October 2015 Policy Update

Chamber business leaders launch campaign to dual A1307

A campaign calling for the urgent dualling of one of the most significant roads in Suffolk, and which will play a key role in an extra £360 million GVA for the county economy, has been launched.

The A1307 is the major road joining Haverhill to the main UK road network and the town is possibly the largest in the UK not on a primary route; a new road will play a large part in bringing 8,000 new jobs to the county.

“The launch of the A1307 campaign is key to the future success of Haverhill and its economy,” said Paul Donno, the Chair of Haverhill Chamber of Commerce. “The A1307 from Haverhill to the A11 is a critical piece of infrastructure no longer fit for purpose and its upgrading is a key pillar in the 4,000 new homes that will be built in the west of Suffolk.”

The launch of the campaign, which took place at Culina Logistics in Haverhill, saw over 40 businesses and local authority leaders come together. They heard that the current A1307 regularly experiences congestion and delays having a negative impact on business, shoppers and local families moving around the town and across the county.

“Haverhill is where Suffolk ends and Cambridgeshire starts,” said local Member of Parliament Matt Hancock who was at the launch. “These sorts of bureaucratic boundaries get in the way of planning vital links for growing towns and that is why this campaign is so important.”

The campaign has said the solution is to build a new safe primary route that will dual the A1307. If it was built to the north of the current route, it would be shorter, cause minimal disruption during construction and would minimise costs. The result ,say campaigners, would benefit the whole area both economically and socially.

Nikos Savvas, board director of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership added: "Our modern economy needs and deserves excellent infrastructure, so we can compete on the national and international stages. We can already see the benefits that a fully dualled A11 has brought to business and the local economy, now we must do the same for the A1307.’’

Business leaders who were in attendance at the launch, added their support:

“The main concern with the A1307 is to ensure reliable journey times,” said Nicholas Hodgson, Head of Engineering at Haverhill based Sanofi. “We need to transport and deliver life-saving medical products therefore a safe and fast road to the A11 and across the UK is essential.”

Steve Morris, General Manager at Culina in Haverhill added: “As a market leading food and drink logistics specialist Culina would strongly support any proposals for improvements to the road from Haverhill to the National Network. The dualling of this road is imperative.”

The campaign brochure is below:

 

Felixstowe to Nuneaton (F2N) Rail Link

F2N is a Suffolk Chamber priority and is included in the last National Infrastructure Plan but we have been concerned following recent public announcements that Network Rail's (NR) upgrade programme seems to be stalled and that NR are required to report to Government by the Autumn on how to 'Develop proposals…for how the rail upgrade programme will be carried out'.

The Chamber therefore wrote to Sir Peter Hendy, the Chair of Network Rail, seeking reassurance that the current uncertainty would be quickly resolved and that improvements on F2N, and especially those at Ely, would proceed as planned.

Suffolk Chamber’s letter and Sir Peter Hendy’s response are, respectively, below:

 

Young Chamber

Suffolk Chamber is taking part in the British Chambers of Commerce Young Chamber pilot with the aim of bridging the gap between the world of education and the world of work.

Young Chamber membership allows schools to automatically benefit from the Chamber’s connections with local and national businesses and gives access to the full range of Chamber benefits accessible by all businesses and schools.

There is an option for schools to upgrade to Young Chamber PLUS which includes the basic membership offer, entry into National Education and Business Partnership Awards, support at the annual Suffolk Skills Show and the opportunity for a school to pick four additional benefits from the list below:

  • Support in recruiting Business Governors
  • Two business talks from a local employer
  • Local business and labour market intelligence
  • Mock interviews for 50 students
  • Two visits to local businesses for students
  • One article per annum included in newsletter and website
  • An initial consultation meeting followed by a half-day session with a local careers advisory service.

Full details are below:

 

There is a Young Chamber section available on the Suffolk Chamber website here.

Suffolk Skills Show

4,500 young people and 130 Suffolk businesses were expected to attend this year’s Suffolk Skills Show at Trinity Park, Ipswich. It is the largest skills and careers event in the area and provides an important link between employers and education.

A press article introducing the Suffolk Skills Show is below:

Suffolk Chamber welcomes move to help SMEs win Government contracts

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has praised a pledge by ministers to give small firms a greater chance of securing Government contracts in the future.

In 2013-14, the Government worked with SMEs on around £11.4 billions' worth of investment, equal to just over a quarter (26%) of the central government budget. Now, the Government has set a target to spend an extra £3bn a year with SMEs by 2020, increasing its spend with smaller firms to one third of the total.

Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, said: “This is an amazing opportunity for SMEs nationwide. From computers to uniforms, there are so many opportunities for small businesses to work with us and I want to see more of them providing value for money for the taxpayer and benefiting from our spending.”

John Dugmore, Chief Executive of Suffolk Chamber, said: “There is no doubt that the SME community is the engine of the local, regional and national economy. Here in Suffolk and across the East of England we see every day how hard working entrepreneurial firms make a real and lasting difference to the lives of so many people. This announcement from Westminster can only encourage that work to grow. The Government has much to gain from opening up public procurement to smaller businesses and we welcome the Government’s commitment to achieve this target. Government will need to look at its current processes and cut red tape so engaging with more small and medium businesses and the Chamber locally and nationally stands ready to support Government on this agenda.”

Better Broadband in Suffolk

The project has now reached the end of the first contract with BT, and has now connected more than 100,000 properties. The second contract with BT to connect a further 50,000 properties was signed in October. 

The summer newsletter explains how to find out what areas have coverage, how to sign up and what areas will get coverage under the second contract and can be viewed below:

Inward Investment

Businesses are invited to take 10 minutes to complete the annual Invest in Suffolk survey to help gauge views of economic growth and the priorities for investing in Suffolk.

The survey link is here.

The results will be used to help further develop Suffolk County Council’s inward investment work programme and it will also help the County Council to understand your views on Suffolk as a place to do business.

See also www.investinsuffolk.com.

Have your say on devolution

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is making its way through Parliament. This Bill would see the Government devolve more powers to local authorities. It is crucial that businesses' voices are heard on this important matter.

With this in mind Grant Thornton UK LLP are undertaking a study to understand what you think about the prospect of greater devolution, how it could affect you and what opportunities it could bring for our region’s economy. They have asked for the Chamber to distribute the survey amongst our membership.

We would be very grateful if you would take a few minutes to complete the survey, to do so please click here.

Countdown to pensions duties for small and micro businesses across the East of England

Nearly 100,000 small and micro employers are fast approaching the date their automatic pensions enrolment duties come into effect, marking the first large wave of small and micro employers who will need to get plans in place in time for their staging date between January and March next year.      

Under the new arrangements around 120,000 small and micro employers across the East of England will have automatic enrolment duties over the next three years. 

However many of these employers will see their legal duties start from January next year and with just three months to go, they should now be well underway with their plans. 

All employers should check exactly when the law applies to them, even if they employ just one person.

The Pensions Regulator has launched a new Facebook page, making it easier for small and micro employers to seek and exchange information. In addition, the Regulator holds regular webinars and question and answer sessions on LinkedIn. Details can be found on the website www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk

Key messages for October from the Pensions Regulator are below:

Cutting Red Tape

Business can now Tweet BIS about their experiences. Small business Minister Anna Soubry MP is keen to engage with business on the issues they face with regulation and has launched a new twitter account that is used to listen and engage with business on regulation. 

How can you get involved?

  • Follow @CutRedTapeUK for mentions/retweets/discussion on Twitter;
  • Remember to use the hashtag in your tweets - #cutredtape;
  • Share information on how small business can grow through your social media channels, tweet using #cutredtape;
  • Do you have a newsletter, online group or forum? Encourage discussion about regulatory issues and share feedback; and
  • You can also get involved by sharing @CutRedTapeUK with your business contacts.  Government wants you to tell them which regulatory issues hamper your business #CutRedTape.

Suggested Tweets – Cut Red Tape

Funding for micro and small-sized businesses under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development

The second Call has been issued for projects under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) element of the EU Growth Programme in the New Anglia LEP area.

This call is for micro and small-sized businesses seeking to expand, increase productivity, create jobs and for diversification into non-agricultural activities and is being run through the Rural Payments Agency.

Projects can bid for grants of between £35k and approximately £140k at an intervention rate not exceeding 40% of the eligible costs of the project. 

This Call will remain open for a maximum of 12 months, with quarterly review points at which time submitted projects will be assessed. The closing date for the first review point under this call is set as 17:00 hrs on Friday 8 January 2016

Details of the Call Specification, how to apply and contacts for further information and support, can be found here.

UK ranked as world-leader in innovation

The UK has this week been ranked as the second most innovative country in the world. The Global Innovation Index (GII) has placed the UK above the USA, Singapore and Germany for the third year running, recognising the UK’s standing in the field of innovation. The UK has risen from tenth on the GII in 2011 to second in both 2014 and 2015. This is the most rapid increase among the top 10 GII-ranked innovation nations.

Find out more on GOV.UK

Accessing finance is a barrier to would-be exporters

Access to finance is still a barrier to exporting for UK firms, a report by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has found. In its annual International Trade Survey, the BCC found that 60% of potential exporters cite general access to finance as a key factor in their plans to export goods or services.

Additionally, one quarter (24%) of UK businesses preparing to export have reported difficulty in accessing trade finance or credit insurance from lenders - products tailored specifically to support firms trading in overseas markets.

Access to finance is an issue for firms of all sizes. Of the 60% of UK firms on the cusp of exporting who stated that securing the right funding was a key consideration in deciding if, when and where they would export to, over half (57%) are micro firms, 29% are small firms and 14% are medium or large firms.

Despite this, 90% of businesses that are already exporting say further expansion is a priority, indicating that confidence in economic growth is becoming more widespread across the country and that appetite for new expansion is returning.

Accessing the appropriate financial products is crucial to businesses planning to enter export markets, to help cover new costs including market research and product development, and managing the risks around shipping and payment.

A detailed press release is here and the report is here.

National Minimum Wage increases

The Government introduced increases to the National Minimum Wage rates of pay on 1 October.

It is the minimum pay per hour almost all workers are entitled to by law and depends on the employee’s age and whether they are an apprentice. No matter how large or small your business, it is your obligation as an employer to ensure that all staff earning the National Minimum Wage are paid correctly at the new rates. It is against the law for employers to pay employees below the National Minimum Wage and to falsify payment records.

Full details are on GOV.UK.

BCC Economic Review for October 2015

The BCC has published its UK Monthly Economic Review for October 2015, providing an easy-to-use commentary on the key domestic and international economic indicators for business.

This month's headlines are:

  • UK growth in Q2 remains unrevised with the service sector and consumer spending driving growth;
  • The QES for Q3 2015 signals moderate economic growth over the next year; and
  • US interest rates are kept on hold for now amid continued global uncertainty.

Read more below:

British Chambers of Commerce: Build on fall in youth unemployment with compulsory work experience

According to the labour market figures for October 2015, published by the ONS:

  • In the three months from June to August 2015, employment was up 140,000, and unemployment was down 79,000;
  • The employment rate is at its highest since 1971;
  • Youth unemployment rate fell markedly to 14.8% in June to August 2015, compared with 15.9% in the previous three months; and
  • In the three months from June to August 2015 compared with a year ago, pay including bonuses rose by 3.0%, and by 2.8% excluding bonuses.

Commenting David Kern, BCC Chief Economist, said: “Youth unemployment has fallen, but at 14.8% it is still nearly three times as high as the national average. The only way to secure a significant reduction in youth unemployment is to improve the skill base, and as our Business and Education survey shows, reintroducing compulsory work experience will help empower school leavers with the workplace skills they need to thrive.”

The detailed ONS figures are here.

Stansted Airport hits 22m annual passenger milestone and hopes to beat record next year

Bosses at Stansted Airport hope to set a new record for passenger numbers next year – as it moves ever-closer to offering scheduled long-haul flights. The airport has revealed it has broken the 22 million annual passenger milestone for the rolling year total for the first time in more than six years – and served more than two million people monthly for five months in a row for the first time since 2008.

Directors at the airport hope that even if the fast pace of 15.8% year-on-year growth – which saw passenger numbers break 20 million annually just eight months ago – does not continue, the record of 23.9m hit in 2007 will be beaten at some point during 2016.

A detailed press release is here.

To discuss these and other policy issues contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk