January 2018 Policy Update


No More A14 Delays in Suffolk: make your voice heard in the Government consultation

Our Strategy Board for No More A14 Delays in Suffolk, chaired by Jo Churchill MP, met again on 26 January 2018 with Highways England (HE) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to review the opportunities for Suffolk flowing from HE’s Strategic Road Network Initial Report (SRNI) and the current DfT consultation which is based upon it and which closes on 7 February 2018.

The Board noted that the A14 in Suffolk has been identified in the SRNI as a potential Expressway, an official term used by HE and DfT to describe Dual Carriageway Trunk Roads that are mostly grade separated, mostly dual carriageway and capable of providing mile a minute speeds outside of urban areas.

Expressways are designed to be capable of providing motorway standard journeys that are reliable and resilient to delay and are also designed to be as safe as motorways.

The Strategy Board and our partners will respond to the consultation welcoming the tentative Expressway designation, asking for it to be confirmed and seeking funding to progress to the higher standards as soon as possible.

We hope that Suffolk businesses will also respond, in a similar vein, to the consultation the link to which is here

Companies and residents alike are also asked to continue sharing their experiences in support of the No More A14 Delays in Suffolk campaign by clicking here or emailing: news@suffolkchamber.co.uk

A Major Roads Network

As well as consulting on the future of the Strategic Road Network, the Government is consulting until 19 March 2018 on the creation of a Major Road Network (MRN).

This consultation asks for views on:

  • how to define the MRN;

  • the role that local, regional and national bodies will play in the MRN investment programme; and

  • which schemes will be eligible for MRN funding.

A new MRN would help deliver the following objectives:

  • reduce congestion;

  • support economic growth and rebalancing;

  • support housing delivery;

  • support all road users; and

  • support the Strategic Road Network.

The creation of an MRN would allow for dedicated funding from the National Roads Fund to be used to improve this middle tier of the busiest and most economically important local authority ‘A’ roads.

You can view the proposals for the creation of a Major Road Network, see a map of what the MRN may look like and respond to the consultation online.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: a manifesto for business to 2020

We have unveiled our manifesto for the next three years, setting out the priorities we will be campaigning for on behalf of both our members and the wider business community. 

A Manifesto for Business has identified the current strengths of the Suffolk economy, its future potential and the improvements and investment needed to realise that future. 

The manifesto confirms that Suffolk fuels, feeds, informs, transports and attracts businesses and people both nationally and increasingly internationally, thanks to its strengths in the energy, land-based, ICT and knowledge, port and logistics and tourism sectors. 

Our campaigning will focus on three key issues:

  • reducing unnecessary regulations;

  • improving access to all markets; and

  • giving business the tools to do the job.

Under the theme of reducing regulations, the Chamber wants a reform of business rates, including the removal of all plant and machinery from the valuation of property and a continued roll-out of initiatives, such as Better Business For All, which aims to make regulatory services more supportive of the needs of local businesses. Suffolk Chamber is also seeking improvements in procurement opportunities so that all local public sector partners better engage with businesses when deciding upon their supply chain contracts. 

In terms of improving access to markets, as well as road, rail and telephony infrastructure upgrades, the Chamber will be stepping up our campaigns for improved international trade support for Suffolk firms and a sharpening as how Suffolk is marketed to the rest of the country and internationally to promote greater investment. 

In giving businesses the tools to do the job, Suffolk Chamber is especially keen for a streamlined and simplified planning system to ensure that the interests of businesses are better heard, both in the development of new local plans and through more business-friendly planning practices that explicitly support economic and business growth. 

Our five town areas and two sectoral boards are now developing specific manifestos of their own within the framework established by the Suffolk Chamber document.

The manifesto is available here.

Norfolk and Suffolk Economic Strategy delivery plans

Now that the new economic strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk has been signed off by all partners attention is turning to the implementation of the strategy through a suite of local delivery plans and a high-level delivery plan that will be signed off by the New Anglia LEP Board in March 2018 with formal implementation taking place from April 2018.

During January and February New Anglia LEP are holding a series of partner engagement sessions which are focused on the development of those delivery plans. 

Sessions are planned for:

  • Tuesday 30 January, 3-5pm      Bury St Edmunds

  • Tuesday 6 February, 3-5pm        Trinity Park, Ipswich.

  • Tuesday 13 February, 3-5pm     Trinity Park, Ipswich

  • Wednesday 14 February, 3-5pm   Brome Grange, Eye

  • Monday 19 February, 3-5pm    Imperial Hotel, Great Yarmouth

You can book a place here

The economic strategy, the executive summary of the economic strategy and the evidence document underpinning the economic strategy are here.

Ipswich Opportunity Area

The Department for Education has published its plan to transform opportunities for young people in Ipswich.

As one of twelve Opportunity Areas, Ipswich will receive a share of £72 million funding to boost opportunities for young people. This is a key part of the Secretary of State’s aim to tackle barriers to social mobility and improve opportunities for young people.

This new, targeted approach sets out four priorities for action:

  • Activities that will ensure all children are prepared to learn for life through support for parents and practitioners to help children develop positive learning behaviours from birth, better communication between schools and parents, and a youth-led social action programme.

  • An ambition to strengthen the teaching profession by providing world class support and development, including tailored development packages for all education professionals, and a high quality skills-based leadership and development programme for all school leaders.

  • Driving rapid improvement in attainment for disadvantaged pupils by embedding evidence-based practice in the teaching of English and maths and supporting the most vulnerable pupils through key transitions in their educational careers.

  • Activities that will inspire and equip young people with the skills and guidance they need to pursue an ambitious career pathway, including meaningful encounters with employers for every young person, and a shared network of qualified career leaders for Ipswich schools.

The plan for Ipswich Opportunity Area, and the methodology and data used can be found here.

New Anglia LEP Sector Skills Plans – Get involved

Skills Reach, commissioned by New Anglia LEP are part way through the production of a series of ‘Sector Skills Plans’ to outline the key skills challenges for our sectors, including potential solutions. 

These plans are the culmination of statistical research together with in depth consultation directly with employers and providers from each sector and from across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Currently under consultation are plans for the Advanced Manufacturing, Finance, Ports and Logistics and Tourism and Cultural Sectors. 

If you would like to get involved in the development or delivery of any of these, please contact jasmine.joolia@suffolk.gov.uk and you will be put in touch with the relevant leads.

If you are interested in seeing plans which have already been produced please go to the New Anglia LEP website Sector Skills Plans.

Could a New Anglia Skills Deal benefit your company or sector?

If you have identified a skills gap for your adult workforce or cannot find training to help your business grow - then Skills Deals may be able to fund you working with a training provider to create an innovative solution. Grants are being offered of up to £500,000 and need to be match funded, but if you have an idea you would like to discuss, and would be in a position to apply and complete the process swiftly, then see here to check your proposal against the criteria outlined in the Skills Deal Prospectus or contact skills@newanglia.co.uk.

Carillion

The winding-up order against Carillion Plc on Monday 15 January raised challenges across a number of areas, from system-wide impacts on the availability of finance; the status of contracts where Carillion was a partner in joint ventures; the future of its employees and those of its sub-contractors; and monies owed to companies in the supply chain.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) representatives immediately attended a BEIS roundtable with Greg Clark MP and Andrew Griffiths MP with other relevant business and trade associations present. Further, the BCC also participated in a roundtable event with Greg Clark MP and PwC (who have been appointed Special Managers to the Official Receiver to conduct the winding up of Carillion).

Following that engagement, BCC wrote to Greg Clark MP seeking further clarity on how the whole of Government will act during the coming weeks to support and protect affected businesses.  The BCC lettercan be viewed here.

In the wake of the Carillion liquidation, UK Finance has been undertaking work across the financial industry to support businesses directly or indirectly affected.

The message from the financial services industry is that businesses who might be impacted should contact their lender. They will be treated with understanding and empathy, and forbearance will be offered as appropriate as they assess their financial position.  

A number of banks have proactive sought to identify impacted customers and reach out to them to see what help might be required. However, any small business customers who are worried about cashflow issues should contact their bank as soon as possible to discuss the support that is available to them. UK Finance has published a website which sets out the support available to business and the primary contact points within firms. 

Innovation Loans

Innovate UK has launched a new £50m innovation loans pilot, which will give small businesses with ground breaking ideas access to loans to support their growth. The first competition will support smart infrastructure, urban living, energy supply & systems, and connected transport projects. More information can be found online

BCC podcast on the gender pay gap

The BCC podcast on the gender pay gap is now live. It is an interview with the head of business engagement at the Government Equalities Office to talk about gender pay gap reporting – what it means for large companies currently subject to reporting, potential plans to roll out further, and what businesses should do to adopt best practice.

The podcast can be viewed here.

Future of UK’s freight infrastructure

A Call for Evidence has been launched to shape a new study into improving infrastructure supporting the UK’s freight networks. At the Budget, the Chancellor asked the National Infrastructure Commission to conduct a study into the role that freight plays in the economy and identify how future infrastructure investments can support better freight connectivity and reduce the sector's carbon footprint. Further information can be found here

Time to get energy smart

The UK Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched a competition to support innovative approaches to smart energy management. 

Up to £8.8 million of funding is available to develop new products and services to help small businesses save energy and cut costs. The competition will focus on the needs of independent and smaller chains in the hospitality and retail sectors.  It will help these small businesses be more energy efficient, enabling them to boost productivity and contribute to UK emissions reduction targets.

The competition is designed in three phases from early 2018 to the end of 2020.  In Phase 1 technology companies are invited to develop software solutions based on smart meter data.  In Phases 2 and 3 businesses in the hospitality and retail sectors are encouraged to serve as pilot sites for the new technology solutions.

Full details about the Non-Domestic Smart Energy Management Innovation Competition, including how to apply, are available here

Help Ofcom to improve mobile phone services across the UK

Information gathered by taking part in Ofcom's first crowdsourced research project will help Ofcom better understand how mobile networks perform across the UK, as well as how people use their mobile data services.

Anyone with an Android mobile phone can take part in the project by simply downloading the Ofcom Mobile Research app.

After downloading and installing the app you will be asked some basic questions such as your age group, gender, occupation, postcode and whether you have home broadband. The app will then work quietly in the background on your phone, automatically measuring the performance of any mobile and Wi-Fi networks that you use.

It will help gather valuable information about:

  • reliability of voice calls;

  • mobile broadband performance; and

  • users' experiences and habits, including app use.

The Ofcom app does not collect any information which can be used to directly identify you, but it does collect information about the apps you use, such as time spent on a particular app, but not what you use them for. For instance, it would log that the YouTube app was used, but not what was watched.

Cyber Essentials

A new website has gone live for Cyber Essentials – a certification scheme run by the National Cyber Security Centre – aimed at encouraging all UK organisations to protect themselves against the most common forms of cyber-attack. The new website provides clear and simple guidance to improve basic cyber security based on five technical controls.

The website also includes a brand-new database of organisations that have had systems certified under the Cyber Essentials scheme in the last year. This helps provide reassurance to customers who can now validate their supply chain credentials in one place.

Automatic enrolment messages for employers – January 2018

Growing your business in 2018 and taking on new staff? Automatic enrolment duties will apply - make sure you know what you need to do.

Growing a business may mean taking on more staff and this means there are a number of things to consider, including automatic enrolment. Automatic enrolment is a legal duty for all employers, so it’s important you know what you need to do. Employers risk a fine if they don’t comply with the law on time.The Pensions Regulator’s website has a new online tool that helps employers find out what steps they’ll need to take, and by when.

Are you planning on starting a business in 2018? Make sure you have all the equipment you need.

If you are setting up a business, you may be thinking of taking on staff. If you do employ staff, you’ll need to assess them to see if you need to automatically enrol them into a pension scheme. This will be a busy time for new employers, so it’s important that you are prepared in good time and know what automatic enrolment will mean when you take on your first staff member. Take a few minutes to watch a short video by The Pensions Regulator that outlines how automatic enrolment applies to new employers.

Employers, are you prepared for the increase in minimum contributions for workplace pensions in April 2018?

By law, minimum pension contributions are required to increase over time on set dates. These increases are planned in two phases – 6 April 2018 and then again on 6 April 2019. All employers will need to work out how these changes will apply to them and their staff, and what they’ll need to do to make the increases happen.  The Pensions Regulator also has online information and guidance that will help you, including template letters to help you explain the increases to your staff.

Sole-director or director-only company? Make sure you know what your automatic enrolment duties are.

In some cases, directors may be exempt from duties under automatic enrolment, even if they have an employment contract. If you have received a letter from The Pensions Regulator, then that means that they think you have duties. So it’s important that you tell The Pensions Regulator if you think you are exempt. The Pensions Regulator website has further guidance and information on how AE applies to director-only companies.

Paper £10 Withdrawal

The Bank of England will withdraw legal tender status of the paper £10 note featuring Charles Darwin at 23.59 on Thursday 1 March 2018, and is encouraging anyone who still has it to use it. As with any banknote withdrawal, all businesses that handle cash need to plan and prepare for the change.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): Securing a business-friendly trade deal with the EU must be New Year priority

A future UK-EU trade deal must minimise barriers to trade according to the BCC International Trade Survey 2017: Trading with Europe which finds that UK businesses regard Europe as their primary trading partner for the coming years.

The results, based on the responses of over 1,300 businesses, found that over the next three years, the top two markets which most businesses plan to start or continue exporting to are Western Europe (44%), and Central and Eastern Europe (32%). Western Europe (36%) is also the market which most firms plan to import from.

According to the findings, UK businesses foresee the most significant barriers to trading with foreign markets as tariffs (46%), customs procedures (39%) and local regulations (20%). The results also show exporters’ strategies over the next three years will primarily be influenced by increased demand from overseas buyers (48%), exchange rates (36%) and the UK’s future withdrawal from the EU (35%).

Businesses looking to import say they will primarily be influenced by the lack of suppliers in the UK (43%), followed by exchange rates (41%), and it being cheaper to import than source in the UK or produce within their business (33%).

The results of the survey underline the importance of the UK and EU reaching a business-friendly trade agreement that minimises costs and trade barriers. Europe will not only remain an important market for UK businesses to sell to, but with minimal evidence that UK businesses can substitute domestic inputs for imports in the short term, access to the European market will be crucial for firms to source components.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Monthly Economic Review

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

This month's headlines:

  • Annual UK GDP growth revised up and the UK’s current account deficit narrows;

  • UK inflation rises above 3% as household spending outstrips income; and

  • Japan records the longest stretch of unbroken GDP growth in over 20 years.

A link to the Monthly Economic Review on the BCC website is here.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore or Nick Burfield