June 2016 Policy Update

No More A14 Delays in Suffolk  

Following the success of the 'No Toll Tax on Suffolk' campaign, our Spring 2015 launch of ‘No More A14 Delays in Suffolk’, and two MP-led business leader events in March and April 2016,Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is establishing a Strategic Overview Board for the campaign. 

Thérèse Coffey MP has kindly agreed to chair the Board and its first meeting will be held on 1 July in the Suffolk Chamber Boardroom in Felaw Maltings. The new Board will meet quarterly and will provide a focus for the campaign and help to ensure that all necessary technical work is undertaken and that the campaign profile is maintained so that enhancements to the A14 in Suffolk feature prominently in the next iteration (covering 2020-2025) of the Government's Roads Investment Strategy (RIS2). 

In parallel Suffolk County Council have recently commissioned WSP / Mouchel to carry out work to look at the 12 ‘pinch points’ along the Suffolk stretch of the A14 and identify exactly what improvements are required to address existing problems and support growth in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. This work will be reported to the Strategic Overview Board in July and will hopefully lead to a number of A14 improvements being submitted to DfT for inclusion in RIS2. 

Further details about No More A14 Delays in Suffolk including the campaign brochure are here

A1307 Haverhill to Cambridge  

Haverhill Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign calling for the urgent dualling of the A1307 from Haverhill to Cambridge in October 2015 and Matthew Hancock MP kindly fronted the launch event.

Our case is that the A1307 is the major route joining Haverhill to the main UK road network and the stretch to the A11 is a critical piece of infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose. Its upgrading is essential for the 4,000 new homes and 8,000 new jobs that are planned for the West of Suffolk. 

Following positive meetings with Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP in December 2015 and more recently with senior elected and officer West Suffolk and Cambridgeshire public partners, Cambridgeshire County Council has commissioned a comprehensive traffic survey for the A1307 corridor on behalf of the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board. At the same time growth forecasts for Haverhill will be reviewed and we are confident that these two pieces of work will strengthen the business case for dualling the A1307. We should have the results in the late summer. 

In addition Haverhill and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce secured a meeting on 20 May with Lucy Frazer MP through whose constituency much of the A1307 passes. The meeting was positive and we were able to explain the campaign objectives to Lucy and will maintain a dialogue as we go forward. 

We now intend to establish a Strategic Overview Board for the campaign along the same lines as for No More A14 Delays in Suffolk. The new Board will meet quarterly and will provide a focus for the campaign and help to ensure that all necessary technical work is undertaken and that the campaign profile is maintained so that enhancements to the A1307 feature prominently in the priorities going forward of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk County Councils and New Anglia and GCGP LEPs. 

Further details about the A1307 campaign are here

East Anglia Rail Franchise  

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce commented on last year’s East Anglia Rail Franchise Consultation. Our submission, made in March 2015, was developed by our Transport and Infrastructure Board from the perspective of business users of the rail network in East Anglia, and especially Suffolk. 

After the East Anglia Invitation to Tender was published Suffolk Chamber of Commerce wrote to Rail Minister Claire Perry MP, in October 2015, welcoming much that was in the specification but outlining a number of additional priorities for Suffolk business rail users that we felt had been unwisely omitted. New Anglia LEP, on behalf of the Local Transport Board, wrote to the Minister in a similar vein. 

As we approach the point at which the East Anglia tender is to be let, Suffolk Chamber with the support of New Anglia LEP has re-iterated some of our concerns by writing to the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, Secretary of State for Transport. 

Our letter to the Secretary of State is below.

2016-05-16 scoc nalep to pmcl mp

EU referendum briefings  

The British Chambers of Commerce has worked with both campaigns to produce one-page briefings on business-critical issues. The topics were identified in focus groups held across the UK over Q4 2015 – Q1 2016. The briefings include background information on why the issues matter to business and present the arguments of each campaign side-by-side. Each campaign was asked what businesses could expect from the future under their preferred referendum outcome.

The topics covered are:

The British Chambers of Commerce has worked with both campaigns to produce one-page briefings on business-critical issues. The topics were identified in focus groups held across the UK over Q4 2015 – Q1 2016. The briefings include background information on why the issues matter to business and present the arguments of each campaign side-by-side. Each campaign was asked what businesses could expect from the future under their preferred referendum outcome.

The topics covered are:

Employer Training Incentive Pilot milestone reached  

The Suffolk Chamber-managed Employer Training Incentive Pilot (ETIP) that pays a quarter of the costs of employee training has now passed a major programme target, that 1704 employees should be helped, with nearly a year still to run (ETIP is scheduled to end in March 2017).  

ETIP has now committed to pay out in grants more than £250,000 and has reached £1,000,000 for the total amount committed by companies (before this is defrayed by ETIP Grants). 

This joint venture between Norfolk and Suffolk Chambers of Commerce, with funding from Suffolk County Council, helps small and medium-sized businesses to train any of their employees aged 19 years and upwards on both accredited courses, such as NVQs, and non-accredited training. 

For more information about ETIP contact Mick Biegel OBE or Patsi Long

Apprenticeship funding employer guide 

The Department for Business Innovation & Skills has published an employer guide to the Apprenticeship Levy. The guide, which will be updated regularly, gives information on how employers will access funding for apprenticeships, what they will be able to spend the funding on and how, so that they can prepare ahead of levy implementation in April 2017. 

You can access the guide here 

On 20th May The Skills Funding Agency made a presentation on the Apprenticeship Levy to New Anglia LEP partners.

The Apprenticeships Levy Powerpoint slides are below.

Apprenticeship Levy FAQs.

Skills Deals  

New Anglia Skills Deal Programme is an opportunity for employers, alongside training providers, to seek funding for project proposals that address a gap in – or barrier to accessing – training provision. Skills Deals funding is available to co-fund projects that will raise skill levels, create jobs and drive enterprise and economic growth in Norfolk and Suffolk. It is a competitive pot of funding and once it’s gone it’s gone! Any interested parties should visit here 

New Enterprise Zone brings business benefits 

A new Enterprise Zone has gone live across Suffolk bringing opportunities for start-ups, entrepreneurs and growing businesses. 

Benefits to businesses which move on to the sites include business rate discounts of up to £275,000 over five years, simplified planning rules and access to superfast broadband. 

Four sites are in and around Ipswich, one is located in Stowmarket and one is located in Bury St Edmunds. View the Enterprise Zone brochure to find out more. 

TechEast launched to champion digital tech business 

A new Tech East group was launched at the iconic BT Tower in London last month to champion digital technology businesses, drive growth and create 5000 new technology jobs across the East of England by 2020. 

Tech East brings together over 100 leaders from companies, academic institutions, technology networks and business organisations in the region. It will provide support to existing and start-up companies, and launch other initiatives to drive growth including the creation of a Tech East “Embassy” in London later this year. Read more here

Manufacturing and materials innovation: apply for funding  

Businesses can apply for funding to support a range of innovation projects that tackle commercial challenges in manufacturing and materials. 

Innovate UK has up to £15 million to invest in projects that support innovation in manufacturing and materials and lead to improvements in productivity, competitiveness and growth. 

Find out more about this competition and apply. 

Key messages from The Pensions Regulator (TPR) for May 2016  

As an employer, you have a legal responsibility to comply with your automatic enrolment duties and TPR has information and tools on its website to help employers meet those duties at www.tpr.gov.uk/employers

Employers can complete TPR’s online Duties Checker – it takes 5 minutes to complete and you will then receive information tailored for your situation. The checker will ask you to nominate a contact. This is the person TPR will send emails and letters to telling them what needs to be done and by when.  Access the duties checker at www.tpr.gov.uk/en/employers/duties-checker

If you already offer a pension scheme to your staff, then you still need to contact your scheme provider to check it is a ‘qualifying scheme for automatic enrolment’.  If it is not, then you will need to choose a pension scheme that can be used for automatic enrolment if you have staff who must be put into a pension scheme – TPR recommends that employers start this process six months before their staging date. TPR has information and guidance on choosing a scheme on their website at  www.tpr.gov.uk/scheme

Automatic enrolment is a continuing responsibility for employers. An employer's duties do not end after their staging date. You will need to pay regular contributions into the pension, monitor the age and earnings of your staff and enrol eligible staff, process any requests to join or leave the scheme, and keep and maintain accurate records. TPR has information and guidance to help understand your ongoing duties at www.tpr.gov.uk/ongoing-duties 

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): UK exporters report modest Q1 growth amid softening economy 

The number of UK firms reporting an increase in export orders and confidence rose at the start of 2016, following a drop in growth at the end of 2015, the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown. 

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 1.4% in Q1 2016, compared with the previous quarter, to stand at an index of 116.04 in Q1 2016. However, in annual terms there was a decline of 4.4% on Q1 2015. 

During the same period, ONS data and the BCC’s Quarterly Economic Survey have shown that economic growth softened across the UK. 

There were clear sectoral differences in Q1 2016. Among manufacturing exporters, the balance of firms reporting improvements in export sales over the first three months of the year rose from +1% in Q4 to +8%. This increase came after a six-year low in Q4 2015. The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders also rose from +1% to +8%. 

Export sales growth dipped in the services sector, where the balance of service firms reporting improved export sales fell two points to +13%. However, export orders rose to +16% from +9%.

The key findings from the report are:  

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 1.4% on Q4 2015, but fell by 4.4% on Q1 2015 - the index now stands at 116.04;
  • The largest quarter-on-quarter increases in export document volumes were in the West Midlands (7.4%), South West (6.9%), and the North West (6.5%);
  • The biggest declines in export document volumes were in Scotland (-13.6%), Yorkshire & Humber (-4.4%), and the East of England (-3.5%);
  • BCC data shows that the balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +8% in Q1 2016 from +1% the previous quarter, and export orders growth rose to +8% in Q1 2016 from +1% in Q4 2015
  • The balance of services firms reporting improved export sales over the past three months fell to +13% in Q1 2016 from +15% in Q4 2015, and export orders growth rose to +16% in Q1 2016 from +9% in Q4 2015. 

The detailed BCC press release and a link to the report is here.

BCC Economic Review for April 2016  

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

This month's headlines are: 

  • Q1 UK GDP growth unrevised, amid weakening investment and a record high trade deficit;
  • Bank of England cuts forecast for UK growth, with deficit reduction proving a real challenge; and
  • Japan avoids another recession as growth in the Eurozone picks up in Q1.

Read more of BCC Monthly Economic Review below. 

Experts call for employers and universities to do more to address STEM skills shortages  

Two eminent British academics have published their recommendations to better understand and improve the job prospects of graduates in science, technology, engineering 

and maths (STEM) degrees and ensure the UK workforce can meet the long-term needs of the economy. 

A stronger focus on employment outcomes and more real-life work experience were among the recommendations set out in the reviews conducted by Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Professor Sir William Wakeham into how universities and employers can help develop a pipeline of highly-skilled graduates in these crucial subjects. These findings coincide with the publication of the Government’s white paper, Success as a knowledge economy, which sets out plans to improve the quality of teaching within UK higher education. 

The Government commissioned: 

  • The Shadbolt review to investigate why computer sciences graduates have in recent years experienced lower employment rates, when compared to graduates from other disciplines, despite the growth across the digital sector; and
  • The Wakeham review to scrutinise whether some STEM courses, that are crucial to economic growth and productivity, also suffer from poorer graduate outcomes. 

John Kingman to lead creation of new £6 billion research and innovation body 

Science Minister Jo Johnson has confirmed that John Kingman will be appointed as Chair of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on an interim basis, to set up the new organisation in shadow form. 

Announced on Monday 16 May in the Government’s higher education and research white paper Success as a Knowledge Economy, UKRI will be established as a single, strategic body that will bring together the 7 Research Councils, Innovate UK and the research funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). With a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UKRI will be a major voice for UK research and innovation in the UK and globally.

7 day switching 

The Government is taking the first step towards consistently quicker switching across all major services by setting out proposals which could allow consumers to switch provider in a week or less. The Government is asking consumers and industry for evidence of how these proposals could be implemented and new rules could be in place as soon as next year. Find out more on GOV.UK, including more information about the Better Markets Bill

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk