March 2016 Policy Update

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 hosted a business leaders’ campaign update on 4 March at Trinity Park, Ipswich.

Speakers were: Stephen Britt, Chair, Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board; 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.

The presentations covered issues including: the capacity of the A14; the fact that the route is crucial for the economic and business growth of all of UK plc; the comprehensive support for improvements from the seven MPs in Suffolk; the prioritisation of supporting economic growth in the £15.2 billion Highways England budget; the importance of improvements in attracting further inward investment; and scope to address the major pinch points along the route.

An informative East Anglian Daily Times report on the event can be found here.

A similar event for business leaders in the west of Suffolk, with Jo Churchill MP as keynote speaker, will be held from 7:30am to 9:20am on 8 April at The Athenaeum, Bury St Edmunds. Further details including how to book can be found here.

A1307 Haverhill to Cambridge

In October 2015 Haverhill Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign calling for the urgent dualling of the A1307 from Haverhill to Cambridge; the A1307 is the major route joining Haverhill to the main UK road network.

Matthew Hancock MP spoke at the launch and continues to actively support the campaign and Dr Nikos Savvas from New Anglia LEP also presented in October 2015 on behalf of the Local Transport Body.

The A1307 from Haverhill to the A11 is a critical piece of infrastructure that is no longer fit for purpose and its upgrading is essential for the 4,000 new homes and 8,000 new jobs that are planned for the West of Suffolk.

As the campaign has gathered pace we have had positive meetings with Roads Minister Andrew Jones MP (in December 2015) and with business and public colleagues.

We convened an A1307 lobby meeting with West Suffolk partners on 19 February 2016 and have subsequently met with the Greater Cambridge City Deal Board (GCCDB) and other public partners including the Cambridgeshire local authorities.

As a result it looks certain that the public partners will fund new research into traffic flows and housing and employment growth figures along the A1307 with a view to updating and revising the conclusions of the recent Concepts report commissioned by the GCCDB from WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Suffolk business leaders meet with Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

On 27 January Suffolk Chamber hosted a business leaders’ lunch at the House of Commons with the Rt Hon Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The Suffolk team had ample opportunity to press the case for: devolution; local skills budgets; sectoral targeting; road improvements; business rates reform; and continued funding for Growth Hubs.

Suffolk Chamber’s follow-up letter to the meeting is below.

Suffolk Chamber 2016 Business Plan

It is anticipated that 2016 will be another positive financial end of year outturn for Suffolk Chamber based on a turnover of £1.99m and with staffing standing at 32 ftes.

Suffolk Chamber will continue to work prudently with project income that fits our 4 core pillars of activity:

  1. Policy, lobbying and representation;
  2. Business support and advice;
  3. International trade; and
  4. Skills agenda.

In 2016, we will look to continue to cement our position and look for new income streams (which fit our core pillars) ensuring we continue our development as one of the 52 accredited Chambers of Commerce within the British Chambers of Commerce network.

Click here to read an executive summary of the 2016 Business Plan.

Business Resilience

The need for business resilience has been heightened by the impact of recent extreme weather - so the launch of a new support package to help Suffolk businesses prepare is timely.

BERT - the Business Efficient Resilience Toolkit - is designed to help businesses develop a resilience action plan to avoid unexpected costs and manage risks - not just for bad weather, but also the impact of unexpected changes in staff, logistics, premises, finances, insurances and markets.

The toolkit was launched in January at a business leaders event led by Lowestoft & Waveney Chamber of Commerce and was funded by Suffolk Coastal, Waveney District Council and the Environment Agency, BERT comes with a free support package provided by Groundwork, including free to attend workshops.

Click here for more information.

ICanBeA

The new ICanBeA web platform, a joint venture between the Mason Trust, Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council and Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils, is now live. The website showcases the breadth of career opportunities available to young people in the local area. Employers profiled on ICanBeA will be able to use the site to communicate with young people on what working in their sector is all about and ultimately help them to source their future workforce.

If your company or organisation is interested in being profiled on ICanBeA (a free opportunity) please contact Jasmine Joolia atjasmine.joolia@suffolk.gov.uk  for more information. 

Ransomes Europark and Nacton Road / A14 Road Improvements

On 26 January Suffolk Chamber received the following update from colleagues at Suffolk County Council:

“We have been particularly pleased with the first phase of the works. We believe that significant improvements to traffic flows have been made in both directions along Ransomes Way. As you are aware we are about to start the next phase of works between the Thrasher Rbt and Havens Rbt. At times, this will be disruptive but hopefully the businesses can start to see that improvements are on the way. I attach a copy of a leaflet that Suffolk Highways have been distributing to warn of the works and the timing. This does include works at the Havens and the free left slip.

