Leeds Dinner: President sets out hopes and fears

Leeds Chamber’s first female president spoke about her plans, hopes and fears to a business audience last night (Thursday 25 January).

Paula Dillon, a partner with law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, covered a range of policy areas in which she will be hoping to have some influence over the next couple of years, while also remarking that, tongue-in-cheek, if nothing else, she would be judged “the best female president for Leeds so far!”

While Paula noted that there are now many more women in leadership roles than there were even ten years ago, she has always stressed that any change should be based on merit; she also highlighted that the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and maths) suffer from a lack of visible female role models, and that this needs addressing.  The president acknowledged that the lobbying and representation role will be dictated by what members want, while saying that she wanted to continue fostering closer links with education.  Paula also acknowledged concerns about the drop in apprenticeship take-up since the levy’s introduction, while explaining that parents are being won over when receiving relevant information.

In a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration, Paula also covered a number of other areas:  on transport, she stressed Leeds’ support for Bradford’s campaign to bring the Northern Powerhouse Rail line through the city, and also the need to work with the airport and improve local infrastructure that would help economic growth.  Back on home soil, Paula wants to see the city deliver its own festival of culture, in light of the EU banning a British city holding the position post-Brexit.

Guest speaker Alex Salmond was able to shine light on how Scotland handles its devolved powers – something our region is still struggling to secure, but not through lack of effort on the Chamber’s part.  The business organisation wrote to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry last year on the risks to the region caused by no devolution deal.  Other areas covered by Mr Salmond included the differences between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, and the conundrum of his party wanting independence while staying within the EU.

The event was held at Royal Armouries, Leeds, on Thursday 25 January 2018.

NOTE: Photos to follow.

Local Plan Allocation Process to be discussed

The next meeting of Bradford Development & Transport Forum will take place at 2pm on Thursday 1 February.

The Forum is described by the Council as “the premier portal for planning agents, developers and transportation professionals to:

  • learn about changes to services we offer plus new services
  • understand how Bradford is responding to changing legislation
  • developing its land use and transport strategies for the future.

The meeting will take place in City Hall, and the agenda includes the Local Plan Allocation Process and Brownfield Register.

Contact the Council direct for more information on 01274 432894 .

EU citizens in the UK and future status

See below a message from the Cabinet Office regarding EU citizens living and working in the UK.

The UK Government’s first priority in negotiations with the EU is to secure the status of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU. No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will have to leave at the point that we leave the EU.

If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, there is no need to do anything now, including applying for a permanent residence document. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU.

If you would like to find out the latest information you can sign up for email updates.

You can also find more information from the Home Office here.

Once an agreement has been reached with the EU on citizens rights, we will work closely with the Home Office to make sure that people know what has been agreed, and what they need to do next. We will be creating content which we will share with you to use on your channels and share with your partners, stakeholders and audiences where relevant. In the meantime, the more people who sign up to the email updates the better, so please do help get the message out, if you are able

Post-Brexit Customs Models Discussed

Businesses from West & North Yorkshire have met with government representatives to discuss post-Brexit future customs arrangements.

The meeting, organised by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, saw attendees call for the government to avoid a prolonged transition period, as this would add to increasing levels of uncertainty facing many firms.  It was suggested that the two-year period put forward by the government was formed without adequate assessment of what was actually needed.  The purpose of the session was two-fold: for the civil servants to take soundings on two possible post-Brexit customs arrangements being considered; and for businesses to comment on the possible effects on their operations of these new models.

The meeting was held at Shulmans LLP in Leeds recently, and attended by civil servants from the Treasury and HMRC.  Shulmans’ partner Andrew Latchmore, who chairs the Chamber’s Brexit Advisory Group, facilitated the meeting with two dozen senior business people, mainly from manufacturers and engineers who import and export.

Anastassia Beliakova of British Chambers of Commerce (white jacket) and Andrew Latchmore (to Anastassia’s left) at a previous Brexit meeting

The two options put forward – described as a “streamlined arrangement” and a “new customs partnership” – are aimed at smoothing the transition for businesses, while acknowledging that both involve moving into unchartered territory.  The first involves harnessing technological solutions and sharing data, with the second being a complex system, mirroring the EU’s approach but backed by rigorous tracking to clarify origin and destination of goods; the latter method would allow tariff reimbursements or paying additional duty where differences exist between EU and UK tariff rates.  Option two assumes, at present, that the UK would enjoy no tariff barriers for EU trade – a position deemed unlikely, according to those at the meeting and other observers.  The businesses present said there was insufficient detail on either option at present, although they were keen to engage again with the civil servants.

Andrew Latchmore said afterwards:

“The Chamber meeting was the latest in a series aimed at both seeking business views about Brexit, and creating a dialogue with Westminster and Whitehall to develop the new policies needed in this area.  There is no precedent for these negotiations, nor the surrounding work.  While the two models considered are certainly challenging, the representatives at the meeting stressed that these were models for consideration but other suggestions for customs models can and should be put forward.  The strong message the civil servants took away was that the uncertainty of not knowing the post-Brexit arrangements has begun to cause difficulties for businesses now.  Once the nature of the customs regime becomes clear, businesses can plan ahead and make the best of the arrangements, whatever they are, even if they are not ideal.  A transition period will be necessary and helpful but what matters most is that an early agreement is reached as to what the arrangements will be, and the decision is promptly communicated to business.  We must not still be in a position of uncertainty 12 months from now.”

The officials present agreed to return for future meetings once more views and evidence have been gathered.

Paula’s pride at presidential role

Leeds Chamber President Paula Dillon has spoken of her pride at being asked to take on the top job.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with TheBusinessDesk.com, Paula says how she is looking forward to being an ambassador for the Leeds business community, and proud to be part of an all-female team (her vice-president is Shulmans partner and Head of Planning, Amanda Beresford)

Paula also thanked her employer, Bond Dickinson, for encouraging her to take on the new role.

“The firm wanted me to do this and have been immensely supportive and my clients are too. I have had the most fantastic career here in Leeds and part of me taking on the role of president will allow me to continue to learn, that is a big thing for me. In my job, I don’t know what each day will bring but that’s how businesses work and you meet interesting people along the way.”

Read Paula’s interview here.

EU nationals right to remain: Chancellor comments

Following the first meeting of the EU Exit Business Advisory Group last month, the British Chambers of Commerce wrote to the Chancellor regarding the immigration status of EU citizens living and working in the UK.

Since the referendum, we have called on government to give an unconditional guarantee to all EU citizens in the UK. Some businesses are losing key members of staff, while other employees are indicating an intention to leave due to the uncertainty. At a time of near full employment and the skills gap facing firms at all levels, the potential loss of existing EU employees in many firms would have a significant impact on UK productivity and growth.

The Chancellor’s response should give some assurances to EU citizens currently living in the UK, particularly those that arrived before the triggering of Article 50 on 29 March 2017. These EU citizens will be able to stay until they have the five years’ residence to apply for UK settled status.

While this offer may not be as comprehensive as some firms would like, we hope this will prove helpful to businesses seeking to support and advise their European employees.

BCC Letter to Chancellor

Chancellor’s Reply

Business Fraud – Be Aware!

Several recent high value frauds have targeted businesses in Leeds.

Goods have been purchased from a number of different companies by an unknown male with an Asian accent using a non-Asian sounding name ordering via telephone. These goods are paid for using a MasterCard. This card is authorised for use by the bank and the goods have been collected by another unknown male in a white Mercedes Sprinter van.

Some of the goods to the value of £22,000 have been obtained from one company using credit card payment over the phone. Payment has not been received in the company bank account from the transaction. The male will ring up numerous times using different MasterCard details but will provide the same personal details.

In the example provided, it was six transactions all close together not just one, keeping the value below the card limit each time.

Please be aware that when credit cards are accepted as payment over the phone, “customer not present”, they are not covered by the bank and they will not pay you out in the event of a fraudulent transaction. Check your company policy regarding over the phone transactions. We suggest that online payments are considered as these will be protected by the banks.

Should you receive any unusual or large one off orders for goods, please carry out due diligence for the transaction and try to secure payment prior to releasing any goods or services.

This message comes from West Yorkshire Police.

Employers’ Brexit preparation guide

Brexit Principles Established

A ‘Brexit preparation’ guide has been published for employers.

The guide, published by XpertHR, sets out how employers can prepare for likely changes affecting EU nationals working here.

Employers may need to take several steps, including identifying any skills gaps and reviewing employment policies. The guide may need to be updated as negotiations progress.

The guide is available when registering with the website here.

Immigration Skills Charge

The introduction of an ‘Immigration Skills Charge’ has made it more expensive for UK employers to hire skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.

Workers from outside the EEA must be sponsored before they can apply for permission to work in the UK. Under the Immigration Skills Charge Regulations 2017, employers must pay the charge for every sponsorship certificate they assign to a skilled worker. The charge is set at £364 for small firms, charities and universities.

Read more from Pinsent Mason here.