stagecoach, First and National Express, the East Anglia rail franchise Invitation to Tender (ITT) was published on 17 September.

The ITT falls far short of the specification set out in Suffolk Chamber’s response to the East Anglia rail franchise consultation and does not include for example:

  • A requirement to deliver hourly Ipswich to Peterborough services;
  • Any solution to improving the reliability of (especially freight) services on the Felixstowe Branch;
  • Acknowledgement of Sizewell C and the required increase in capacity by rail for its construction;
  • Practical improvements between Lowestoft and Ipswich, where the through trains commitment required (instead of improved frequency) is likely to mitigate against a better service to London and may jeopardise the reliability of the Lowestoft to Ipswich service;
  • Any ambition to address local fleet capacity issues;
  • Local route enhancements in terms of either frequency or journey times; and
  • Expectations for rolling stock replacement or refurbishment for non-intercity services.

We have subsequently written to Claire Perry MP the Rail Minister, outlining our concerns and copying in our Suffolk MPs, the shortlisted bidders and New Anglia LEP.

A response has been received from the Minister and it is clear that we will now need to put pressure on the bidders and, when all bids are in, on the organisations reviewing the tenders to ensure that Suffolk business rail users are better served in future.

The letter to the Minister and the response can be read below:

Devolution

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill has reached the Committee stage in Parliament, and Suffolk and Norfolk through the local authorities and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have made a pitch to Government for more devolved powers.

Much of what is proposed is in areas directly relevant to our members and to the wider business community such as infrastructure, economic development, skills and inward investment.

Suffolk Chamber is therefore working with our public partners and the LEP to ensure that the emerging proposals work for business.

In addition to maintaining a constructive dialogue with Suffolk County Council, Local Authorities and the LEP about the devolution proposals, Suffolk Chamber has arranged a number of local events for businesses to hear about and question what is being put forward.

Up-to-date information about the devolution proposals can be found here and a list of FAQs can be read below: 2015-11-25 Devolution FAQ's.

Lower Thames Crossing

Suffolk Chamber hosted a very useful and interesting Thames Crossing roundtable on 16 November with Peter Fry from Halcrow Hyder taking us through Highways England’s work to date in building the case for a Lower Thames Crossing.

Peter’s presentation can be viewed below and shows the two options that will be consulted on in the New Year.

Peter will be coming to Suffolk Chamber’s Transport and Infrastructure Board on 19 January 2016 to give a more detailed presentation in advance of Highways England’s public consultation which will be launched at around that time.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): Time for a bonfire of the Westminster vanities

In early November BCC published a series of provocative articles challenging the Westminster consensus on a range of business and economic issues which can be read below.

Entitled Bursting the Bubble: 10 ways Westminster gets it wrong on business and the economy, BCC’s new publication urges a “bonfire of the vanities” by detailing ten areas where the rhetoric from politicians and the chattering class doesn’t match up with the reality on the ground. The report highlights the growing gap between the perceptions of businesses and voters across the UK on the one hand, and the ‘metropolitan elite’ on the other.

Covering debt, productivity, bank finance, education, infrastructure, inward investment, exports, the EU, energy and broadband, Bursting the Bubble challenges a range of myths that have taken hold in Westminster and Whitehall, and argues for more intelligent – and more informed – debate on the big issues facing the United Kingdom.

BCC Economic Review for November 2015

The BCC has published its UK Monthly Economic Review for November 2015, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business.

This month's headlines are:

  • UK GDP growth slows in Q3 as construction output falls.
  • UK slips back into deflation as the employment rate hits record high.
  • Chinese growth drops to six-year low as the outlook for the global economy weakens.

Read more below:

BT’S £565 million boost for the Suffolk Economy

BT generated £565 million for the Suffolk economy in the past year, according to a recent independent report.

The report, by Regeneris Consulting, also shows that the communications company supports nearly 26,700 jobs in the East of England – of which more than 5,300 are in Suffolk - through direct employment, its spending with contractors and suppliers and the spending of employees.

In addition, 1 in every 4 employees working in the IT and communications sector in Suffolk and Norfolkis directly employed by BT, and £1 in every £2 of GVA in the IT and communications sector is generated directly by BT.

Read the report at 2015-11-08 BT East of England report:

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk