September 2016 Policy update

East Anglia Rail Franchise 

The Government announced on 10 August that the East Anglia rail franchise for the next 9 years has been awarded to Abellio who will:

  • run the franchise from October 2016 to October 2025, delivering faster, more frequent journeys along the route;

  • oversee a massive £1.4 billion boost to rail services with more than 1,040 new carriages;

  • run 90-minute services between Norwich and London each weekday with journey times cut by 10% on average across the region

  • invest around £1 billion in Derby train manufacturer Bombardier to supply new trains;procure 1,043 new, state of the art carriages between January 2019 and September 2020 to support the faster timetable, with a full programme of refurbishment for the current fleet in the meantime

  • provide 32,000 more seats 

  • initiate automatic ‘delay repay’ for season and advance purchase tickets;work to tough new targets for operational performance levels at 93% - up from 89.7% currently;

  • introduce a host of new ticketing initiatives, starting in October 2017, including new offers for part time users and those who don’t travel every day.

Abellio’s plans address a lot that Suffolk Chamber has lobbied for and also include: 

  • at least 4 90-minute services (2 in each direction) between London and Norwich each weekday and 2 60-minute services per day between London and Ipswich;

  • free Wi-Fi for all passengers on trains and at stations;

  • hourly services between Ipswich and Peterborough (currently every 2 hours)

  • 1 additional morning peak round trip between Ipswich and Cambridge allowing an hourly service to operate throughout the day; and

  • 1 additional service from Ipswich to Lowestoft allowing an hourly service to operate throughout the day.

The detailed announcement, which includes an interactive map of individual line benefits, can be read here.

Stephen Britt, chair of Suffolk Chamber’s Transport and Infrastructure Board (TIB) said:

 “Having a fast and efficient rail service, alongside a twenty first century road network is absolutely key for Suffolk businesses to continue growing and prospering and we look forward to continuing to work with Abellio to ensure their investment plans achieve the results we all want”. 

“We welcome the granting of a longer-term franchise to Abellio as this should allow the company to deliver a sustained programme of improvements to the current service. We are pleased to see that many of Suffolk Chamber’s proposals for an improved service have been accepted in this franchise”. 

Abellio will present their plans to the next meeting of the TIB, on 11 October.

Suffolk Chamber letter to the Prime Minister 

Suffolk Chamber has written to the Prime Minister expressing concern at the Government’s move to delay until the autumn a final decision on the Hinkley Point C project.

Our concerns are based on the need for Government to unambiguously and confidently proceed with major infrastructure projects, in support of economic growth, and to avoid causing any delays to the approval and delivery of Sizewell C. 

Suffolk Chamber’s letter to pm re edf. 

Suffolk Chamber Letters to newly promoted MPs 

Suffolk Chamber has sent letters of congratulation, in view of their promotions by the new Prime Minister to: Thérèse Coffey MP as Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; David Gauke MP (who grew up in Ipswich) as Chief Secretary to the Treasury; Ben Gummer MP as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General; and Matthew Hancock MP as Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy. 

Suffolk Chamber’s letters 

Employer Training Incentive Pilot 

To date, over 2000 employees of Suffolk and Norfolk SMEs have benefitted from the Suffolk Chamber-managed Employer Training Incentive Pilot (ETIP). Now a number of attractive changes are being made to the delivery of its final 7 months.

Applications can be accepted until 28 February 2017 but training can be completed and the grant claimed after this date. 

Key changes, with immediate effect are:

  • up to now the available total ETIP Grant for one learner has been £1000; this is increased to £1500 

  • the 30% Grant towards Levels 3 and 4 qualifications, and new Apprenticeships, rises to 40%; and

  • Charities which fulfil the SME requirement and whose volunteers are aged 19+ are now eligible. 

 ETIP’s other fundamental parameters and benefits remain unchanged: 

  • available to Suffolk and Norfolk SMEs;      

  • for employees over 19 years old; and

  • pays 25% towards non-accredited and Levels 1 and 2 qualifications. 

Flier summarising the revised ETIP offer  

Your Quarterly Economic Surveys need you! 

We need your help to help us support you even better than we do at the moment. By telling us what is impacting on your business we will be do more about it. 

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce is accredited to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). As part of the BCC’s efforts to inform and lobby Government and other organisations to ensure the interests of business are heard and understood, they carry out Quarterly Economic Surveys (QES). These surveys are available for all Chamber members to answer. 

The results are a vital weapon in the BCC’s and Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s lobbying efforts because they are broken down to individual accredited chamber-level.

Each survey only takes about five minutes to complete.

In recent quarters, the response rate from Suffolk Chamber members has been low. This means that your voice is not being properly heard.

The BCC will be carrying out fieldwork for its latest QES between 22nd August and 12th September. The email link is here and for this quarter there are two additional questions against the other standard QES questions, relating to the impact of the Brexit vote in the EU Referendum:

1) To what extent, if any, has the EU referendum result on June 23 influenced your business’s investment intentions?

  • Significant influence

  • Slight influence

  • No influence

  • Don’t know

2) To what extent, if any, has the EU referendum result on June 23 influenced your business’s recruitment decisions?

  • Significant influence

  • Slight influence

  • No influence

  • Don’t know 

Please help us to help you by completing this and future surveys.

icanbea 

icanbea is a social media styled careers website, designed to help young people learn about future careers from the massive spectrum of opportunities we have locally across Suffolk and Norfolk.

icanbea is available online now and there will be a comprehensive school roll out beginning this autumn.  

You can now visit the site, sign up yourself and like or follow profiles which interest you - and where you can, please encourage young people you know or work with to do the same.  

Icanbea has loads of information about the industries and sectors across the region, with videos, and over 120 organisation profiles to view. Signing up is free? 

As part of the young person rollout Suffolk County Council and the Mason Trust are actively encouraging profiled employers to post their news, events and opportunities regularly and expect these to increase as user numbers grow.  

More information in on icanbea at what it’s all about!

Get in Go Far 

Earlier this year, the Government launched its Get in Go Far apprenticeship campaign. Get In Go Far is a major campaign planned for the next four years that brings together activity aimed at the 14-24 age group. It is a key part of delivering the Government’s plan to achieve 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020.  

The website www.getingofar.gov.uk will enable young people, employers, parents and teachers to find out more about apprenticeships, traineeships and work experience. Young people can also access thousands of opportunities across a range of sectors and employers - so they can get in and go far in their career.

Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) 

Devolution of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE) in Norfolk and Suffolk has now taken place. 

To read the summary with keypoints of interest please click here and to read more about the reforms please go to https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/apprenticeship-changes.

Green Business Fund launched

The Carbon Trust has recently launched a Green Business Fund, aimed at SMEs who are looking to change their lighting, cooling or energy controls in their warehouses. They are offering up to £10k towards the capital cost of the project if it demonstrates payback within five years based on the energy savings, and they have a fund of £3.5million to disburse by December 2017.

They are also offering five days of support from one of their experts to help identify and select suitable suppliers, prepare a brief for them, compare quotes etc – at no cost to the end user. 

For additional information, please contact James Persad from The Carbon Trust.

DIT feedback request on trade relations 

The UK government is planning to hold joint economic and trade committee meetings with Brazil, Colombia, India, 

Kazakhstan, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam by the end of 2016. Prior to the start of these meetings, the Department for International Trade (DIT) wants to hear from UK businesses about their trade priorities in these seven markets. Insight from UK companies could include:

  • your greatest concerns about doing business in and with these countries;

  • how your concerns might be addressed;

  • specific recommendations for bilateral initiatives that could improve the business climate;

  • specific examples of good business practice in these markets and policies which are working well; and

  • what DIT could do to encourage you to think about exporting to these markets. 

For more information click here.  You can complete the survey by Wednesday, 7 September 2016.

Automatic enrolment 

Key messages for employers for August 2016 are:

If you employ staff, then you will have duties

Automatic enrolment may be automatic for workers, but it is not automatic for employers. If you employ staff, then you will have automatic enrolment duties, even if you don’t have staff who must be put into a pension scheme. 

Make sure you know what needs to be done, by when, and where to go for more information. The Pensions Regulator’s Duties Checker is a good place to start.

Employing staff on irregular hours or incomes

Automatic enrolment duties apply to any staff that are aged 22 to state pension age and earn over £192 a week or £833 a month; these staff must be put into a pension scheme which you must contribute towards. 

If you employ short-term, seasonal, temporary or other staff who are not on regular hours or incomes (eg fruit pickers, labourers, etc) but pay them through a payroll, then automatic enrolment duties will still apply. 

To find out what duties apply to you, complete The Pensions Regulator’s Duties Checker.

Don’t let your holiday plans risk a fine

It is important that you complete a declaration of compliance and submit it to The Pensions Regulator so that they know what actions have been taken to meet your duties. This needs to be done within 5 months of your staging date. If your business adviser is acting on your behalf on some of the tasks, then make sure you agree who will complete the declaration. 

The Pensions Regulator produces a declaration checklist to help gather all the information needed to complete the declaration.

Do you know which type of earnings qualify?

Qualifying earnings include wages, salary, fluctuating elements of pay, bonuses, and some statutory payments, such as maternity and sick pay. The Pensions Regulator recognises that not all pay elements fit neatly inside these headings, and a good rule of thumb is that if earnings are subject to National Insurance contributions, then they are likely to also qualify as earnings for automatic enrolment. Payroll software should help with this, and also where earnings fluctuate on a week-by-week or month-on-month basis. 

For more information on which earnings quality for automatic enrolment, complete The Pensions Regulator’s Duties Checker

The Pensions Regulator has prepared an article aimed at small employers, focussing on assessing workers and qualifying earnings. 

The article is at 2016-08-08 tpr Assessing your workers.

Retail banking 

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its final report on the retail banking market. Like the draft published in May, it eschews structural change in the industry. It favours instead measures to increase the information available to businesses as they choose financial products. The CMA’s recommendations focus heavily on the role that technology can play in boosting competition. It backed the British Chambers of Commerce’s Business Banking Insight initiative (run jointly with the FSB), a website that enables SMEs to compare the quality of service from different finance providers and make more informed decisions. 

It also announced the goal to create the ‘Open Banking’ platform by 2018. This would allow businesses to “share their data securely with other banks and with third parties, enabling them to manage their accounts with multiple providers through a single digital app, to take more control of their funds…and compare products on the basis of their own requirements”. It remains to be seen whether the need for security in handling such sensitive data can be reconciled with the ambition of the Open Banking platform in less than two years.

Apprenticeship Levy 

The Department for Education has published proposals for a new funding model for apprenticeships and further details on the apprenticeship levy. 

From April 2017, the Levy will be applied to businesses with a payroll of more than £3m per year. The idea is that by making the Levy payments available to payers as digital apprenticeship vouchers of equivalent value, the government can ring-fence resources within businesses for investment in training on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. 

The recent announcements cover how those digital vouchers can be used to invest in apprenticeships, and the basis on which the Government will co-invest with employers (whether Levy payers or not). The full details can be found here but two of the eye-catching policies included the Government fully-funding 16-18-year-old apprentices, and raising the co-investment ratio of public funding to own resource to 9:1, from 2:1. 

There will be a further consultation to finalise the proposals - conducted almost wholly over August - and businesses will need to wait until October, just six months before the proposed implementation date of the Levy, for details of the technical rules. The timescale is very compressed for a complex policy that will rely on a major IT set-up but Suffolk Chamber will work closely with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) to ensure our member views are given full representation in the process.

There is more detail on the Apprenticeship Levy on a recent  BCC podcast in which  the latest funding guidance is discussed together with what it means for all businesses and the skills shortage that firms face. 

You can listen directly on the BCC website, stream it here or via iTunes.

Surge in trade documentation before EU referendum 

There was a surge in the volume of trade documentation issued in the second quarter of 2016 - before the EU referendum - the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and DHL has shown. 

The report’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 9.4% on Q1 2016 to stand at a record high of 126.95 in Q2 2016 – a rise of 4.83% on Q2 2015. 

The rise in documentation could be down to short-term factors, such as a rush to get longstanding orders through before the EU referendum or before the summer season, which is traditionally a slower period. 

The key findings from the report are: 

  • The Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, rose by 9.4% on Q1 2016, and by 4.83% on Q2 2015; the index now stands at 126.95 – the largest index figure since records began in 2004;

  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales rose to +9% in Q2 from +8% in Q1; the balance of service firms reporting improved export sales fell to +11% in Q2 from +13% in Q1;

  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export advance orders in Q2 fell from +8% in Q1 to +5%; the balance of service firms reporting improved export advance orders in Q2 fell from +16% in Q1 to +13%; and

  • The balance of manufacturers expecting profitability to increase over the next 12 months fell to +28% in Q2 from +32% in Q1; the balance of service firms expecting profitability to increase over the next 12 months fell to +33% in Q2 from +36% in Q1.

The detailed QITO can be read here 

Access to finance survey 

A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce and Bibby Financial Services revealed that while almost half of businesses applied for finance in the past year, awareness of alternative funding options remains low amongst UK firms. 

Further details of the survey can be found here. 

BCC Economic Review for August 2016 

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

This month's headlines: 

  • UK GDP growth picks-up in Q2, but the latest QES indicates weaker growth;

  • Bank of England cuts UK interest rates to a new record low of 0.25% and expands QE

  • Eurozone GDP growth weakens in Q2, while consumer spending boosts US GDP growth.

Read more at BCC Monthly Economic Review 

To discuss these and other policy issues, contact:

John Dugmore on john@suffolkchamber.co.uk

Nick Burfield on nick@suffolkchamber.co.uk