January 2016 Policy Update

Suffolk Chamber business leaders’ meet Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP

Suffolk Chamber hosted a business leaders’ meeting with Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP in the House of Commons on Monday 14 December, under the sponsorship of Dr Thérèse Coffey MP.

Matt Hancock MP and Jo Churchill MP were also in attendance along with ten senior business and public partners. It was a very positive meeting and the Chamber and colleagues had plenty of time to continue to press the Suffolk cases regarding the A14, A12, A1307 and the Lake Lothing and Ipswich Wet Dock crossings.

The Minister invited us to progress our priorities through the review of the Roads Investment Strategy. A press report following the visit is below.

Suffolk Chamber’s follow-up letter to the Minister:

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 is inviting businesses to a campaign update from 7.30am to 9:30am on 4 March 2016 at Trinity Park, Ipswich, IP3 8UH. Click here for more details and to book your place.

The planned A14 improvements at Cambridge do not mean that the A14 is 'done' and we want to see improvements to other congested sections including the Orwell Bridge, the Ransomes Europark and Copdock interchanges in Ipswich and the junctions at Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is therefore continuing efforts on behalf of Suffolk businesses and we have been working closely with our MPs, business leaders, LEPs, local authorities, other business voice organisations and Highways England to drive forward this important campaign.

Speakers at the 4 March event will be: Stephen Britt, Chair, Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board; Dr Thérèse Coffey MP; Doug Field, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership Board; Cllr James Finch, Suffolk County Council; and Simon Amor, Asset Development Manager, Highways England.

A12 Ipswich to Lowestoft: your chance to help establish Suffolk’s Energy Gateway

Suffolk County and the East Suffolk District Councils have long recognised the A12 as the local strategic corridor in East Suffolk and its essential role in supporting business growth. The councils have therefore committed £500k to build a strategic business case to Government for funding to improve part of the A12 between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has been asked to consult with, and draw together information from, businesses that are affected by the current state of the road. An important part of this process is to gather information from local businesses concerning:

  • The impact that the current state of the A12 has on your business;
  • The difference specific improvements might make to your business;
  • Costs relating to unreliable and delayed journey times;
  • Investment likely to result from improved more reliable access;
  • Future employment growth; and
  • Priority locations for improvements.

The responses to this consultation will be drawn together by a team at the Suffolk Business School at University Campus Suffolk and used to inform a business case, in the form required by Government. The work is being carried out by consultants Mouchel and Aecom.

Businesses are invited to attend either one of two consultation events for interested businesses:

07:30am - 09:30am on Tuesday 26 January 2016 at Ufford Park, Woodbridge. Click here to book

or

07:30am - 09:30am on Wednesday 3 February 2016 at Darsham High Lodge. Click here to book

Businesses are also invited to complete Suffolk Chamber’s business survey on Suffolk’s Energy Gateway.

New super-sized Enterprise Zones bring investment for Suffolk towns

A series of local development sites across Suffolk have been awarded Enterprise Zone status bringing incentives for businesses to invest and create new jobs.

Sites in Bury St Edmunds, Greater Ipswich, Haverhill and Stowmarket are included in new Enterprise Zones for the region, announced by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement following successful bids by Local Enterprise Partnerships together with local councils.

Read more here.

Making Tax Digital

The Chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement the plan for ‘Making Tax Digital'.

In the wake of the announcement there was concern that each self-employed individual and small business would have to file four tax returns a year, rather than one which is currently the case, with the burden of additional red tape, accountancy fees and potential for fines.

A petition was launched to try and initiate a Parliamentary debate around the proposals. The petition can be signed here. To date 106,943 signatures have been added.

The Government has responded that “'Making Tax Digital’ will not in fact mean ‘four tax returns a year’” and that “Quarterly updates will largely be a matter of checking data generated from record keeping software or apps and clicking ‘send’.” You can read the Government’s response in full here.

Nonetheless Parliament will debate the petition on 25 January 2016 and you'll be able to watch online at parliamentlive.tv

Over half of Norfolk and Suffolk businesses support devolution, says new survey

The majority of companies across Norfolk and Suffolk back proposals to devolve more powers from central government to cities and regions saying the move would boost confidence and give local businesses a stronger voice, according to new research from financial and business advisers Grant Thornton.

The survey results found nearly 60% of businesses questioned support the idea of devolution with almost half of respondents (42%) feeling devolution would be best achieved jointly by Norfolk and Suffolk rather than individually or with Cambridgeshire or Essex.

The survey asked a range of businesses from across the two counties for their views, including members of Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce.

A detailed press release with a link to the report is below:

Employer engagement in education boosts students’ job prospects

The BCC has published findings from a major UK-wide survey of over 3,500 businesses and educators highlighting the significant benefits of partnerships between schools and businesses. 

The vast majority of educational establishments (88%) partnering with businesses said the most important benefit was improved outcomes for their pupils.

The education leaders surveyed also stated that employer engagement has a clear benefit for their pupils, including: greater awareness of the soft skills that businesses value (74%); increased motivation in lessons (73%); better careers information (52%); and lessons which are more relevant and connected to the world of work (46%).

Business leaders reported that the main reasons for partnering with a school were to demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility (43%), to identify future employees (38%), and to increase awareness of different jobs and career paths (35%). 

However, both business and education leaders reported a number of barriers preventing them from building lasting and effective partnerships. For businesses and educators respectively, this included staff time (53% / 64%), and administrative burdens (36% / 41%). Businesses also cited cost as a factor (38%) while some educators identified a lack of interest from business (42%).

A detailed press release can be found here

Suffolk Chamber runs its Young Chamber service to support employers and schools in their collaborative work. If you are interested in becoming involved in Young Chamber, or Young Chamber PLUS with an enhanced offer, contact Ashleigh Seymour-Rutherford ashleigh@suffolkchamber.co.uk or 01473 694807.

Suffolk Local Policing Review

Suffolk Constabulary is about to embark on the next stage of their change programme, which involves a re-design of local policing, and has provided some important information regarding the future strategic direction of the organisation.

A special edition of ‘Constables County’ (Suffolk Constabulary’s internal publication) can be read below and provides an overview of plans which will take effect from 1 April 2016.

The Constabulary is working towards bridging a funding gap of at least £20.5 million by April 2020.  Alongside this, a recent strategic assessment clearly outlines a significant departure from ‘traditional crime’ and a new emphasis on protecting vulnerable people and specialist crime such as cyber-crime.  As a result, the Suffolk Local Policing Review is underway to identify how policing services can be redesigned to better respond to today’s demands and to deliver required savings.

The Constabulary and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner have worked hard to develop a future policing model that is cost effective (Suffolk is already the fourth lowest cost Constabulary in the country) and is guided by the fundamental aim of protecting communities and enhancing services whilst delivering the Police and Crime Plan.    

Suffolk Constabulary is continuing to work with other public sector organisations such as Health and local authorities to work in a more integrated way to ensure public money is spent wisely, and that more emphasis is placed on working together to prevent problems, thereby reducing demand and enhancing services.

If you have any views, queries or concerns then contact the Constabulary’s change team via email at suffolkchangeteam@suffolk.pnn.police.uk or the Police and Crime Commissioner at spcc@suffolk.pnn.police.uk.

National Living Wage

The Government has launched its campaign to raise awareness of the National Living Wage (NLW). The campaign is designed:

1. To ensure employers are aware of, and comply with, this new legal requirement.

2.  To ensure eligible workers know that they are entitled to the NLW, and what to do if they are not being paid the correct amount.

This 'soft launch' phase, from now until mid-January, is focused on making sure that employers know about the NLW, know when it is coming, and what they should do to prepare their businesses for it.

The Government has outlined four simple steps that it wants employers to take as soon as possible to make sure that they are ready:

  1. Know the correct minimum rate of pay – £7.20 per hour for staff aged 25 and over;
  2. Find out which members of your staff are eligible for this new rate;
  3. Update the company payroll in time for April 1, 2016; and
  4. Tell staff about any changes as soon as possible.

A campaign microsite has been launched at www.livingwage.gov.uk and key hashtags for the campaign are #NationalLivingWage, #NLW, #4steps

Businesses urged to sign up and support ex-service men & women through ‘VETS East’

This is the first regional pilot outside London of a national partnership involving the Career Transition Partnership and Barclays Bank. The programme will provide mentoring, ready to work and in-work support to former members of the armed forces and help connect military leavers with local employers across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Read more here or contact debbi.christophers@writeoncommunication.co.uk

 

Pensions and a new essential guide to automatic enrolment

A new essential guide to automatic enrolment has been published by The Pensions Regulator, which will be sent to all employers with the letter they receive from The Pensions Regulator 12 months before their staging date.

This guide will help you work out the steps you need to follow to meet your automatic enrolment duties, including whether or not you need to provide a pension.

Click here to read the new guide and find out what you need to do, and when, especially if you are staging between January & March 2016. Key hashtag is #autoenrolment

Business emergency planning guidelines published

Business in the Community has drawn up a 10-minute plan for businesses to help them prepare for and cope with emergencies like the recent floods.

The full plan can be downloaded here.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

Government has published further Calls under the ERDF Programme including two Calls for the New Anglia LEP area. All of the recent calls can be accessed from the national ESIF ‘Funder Finder’ website.

In terms of the local Calls, these are as follows:

 

  1. An Open Call under Priority Axis 3  (SME Competitiveness) – Up to £3m is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 29th January 2016.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here

 

  1. An Open Call under Priority Axis 4 (Low Carbon Economy) – Up to £2m is being made available under this Call, with the deadline for applications being 29th January 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 Hugh Goldring hugh.goldring@norfolk.gov.uk to discuss their project at the earliest opportunity. Hugh can provide support in helping to shape your project and understand programme requirements.

Subject to confirmation from DCLG further local Calls under ERDF will be announced in the spring and will be included in future editions of this policy e-zine.

You can also register to receive e-mail direct notifications from gov.uk by completing the ‘Subscribe to e-mail alerts’ prompt at the top of https://www.gov.uk/european-structural-investment-funds and selecting your search filters.

 

BCC Economic Review for January 2016

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

This month's headlines are:

  • Q3 UK GDP growth has been revised downwards with slower than expected service sector growth;
  • The Q4 2015 QES signals slower near-term growth for the UK economy; and
  • The US has raised interest rates as monetary policy loosens further in the Eurozone.

Read more below:

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): Trade deficit is a major challenge for the UK

  • The UK trade deficit in goods and services was £4.1bn in October 2015, a widening of £3.1bn from September; and
  • In the three months to October 2015, the trade deficit in goods and services was £2.4bn larger than in the previous three months.

Commenting on the UK trade figures for October 2015 published by the ONS David Kern, Chief Economist at the BCC, said:

“After the increase in the trade deficit recorded in Q3, these figures raise the risk that trade will continue to be a drag on UK growth into the fourth quarter.

“Although the main reason for the wider deficit in October was a surge in imports, it is clear that our exports are not growing fast enough to close the gap, as our recent forecast demonstrates.

“If we are to redress the balance and reverse our long-running trade deficit more must be done to help support export growth, including improved access to funding for those looking to export.”

BCC: Strong labour market figures provided welcome pre-Christmas news

  • In the three months from August-October 2015, employment was up 207,000 and unemployment was 110,000 lower;
  • The youth unemployment rate fell to its lowest level for more than 10 years; and
  • Annual growth in average earnings in the three months from August-October fell to 2.4% including bonuses and 2.0% excluding bonuses.

Commenting on the labour market figures for December 2015, published by the ONS, David Kern, BCC Chief Economist, said:

"This is an encouraging pre-Christmas set of figures, with employment rising to a record high, unemployment falling, and inactivity declining. The youth unemployment rate has also fallen to a 10-year low, although it is still considerably higher than the national average. Overall these figures demonstrate that our flexible and vibrant labour market remains a source of strength for the UK economy.

“While wages are continuing to rise faster than prices, boosting disposable incomes, the slowdown in annual earnings growth will provide more evidence to the MPC that there is no need to consider any early increase in interest rates.”

Apprenticeship Levy

The Government has published its response to the Apprenticeship Levy consultation. The Levy will apply to all businesses and public sector bodies (including local authorities) with a pay bill in excess of £3 million per year from April 2017.  The Levy will be set at 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill and collected via PAYE. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their Levy payment.

Health and Safety Executive update

The Health and Safety Executive will be constructing a refreshed strategy that will have a specific focus on how to support small businesses. BCC colleagues are meeting with them and it would be good to feed in thoughts from the Chamber Network. Please contact Fiona Krasniqi with any case studies regarding health and safety regulations.

JobCentre Plus enquiry

The BCC are keen to know if any Chamber members are engaging with any of their local Jobcentres. In particular, it would be helpful if members would contact Fiona Krasniqi about any case studies about recruiting via their Jobcentre.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk