£2,000 apprentice grant

Small and medium-sized businesses in West Yorkshire and York can now benefit from a grant of up to £2,000 to help take on an apprentice and grow their business.

The LEP’s Apprenticeship Grant for Employers supports businesses recruit young people, aged 16-24, into employment with financial support of up to £2,000 available.

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP said: “Having recently conducted a business survey of over 3,000 businesses in the region, we know that businesses are ambitious to grow and take on an apprentice to enhance their productivity and retain vital skills. Supporting businesses to offer these career opportunities is part of the LEP’s overall ambition to create a strong future workforce and create more and better jobs for our young people.

“We want to make it easier for businesses to get support to help them grow and this devolved funding provides us with a unique opportunity to tailor the support available to local business needs. We have created a bespoke offer for small and medium-sized businesses looking to take on an apprentice for the first time with incentives to offer our young people an opportunity to learn new skills and earn a living wage simultaneously.”

Working with local training providers, business that take on an apprentice from 1st August 2015 can apply for funding until the programme ends on 31st December 2015. As with the national scheme, local training providers will register on behalf of businesses via the LEP website.

Councillor Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “Developing a skilled workforce, trained and equipped to take advantage of the jobs we aim to create across the Leeds City Region is key to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s ambitions and our devolutions plans.

“I am pleased therefore that at our recent meeting, the Combined Authority was able to approve the AGE scheme and agree a budget for the project, which has resulted from our first stage devolution deal with the government.

“It will open up important new apprenticeship opportunities for 16 – 24 year olds and build upon the success of schemes already in place.”

The new LEP Apprenticeship Grant replaces the national apprenticeship grant incentive for businesses in West Yorkshire and York as agreed in the first stage devolution agreement with government in March 2015 for West Yorkshire.

Businesses in Bradford contact E3 for help on this grant – call 01274 230042 or email E3@wnychamber.co.uk

Alternatively, if you are a business in Leeds City Region and you want more information about the incentives available to take on an apprentice, call the LEP on 0113 348 1818 or visit www.the-lep.com/AGE

Skill service advisers can help firms benefit from this grant. To find out more about the skills service click here.



  • Funding is available from 1st August 2015 to 31st December 2015
  • Grants are available to businesses based in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York
  • Businesses with less than 250 employees are eligible – whereas the national grant is currently for businesses with less than 50 staff
  • Businesses that have not had an apprentice before, or have not had an apprentice within the last 12 months, can apply for funding
  • Businesses need to work with a training provider approved by the Skills Funding Agency to access this offer

Devo-debate: Wish-List Submitted

Yorkshire councils have submitted a list of ‘asks’ to government following in the latest stage of the devolution debate.

If the Government agrees to the 27-point wish-list, Yorkshire could gain substantial powers over transport, education and skills, and other areas that could boost economic development.

Leeds Council Leader Judith Blake says she would be “very disappointed” if the wish-list is not agreed to.

Councils are asking for more control over local spending, specifically asking to retain 100 per cent of all new business rates.

If you don’t ask…here’s the 27-point wish-list:

1. Control of a 10-year infrastructure precept, which is exempt from the Council Tax capping regime to deliver major new investments such as a world class metro style public transport network that is HS2 and HS3 ready. The ability to raise our own finances has been reinforced by the recent postponement of the electrification on the Transpennine rail route (the ability to generate local investment finance for infrastructure has been discussed since the City Deal and at that time was linked to a potential change in governance beyond Combined Authorities).

2. Responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget, with a multi-year settlement to be agreed at Spending Reviews.

3. Enterprise Zone / Tax Increment Financing status for major developments at growth areas around principal transport hubs, including Leeds South Bank, York Central, Bradford City Centre, Wakefield, Huddersfield and Halifax, as well as any new wider area based Enterprise Zones that may be established in areas such as in the Colne Valley, Dewsbury and Harrogate.

4. Responsibility for franchised bus services (subject to the Buses Bill) to secure access to ‘fare box’ revenues, and for integrating simple smart ticketing across all local modes of transport.

5. Devolved ownership of local rail stations, with associated maintenance budgets.

6. Devolved powers, responsibility and maintenance budgets for a locally defined strategic highways network (including initially the M621 and M606), including new traffic management powers such as moving traffic enforcement.

7. A Memorandum of Understanding with the Highways Agency with regards to traffic management and emergency management on the M62.

8. Responsibility for managing European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) in the same way as London.

9. Responsibility for a strategic infrastructure investment plan to direct infrastructure investment priorities which will provide long term confidence to those wishing to invest in the City Region.

10. Control of a new £500+ million LCR Housing and Regeneration Investment Fund, including a fiscally neutral transferred £350m revolving loan facility.

11. To be the Governments delivery agency (potentially via a Land Commission arrangement similar to London) to ensure assets are used and disposed of in a way that supports growth and regeneration, to include local assets, such as those belonging to HCA, Network Rail, Highways England, NHS; and other Public Assets not currently controlled by the HCA.

12. Powers to incentivise developers to bring forward strategic sites and prevent land banking; and to bring empty listed building back into use.

13. To adopt the powers of the Police and Crime Commissioner and explore potential oversight of other blue light and Criminal Justice services including the Courts and Probation to support interoperability and protect the frontline.

14. Retention of 100% of the local growth in business rates.

15. Powers to levy a Supplementary Business Rate to invest in major strategic infrastructure in a similar way to the London Crossrail scheme.

16. Responsibility for regional education advisory services, innovation funds for kinship care, family group conferencing and multi-agency interventions to put children and young people at the heart of the economic growth strategy.

17. Powers to drive the improvement of careers advice and schools and for local authorities to intervene in failing academy schools deemed by Ofsted to be failing.

18. Control of Further Education (FE) capital and revenue budgets (including 16-18 provision) and powers to reshape and re-structure local appropriate skills provision that is responsive to the needs of employers, including giving priority for a new National College facility and the approval and development of new vocational education facilities.

19. Devolved budgets for employer-led skills investment, to allow our joined up skills brokerage service to help more employers offer Apprenticeships.

20. Responsibility for devolved and integrated business support budgets, building on the LEP’s growth hub, including the resources for Growth Accelerator, Manufacturing Advice Service (MAS), Innovate UK and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Export Advice. Joint responsibility for HEFCE investment in local economic partnership activity in Higher Education (HE) including HE Catalyst, knowledge exchange (HEIF). This will build on the Memorandum of Understanding already in place with the City Region Universities.

21. Allocation of a significant share of national investment for global R&D facilities on a par with the Crick Institute, to accelerate our Northern Powerhouse research and SME commercial strengths in digital health innovation and innovative manufacturing; work with the City Region to relocate a Research Council to our area.

22. Secure ring fenced UKTI resource on inward investment and sector specialists, and deliver culture, arts and tourism through oversight of devolved funding held by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund.

23. Responsibility for budgets, including DCMS/BDUK, to deliver ultrafast broadband connectivity and further develop the market beyond that provided by BT.

24. Control of a programme that extends the successful Troubled Families model of joined-up public services to other high cost groups like people with complex needs such as drug dependency, worklessness and mental health.

25. Devolve DWP national programmes and budgets targeted at addressing worklessness (currently the Work Programme).

26. Responsibility for local energy generation and efficiency.

27. Responsibility for flood defence capital investment through devolved DEFRA and Environment Agency powers and budgets.

22 July, T&A, CEO Opinion Column concerns on devolution

Chamber chief on trade mission with PM

IMG-20150729-WA0012Chamber chief executive Sandy Needham, together with other business people and the Prime Minister are currently on a Northern Powerhouse trade mission to South East Asia to boost UK trade and investment.

The Prime Minister is joined by 31 representatives from businesses from every region of the UK. Deals worth over £750 million and creating 270 new jobs across the UK are due to be agreed this week.

Pictured here Sandy Needham wtih David Cameron in Singapore.

View further details here.

Partnership brings gas central heating to residents

Incommunities has teamed up with Northern Gas Networks (NGN) the north of England’s gas distributor, and Community Energy Solutions (CES) to deliver more affordable energy solutions to 79 social housing properties in Bradford, Bingley and Shipley.

The investment from NGN, worth £156,000, saw nearly 500 meters of new plastic gas mains installed which will deliver gas to homes that were previously not served by the existing gas mains network.

Now that the properties have been connected to the network, the Incommunities’ tenants will be able to benefit from gas central heating systems for the first time. The newly connected properties included homes at Thornhill Place in Thornbury, Myrtle Court in Bingley and at Windhill.

The investment is part of NGN’s commitment to tackle fuel poverty, which currently affects around 400,000⃰  homes in Yorkshire, the North East and northern Cumbria.

The new heating systems, which will be installed later this year by Propertysolutions, part of Incommunities Group, include energy efficient gas condensing combination boilers and radiators. The systems will lower carbon emissions and help reduce household fuel bills.

Delroy Beverley, Director at Incommunities, with overall responsibilities for the Group’s environmental and sustainability proposition, said: “We are very much committed to delivering more energy efficiencies across our housing stock and helping our customers reduce their fuel costs.

“This successful network extension partnership with Northern Gas Networks and Community Energy Solutions enables us to lead the upgrade of heating systems in these homes and as such, benefits our residents in the longer term.”

Tom Bell, Head of Social Strategy at Northern Gas Networks said: “We’re delighted to be working with Incommunities, and our partner, Community Energy Solutions, to help residents living in Bradford, Bingley and Shipley to access affordable heating solutions for the first time. 

“We feel passionately about helping households improve their home energy efficiency and take greater control of their finances.  By connecting homes to our gas network and giving customers access to more affordable energy solutions we hope to make life more comfortable for those who live in off-gas areas.”

Lee Cattermole, Programme Director at CES, said: “As a result of this successful partnership, these residents will have access to controllable, whole-house, efficient gas central heating. Work is already underway to tackle fuel poverty in other off-gas communities, through further gas network extension projects across the region in partnership with Northern Gas Networks.”

NGN aims to help create warmer, more sustainable homes which are easier and cheaper to heat, by providing free or discounted gas connections for customers who are struggling financially.  If you think that you or someone you know may qualify for a free gas connection or be entitled to funding for a new heating system, and other related support, call Community Energy Solutions on 0113 272 7330 or request an assessment by completing the online contact form: ces-cic.org/contactus

Don’t miss out on connection vouchers

Time is running out for businesses to get their share of the Government’s £40m connection vouchers scheme. The scheme provides grants of up to £3,000 for SMEs looking to upgrade their internet connectivity, and it has proven very popular across the Yorkshire region.

Over 5,000 vouchers have been issued to Yorkshire businesses, which means that Yorkshire is the top region in terms of take-up outside London. The popularity also means the funding pot is running low, and Government have estimated that the pot will run out in October or November this year.

The scheme provides funding for a range of different technology types that can deliver superfast speeds, so even if your business is not within range of a fibre-enabled cabinet, it could potentially still benefit from technology such as wireless connectivity or a leased line. The scheme is available across most of Yorkshire, including the whole of West Yorkshire.

Interested businesses should visit the website or call 0113 3950357.


Rethink plans for HS2 station says Chamber

In March 2015, David Cameron speaking in Leeds, announced that Sir David Higgins, Executive Chairman at HS2 Ltd, would be tasked with relooking at the options for HS2 coming into Leeds city centre. The original thinking sets out plans for a new station terminating at New Lane, opposite ASDA House in Leeds South Bank, approximately quarter of a mile from the existing Leeds station. Sir David will be bringing his recommendations on station location back to Government in autumn 2015.

Leeds Chamber President, Gerald Jennings said: “The Chamber has been a longstanding supporter of HS2 but the proposed plans to site the station so far from the existing station would be a missed opportunity to provide the seamless and integrated network required to benefit the entire region.

“Leeds station is already one of the most heavily used stations in the UK with demand set to double over the next 25 years to over 60 million passengers a year. Station capacity is already stretched so clearly further investment is required just to ensure existing national, regional and local rail journeys can be accommodated.”

Following consultation with members across Leeds, York and Bradford, the Chamber has published plans setting out their preferred option. The Chamber would like to see a single station capable of accommodating the significant growth in existing rail services and for future high speed services to run through the station rather than terminate in Leeds.

We acknowledge the financial and engineering challenges this may present but we must be ambitious and ensure Leeds has a station that provides a sense of arrival befitting one of the largest commercial centres in the country. HS2, Network Rail, the Department for Transport and Leeds City Council between them have the ability to shape the fortunes of Leeds and the wider region for generations to come

Mr Jennings went on to say that: “For many of our members the journey from Kings Cross-St Pancras to Leeds is a stark reminder of the disparity in investment between London and the north. Leeds station must be viewed as a piece of national infrastructure and investment prioritised accordingly”

View the full report here

Two speed economy

The latest findings of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey presents a two speed economy. The region’s service sector continues to perform well domestically and internal markets remain strong, although there is variance across the region. Leeds service sector businesses reported their highest levels of confidence in 11 years, surpassing the previous high levels reported throughout 2014.

Read the full report here.

BCC Welcome growth but no room for complacency

  • GDP growth in Q2 2015 was 0.7%, up from 0.4% in the first quarter
  • Services output rose by 0.7%, total production was up by 1.0% but construction was flat
  • GDP in Q2 2015 was 2.6% higher than a year ago and was 5.2% higher than in the pre-recession peak  in Q1 2008
  • GDP growth matches the forecast made by the BCC last month

Commenting on the preliminary GDP figures for Q2 2015, published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“These figures show a welcome acceleration in growth, with the services sector once again being the driving force. But today’s figures also point to other sectors where life is more difficult.

“The manufacturing sector saw output fall by 0.3% in the quarter, continuing to highlight the serious, systemic problems our manufacturers face. The construction sector also remains weak. The 1% growth in total production was mainly due to a surge in mining and quarrying – a highly volatile sector.

“It is good that our economy continues to grow, but there are many hurdles to clear in the months ahead. This is not the time for complacency. Our economy remains unbalanced and international uncertainty adds to the challenges our economy faces.

“A premature move to increase interest rates could choke the recovery and the MPC must keep rates at existing levels for the time being.”

Education survey appeal

Many businesses want young people to be better prepared for work than they currently are, and also want stronger links between education and business.

In pursuit of that aim, and to enhance our understanding of how businesses engage with and benefit from the education sector, we ask you to complete this survey (maximum 10 minutes).

Youth unemployment is three times that of adults.  Completing this survey, you help us be the voice of business and identify practical solutions to help prepare our future workforce.

Information is confidential, and we will feed back findings to you in due course.

Click here to complete the survey

The survey is open until close of play Tues 28 July.