Chamber achievements listed

The Chamber’s record of success over the last 18 months (since the merger of the three areas of Bradford, Leeds and York & North Yorkshire) can be found in our latest ‘achievements document’ (or the Annual Report, to give it its formal name).

Lobbying activity, plus the other achievements such as businesses brought together, legal/HR guidance given and money loaned, can be viewed on a different web-page here.

Contractors sought for social housing schemes

Three lots of work are already up for tender, forming part of a £836 million New Build framework operated by Re:allies, a strategic collaboration of housing consortia, of which Efficiency North is a founding member.

For the first lot, valued at £62 million, Efficiency North is seeking up to 30 contractors to complete multiple schemes solely in Yorkshire and Humber, up to the value of £2 million each. Up to another 30 contractors are required for the second £394 million lot of larger schemes and up to a further 10 for £70 million of projects throughout the North of England.

A simple single-stage procurement process is being used by the consortium, with just one questionnaire for contractors to complete, instead of a traditional Pre-Qualification Questionnaire. This method streamlines the tender stage and ensures the most appropriate contractors are chosen for the work available.

Lee Parkinson, chief executive officer, explained: “The new framework presents a huge opportunity for us to create much needed high quality homes to help alleviate the current social housing crisis and regenerate local communities across our region.  By opening up the bidding to as many firms as possible, we can ensure we find the best partners for the needs of each project, which will not only deliver value for money, but will also make sure we provide the highest quality homes for local communities in Yorkshire and Humber.”

A Bidders’ Day, which will provide a chance to meet the Efficiency North team, will be hosted on Monday 14th September 2015 from 10:00 to 15:00 at Hotel Football, 99 Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester, M16 0SZ  to give prospective contractors an opportunity to learn more about the framework and how they can best meet the tender criteria.

TO FIND OUT MORE AND REGISTER TO BID CLICK HERE to go to the Tender Management portal.

The deadline for submitting tenders for this single stage open procedure is 5pm 25 September 2015.

To view the contract notice CLICK HERE

Chambers to tackle skills mismatch

To coincide with the start of the new school term, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has unveiled an ambitious plan to put thousands of young people in England directly in touch with local businesses, to improve the quality of careers advice they receive.

Long-term trends show A Level and GCSE results continue to improve, but youth unemployment is almost three times the national average – possibly highlighting a mismatch between academic achievement and work readiness.

The Chambers of Commerce network, which covers the whole of the country, will run 250 career events, bringing together thousands of pupils, businesses, schools, colleges and training providers in order to address this issue and improve young people’s prospects for a successful career.

The ‘Your Future’ programme of career events, supported by the Skills Funding Agency, will give 70,000 young people access to potential employers, showcase the range of career options open to them, and help them to plan their future to take advantage of these opportunities. It will also give businesses the platform to meet the employees of tomorrow and to talk about the skills and qualities they look for when recruiting.

The programme, which will be managed by St Helens Chamber, will launch at the end of September 2015, to coincide with the new academic term, and will run until March 2016.

Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said:

“If young people are to make good decisions about their future career options, they need access to relevant, complete, and engaging information – and to the real businesspeople that make these options come to life. Otherwise, the gap between young people and business will continue, as too many learners study and train in areas where there is little demand for new employees.

“To bridge the gap between the world of education and the world of work, we’re putting together a programme that will break down barriers between pupils and businesses, bringing thousands of students and companies together at local events across England.

“By connecting the employees of tomorrow with local businesses, we are helping each to improve their understanding of the other. That means young people will be better able to prepare for the careers they want – whether that is through an apprenticeship, further training or higher education – and businesses will have the chance to meet the talent they need to thrive and grow. This is a win-win scenario and we are confident that it will make a real difference to young people and businesses nationwide.”

Joe Billington, Deputy Director of Consumer Services at the Skills Funding Agency said:

“The Skills Funding Agency is pleased to be supporting the ‘Your Future’ programme of events which will be an excellent, innovative way to increase young people’s understanding of the world of work, sharing our own National Careers Service vision of inspiring young people to look ahead, seek the next opportunity, and develop new skills to prepare for the future”.

Fancy that! Manufacturer goes global

A fancy dress costume manufacturer, which has generated a £4m annual turnover and created 25 new jobs since launching in the depths of the banking crisis, has appointed overseas trade specialist Chamber International to help it go global.

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd, which is already selling costumes in the EU, Australia and New Zealand, believes its design team in Leeds can create costumes to fit any occasion and culture from Massachusetts to Mumbai.

The company, which is continuing Leeds’ clothing heritage, is based in one of the textile industry’s most famous buildings, a red brick factory in Shafton Lane, Holbeck, former base of the world’s biggest cloth cap manufacturer, JW Myers, which closed in 2000 after 111 years of exporting the Andy Capp look worldwide and relocated manufacture to Panyu, China.

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd is among businesses wanting to step up exports as part of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership’s We are International initiative which aims to bring an additional £1.6bn into the economy of the ten local authority areas and create thousands of new jobs.

The company was founded in 2008 and its directors Jeffrey Fearnley, Geoff Key and Harvey Felstone believe that it can become an international business by understanding what makes people from different nationalities, faiths, cultures and ages dress up to have fun.

The company, which supplies joke, toy and fancy dress shops and online retailers, has built up its business in the UK with scores of different costume designs, from Cute Cowgirls, Clowns and Cabin Crew to Tudor Boys, fighter pilots and Victorian Factory Owners and started exporting in 2012.

Jeffrey Fearnley says: “We launched Fun Shack after spotting a gap in the market. Fancy dress costumes are either good quality and expensive or cheap and poor value. Ours are high quality, yet our customers can retail them at very competitive prices.

“So far overseas sales represent eight per cent of turnover but we want to do more. Our research and design centre allows us to understand local markets and create outfits specifically for local cultures which, although they may differ, have a common factor of appreciating quality and value.

“We face similar challenges to the fashion industry. We need to anticipate what is going to be popular a year or so ahead and avoid sensitivities in different cultures. Chamber International is hugely experienced and we have initially sought help in locating potential trading partners, compliance issues and for market reports for various countries including the USA and Germany.”

Fun Shack (UK) Ltd, which is also exhibiting at Nurenburg Toy Fair 2016, says all of its outfits comply with European Directives and it works closely with West Yorkshire Trading Standards for product safety, including flammability testing.

Chamber International senior export adviser, David Attia, a former international sales director with Jacuzzi, Bradford, says: “Fun Shack (UK) Ltd makes fantastic costumes and they certainly have significant potential. It is still early days but we’re looking forward to helping the company take its brand of fun overseas.”

Chamber International, which also runs the We are International Export Network as part of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership’s We are International campaign, helps hundreds of new and experienced exporters with a wide range of specialist services to make exporting easier and more cost effective each year and is exclusively partnered with London headquartered global testing organization, Intertek, to assist with a wide range of issues including product conformity.

IT’S A FUN THING!  Pictured (L to R) at Fun Shack (UK) Ltd’s Leeds base are: Chamber International senior export adviser, David Attia, who is working with the company to help it boost exports; Fun Shack (UK ) Ltd employee, Jonathan Pearson in hippy outfit and Fun Shack (UK) Ltd director, Jeffrey Fearnley.

7 Exporting Tips

Chamber International can support your business to trade overseas. View a short video clip and top 7 tips on exporting including drafting a plan, selecting markets, finding customers, getting paid, cultural differences, visiting the country and shipping your goods.

View top tips here.

QES please participate

Fieldwork is now underway for the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) and we would be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to tell us about your current business conditions.

Please click here to complete the survey.

The Chamber is regularly asked for data by MPs, Civil Servants and the Bank of England and by completing the QES you are helping us to make the case for policies that promote business growth and job creation. Please be assured that all the information that you provide will remain completely confidential.

Everyone who completes the survey receives a copy of the report, which provides a comprehensive overview of the economy and can help with your business planning.

Please click here to complete the survey. It will only take a few minutes and it is your opportunity to help shape the future of the region. To read the QES report from the last quarter please click here.

BCC welcomes deficit cut

  • In July 2015, public sector net borrowing, excluding public sector banks, was in surplus of £1.3bn, compared with a very small deficit in July 2014
  • In the first four months of this financial year, borrowing excluding public sector banks, was £7.3bn lower than in the corresponding period in 2014
  • Public sector net debt, excluding public sector banks, at end of July was 80.8% of GDP

Commenting on the Public Sector Finance figures issued today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist for the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“Today’s figures confirm that further welcome progress has been made in cutting the deficit.

“On the basis of the figure for  first four months of the current financial year it is likely that borrowing in the financial year as a whole will be lower than estimated by the Chancellor in his recent budget.

“However, a very big task still lies ahead of us, and the UK faces major challenges in restoring stability to its public finances.

“The ability of Britain’s banking sector to generate profits and tax receipts was hit hard during the recession, and together with much lower oil and gas receipts means that the country’s ability to generate tax revenue is seriously reduced.

“The progress made this year in cutting the deficit provides the Chancellor with greater flexibility, which will enable him to put more emphasis on ways to boost economic growth. This must include investing in infrastructure and boosting exports.

“Only by doing this will the UK be able to build an enterprising economy that can deliver sustained growth over the longer term.”

Leeds High Speed Rail Station – Chamber view

Speaking in Leeds, in March 2015 David Cameron 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 a 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.

The Chamber has been a longstanding supporter of HS2 but the proposal to site a new terminus so far from the existing station would, in our opinion, 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, on a par with Gatwick Airport. 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.

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 infrastructure of national significance and investment prioritised accordingly.

Gerald Jennings

President, Leeds Chamber of Commerce

View full report here

If you have any questions or comments please contact Mark Goldstone on 0113 247 0000.

Chamber on trade mission

Chamber Chief Exec Sandy Needham spent two days in Singapore recently as part of a UK trade mission. RollsRoyceSandy BizSec

Prime Minister David Cameron visited four countries to promote UK business, and several Chambers of Commerce accompanied him for all or part of the trip.

Mr Cameron spoke in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

Sandy had to return mid-mission to ensure she could attend a Chamber Board meeting.

Skills shortage undermines export market

Two thirds of exporters are struggling to recruit skilled staff, warn DHL and the British Chambers of Commerce as they release the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook.

While the volume of UK exports remains high, and confidence among both services firms and manufacturers is increasing, more than two thirds of exporters (68%) reported difficulties hiring staff during Q2 2015 – the highest level since Q4 2013. The greatest area of recruitment difficulty reported was in finding skilled and professional staff.

Although the volume of trade documents issued by Accredited Chambers of Commerce in Q2 declined by 0.3% on the previous quarter, this was still 1.5% higher than for the same quarter in 2014, and was the second highest on record. Export documents are required for goods exported outside of the EU, and this figure demonstrates that UK businesses are continuing to grow non-EU exports and are breaking into new markets overseas*.

Firms are increasingly confident that turnover and profitability will rise in the coming months, leading to a third of firms (36%) expecting to take on additional staff in the next three months as a result. However, this confidence is rising much more quickly among service firms than among manufacturers.

There is also a growing expectation of export sales increasing over the coming months. The balance of those expecting exports to rise stood at +24 for service firms and just +12 for manufacturing firms**.

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “This week we celebrated the achievements of those taking their A levels, but we have to remember that academic results are not the only thing employers look for. We need to make sure that the skills young people develop in schools equip them for the world of work. In the 21st century the countries with the most skilled workforces will be the ultimate winners globally. Our research shows that while confidence among exporters is rising, businesses are struggling to get access to the skilled staff that they need.

“Businesses and schools need to work together to ensure students have a better understanding of the business world, the opportunities it presents to them and the skills that will help them to get ahead, including foreign languages.

“If we are going to reverse the UK’s trade deficit then businesses need a workforce with the appropriate skills and knowledge to trade and compete on the global stage. Businesses must be able to attract and, crucially, retain the talent they need to stay ahead.”

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express UK, said:

“It’s really encouraging to see the continued confidence expressed by UK businesses, and particularly to see the strong performance of the North East – which we hope can only get stronger with the Government’s plans for a Northern Powerhouse.

“On this occasion there is also the clear message that as we continue to deliver on our commitment to growth, we cannot afford to lose focus on the people and skills that are paving the way for these strong results to continue.

“It is vital that we all, as employers and educators, continue to up-skill our workforce in the UK. Whether that’s through apprenticeships for young people, or further investing in the development of our existing employees, a commitment to bettering our workforce is essential in ensuring that the skills gap is plugged and the UK remains competitive on a global scale.”