March 2018 Policy Update

Suffolk Chamber response to Government’s consultation Shaping the future of England’s strategic roads (RIS2)

Our A14 Strategy Board, which drives the No More A14 Delays in Suffolk campaign, and the Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board have both met regularly over recent months with our public partners including Suffolk County Council, Highways England (HE) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to review the opportunities for Suffolk flowing from HE’s Strategic Road Network Initial Report (SRNIR) and the recent DfT consultation which was based upon it and which closed on 7 February 2018.

The SRNIR identified the A14 in Suffolk as a potential Expressway, an official term used by HE and DfT to describe Trunk Roads that are grade separated, 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.

Suffolk Chamber has responded to the DfT consultation welcoming Expressway designation and pressing for the delivery during RIS2 (2020-25) of:

  • improvements to key junctions on the A14 at Ipswich, Bury, St Edmunds and Newmarket;

  • improvements to the A11 at Mildenhall and A12 south of Ipswich;

  • major maintenance schemes on the A14 between Haughley and Woolpit and between Copdock and the Orwell Bridge; and

  • a comprehensive feasibility study of the A14 from the M11 at Cambridge to Felixstowe to address remaining concerns about the A14 and the impact of future growth in the county and across the UK.

The Suffolk Chamber response can be viewed here.

Suffolk Chamber response to Government’s consultation on proposals to establish a Major Road Network

The Department for Transport (DfT) consulted over a number of weeks up to 19 March 2018 on proposals to establish a Major Road Network (MRN) to ‘sit between’ the Strategic Road Network (SRN) and the Highways Authority-maintained roads and: reduce congestion; support economic growth; support housing delivery; and support the SRN.

Under the initial proposals the MRN would support schemes of between £20 and £100 million in cost including: bypasses; missing links; road widening; major structural renewals; and major junction improvements.

DfT had published an indicative MRN map which included, in Suffolk, the: A12 north of Ipswich; A134; A140; and A146.

At its meeting on 16 January Suffolk Chamber Transport and Infrastructure Board agreed that these DfT proposals should be supported and that there should be added the: A1307; A143; and a new route around Ipswich to complement and support the existing SRN and provide a more resilient road network, not least in view of the pressures on the Orwell Bridge.

These additions are included in the full Suffolk Chamber response to the MRN consultation which can be viewed here.

Suffolk Chamber backs launch of ‘No More Not-Spots’ campaign and urges businesses to participate

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has launched a campaign for ‘No More Not-Spots’, with the aim of ending not-spots for voice coverage where UK phone users live, work, travel and play. Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is fully in support of this much-needed campaign.

The UK’s leading business group is launching a campaign that will bring together business communities and those involved in delivering coverage to identify coverage challenges and work through solutions to improve poor mobile coverage.

Not-spots, and areas of partial not-spots hamper UK businesses. A recent survey by the BCC of over 1,400 companies, found that a fifth (21%) of firms say the UK mobile phone network doesn’t meet their needs in accessing new and existing customers, suppliers and employees.

John Dugmore, Suffolk Chamber’s chief executive said “the aim of the campaign is straightforward: by 2020 UK phone users will no longer experience not-spots for voice coverage in locations used for home, work, travel or play.

“Suffolk Chamber’s No More Not-Spots campaign will raise awareness of the issue among businesses and residents alike and will encourage them to report not-spots to their respective operators. It is vital that people submit their own experience of not-spots in order make the best case possible for improved coverage in each affected area.

“You can also raise issues via Twitter, using hashtag #shareyournotspot. Please don’t rely on others to it!”

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC, added “a reliable mobile phone signal is one of the most basic requirements for any business, as more and more conversations and transactions take place while people are on the go. Unfortunately, dropped calls and poor signal remains an issue in many areas across the UK.

“From today, we’ll be campaigning for an end to mobile phone ‘not spots’ all across the UK, so that businesspeople can connect to customers, suppliers and staff – and so that locals communities can better connect, too.”

Suffolk Chamber backs London Stansted expansion plans

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has written to Uttlesford District Council in support of the planning application by London Stansted Airport to increase its passenger cap from 35m to 43m passengers a year.

MAG, the owners of London Stansted, believes that its plans will allow the airport to make best use of the current single runway, within the existing flight limits and agreed noise footprint by:

  • creating 5,000 more jobs and double their economic contribution to £2 billion per year;

  • providing the local community with confidence the future growth can be delivered in a responsible way; and

  • attracting new airlines and flights to more global destinations.

In his letter to the Council, Suffolk Chamber’s chief executive, John Dugmore said “in our recently launched Manifesto for Business, we set out our key campaigning themes aimed at ensuring Suffolk makes its maximum contribution to the national economy.

“One of these themes - that of improving access to all markets for Suffolk-based businesses, would be well supported by the proposed increase in passenger numbers at Stansted.”

East Anglia rail infrastructure

Suffolk Chamber has written to Rail Minister Jo Johnson MP congratulating him on his recent appointment but stressing that there is much to do to ensure that necessary and long-overdue investments are made in our rail infrastructure to support economic and business growth in Suffolk and indeed in UK plc.

The letter draws particular attention to the need for works to: enable Greater Anglia to deliver its hourly Ipswich to Peterborough service in 2019 and increase the capacity of the line to carry additional freight traffic; and upgrade Haughley Junction, with the single lead junction restored to a double track junction as the first of the major schemes to maximise the benefit of new trains on the GEML and to also support cross country freight services.

The letter to the Rail Minister can be viewed here

British Chambers of Commerce at No 10

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General at the British Chambers of Commerce(BCC) attended the recent Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council in Downing Street, representing the Chamber Network. Alongside leaders from major firms and the main business organisations the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Business Secretary and Brexit ministers were also present.

The discussion focused on the overall state of the UK economy, the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and on the Industrial Strategy.

Adam was afforded a few minutes to intervene during the discussion, which was pragmatic, positive and focused on solutions.

On behalf of the Chamber Network, Adam re-emphasised the importance of the domestic business environment, and the need for as much focus and effort to go into delivering the fundamentals for growth as is being expended on Brexit. Additionally, he proposed that the Government, and the Prime Minister herself, should make more forceful and sustained interventions on the many issues that are within the UK’s own control, which would also provide an opportunity to push back against nationalisation and make the case for enterprise, entrepreneurship and investment.

Other participants took up Adam’s call for Mansion House-type speeches – with the same profile and build-up as the PM’s recent Brexit intervention – on what the Government will be doing to deliver the Industrial Strategy and boost the domestic economy.

The Chamber Network will continue to be represented at the highest level in key discussions on the business and economic agenda and will continue to make practical and pragmatic interventions on the issues that matter to Chamber businesses all across the UK.

Potential impact of Brexit outlined in new report

The potential implications of Brexit on Norfolk and Suffolk’s key economic sectors have been revealed in a new report.

Commissioned by New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils, The potential implications of Brexit for Norfolk and Suffolk outlines the potential challenges and opportunities which could be brought about by Brexit on the sectors where the impact is assessed to be greatest – Agriculture, Manufacturing, Construction, Offshore Wind Energy and Digital and Life Sciences.

The report, compiled by consultants Metro Dynamics, looks at possible impacts on workforce, trade, regulation and funding.

Among the challenges and opportunities it identifies are:

  • Retaining the current EU workforce, both low and highly skilled, who are key to the future success of some of Norfolk and Suffolk’s most important sectors, such as agriculture, manufacturing, construction and life sciences;

  • New opportunities to uplift the economy, using innovation and technology to upskill the workforce and create better paid jobs;

  • The need for companies to adjust to new trade arrangements and potential tariffs and other barriers, while using the opportunity to increase the UK share of their supply chains and open their products to new markets worldwide;

  • The importance of ensuring continued funding for research and development and innovation, as well as alternative sources of funding for agriculture and farming businesses that often rely on EU subsidies; and

  • The need to continue to be attractive to foreign investment.

Business Brexit Checklist

Brexit involves a lot of uncertainty – and many firms will need to continue to think prudently about how the changes ahead may affect their operations. The Chamber Network has produced a Business Brexit Checklist which offers a helpful starting point, particularly for those firms that have not already begun to plan.

Our Business Brexit Checklist can be viewed here

Information for EU citizens in the UK

In December, the UK Government reached an agreement with the European Union, which will protect EU citizens’ rights after the UK leaves the EU and will enable them to continue to live as now. It also covers family members.

The Government has published further details of the agreement on the page, Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know.

To secure their rights, EU citizens will need to go through a simple digital application process which will confirm their status in the UK for as long as they want to stay. The Government is going to begin that process later this year to get everyone through in good time. But there is no rush – applications will be open for at least two years after the UK leaves the EU.

Applying for settled status:

The Government is making the application process as quick and user-friendly as possible. Existing government data will be used to reduce the amount of evidence EU citizens will need to provide.

The application process will check three basic principles – identity, UK residence and criminal convictions. EU citizens will need to: prove identity and nationality with an EU passport or National ID card; provide a recent photograph; and declare any criminal convictions (only serious or persistent criminality will affect eligibility for the scheme). EU citizens will not have to: account for every trip taken out of the UK; show evidence of holding comprehensive sickness insurance; and provide fingerprints.

The application fee will be no more than the cost charged to British citizens for a UK passport. For people who already have a valid permanent residence document, it will be free.

The online application form will go live in late 2018. So people have enough time to apply, the scheme will remain open for applications for at least two years, after the UK leaves the EU.

There will be more details on the scheme in the coming months. Meanwhile, EU citizens can also sign up to receive email updates directly from the Government.

Trade Remedies 

The UK, as part of it the process of leaving the EU, will be setting up a new Trade Remedies Authority (TRA). The TRA is trying to reach any UK business with a potential interest in existing measures taken by the EU against unfair trade. The Department of International Trade’s call for evidence was published to help identify that interest.

The EU currently has over 100 measures in place on imported products originating from 25 different non-EU countries, c.50 of which are relevant to UK industry. Once the UK leaves the EU, all EU measures will no longer be applicable, leaving the producers which are reliant on the measures vulnerable to the dumping of goods from overseas. If no application to maintain a measure is received, the measure will be terminated once the UK begins to operate its independent trade remedies framework.

If you think your industry might be affected you can providence using the link above before the deadline of 31 March 2018.

Suffolk Growth Programme Board

Suffolk Chamber is pleased to represent businesses on Suffolk Growth Programme Board (SGPB) the membership of which is drawn from Suffolk Local Authorities; New Anglia LEP (with GCGP LEP invited to attend); the University of Suffolk and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce. The Suffolk Housing Board has recently joined to reflect the impact housing delivery has on achieving place based growth.

The role of the Growth Programme Board is to: lead the Suffolk Growth Framework at officer level; deliver Suffolk’s economic vision and achieve impact through the coordination of programmes and projects; and influence public / private stakeholders, businesses and politicians about the priorities for growth in Suffolk and the opportunities for improving the region’s competitive position and prosperity.

Current work of the Growth Programme Board includes the commissioning of consultants to support research into the value of public sector procurement across the Suffolk Public Sector (including NHS and Suffolk Constabulary) which will be used to inform interventions to improve access by local and SME businesses to public contracts and tenders.

The current Growth Programme Board newsletter can be viewed here

Transport East

A new forum, Transport East, has been established as a vehicle for the delivery of a collective vision for transport and wider infrastructure in the East of England.

It was launched on 5 March 2018 and will meet regularly throughout the year to ensure that our transport network is fit for the future.

The forum includes local councils, Highways England, Network Rail and Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as other strategic partners such as ports, airports, rail and bus operators from across the East of England.

Transport East will ensure that our transport network:

  • is innovative and prepared for future developments;

  • enables housing growth;

  • enables the efficient and effective movement of people and goods to boost economic growth;

  • ensures that growth in the East is sustainable, encompassing all forms of transport including, public transport, walking and cycling;

  • ensures that the East of England is a place where people want to live, work and visit; and

  • enables people to live independently and to make the most of opportunities as they arise.

