May 2017 Policy Update

 

General Election

On 2 May 2017, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce supported the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) launch of ‘Brexit and Beyond’, the Chamber Network manifesto for the General Election 2017.

The Chamber manifesto calls for the new Government, which will be responsible for negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union, to provide business communities with clear answers to the pragmatic and practical questions around how Brexit will affect their day-to-day operations, including hiring, customs procedures and regulation.

However, since the election cannot and must not be about Brexit alone the manifesto highlights the need for action on a range of domestic fronts including: improving the competitiveness of the UK’s business environment; supporting local growth, upgrading physical and digital infrastructure across the country; and supporting exporters.

Specific recommendations are:

  • Business environment: Deliver a globally competitive business environment. Ensure the best business environment possible, with a relentless drive to improve the skill set of tomorrow’s workforce, without clobbering firms with ever-higher upfront costs;

  • Local growth: Unlock the potential of local business communities. Deliver clarity on future devolution deals – ensuring a strong local business community voice and maintaining the place-based focus of the Industrial Strategy to ensure growth across the whole of the UK;

  • Infrastructure: Revolutionise the UK’s physical and digital infrastructure. Ensure that the whole of the UK has access to super-fast broadband, better mobile connectivity, and deliver investments in the strategic schemes that will unlock the economic potential of the regions and nations;

  • Trade: Support UK exporters to drive economic growth. Expand trade support programmes, enabling continued access to existing EU-FTAs, and leverage Chambers of Commerce, which are best placed to provide strong export support in all regions of the UK; and

  • Brexit: Work with businesses to secure the best possible deal with the EU. Protect the status of EU nationals in the UK, develop future customs procedures in partnership with business, deliver day-one regulatory stability when the UK leaves the EU, and ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The full manifesto is here and you can also read related blogs on: Brexitthe business environment; devolutionlocal growth and international trade.

There is also a BCC podcast covering the General Election here. You can subscribe to all BCC podcasts via audioboom or on iTunes here.

A new Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk

Suffolk Chamber is representing the business voice in the County on a group steering the production of a new Economic Strategy for Norfolk and Suffolk which will succeed the current New Anglia Strategic Economic Plan.

The new Economic Strategy will cover the period up to 2036, with a nod to 2050 (to reflect other relevant strategies currently being developed) and will outline an ambitious vision for the future. Consultation is key to its success and business consultation events have been arranged in Suffolk for 22 June (Newmarket), 28 June (Ipswich) and 6 July (Lowestoft).

Booking details for the business consultation events will be available soon but in the meantime you can read the partnership update here or find more details on-line.

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce: business voice

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has communicated with MPs in recent weeks in connection with a range of issues.

Letters were sent to Iain Wright MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee and to Stephen Hammond MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure.

Both letter stressed Suffolk Chamber’s priorities for infrastructure investment in support of economic growth in the County and highlighted the Suffolk Chamber-led campaigns for improvements to the A14 and the A1307.

The letters can be read below:

Letter to Iain Wright
Letter to Stephen Hammond

Access grants up to £25,000

Would a grant of up to £25,000 help your business plans become reality? The Small Grant Scheme could help.

Call the New Anglia Growth Hub on 0300 333 6536 if you are:

Ready to grow and expand your business;

Planning to introduce a new product or service; or

Looking to improve productivity or efficiency.

There are more details here

Quarterly Economic Survey

The British Chambers of Commerce is conducting its latest Quarterly Economic Survey (for Q2 2017) and both they and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce would very much appreciate your input.

Please click here to start the survey. Thank you in anticipation of your participation.

Open ERDF calls in Norfolk and Suffolk

DCLG, the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme in England, has published a number of further Calls for projects under the ERDF Programme in the New Anglia LEP area. All of these recent calls can be accessed from the national ESIF ‘Funder Finder’ website.

The details of the Calls are:

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)

  1. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 1 (Research and Innovation) – Up to £3.2m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here.

  2. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 3  (SME Competitiveness) – Up to £4m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  The Call documents and instructions on how to apply can be accessed here.

  3. An Open Rolling Call under Priority Axis 4 (Low Carbon Economy) – Up to £3.4m is being made available under this Call, which closes on 12th January 2018.  Outline Applications can be submitted at any time in advance of the staged review dates of 30th April 2017, 30th July 2017, 31st October 2017 and 12th January 2018.  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 for New Anglia - 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.

There are also three EAFRD Growth Programme Calls open currently, which all close in January 2018. Expressions of Interest can be submitted at any time.  These Calls can be accessed here.

You can register to receive e-mail direct notifications of future calls from gov.uk by completing the ‘Subscribe to e-mail alerts’ prompt at the top of this page and selecting your search  filters.

What’s the SCORE?

Businesses in Suffolk looking to innovate or diversify in Offshore Renewables could be eligible for up to £50,000 grant funding through the new Supply Chain Innovation for Offshore Renewable Energy (SCORE) scheme.

You can read more here.

Are you a SENDsational business?

SENDsational businesses across Suffolk are seeing the benefits of offering Supported Internships to young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) so they can gain experience in a working environment. 

You can read more here.

icanbea

If you are interested in raising the profile of your organisation whilst helping to inform and educate young people about the economic prosperity of Norfolk and Suffolk then icanbea may be helpful to you. icanbea is the key local website showcasing successful businesses which are based locally and uses real life businesses and employees as examples to inspire and engage young people in conversations about their futures and what they need to achieve to get there.

Setting up a free organisational profile is easy, simply click here and Team icanbea will be happy to help.

General Data Protection Regulation

From 25 May 2018, all businesses that hold personal data will have to guarantee that their data procedures are fit for purpose and compliant with the new regulation.

While the GDPR is an EU-initiative, the UK government has already made it clear that the legislation will still take effect in the UK after Brexit. Businesses that are found to be non-compliant risk potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of annual worldwide turnover.

Steps for businesses to take include:

  • Document what personal data the company holds, where it came from and who it is shared with. Firms may want to consider organising an information audit or speaking to a data expert;

  • Review current privacy notices and plan for any necessary changes needed before the implementation deadline;

  • Check procedures to ensure that they cover all the rights individuals have under the new rules, including how to delete personal data or provide data electronically if needed;

  • Review how the company seeks, obtains and records consent from individuals, and whether any changes are necessary;

  • Ensure the right procedures are in place to detect, report and investigate a personal data breach; and

  • Determine whether a Data Protection Officer is required, and designate one if so, to take responsibility for data protection compliance and assess how the role will sit within the organisation.

For more steps on preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation, businesses should revert to the Information Commissioner’s Office checklist.

For dedicated help, New Anglia Growth Hub is putting on a webinar to talk you through the changes and answer your questions. You’ll get simple, practical guidance with our guest speaker David Higgins, who is an expert in Cyber and Data Security and he’ll make it easy to understand so you can spend more time running your business and less time worrying about these changes.

This webinar is live on 30th June at 10.30am. Register here.

Exporter confidence remains high, but exchange rates are a concern

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), in partnership with DHL, has published its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook, which shows that confidence among UK exporters remains strong.

The number of businesses reporting improved export sales increased in the first quarter of 2017. Businesses in both manufacturing and services are also more confident that their turnover and profitability would increase in the coming 12 months.

The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 5.5% on the quarter – and is up 9.06% from the same quarter last year – standing at its second highest level on record.

The results show that businesses are continuing to trade despite political uncertainty, however currency fluctuations remain a concern. 52% of manufacturers and 25% of services firms say exchange rates are more of a concern to their business than three months ago.

To maintain momentum, and to help UK firms succeed beyond Brexit, the Government should develop an expanded trade mission and fairs programme, help businesses build links with key trade partners and underpin deals, and expand funding for front-line assistance to exporters. Businesses will be looking for the next Government to secure frictionless future trade arrangements with the EU, crucial to both importers and exporters, as well as to broker new relationships with emerging markets. 

Key findings from the report:

  • The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 5.5% on the quarter. The Index now stands at 126.55 –up 9.06% on Q1 2016 – and is the second highest level since records began in 2004;

  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose from +16% to +26%. Looking at services, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales rose from +8% to +10%;

  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose from +13 to +22 in Q4 2016, while in services it fell slightly from +6% to +5%;

  • Looking at expectations of turnover over the next 12 months, the balance of manufacturers confident of an increase held fairly steady, rising from +43% to +44%. In services this rose by four points from +35% to +39%; and

  • Confidence that profitability would improve rose to +28% for services companies – up from the +21% in Q4 2016. The balance of manufacturers jumped by ten points, from +22% to +32%.

The full report is here.

Skills Support for the Workforce

A free analysis of training needs to ensure businesses have the most up to date and transferable skills to take the business forward. Seetec, who are delivering the programme, will work with employers to identify the most effective training options for their employees and deliver learning (generally on-site) to ensure businesses have a fully qualified workforce. For more information please call 0800 3891999 or email anglia.employers@seetec.co.uk.

Emerging Leaders Programme

Free or part funded skills training for any ‘emerging leaders’ in your organisation. Training on offer includes supervision, leadership and management, information technology and marketing. A 3-stage ‘skills health’ check is undertaken before training begins – this is completely free of charge. This identifies business skills needs to ensure we meet the aspirations and vision of the business, as well as identify skills gaps for those employees showing potential to progress to team leader, supervisor or management positions. The training is in the form of accredited units from technical or management qualifications, or can be a bespoke programme designed with the help of the employer, to develop leadership skills of the employees. The funding is available until 31st March 2018.

For more information, please contact the project lead Susie Massen at susie.massen@cwa.ac.uk

Key automatic enrolment messages for employers – May 2017

Thinking of employing someone for the first time? Don't ignore the workplace pension.

Whether you have recently become a new employer, or are thinking of employing someone in the future, make sure you know what you need to do to meet your automatic enrolment duties, and by when. You risk a fine if you do not comply with the law on time.

The Pensions Regulator has guidance and support to help you find out exactly what you’ll need to do and when.

Are you setting up a new business as a director only, or single director business?

All employers have automatic enrolment duties, so it’s important that you know how the law will apply to your business. If you run a director-only business, then you may be exempt. However, it’s important that you find out how the law applies to you, so that you don’t risk a fine.

The Pensions Regulator has guidance and information on how automatic enrolment applies to you.

Have you recently employed someone for the first time and looking for a pension scheme to automatically enrol them in?

Choosing a pension scheme for automatic enrolment doesn’t need to be daunting, or expensive. The Pensions Regulator has online guidance on what to consider when choosing a scheme.

Find out in good time what you need to do to meet your automatic enrolment duties, by when, and what costs you may need to factor in.

Automatic enrolment and small employers – have you declared your compliance?

All employers will have automatic enrolment duties. Even if you employ just one person for a few hours a week, you’ll need to assess them to see if they need to be put into a workplace pension, enrol them into a pension scheme if they meet the criteria, and tell them how automatic  enrolment applies to them.

You also have to complete and submit a Declaration of Compliance to tell The Pensions Regulator how you have met your duties. This is important as you risk a fine if you do not declare your compliance on time.

The Pensions Regulator has a Declaration of Compliance checklist, which tells you exactly what information you’ll need to complete your declaration.

Still puzzle about auto-enrolment?

Many businesses are still not ready to offer pension provision for their staff, and time is running out to get things in place. With auto-enrolment deadlines coming up soon for many local businesses it’s likely to be playing on their minds.

The law now states that a workplace pension must be set up for employees by a business’ staging date or they could face a fine from The Pension Regulator.

The British Chambers of Commerce want to help Chamber members get to grips with auto-enrolment, so they’ve teamed up with Aviva, one of the UK’s leading pension providers to offer a free webinar covering all the key points they need to know. It’s open to members and non-members of Chambers, and there are four dates to choose from. Please see the website for more details.

Working for Change

Action on Hearing Loss recently launched the Working for Change campaign which aims to change attitudes to hearing loss in the workplace. The campaign will help employers to feel confident about recruiting people with hearing loss as well as overcoming some common myths about hearing loss and employment – and show them how to support employees who already have, or will develop, a hearing loss. They’ve published a myth busting guide and policy report.

British Chambers of Commerce Monthly Economic Review

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

This month's headlines:

  • UK economic growth slows in Q1 as output from consumer-focused industries weakened;  

  • UK consumer price inflation hold steady, but wage growth slows further; and 

  • US GDP growth weakens, as the outlook for the Eurozone continues to improve.  

The full Review can be read here.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk