May 2018 Policy Update


Mobile services and the rollout of 5G in the UK

In addition to our very active promotion of No More Not Spots Suffolk Chamber through our Transport and Infrastructure Board has written directly to the Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in support of 100% mobile voice and data coverage ‘as a matter of the highest priority’.

This is in response to the 9 March 2018 Ofcom announcement confirming levels of achievement of the end of 2017 mobile coverage targets which, whilst met, still leave at least 10% of the UK land mass without the ability to make mobile voice calls (and almost certainly a higher percentage in rural Suffolk).

A copy of the letter can be read here.

Suffolk Chamber welcomes report showing vital importance of port connectivity

Suffolk business leaders and their public sector partners have welcomed the publication of the Department for Transport (DfT)’s study England's Port Connectivity as further evidence to Government of the value of investing in the County’s road and rail infrastructure to achieve economic and business growth.

The DfT report acknowledges the importance of ports as trade corridors and the contribution they can make to economic growth particularly in the build up to, and following, Brexit.

Mark Pendlington, chair of the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce-led campaign for No More A14 Delays in Suffolk said:

“Our growing international economy is further boosted by this DfT study confirming that the Government will prioritise future road investment to address the urgent need for efficient routes to global markets through international gateways. This is a terrific vote of confidence in our compelling case for much needed upgrades to the A14, and also the A12 and A120.”

Andrew Harston, chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s Transport and Infrastructure Board, said:

“We applaud the recognition in the report that the Haven ports of Felixstowe, Ipswich and Harwich are an important international gateway for unitised cargo. Specific mention is made of the UK's largest container port in Felixstowe, which handles over 4 million twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEUs) or 40% of England’s container traffic with around half of that moved by rail, and Ipswich for which the key markets are dry bulk and general cargo, including agricultural products for export and aggregates for construction.”

A full copy of the Suffolk Chamber press release, and a link to the DfT study, are here

Suffolk Chamber supports British Chambers of Commerce pressure on Prime Minister to 'fix the fundamentals' for UK growth

Suffolk Chamber has joined business leaders from across the United Kingdom in writing to the Prime Minister calling for a renewed focus on tackling the barriers to growth and investment in the United Kingdom - and a radical plan for action. 

Chambers are calling on the Prime Minister to balance the importance of securing the best possible deal with the EU with the urgent need to set out a compelling vision for UK growth and a bold set of domestic policies to fix the fundamentals at home.

Business communities throughout the UK are concerned about perceived inaction in Westminster and Whitehall on key domestic economic matters - where attention and swift action are needed for the UK to succeed after it leaves the EU.

Writing on behalf of the 53 accredited Chambers of Commerce from every region and nation of the UK, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Our future success depends not just on Brexit negotiations, but also on the big economic decisions that must be made here in the UK. It is time, Prime Minister, for you to set out a compelling, pro-enterprise and pro-growth vision for the future, and a bold set of domestic policies to make it happen.”

The BCC letter in full can be read here.

Apprenticeships and the Apprenticeship Levy

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has written to BEIS Ministers Richard Harrington and Andrew Griffiths to highlight challenges to the implementation of recent reforms to the apprenticeship system. The letter raises concerns about the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy and the new co-funding system for SMEs on the recruitment of apprentices and workforce training. It calls for an urgent review into the operation of the Levy ‘to give employers the flexibility to develop the skills they need to be competitive, and to avoid any further drop in apprenticeship recruitment and training volumes.’

BCC is meeting regularly with senior ministers and DFE representatives to discuss Chambers’ concerns over the impact of the Apprenticeship Levy and the SME co-investment requirements and are also working jointly with the other business groups to provide compelling evidence and case studies.

The BCC letter can be read here.

Apprentice Levy Transfers

From May 2018 employers that pay the Apprenticeship Levy will have the option to fund an apprentice in another organisation.

What are transfers?

Transfers are being introduced to give levy-paying employers more flexibility in how they spend their apprenticeship service funds. They can be used to fund apprenticeships in another organisation. Funds will be transferred monthly for the duration of the apprenticeship. This means that levy-paying employers can work with another employer to help them take on apprentices, increasing the skills base in their supply chain, sector or local area.

What’s new?

  • Funding rules – the 2017/18 apprenticeship funding rules have been updated to include the rules for making and receiving transfers;

  • Employer agreement – updated employer agreement; and

  • Support video –to help employers understand what they need to have in place to be able to register on the apprenticeship service.

Where to find more information 

Are you a growing business looking to expand, invest and recruit new staff?

Take a look at the New Anglia LEP’s Growing Business Fund (GBF). It can offer up to £500,000 to businesses looking to grow and create new jobs.

The GBF is delivered by New Anglia LEP in partnership with Suffolk County Council and Finance East. So far, the GBF has created more than 2,300 full time jobs and given over £21.5 million in grants.

If you’re interested and would like further information, look here

Energy Efficiency Grant Funding now available

Up to £50,000 of grant funding is available from a project set up by BEE Anglia- Business Energy Efficiency.

Recent changes to European funding rules mean that businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk can now access grants of up to £50,000 for energy efficiency measures, provided by a partnership involving the two County Councils.

So far, BEE Anglia have awarded over £480k to projects totalling £1.7m. Funding has supported measures including electric vehicles, high efficiency machinery, radiant heating, lighting, vehicle tracking, wood burners and more. Any measure will be considered if it brings sufficient associated energy savings, while helping companies reach carbon chartered statuses.

There is more detail here

2018 British Chambers of Chamber (BCC) Business Awards now open for entry

Recognising and rewarding excellence in British business, the BCC Business Awards is one of the UK’s most contested and prestigious business award programmes. Each year, from Aberdeen to Cornwall, organisations of all sizes and sectors compete for the coveted titles and the national recognition they bring.

Not only will this year’s Business of the Year winner get to open the London Stock Exchange when BCC launches next year’s programme in March 2019, they will also get the opportunity to work with Rada in Business and join a one day communication skills and impact course.

There is free entry for members of Accredited Chambers of Commerce which of course includes Suffolk Chamber and the 2018 Chamber Business Awards categories are:

  • Small Business of the Year

  • Export Business of the Year

  • Best Use of Technology

  • High Growth Business of the Year

  • Employer of the Year

  • Education and Business Partnership

  • Customer Commitment Award

  • Workplace Wellbeing Award

  • Digital Communication Campaign of the Year

Full details of how to apply are here

The Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges

The Prime Minister has unveiled the first 'missions' of the Industrial Strategy's Grand Challenges.

The four 'Grand Challenges', identified in the Industrial Strategy White Paper, are  about embracing and being at the forefront of developing the industries of the future: the AI and data revolution; clean growth; the future of mobility; and harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.

The new missions aim to bring them to life challenging business, academia, civil society and the Government to work together to drive success.

During the speech, the Prime Minister stated the UK is in pole position to grasp and take advantage of the technological revolution that the world is facing.

The first missions are:

  • Use data, artificial intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030;

  • At least halve the energy use of new buildingsby 2030; 

  • Put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero emission vehicles, with all new cars and vans effectively zero emission by 2040; and

  • Ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.

Click here to read the Prime Minister’s speech in full.

Small business Government contacts

The Government launched a package of new measures designed to level the playing field for smaller businesses bidding to win Government contracts. It also announced proposals to exclude suppliers from major government procurements if they cannot demonstrate fair and effective payment practices with their subcontractors. More information and advertisements on government contracts can be found online.

Ofwat call for information

In response to the water supply issues experienced by many people and businesses across the country in late February and early March 2018, Ofwat is conducting a review of the water sector’s performance and preparedness in the lead up to, during, and after the freeze and thaw period. They are particularly interested to hear from those affected in the business community, a survey is available here.

Business rates: challenging valuations

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has published guidance on its website on a new option for owners and occupiers to have evidence for a challenge considered collectively, before they submit their individual challenge. This is the group pre-challenge review (GPCR). The VOA is committed to process group pre-challenge review requests from 1 June 2018.

Changes to business rates check-and-challenge process

The Check, Challenge, Appeal service has published a revised plan for the check and challenge process of rates. They also published guidance that introduces a new option for claiming properties on the check and challenge service. If an organisation wants their agent to claim properties for them they can now do this by adding an agent as an assistant on their Government Gateway account. To act as an assistant the agent will need to complete the individual verification process as part of the Client’s account. Guidance on how to do this is now available here. This is the first stage in simplifying the registration journey, and further improvements are expected in June, which will remove the need for assistants to go through the individual verification process.

RICS Young Surveyor of the Year Awards

There is a great opportunity for the training and skills support that happens in the East to be recognised through the national platform offered by the RICS Young Surveyor of the Year Awards.

Please take a look here and see if you have a few members of your organisation that could be entered.

May 2018 Automatic Enrolment  messages for employers

For new employers and start up businesses

If you’ve recently become an employer, it’s important you don’t forget to tell The Pensions Regulator who your nominated key point of contact is.

Research by The Pensions Regulator indicates that employers who provide a key point of contact are more likely to comply with their duties and less likely to be fined. Nominating a contact also means that The Pensions Regulator can keep in touch with helpful reminders.

Nominate a key contact with TPR so that you receive regular emails to remind you what you need to do to comply, and by when.

Choosing a workplace pension scheme? Find out how today

If you’ve recently become an employer or thinking about taking on staff for the first time, you will need to consider a number of things, including choosing a suitable workplace pension for your staff. When choosing a scheme it’s important employers consider the costs, whether it will work with the payroll system - but also, what tax relief method it uses.

The Pensions Regulator has online guidance to help you understand what you need to look for when choosing a pension scheme, including what tax relief method may be appropriate.

For employers who have already enrolled staff

Do you know what your ongoing AE responsibilities are? Making regular payments into your staff’s pension scheme is one of them, and it’s important that you comply – it’s the law.

Employers have a number of ongoing AE responsibilities, including monitoring the ages and earnings of your staff, enrolling them into a scheme and keeping records. But you are also responsible for ensuring regular contributions are made to your staff’s pension. On 6 April, the minimum amounts employers have to pay into workplace pensions increased, and it’s important you check that the right amounts are being paid into your scheme on time - don’t risk a fine.

TPR has online guidance on your ongoing duties, including maintaining contributions here.

Employers, don’t forget to tell TPR how you’ve met your AE duties - find out how today.

Over 1 million employers have completed AE, but there are still hundreds of thousands to go. If you’re one of these employers, don’t forget to tell TPR how you have completed your duties by completing your declaration of compliance. Don’t risk a fine – The Pensions Regulator will use its powers where necessary to ensure compliance.

Use TPR’s declaration of compliance checklist to help you work out you’ll need to do.

British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Monthly Economic Review

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

This month's headlines are:

  • UK GDP growth slows to six-year low as construction output falls and services output weakens;

  • UK real wage growth returns to positive territory as inflation continues to slow; and  

  • While US GDP growth slows in Q1, IMF upgrades its global GDP growth forecast expectations.

There is a link to the BCC Monthly Economic Review here.

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on

Nick Burfield on