Bradford-Shipley Route Improvement Consultation

Views are being invited on plans to improve the main roads between Bradford and Shipley.

Information on the plans is online here, including an online questionnaire (hard copy available on request).

Bradford Chamber’s Leadership Group will receive a presentation on this issue at its meeting on 29 January, but we would still like to hear from other members who have time to check out the plans.

An illustration of options is available – click on the ‘possible options’ image to the right – while public drop-in sessions are being held on several January dates. An email or phone call to the Chamber’s policy team on the plans is most welcome – 01274 230057 or email here.

People are being asked about their experiences of using Canal Road/Valley Road and Manningham Lane/Keighley Road, and what changes are most important for the two routes.   Plans include turning the A650 into a high quality bus route, making it more attractive to use public transport, cycling and walking (and so reducing traffic volumes).

Objectives of the plan include:

  • Improving the A650 Manningham Lane/Keighley Road corridor
  • Promoting the A6037 Canal Road/Valley Road as the main strategic route
  • Relive existing congestion issues.

The consultation closes on 8 February.

Survey shows stalling economy

The Beating Heart of the Economy

The British Chambers of Commerce’s quarterly economic survey finds that the UK economy ended 2018 stuck in a weak holding pattern, with stagnating levels of growth and business confidence as a result of heightened Brexit uncertainty and other economic pressures.

Key findings:

  • Percentage of services firms reporting an increase in domestic sales and orders drops to two-year low
  • Recruitment difficulties in manufacturing joint highest on record, services sector recruitment difficulties hover near record-high
  • Price pressures rise further for businesses, particularly manufacturers

The results underline the impact that the current levels of uncertainty are having on a stalling economy as growth in domestic sales and orders reduced, recruitment difficulties stand near record highs and price pressures persist.  In services, the percentage of firms reporting an increase in domestic sales and orders weakened to its lowest in two years. Domestic activity among UK manufacturers also moderated.

The findings highlight the extent to which labour shortages have risen in the UK as four-fifths (81%) of manufacturers that tried to recruit report difficulties in finding the right staff – the joint highest level since the survey began in 1989. In services, the level (70%) hovers close to the record high recorded in the previous quarter (72%).

The survey results indicate an increase in price pressures facing firms. The percentage of manufacturers expecting to raise prices is at its highest in a year and is almost three times higher than its pre-EU referendum average. Cashflow continues to be a concern for both sectors, with the balance of firms reporting improved cash flow remaining weak.

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at BCC, said:

“Domestic activity in services weakened for the second successive quarter, with consumer-facing firms particularly downbeat amid subdued household spending levels and tightening cash-flow. Manufacturing had an underwhelming three months, with significant cost pressures and moderating global demand weighing heavy.

“With results showing that price pressures from wage settlements remain relatively muted, there continues to be sufficient scope to keep interest rates on hold in 2019, particularly given the significant economic and political turbulence.”

Responding to the results, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Throughout much of 2018, UK businesses were subjected to a barrage of political noise and drama, so it’s no surprise to see muted domestic demand and investment. With little clarity on the trading conditions they’ll face in two months’ time, companies are understandably holding back on spending and making big decisions about their futures. Given the magnitude of the recruitment difficulties, business concerns about the government’s recent blueprint for future immigration rules must be taken seriously – and companies must be able to access skills at all levels without heavy costs or bureaucracy.”

Chamber delegation met Shadow Chancellor

Business leaders from West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce met Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently.

The senior opposition MP visited Shipley in support of the party’s election candidate, Jo Pike, and included a meeting with the Chamber as part of the trip.  Nick Garthwaite and Suzanne Watson, respectively Bradford Chamber’s president and vice-president, led the business delegation, which also included Chamber board member Stephen Wright and policy executive Mike Cartwright.

The business leaders raised concerns about the effect of hiking up corporation tax, which Labour says is needed to help fund a better education service, and also called for a commitment to tie Bradford into the Northern Powerhouse Rail plan.  Assurances were also sought on securing adequate replacements for EU Structural Funds, currently being explored as the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’.

There was significant discussion around education and skills issues, with agreement on both sides that implementation of the well-intentioned apprenticeship levy had been unsuccessful.  Mr McDonnell said that Labour was planning to consult on whether or not academy schools should be brought under local authority control, something that the Chamber says could potentially be very disruptive.  However, asked what Labour could do to resolve the current impasse on devolution for Yorkshire, the Shadow Chancellor said it was down to the local areas involved to conclude.

Nick Garthwaite said afterwards: “Despite Labour being in opposition, it is important, when appropriate, for us to have conversations with relevant politicians irrespective of party affiliations.  The exchange of views, concerns and ideas is all part of the policy development and lobbying process.”

Other meeting with politicians in 2018 included:

  • Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary
  • Nusrat Ghani, Transport Under-Secretary
  • Caroline Noakes, Immigration Minister
  • Lord Bridges, Department for Exiting the EU
  • Peter Dowd, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Business groups appeal to politicians to prevent ‘No Deal’

The UK’s five leading business groups, representing thousands of businesses across the UK employing millions of people, have united to call on politicians to prevent a disorderly ‘no-deal’ Brexit on 29 March.

“Businesses have been watching in horror as politicians have focused on factional disputes rather than practical steps that business needs to move forward. The lack of progress in Westminster means that the risk of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is rising. Businesses of all sizes are reaching the point of no return, with many now putting in place contingency plans that are a significant drain of time and money.

“Firms are pausing or diverting investment that should be boosting productivity, innovation, jobs and pay into stockpiling goods or materials, diverting cross border trade and moving offices, factories and therefore jobs and tax revenues out of the UK.  While many companies are actively preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario, there are also hundreds of thousands who have yet to start – and cannot be expected to be ready in such a short space of time. All this activity stems from the growing risk of leaving the EU on 29 March without a deal.

“With just 100 days to go, the suggestion that ‘no-deal’ can be ‘managed’ is not a credible proposition. Businesses would face massive new customs costs and tariffs. Disruption at ports could destroy carefully built supply chains. From broadcasters, to insurance brokers, to our financial services – the UK’s world-leading services sector will be needlessly disadvantaged, and many professional qualifications will be unrecognised across the EU. UK and EU nationals working abroad will be left in deep uncertainty about their future.

“As a result of the lack of progress, the Government is understandably now in a place where it must step up no-deal planning, but it is clear there is simply not enough time to prevent severe dislocation and disruption in just 100 days.  This is not where we should be.  The responsibility to find a way forward now rests directly with 650 MPs in Parliament.

“Nobody wants to prolong the uncertainty, but everyone must remember that businesses and communities need time to adapt to future changes. As the UK’s leading business groups, we are asking MPs from all parties to return to their constituencies over Christmas and talk to their local business communities. We hope that they will listen and remember that when they return to Parliament, the future course of our economy will be in their hands.”

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General, British Chambers of Commerce

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director General, Confederation of British Industry

Stephen Phipson CBE, Chief Executive, EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation

Mike Cherry OBE, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses

Stephen Martin, Director General, Institute of Directors

ENDS

Outlook weakens for business investment

Uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU is one factors that has weakened the outlook for business investment, says the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

A decline of -0.6% for business investment in 2018 is expected to be followed next year with growth of just 0.1%.  The figures coincide with the repeated delays and lack of clarity on Brexit and future trading arrangements.  Many firms have hit pause on investment plans.

The BCC forecast assumes that the UK will reach an agreement in negotiations with the EU, and avoid a cliff edge in the short term. Longer-term prospects are still uncertain, but this forecast assumes that a trade deal is reached, at least at outline level. Other scenarios would lead to revisions in the next forecast.

Adam Marshall, Director- General, BCC

UK GDP growth is expected to slow to just 0.1% in the final quarter of 2018. The BCC’s forecast for 2019 GDP growth remains at 1.3% but has downgraded its 2020 GDP forecast to 1.5% (from 1.6%).  The slide in the value of the pound together with weaker confidence levels is expected to stifle the contribution of net trade and consumer spending to UK GDP growth. Inflation is now expected to be higher over the forecast period as the weakness in sterling pushes up the cost of imports.

BCC is urging Westminster to come together to provide clarity on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and avoid a disorderly Brexit.

Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The contribution of business investment to UK GDP growth is expected to be more downbeat than we previously projected as the increased uncertainty over Brexit weakens business confidence and stifles investment activity.  Consumer spending is expected to be more limited as the weaker pound drives higher imported inflation over the near term, stifling real wage growth. A weakening currency is also expected to hinder, rather than help the UK’s net trade position by increasing imported input costs while a slowing global economy will limit export demand.”

Key findings in the forecast:

  • 2018 GDP growth forecast marginally upgraded from 1.1% to 1.2%. UK GDP growth is expected to slow to 0.1% in Q4 2018 (down from 0.6% in the previous quarter). 2019 GDP stays at 1.3%, while 2020 is downgraded, from 1.6% to 1.5%
  • Business investment to contract in 2018 by 0.6% (down from 1.0%), before growing by just 0.1% in 2019, and 1.2% in 2020
  • Household consumption to grow at 1.5% in 2018, 1.2% in 2019 and 1.5% in 2020, compared to 1% in 2018, 1.3% in 2019, and 1.7% in the previous forecast.
  • Average earnings growth to outstrip inflation but by less than the previous forecast, with growth of 2.6%, 2.7%, and 2.9%, compared with CPI inflation of 2.5%, 2.4%, and 2.2%
  • BCC forecasts export growth of 1.4% in 2018, 2.3% in 2019, and 2.2% in 2020, down 1.7%, 2.7% and 2.9% respectively in our previous forecast
  • We anticipate interest rates rising to 1.25% by the end of the forecast period, with rate rises expected in Q4 2019 and Q4 2020

Chamber head recognised with doctorate

Sandy Needham, Chief Executive of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Bradford University’s Faculty of Management, Law & Social Sciences on Wednesday 5 December 2018.  Sandy was recognised for her contributions to business and enterprise, aswell as for having a pioneering attitude and commitment to collaboration.

Since her initial involvement with the Chamber in 1997, Sandy has helped spear-head several business support and economic development initiatives, and in 2014 managed the merger of Bradford, Leeds and York & North Yorkshire Chambers.  The recommendation for the award came from the university’s Dr Crina Oltean-Dumbrava, a steering group member of Bradford Chamber’s Property Forum.  Sandy also has close ties to higher education:  she was previously a member of the University Council, chairing the Audit Committee and the Yorkshire Innovation Fund; she is currently a member of the University Court.

The merger of the three Chambers of Commerce covering Bradford, Leeds and York & North Yorkshire has subsequently created one of the largest business support organisations in the country.  Sandy’s other non-executive roles include:

  • director of Leeds Business Improvement District
  • member of the Business Innovation & Growth Panel of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership
  • British Chambers of Commerce Board Director
  • Member of Bradford Economic Partnership,
  • Bradford City of Film Board member
  • Deputy Chair of Bradford Business Improvement District.

Sandy said of the award:

“I’m very flattered and humbled to be honoured in this way.  I’d like to think that my contribution to the business community and economic success more generally is making a difference to our region’s prosperity, although I am just one of a bigger team of people with the same objectives in mind.”

Sandy was one of five high profile figures to be recognised at the graduation ceremony – the others were University College London’s Nicholas Barber, Welcome to Yorkshire’s Sir Gary Verity, social services professional Jonathan Phillips and local academic Dr Hassib Sahyoun.

Initiatives that Sandy has helped oversee during her time with the Chamber include:

  • Providing industrial units and offices on easy terms for start-ups
  • Creating the ‘Raising the Bar’ project to recognise businesses’ support of the wider community
  • Establishing a company to loan funds for businesses unable to borrow from high street lenders.

Brexit declaration: BCC Reaction

Commenting on today’s (22 Nov) announcement that the UK government and EU Commission have agreed a Political Declaration, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“While we welcome the fact that more flesh has been put on the bones of the proposed future UK-EU relationship, the reality is that the clarity and precision businesses need to plan for the long term can only be delivered when the details are hammered out and fully agreed. There are still big questions to answer – including whether businesses will be able to conduct trade between the UK and the EU without significant new barriers or costs.

“For business, this is just the end of the beginning of the Brexit process. Our trading firms will be paying close attention to what happens next, particularly as the proposals are debated in Parliament over the days ahead. Businesses remain deeply concerned about the potential for a political stand-off that leads to a messy and disorderly exit from the EU next March.

“We have raised a number of important questions with the Government on behalf of business communities across the UK, and their responses will inform our continuing assessment of the proposed agreement and its implications for business, investment and the wider economy – as captured in our practical Business Brexit Risk Register.”

Leeds takes centre stage in Channel 4 move

Of Channel 4’s decision to move its headquarters to the city, Leeds Chamber of Commerce President, Paula Dillon, a partner with law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, said:

Thrilled with broadcaster’s decision

“Channel 4’s decision emphasises the strength of the city and region, and the role of Leeds at the centre of the North and the heart of the UK. This decision is hugely significant and reinforces Leeds’s presence on the national stage.

“The importance of culture and diversity is increasingly becoming a major component in decision-making around investment, and Channel 4 was clear that access to a wide and culturally diverse talent pool was an essential part of its decision-making process. This presents fabulous opportunities to harness the creativity located in our region’s towns and cities. We already have a strong, regional track record in the creative arts but bringing the commissioning powers of Channel 4 along with the additional production companies which will want to locate within its orbit will present opportunities.

“The recent recognition at the International Downtown Association awards in the USA where Leeds International Festival picked up a major award shows how important culture and digital are in the economies of places and highlights the region’s strengths in these areas. In attracting and retaining high quality and diverse talent through a strong cultural and digital offering we will continue attracting world class jobs. This week’s decision shows we are on this journey.

“The project to woo Channel 4 to Leeds was a fantastic example of the collaboration which has been taking place in recent years. Not just amongst local authorities but between the public and private sector too. Congratulations to all those involved in securing this investment and all credit to Cllrs Judith Blake and Susan Hinchcliffe, Tom Riordan, Roger Marsh and all at the Leeds City Region LEP investment team.”

Help with the EU Settlement Scheme

The Government has issued an updated version of the employer tool-kit that helps EU citizens and their families applying to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The link below will take you to a government web page with link to the tool-kit.  That page also has links to other guidance, including how to communicate the facts of the Settlement Scheme with your employees.

Click here

Other Chamber information in relation to Brexit can be found here.