The Good Work plan

Millions of flexible workers will receive new rights under major Government reforms as the UK becomes one of the first countries to address the challenges of the changing world of work in the modern economy.

The Good Work plan comes in response to the independent Taylor report, published last year, which investigated what impact modern working practices are having on the world of work. The review found that the strength of the UK’s labour market is built on flexibility but a clearer focus is needed on quality of work as well as the quantity of jobs.

In some cases the Government plans to go further than the review’s proposals, including:

  • Enforcing vulnerable workers’ holiday and sick pay for the first time;

  • a right to a written statement on day one of rights including holiday and sick pay entitlements and a new right to a payslip for all workers, including casual and zero-hour workers;

  • a right for all workers, not just  zero-hour and agency, to request a more stable contract, providing more financial security for those on flexible contracts;

The reforms are a vital part of the Industrial Strategy, the Government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future by helping businesses creates better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK.

The Good Work plan sets out proposals to ensure workers know their rights and receive the benefits and protections they are entitled to, and that action is taken against employers who breach workers’ rights.

UK-US SME Dialogue

The British Embassy Washington is inviting UK SMEs to take part in the UK-US SME Dialogue, to promote closer collaboration and the sharing of best practices. The first dialogue will take place on 20 March in Washington DC and chamber members are invited to attend. The SME Dialogue brings small and medium businesses and stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic together with government officials to identify ways to deepen US-UK trade and investment ties and strengthen cooperation on issues of mutual interest to SMEs. Topics for discussion include doing business in both the US and UK, deepening the benefits of trade for SMEs before and after Brexit, and protecting intellectual property and promoting innovation for SMEs.  

Please contact Anastassia Beliakova if you are interested in taking part.

March 2018 automatic enrolment messages for new and start-up businesses

Thinking of employing your first member of staff?

Make sure you know your automatic enrolment duties. It’s the law.
As a new employer, you’ll have a number of things you’ll need to think about – such as deciding how much to pay, drawing up a contract of employment, and taking out employer indemnity insurance. Automatic enrolment – where you’ll need to put certain staff into a workplace pension and pay contributions into the scheme – is just one of the legal duties you need to meet as an employer.

The Pensions Regulator has information on their website to help you understand what you need to meet your legal duties, and by when.

Have you nominated a contact with The Pensions Regulator? Don’t delay. 
Research by The Pensions Regulator indicates that employers who nominate a contact are more likely to comply with their duties and less likely to be fined. Nominating a contact also means that The Pension Regulator can write to you with helpful automatic enrolment reminders.

It’s crucial that you nominate your contact with The Pensions Regulator without delay.

March 2018 automatic enrolment messages for employers who have already enrolled staff

Are you ready for the increases in contributions on 6 April 2018? It’s the law.
By law, minimum contributions for workplace pensions are increasing on 6 April 2018, as the table below shows.  All employers with staff in a pension scheme must take action to ensure that at least the minimum amounts are being paid.

Date effective

Employer minimum contribution

Staff contribution

Total minimum contribution

Until 5 April 2018




From 6 April 2018




From 6 April 2019




The Pensions Regulator has helpful guidance on their website, including a letter template that you can use to communicate the increases to your staff.

Automatic enrolment is an ongoing process – it does not end on your duties start date.

If you’ve already automatically enrolled your staff, don’t forget that your automatic enrolment duties continue – The Pensions Regulator carries out spotchecks around the country, so make sure you know what you need to do and are up to date with your ongoing duties.

You’ll need to continue to monitor the ages and amount you pay your staff to see whether you’ll need to enrol them into a pension scheme. You’ll also need to manage requests to join or leave the pension scheme and keep accurate records of how you’ve met your legal duties.

The Pensions Regulator has helpful guidance to help you understand your ongoing duties.

Minimum wage campaign

The Government has launched a National Minimum Wage campaign to make sure the UK’s lowest paid workers receive the correct rates of pay when the National Minimum and Living Wage increase on 1 April 2018. Attached is a pack to raise awareness among businesses that the rates are going up and that employers need to ensure they are paying staff correctly. 

British Chambers of Commerce reacts to Chancellor’s Spring Statement

Commenting on the Spring Statement, Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Businesses will be encouraged by the Chancellor’s report on the UK’s fiscal health, with lower projections for the deficit and falling national debt, as well as his full-throated defence of the market economy and the role of the private sector in delivering prosperity.

“Yet as deficit and debt levels improve, the Chancellor must resist calls to pour money into politically-attractive, short-term spending priorities. Any headroom the Chancellor has must be used to leave a lasting mark on the UK’s infrastructure and to attract investment – particularly with the challenges and changes of Brexit ahead.

“A far stronger push is needed to fund and fix the fundamentals here in the UK over the coming months, and business wants the Chancellor to use his Autumn Budget to double down and spend to improve digital connectivity, deliver further road and rail improvements, strengthen the UK’s energy security and build more houses. Existing plans alone are not enough.

“Given that businesses across the UK have long complained about constant tinkering with tax rates, the Statement’s lack of tax and spending changes is welcome – and not before time. A clear annual cycle will mean fewer rushed policies and give firms the time they need to plan for any changes that come their way.”

On business rates:

“We are pleased that the government has listened to our calls to make revaluations more frequent. Switching to a three-year-cycle will go some way to reducing the huge changes in rates bills that clobber firms across the UK, and enable them to plan their growth strategies with greater confidence.

“However, a system that responds more frequently to changing economic conditions must also be simpler for firms to navigate. The current system already generates a huge number of appeals, and if it is not made easier for companies, more frequent valuations would simply make this backlog mushroom.”

On late payment:

“Previous attempts to tackle late payment have not had the desired effect, because affected firms are often unwilling to jeopardise customer relationships by calling out bad practice. The government must use its convening power to tackle this issue in sectors where it is clear that problems exist.

“Changing payment terms mid-contract, and burying payment terms in the small print when suppliers register for business, are issues that deserve ministers’ attention. However, ultimately improving relationships between businesses is a key part in addressing the problem of late payment.”

On apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy:

“While more funding to support small businesses seeking to employ apprentices is welcome, urgent action is needed to reform and improve the apprenticeship levy – which is currently failing both businesses and the people they want to train. The levy’s lack of flexibility and its complexity are stifling the training aspirations of businesses of all sizes.”

On the latest forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics, added:

“Taken together, the OBR’s latest forecasts suggest that the UK will remain locked onto a low growth trajectory for the foreseeable future. While GDP growth for this year was upgraded slightly, their projections for 2021 and 2022 have been downgraded.”

British Chambers of Commerce forecast: UK economy remains subdued despite uplift from strong global growth

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has upgraded its growth expectations for the UK economy, raising its forecast for GDP from 1.1% to 1.4% in 2018 and from 1.3% to 1.5% for 2019, and its first forecasts for 2020 is for 1.6% growth.

The upgrade to the leading business group’s forecast is largely driven by slightly stronger than expected levels of consumer spending. The UK’s export performance is expected to remain robust on the back of strong global growth, particularly in key markets such as the Eurozone and US. That said, with imports also likely to continue to grow at a good rate, the contribution of net trade to UK GDP growth over the near term is to be limited, particularly with little evidence of a sterling boost to the UK’s overall net trade position.

Despite the upgrades, UK GDP growth is set to remain well below the historical average throughout the forecast period. The latest BCC forecast also implies that the UK will remain among the worst performing economies in the G7 until 2020 at the earliest.

Productivity is expected to improve marginally over the forecast period but will remain subdued, hampered by deep rooted problems in the economy, including skills shortages and chronic underinvestment in the UK’s infrastructure.

Inflation is now expected to have peaked, and will begin easing in the near term as the impact of the post-EU referendum slide in sterling fades. While average earnings are now expected to grow by slightly more than expected in the previous BCC forecast, real earnings growth is not expected to return to positive territory until 2019. The new forecast is that the next increase in UK official interest rates, to 0.75%, will occur in Q2 2018, followed by another raise in the first quarter of 2019.

The BCC expects UK public sector borrowing to be £13.4bn higher over the next three years than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility at the recent Spring Statement.

The muted levels of growth forecast for the UK economy reinforces the BCC’s calls for greater attention and investment to be focused on improving the UK business environment, particularly ‘fixing the fundamentals’ and taking action to crowd in more private-sector investment. Distracted by Brexit, Westminster is failing to enact an ambitious growth plan for the economy. To create conditions for growth, action is needed on the issues holding businesses back, including mounting skills shortages, delivery of long-planned road and rail infrastructure projects, poor mobile connectivity, and high upfront costs for businesses.

Key points in the forecast are:

  • UK GDP growth forecast for 2018 is upgraded from 1.1% to 1.4%, and is expected to grow to 1.5% in 2019 (upgraded from 1.3%), and the first forecast of 2020 growth is 1.6%;

  • Consumer spending has been upgraded from 1.0% to 1.2%, and is expected to grow by 1.4% and 1.6% in 2019 and 2020 respectively;

  • Average earnings have been upgraded from 2.5% to 2.7% in 2018, and is expected to grow by 2.9% in 2019 and 3.0% in 2020;

  • Productivity is expected to grow by 0.9% in 2018, 1.1% in 2019 and 1.3% in 2020;

  • Inflation of 2.9% is forecast for this year, and 2.6% and 2.2% in 2019 and 2020 respectively;

  • The new BCC forecast is that the next increase in UK official interest rates, by 0.25%, will occur in the second quarter of 2018, followed by another raise in the first quarter of 2019;

  • Export growth is expected to grow at 3.6% in 2018, 3.4% in 2019 and 3.0% in 2020, while import growth is expected to grow by 2.8% in 2018, 2.9% in 2019 and 3.1% in 2020;

  • Business investment growth has been upgraded from 0.8% to 1.1% for 2018 and is expected to grow by 1.3% in 2019 and 1.5% in 2020;

  • Looking at sectors, manufacturing is expected to grow by 1.4%, 1.5% and 1.6% across the forecast period. Construction growth is set to remain muted for 2018 at 1.1% and is expected to grow at 1.4% and 1.7% thereafter. Services sector growth has been upgraded from 1.3% to 1.5% in 2018, and is forecast to grow at 1.7% and 1.8% in the following years; and

  • Public sector net borrowing is expected to total £49.7 billion in 2017/18, £45.8 billion in 2018/19 and £34 billion in 2019/20.

British Chambers of Commerce: new planning strategy must deliver real change

Following the recent publication by Government of the new version of the National Planning Policy Framework, Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

"Planning revolutions have often been promised, but usually turn out to be a false dawn, given that businesses report that it never seems to get easier, faster, or cheaper to secure planning permissions and crack on with development.

“The last time the government upended the planning system six years ago, the framework was slimmed down, but the bureaucracy, delays and cost were not. This time things must be different.

"Business will welcome measures to increase house building, which will provide much needed homes for the workforce, stimulate the construction sector and boost many other firms across supply chains. 

"Building new garden towns and villages in areas of greatest need is sustainable and sensible, but this must not come at the expense of housing growth in other less vibrant parts of the country. To rebalance the economy, the new housing rules must not allow councils to scale back housing targets in areas with economic growth potential. 

"Investors, councils - and indeed local communities - have all been guilty of finding reasons why developments should not take place.  The policy changes need to speed up the process, remove blockages in the system and, above all, bring about a change of mindset to get more quality homes built faster. 

"There’s often a gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to planning decision-making. If well-resourced and experienced, councils can deliver quality and consistent decision-making, but they must also be willing to implement agreed policy, even if that causes local unpopularity."

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Monthly Economic Review

The BCC Economic Review for March 2018 has been published, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business.

This month's headlines:

  • UK GDP growth for Q4 2017 revised down and the trade deficit widens amid rising imports;

  • UK unemployment rises with productivity growth at its strongest since the economic downturn; and

  • GDP growth in Germany and France reaches six-year highs as the global economy strengthens.

There is a link to the Monthly Economic Review on the BCC website.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore or Nick Burfield