“Talking specifically about the Havens slip, as you will see it is our intention to commence this work around the end of April 2016. The leaflet states that work will take 12 weeks. This is very much an estimate at this stage and much will depend on the phasing of the works which Suffolk Highways are currently working on. Further information about this and any likely closures will be made available in the coming weeks.

“You may have seen if you have been in the area recently that much of the vegetation has already been removed in the area. This was at the agreement with the Land Group which has assisted us to agree any accommodation works that are required associated with the land dedication. We are very close to having that signed by both parties, subject to a plan being included in the dedication agreement stating those accommodation works. The reason that we are not starting the works at the Havens slip first is because we have yet to receive approval of the works from Highways England. We submitted plans in November for which more clarity was requested. This has required further site investigation and additional design work which we are now completing in the expectation that the update submission will be approved. Until such time we are unable to confirm any road closures with Highways England which take 12 weeks arrange.

“As I say more detailed plans for the execution of the works around the Havens slip will be available and issued in the coming weeks.”

National Living Wage

With just one month to go until the Government’s new National Living Wage comes into force, the Government is urging businesses to prepare early for the changes and make sure they follow these four simple steps:

  • Know the correct rate of pay - £7.20 per hour for staff aged 25 and over;
  • Find out which staff are eligible for the new rate;
  • Update the company payroll in time for 1 April 2016; and
  • Communicate the changes to staff as soon as possible.

The National Living Wage will provide a direct boost to over one million workers in the UK this year – rewarding and providing security for working people.

By taking these measures, companies will be able to properly reward their staff and avoid falling foul of the law when it takes effect.

The new National Living Wage is a key part of the Government’s plan to continue to move to a higher wage, lower tax and lower welfare society, building a more productive country and giving families the security of well-paid work.

You can find out more here.

Workplace Pensions: Automatic Enrolment

The start of automatic enrolment for small and micro employers has been a success with more than 90% of the first group to reach their staging date now compliant.

With a significant rise in the number of employers having automatic enrolment duties it is no surprise that there has been an increase in the amount of times that The Pensions Regulator has used its statutory powers. The Pensions Regulator takes a risk based proportionate approach and the vast majority of employers who do the right thing want to see that non compliant employers are dealt with.

Do you know your correct staging date?

Your staging date is the date your automatic enrolment duties come into effect. Recent research by The Pensions Regulator showed that many employers are unaware of their correct staging date.

It’s important that you don’t get this key date wrong – make sure you know your correct staging date, in order to leave sufficient time to plan and prepare for your automatic enrolment duties, and to avoid risking a fine.

The Pensions Regulator has developed a ‘Duties Checker’ which will confirm your staging date and gives you the information you need to meet your duties.

ICT and Digital Creative Industries

Both Ipswich and Norwich have been recognised as digital technology clusters in the 2016 Tech Nation Report, which sheds light on the depth and breadth of the UK’s digital economy.

The report praised Ipswich and Norwich for:

• Access to talent and active networks.

• Strengths in e-commerce, digital advertising and app and software development.

• Having the third largest concentration of science and research parks in the country and two leading universities.

The 2016 Tech Nation Report can be read here.

Tourism

Visit East Anglia is midway through its first overseas marketing campaign. The Netherlands campaign, which is being supported by the Govt’s GREAT Challenge Fund, Abellio and Stena Line, includes creating itineraries and content for Dutch visitors, a £60k Dutch digital media campaign and a suite of digital films being promoted in the Netherlands by Visit Britain. As a part of the campaign, VEA exhibited at a 5-day tourism exhibition in Utrecht, attended by over 120,000 consumers, press and travel trade. The project will culminate at an East Anglia showcase at the British Embassy Residence in The Hague on 9 March.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC): Raise career aspirations of young women to achieve gender parity

To coincide with the global campaign for gender parity as part of International Women’s Day 2016 (8 March), BCC published a report about a project run jointly with the Government Equalities Office (GEO), aimed at boosting the number of young women entering well-paid science and technology jobs.

The report, A Model for School and Business Partnerships, outlines ways to change attitudes to career-related gender stereotypes in education. The report demonstrates some effective methods of raising young women’s aspirations in well-paid science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)-related careers, where candidates are in great demand by employers. By inspiring young women to take up highly-paid STEM careers, we can look to narrow the gender pay gap.

Some of the key recommendations for schools and businesses to consider include:

  • encouraging teachers to engage with their local business community, to improve their own understanding of the range of industry sectors and job apprenticeships in their vicinity.
  • inviting businesses to be involved in lesson plans, to widen awareness of the career paths available to women, and to improve the focus on equipping young people with the skills and knowledge needed to enter the workplace.
  • promoting direct engagement between business leaders and pupils, including workplace visits, talks and presentations, to let students meet business role models and change their preconceptions about the types of people who work in specific industries.

£76m commitments to unlock SME asset finance

The British Business Bank is increasing its support for asset finance for smaller UK businesses, announcing transactions with two new partners: a £51m facility to LDF, a non-bank finance provider, under its ENABLE Funding programme and a £25m facility for Blackburn-based Haydock Finance Ltd through its commercial arm British Business Bank Investments Limited. The facilities will enable greater supply of leasing and asset finance for smaller businesses across the UK.

Find out more about the British Business Bank.

Export growth slows in the face of global headwinds

UK export growth continued to slow at the end of 2015, with manufacturers in particular struggling, a report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown.

Export sales and orders across both manufacturing and services sectors fell significantly in the last quarter of 2015, according to the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook.

The survey’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued, fell by 2.5% on Q4 2014 to stand at 114.46 in Q4 2015 - a decline of 0.9% on Q3 2015.

Among manufacturers, the balance of firms reporting improvements in export sales over the previous three months fell from +10% in Q3 to just +1% - the lowest level since Q3 2009 – while export orders dropped from +10% to +1%.

Export growth also dipped in the services sector, where the sales balance fell three points to +15%, and export orders fell to +9% from +16% - the lowest level since Q4 2011.

The key findings from the report are:

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 0.9% on Q3 2015, and by 2.5% on Q4 2014 - the index now stands at 114.46
  • The largest increases in export document volumes were in the North East (7.07%), Scotland (5.76%), and Northern Ireland (5.11%)
  • The biggest declines in export document volumes were in the West Midlands (-7.46%), the North West (-6.24%), and the East Midlands (-4.18%)
  • From the BCC’s survey, the balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales fell markedly to +1% in Q4 2015 from +10% the previous quarter, and export orders growth fell to +1% in Q4 2015 from +10% in Q3 2015
  • The balance of services firms reporting improved export sales over the past three months fell to +15% in Q4 2015 from +18% in Q3 2015, and export orders growth fell to +9% in Q4 2015 from +16% in Q3 2015

Small company taxation review

Suffolk Chamber recently fed into the Govt’s small company taxation review which looked at how small companies are impacted upon by the current tax system and how it can be improved.

The report has now been published and recommended administrative changes include:

  • aligning filing and payment dates eg VAT and PAYE, and annual returns and corporation tax;
  • HM Revenue and Customs providing extra support at weekends and evenings when more small company owners deal with their tax affairs;
  • stopping companies providing the same information to various government departments who instead should share the information; and
  • looking at the feasibility of having advance clearances for VAT.

The report can be read here

New ICO toolkit

The Information Commissioner’s Office has released a new free data protection toolkit, which is aimed specifically at SMEs and is designed to help people to self-assess their rights and responsibilities under the Data Protection Act.

You can download the toolkit here.

A blog with more information can be found here.

New banknotes enter circulation this autumn

As you may be aware, the Bank of England will be issuing a new polymer £5 note in September this year, followed by a new £10 note in 2017 and new £20 note by 2020. All businesses that handle cash need to prepare.

You can download a factsheet here that includes the core information that businesses need at this stage, with early action needed by those businesses who use machines to handle cash, and others needing to plan for delivery of staff training in the months ahead of the launch.

New exporter details facility from HMRC

From 8 April 2016 HMRC is going to introduce an exporter details facility. 

Exporters can opt out of the searchable facility, but details cannot be removed retrospectively. Once the data has been made available, it cannot be removed. Exporters who apply immediately will not have their details shown. Otherwise, export data from 1 January 2016 will be made available.

The opt-out rules for Importers Details are also changing from 8 April to bring them into line with the exporter details rules. Anyone who applies for opt-out from Importer Details immediately will have their details excluded from 1 February 2016.

You can find out more here.

BCC Economic Review for March 2016

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

This month's headlines are:

  • Q4 2015 UK GDP growth unrevised, with the service sector continuing to support growth.
  • UK goods trade deficit and services trade surplus reach record highs.
  • India's economy outperforms China, as Eurozone growth hits four-year high.

Read more below.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk