December 2016 Policy Update

Business Rates 

Suffolk Chamber is aware of a number of cases where Suffolk businesses are facing significant increases in costs as a result of the recent business rates revaluations. 

Although, as a result of the revaluations and new reliefs, 600k businesses with properties will not pay any rates there are some SMEs outside London that have been caught out by this. 

There is a transitional relief scheme that caps the maximum increase or decrease that can happen in 2017 and regarding what is happening with regard to transitional relief the following is from www.gov.uk

“The government is putting in place exceptional measures to help businesses with the 2017 business rates revaluation through the transitional relief scheme. We are providing the same transitional relief to small and medium businesses as was provided at the previous business rates revaluation in 2010. 

“…some properties will see a more significant change – both increases and reductions. Transitional arrangements are used to phase in these changes. 

“The transitional arrangements will support ratepayers by allowing them time to adjust to their new rates bills. Those ratepayers facing increases (who will be in sectors and locations where rateable values have increased more than the average) will see their bill capped each year at a set percentage increase due to the revaluation. Those businesses will be able to plan for their rates future bills.” 

There is a more information on the transitional arrangements here but affected businesses need to be talking to their local business rates contacts because the detail of cases will vary greatly from location to location. 

The rateable value of business properties is fixed by the Valuation Office Agency and you can find your draft rateable value by using an on-line tool. You can appeal against a decision on the current rateable value of your property, but you must do it by 31 March 2017. You need to appeal directly to the Valuation Office.

A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon developments              

In November 2016 main line work on the A1 Alconbury to Brampton began and will last 18 months. Work will start on the main section south of Huntingdon in March 2017 including Girton, Swavesey and a new 750m viaduct over the River Ouse; this will take around 3.5 years. Altogether the improvements and concurrent widening will take around 4 years and the project will be completed and the road would be open to traffic by the end of 2020. The current capacity of the A14 will be maintained during all phases of construction.

Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Framework (SPIF)

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is working closely with Suffolk County Council and our local district and borough councils on the development of a Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Framework (SPIF) for Suffolk, which will set out the direction of economic growth, housing development and infrastructure priorities up to 2050. Both New Anglia LEP and Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough LEP are engaged in this work and will be attending these events.  
 
It is important that local businesses have their voice heard as this framework develops to ensure we identify the needs of local businesses and how infrastructure investment, economic development initiatives and housing growth can be aligned with these needs.
 
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is hosting three workshop-based events in Ipswich, Lowestoft and West Suffolk in late January and early February where you will have the chance to hear an update on the work that is going on and share your views on the future of Suffolk.
 
For more information please see the invitation above and to book your places in your local town area see dates and times below.

Please note these are free events but booking is essential. Click on the links below to book your place.

 

                    

   

New Anglia LEP Strategic Economic Plan (SEP)

All LEPs produce SEPs: high level documents that both reflect and set the context for, amongst other things, other strategies and plans (including skills, sectors, transport, infrastructure and local plans) and form a framework within which bids to Govt are made. The New Anglia LEP SEP is not a bidding mechanism or business plan in its own right but will be the single most influential economic planning document in the New Anglia area. 

The current New Anglia LEP SEP set out “an ambition to harness distinct sector strengths and natural assets to deliver more jobs, new businesses and housing”. 

The targets set in that plan, to be achieved by 2026, were: 95,000 more jobs; 10,000 new businesses; improved productivity (close the gap with national GVA per job); and 117,000 new houses. 

New Anglia LEP produced a SEP impact report in July 2016 which confirmed that impact to 2016 was: 32,300 jobs (34% of target); 4,980 new businesses (49.8% of target); GVA gap down from 7.8% to 7.6% of target (0.2% of target); and 18,850 houses (16.1% of target). The full SEP impact report is here

Suffolk Chamber is part of a steering group that will oversee the production of the next SEP which will be published in Autumn 2017. 

£15m for innovative business ideas 

Innovate UK have launched a £15m round of funding, open to the best business-led, innovative or disruptive ideas or concepts. 

These can be drawn from any technology, engineering or industrial area. For more details click here. 

European Rural Funding Event, Red Lodge Millennium Centre, 10 January 2017 

This is a chance to hear about EU funding opportunities for projects with a strong rural focus across the New Anglia and the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough (GCGP) LEP areas. 

This event is being hosted by the New Anglia and GCGP Local Enterprise Partnerships and is supported by Defra, the Rural Payments Agency, and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils. It is likely to be of particular interest to rural businesses, including farmers and landowners, seeking to expand or diversify, business support organisations and intermediaries, tourism providers and consortia, rural economy practitioners and partners who can support and promote these funding opportunities. 

Following recent government announcements confirming that EU funding in the current 2014-2020 Programmes will be guaranteed by Government to the point that the UK formally leaves the European Union (expected to be spring-summer 2019) both LEPs have been working with Defra to agree new Calls under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) Growth Programme – part of the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).  

These Calls are expected to be launched in early January 2017 and are likely to remain open for approximately 12 to 18 months.  

In New Anglia, new Calls with an overall value of around £11m will be published seeking projects under the following EAFRD Growth Programme Sub-Measures: 

4.2       Food Processing

6.4       Business Development

7.5       Tourism Infrastructure

16.3     Tourism Co-operation 

IN GCGP, Calls will be published with an overall value of around £7m under the following Sub-Measures: 

4.2       Food Processing

6.4       Business Development 

In addition, LEADER activity is now fully operational across many areas of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and there will be more details about available funding under these Programmes. 

There is significant scope for new projects to come forward under the EAFRD Growth Programme and LEADER and there will be an opportunity to have 1-2-1 technical discussions with colleagues from the RPA, LEPs and County Councils. 

Places are limited and will be confirmed on a first come first served basis.  

Please register to attend this event here.

For further details contact Matt Jones, External Funding Specialist, Suffolk County Council:  matt.jones@suffolk.gov.uk or 07860 917014 

National Infrastructure Commission report 

The National Infrastructure Commission has published a report on mobile connectivity, which found that the Government must now play an active role in ensuring basic services are available where we live, work and travel. Suffolk Chamber along with the British Chambers of Commerce has long been calling for the necessary funding to develop 5G, so it is encouraging to see that the report call for our roads, railways and city centres to be made ready for 5G as quickly as possible. Alongside the funding promised in the Autumn Statement, this is a positive step delivering the world-class digital infrastructure that businesses need. The report can be found here

Corporate Governance Reform 

The UK has long been regarded as a world-leader in corporate governance, combining high standards with low burdens and flexibility. It is an important part of what makes the UK such an attractive place for both business and investors. The Government wants to build on these strengths and further enhance our competitiveness. 

A current green paper asks for views on: 

  • executive pay;

  • employee and customer voice; and

  • corporate governance in large private businesses.

There are details of how to respond to the consultation here. 

BCC Annual Conference

The BCC Annual Conference 2017 will take place on Tuesday 28th February at the QEII Conference Centre in London, where we will be joined by senior political figures, business leaders and opinion formers to discuss some of the key issues affecting Britain’s business community.

Key themes being discussed on the day will include: 

  • Brexit: turning uncertainty into opportunity;

  • Keeping the U.K competitive – vision 2030; and

  • Growing business in the regions and nations.

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to keep your finger on the pulse and network with businesses and chambers across the U.K. 

See the website for the latest event updates and speaker announcements. 

Book your tickets before 10th January 2017 for our early bird Chamber rate of £119 + VAT (a saving of 25%) 

Competition and Markets Authority Legal Services Report 

The Competition and Markets Authority have published the final report of their market study into legal services in England and Wales. The report may be of interest to small business members who need legal advice and may find the current system confusing, and can be found here.

Status of EU nationals post Brexit

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and the TUC have sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister on EU migrants’ right to remain and calling through an open letter for an to end to the uncertainty for workers and businesses by confirming that the Government will give current EU migrants a right to remain after Brexit. 

The full BCC press release and the letter are here. 

Exporting is GREAT 

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has launched a new suite of digital services on a new single platform GREAT.gov.uk.  

For the first time domestic sellers and overseas buyers and investors will be able to connect to a single platform where they will be able to find information on how to:

  • Access the best online advice on exporting

  • Find an export opportunity

  • Find an online marketplace

  • Find a buyer overseas

  • Search and register for events and webinars 

DIT also host and participate in events and webinars. Further details on these can be found at https://www.events.trade.gov.uk/ 

Key automatic enrolment messages for employers – December 2016

Already automatically enrolled and taken on additional staff for Christmas?

If you’ve taken on additional staff for the Christmas period, then you should be aware that you’ll need to assess whether they need to be put into your pension scheme. You will need to assess them individually every time you pay them – even if they’re only working for you for a few days. 

If you know that any of your staff will be working for you for a period of less than three months, then you can choose to delay working out who to put into a pension scheme. This is known as postponement. 

For more guidance on seasonal workers, and to view a video, go to www.tpr.gov.uk/seasonal  

Automatic enrolment: Is your Declaration of Compliance deadline due over the Christmas period? 

Don’t neglect this – you risk a fine. The run up to Christmas can be a busy time of year but if you are one of the 50,000 small employers whose Declaration of Compliance is due on 4th January 2017, then you would be well advised to complete and submit this ahead of time – don’t risk a fine. 

Start now – The Pensions Regulator has a checklist of information you’ll need to complete your declaration. Go to www.tpr.gov.uk/declaration-of-compliance  

Choosing a pension scheme for automatic enrolment? The Pensions Regulator has guidance 

If you are looking at which pension schemes are appropriate to use for automatic enrolment, then you’ll find it useful to spend a few minutes reading guidance provided by The Pensions Regulator to help you understand the considerations you should bear in mind when selecting the right scheme for your staff.  

For more information go to www.tpr.gov.uk/scheme

Did you automatically enrol your staff in 2014? If so, then you will have re-enrolment duties in 2017 

Every three years you must put certain members of staff back into an automatic enrolment pension scheme. This is called re-enrolment. 

Your duties will vary depending on whether you have staff to re-enrol or not. Either way, you will need to complete a re-declaration of compliance to tell The Pensions Regulator how you have met your duties.           

For more information, go to www.tpr.gov.uk/re-enrolment 

British Chambers of Commerce Monthly Economic Review 

The BCC Economic Review for December has been published, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business. Note that word versions of this report are available on the Chamber knowledge hub. 

This month's headlines: 

  • Q3 UK GDP growth unrevised with business investment supporting growth in the quarter;

  • OBR downgrades its economic and fiscal outlook for the UK; and

  • US GDP growth revised up, but the pick-up in Indian GDP growth unlikely to be sustained. 

The full Review can be read here: BCC Monthly Economic Review 

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk