Spending Review: Main Points & Our Reaction

A summary of the highlights of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement can be found here.  Reaction from Chamber Presidents are below.

An alternative document breaks the announcements down into categories here.

Bradford Chamber President, Andy Caton, said:

“A major house-building programme is something that will be welcomed within Bradford, with its fast-growing young population, although that has to be matched locally with allocating appropriate land.  Tagged on to this is the timetable for establishing the apprenticeship levy, especially in relation to the construction industry and the house-building programme: it remains to be seen whether or not the levy is set at the right level to get buy-in from businesses, but it’s only the very large ones that are asked to commit to this.”

Leeds President Gerald Jennings added:

“I’m sure the local authority is looking forward to retaining all business rates collected – we’ll be working closely with them on this, as you’d expect.  We would hope that the apprenticeship levy will work, and allow vocational training and career paths to be put on a more equal footing with more academic forms of study or employment.”

“The devil is always in the detail, and so we look forward to hearing more about other initiatives mentioned, such as the restructuring of HMRC and protection from flooding.”

York & North Yorkshire President Ed Everard concluded:

“The announcements made need to be backed up with delivery mechanisms, of course, and that will rely on those OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) figures and forecasts remaining accurate.  Local authorities like York Council will be relieved that the cuts are not greater, and the prospect of retaining money gained from selling property is promising.  It’s good news that York Central is to become a designated enterprise zone – it should unlock fresh investment, create jobs and provide additional funds to the local authority.

“Protecting the schools budget is a good decision too – young people are our future and so we need to invest in them.  One concern will be the 15% cut in DEFRA’s budget, which might have implications on some of our rural businesses in North Yorkshire.”

BCC gives full reaction to Chancellor’s Spending Review

In a full response to the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, John Longworth, BCC Director General, said:

On the apprenticeship levy:

“Although we finally have clarity over the threshold of the apprenticeship levy, it will hurt larger businesses who will have to pay what is effectively a payroll tax. It is important that the delivery of the levy doesn’t undermine other types of vocational training, which could be better suited to some businesses. The priority must be delivering high quality apprenticeships, viewed positively by employers. Otherwise this is simply another cash cow from business that will not have the desired effect.”

On housing:

“A lack of affordable housing supply is a big issue for business, impacting on their ability to recruit and retain talent. It’s therefore reassuring that the Chancellor is prioritising housebuilding on a national scale, even if we’ve heard much of this before. It is imperative that the government sets out further details on how these schemes will be implemented.”

On investment in infrastructure:

“Our transport and digital infrastructure has been in dire need of repair for quite some time. Fixing our broken roads and railways and ensuring a world-class digital broadband network is a no brainer if the government wants to support growth and boost productivity. The 50% increase in capital expenditure for transport is good news, but we sorely need the government to crack on and get building.

“There isn’t enough detail to show how the UK will develop a sustainable energy supply for the future.

“The creation of a Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will help to unlock growth and development in the north of the country. But this must be coupled with support for businesses and a boost in infrastructure spending so that our transport system can be brought into this century.”

New tax administration target to reduce the costs to business:

“The cost of complying with the UK’s complex tax system has become a major burden over recent years and so businesses across the UK will view positively the new target for cutting the cost of tax administration. The new target will rightly increase the scrutiny on HMRC, but by reducing the number and frequency of changes to the tax system the government can also play a major role in reducing tax administration.”

On research and development:

“Increasing investment in science and technology is a boon to our dynamic businesses, especially in our thriving tech sector, so that they have room to grow. However, it is important that the move to replace grants with loans from Innovate UK does not reduce our dynamism in the global economy. Businesses must continue to feel empowered to evolve and expand, otherwise we risk being also-rans in the global race.

“We are pleased with the investment in health and energy research, as well as the protection of the science and research budget. This just one of the drivers necessary to maintain UK productivity – but it is equally vital that the UK does not lose its competitive advantage, and supports innovation by retaining our intellectual property.”

On supporting exporters:

“We await more details on the government’s future plans for investing in export support. Businesses need in-market support to enable them to break into new markets. Chambers of Commerce both in the UK and overseas are increasingly well placed to provide the help needed for those companies, especially SMEs who wish to trade the world with confidence.”

On business rates:

“Extending the small business rate relief scheme will support businesses across the country while the broader shape of a reformed business rates system is determined. We will continue to work with the government to ensure that business concerns over our broken rates system are met.

“The Chancellor recognises that support of the business community is crucial in implementing a supplementary levy for infrastructure – this should be expressed through a ratepayers vote.”

On Further Education:

“We are encouraged that the Chancellor has listened to the BCC call to protect adult skills funding for FE Colleges. A strong further education sector, which meets business needs, is crucial to boost productivity and make sure firms get access to the skilled staff they need.”

Acorn Stairlifts continue to Raise the Bar

Leading manufacturer Acorn Stairlifts has been awarded the top accolade for its impact on the community, education, economy and the environment in Yorkshire, and the surrounding areas, in West & North Yorkshire Chamber’s Raising the Bar Awards 2015.

The Chamber hosted its third annual ‘Raising the Bar’ awards at the Northern Ballet in Leeds last week. Raising the Bar provides benchmarking for businesses involved in corporate social responsibility work and profiles the good deeds of great companies in our region.

Acorn Stairlifts took away the award for the overall winner who in the eyes of the judges had ‘Raised the Bar’ the most across four categories of community, education, economy and the environment. The winners of each respective category were: Environment – Christeyns; Community – Garbutt + Elliott; Economy – The Business Enterprise Fund and Education – Schofield Sweeney.

As a regional manufacturer and exporter employing over 1,000 employees worldwide, Acorn Stairlifts impressed the judges with its commitment to local employment and its community activities, especially for the nearby Sue Ryder Manorlands hospice.

The judges said: “The standard of applications this year was very high indeed and we congratulate Acorn Stairlifts and all the other winners for raising the bar so high.”

The award was collected by company secretary Dave Belmont who commented: “When we looked back at the past 12 months we were pleasantly surprised at what we have achieved and are delighted to be recognised. As a medium-size business it is easy to stay in your own business bubble but we have made a conscious effort to make a positive impact on the local community and environment plus creating jobs for every level too. We were very proud to pick up the accolade for overall winner; this is an award the whole team will treasure.”

This year saw a record number of entries and the Chamber was taken aback by the length and breadth of activities that businesses perform to make the region a better place to live and work.

The ‘Raising the Bar’ awards were hosted by BBC Radio Leeds drive time presenter, Andrew Edwards with a key note presentation from Paula Dillon, partner at Leeds-based law firm, Bond Dickinson and Leeds Chamber Vice President, who provided a very personal account of how supporting worthy causes has benefited both her and her business.

Picture: l-r: Stephen Wright, chairman West & North Yorkshire Chamber, with Dave Belmont, company secretary of Acorn Stairlifts

£1bn worth of contract opportunities

A ‘Meet the Buyer’ breakfast is being held on Friday 4th December in Wakefield hosted by the West Yorkshire Combined authority.

This is a chance for local businesses to hear from local councils responsible for commissioning the delivery of major infrastructure projects across West Yorkshire.

Registration is at 8.45am.

View full details here.


BCC Slight deflation suggests no interest rate change in medium term

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell by 0.1% in the year to October 2015, the same fall as in the year to September 2015

Upward price pressure on clothing, footwear and recreation goods was offset by downward price pressures for university tuition fees, food and tobacco, resulting in no change in the rate of inflation from September

Goods inflation in October 2015 was -2.1%, while services inflation was 2.2%

Commenting on the Inflation Figures for October 2015, published today by the ONS, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:

“Inflation remained unchanged in October at -0.1%, continuing the trend of low inflation or negative price movements we have seen for much of this year.

“We expect this situation to continue in the next few months. Our forecast is that inflation will edge slowly up during 2016, but will remain below the 2% target until well into 2017. Low inflation boosts disposable incomes and supports living standards, which helps to sustain economic growth.

“However, recent economic data have also highlighted weaknesses in the UK’s manufacturing sector and the persistence of a large external deficit.

“Given this unsettled background, the Bank of England’s MPC should look to maintain low interest rates throughout next year.”

BCC: Businesses and schools ‘still worlds apart’ on readiness for work

Two-thirds of businesses (69%) believe that secondary schools are not effective at preparing young people for work, according to a major new UK-wide survey of over 3,500 business and education leaders published today (Wednesday) by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), just hours before the latest national employment figures are published.

Business leaders surveyed think that secondary schools could do more to help students get on the career ladder – with three key actions needed to bridge the gap between the worlds of education and work:

  • Embed key skills for work in the curriculum. The top five entry level skills that firms value most are communication (88%), literacy (69%), numeracy (64%), computer literacy (56%) and teamwork (53%).
  • Hold lessons around recruitment and interview techniques. Most businesspeople think schools should teach students how to conduct themselves in an interview (78%), demonstrate transferable skills (54%) and communicate lessons learned from work experience (46%).
  • Put direct contact with local businesses at the heart of careers guidance. Firms think careers advice should include workplace experiences (64%), encounters with employers and employees (62%), and link curriculum learning to careers (45%).

With youth unemployment rates still stubbornly three times the overall unemployment rate, the BCC is calling for action not just from ministers and schools – but also from businesses, more of whom need to work with local schools to plug skills gaps and help young people make a successful transition from education to work.

Commenting, John Longworth, BCC Director General, said:

“Our latest research shows that businesses and schools are still worlds apart when it comes to getting young people ready for the world of work.

“Businesspeople across the UK believe that secondary schools need to do more to help young people transition into employment by ensuring that their students have the preparation that businesses truly value.

“High youth unemployment and business skills gaps are a cause for national embarrassment. Unless ministers allow schools to increase their focus on preparing students for the working world and businesses step up and do more to engage, inform and inspire, we could fail an entire generation of young people.

“It doesn’t need to be like this. Preparing students to face potential employers should be given the same level of priority as academic achievement in schools across the UK.”

Further findings from the survey:


  • There is a mismatch between education leaders and businesspeople when it comes to careers guidance. Eight out of ten secondary schools believe they are effective at offering all types of careers guidance. However, all businesses surveyed thought careers guidance needs reform.
  • Businesses want careers guidance reforms to include workplace experiences (64%), encounters with employers and employees (62%) and curriculum learning linked to careers (45%).
  • A smaller proportion of businesses think careers guidance should be tailored to the needs of each pupil (40%); be a structured programme, supported by the Senior Leadership Team (38%); or include personal guidance from a careers adviser (32%).
  • Just 24% of businesses think secondary schools are either very effective or fairly effective at preparing young people for work – with 69% of businesses saying secondary schools are not very effective or not effective at all at preparing young people for work. While 7% of firms don’t know.
  • In comparison, 40% of businesses think further education colleges are not very effective or not effective at all, and 41% think universities are not very effective or not effective at all at preparing young people for work. While these numbers are less than those for secondary schools, they are still high and concerning, given the skills gaps employers presently face.

Influence business policy, Chamber’s QES

Please take three minutes to complete the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey. Take the survey here.

Did you know that your answers to this survey in previous quarters have directly helped to influence local policy makers and support the provision of meaningful activity to support business, including:

  • UTC Leeds, a new school focusing on engineering & manufacturing, opening September 2016
  • Introduction of the Broadband voucher scheme
  • ‘We are International’, the peer to peer export support network
  • Setting up the Apprenticeship Training Agency to support SMEs in hiring apprentices
  • Research identifying skills shortages

Nationally, the QES is the largest of its kind. 150,000 businesses have the power to influence the country’s top policy and decision makers about what’s going on in their business – and so do you!

Please be assured that all the information that you provide will remain completely confidential.

The survey results are widely read by Local Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, policy makers from HM Treasury and the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

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.

If you have any questions please contact us.

(pic: last quarter’s chart for workforce changes)

Supermarket boss to address business audience at Chamber Dinner

Bradford Chamber will welcome business leaders, VIPs and guests to their Annual Dinner on Friday 20th November to be held at the Cedar Court Hotel. The audience will hear from Morrisons’ chairman, Andrew Higginson who will provide an update on the supermarket chain’s recent activities. Also speaking is Chamber President, Andy Caton.

The black-tie dinner is sponsored by main sponsor Handelsbanken together with the Business Enterprise Fund, Schofield Sweeney and Christeyns.

Andrew Higginson became Chairman of Morrisons in January 2015. He started his career at Unilever and Guinness before moving into retail in 1990. He was Group Finance Director of Laura Ashley Holdings Plc and The Burton Group plc before joining Tesco PLC in 1997. He was an Executive Director of Tesco for 15 years before retiring in 2012.

This Dinner will be Chamber President Andy Caton’s first, since taking over the reins from Paul Mackie, chairman of Rex Procter & Partners in July. Andy Caton is Corporate Development Director at Yorkshire Building Society and was Vice-President for the last two years. He will outline his ambitions for the Chamber during his presidency and provide an update on services.

Andy Caton commented: “Chamber dinners are always enjoyable occasions and provide an excellent opportunity to meet and mingle with Bradford business people. I’m looking forward to hearing our speakers and talking to as many members as possible on the night.”

Entertainment will be provided by ex-policeman, Alfie Moore. Alfie came slightly later to comedy and brings a wealth of insights and comedy moments from his eighteen years on the beat.  

Tickets are priced at £84 inc VAT per person. Details on www.wnychamber.co.uk For information on sponsorship contact Susie Cawood on susie.cawood@wnychamber.co.uk 

(pic: Andrew Higginson)


BCC: Time for a bonfire of the Westminster vanities

As the nation prepares for Bonfire Night – and the commemoration of the unsuccessful Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Palace of Westminster – the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has published a series of provocative articles challenging the cosy Westminster consensus on a range of business and economic issues. 

Entitled Bursting the Bubble: 10 ways Westminster gets it wrong on business and the economy, the leading business group’s new publication urges a “bonfire of the vanities” by detailing ten areas where the rhetoric from politicians and the chattering class doesn’t match up with the reality on the ground. The report highlights the growing gap between the perceptions of businesses and voters across the UK on the one hand, and the ‘metropolitan elite’ on the other. 

Covering debt, productivity, bank finance, education, infrastructure, inward investment, exports, the EU, energy and broadband, Bursting the Bubble challenges a range of myths that have taken hold in Westminster and Whitehall, and argues for more intelligent – and more informed – debate on the big issues facing the United Kingdom. 

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

“Thankfully, in our modern democracy, we can debate the big issues of the day without the need to resort to gunpowder plots or insurrection. 

“But the quality of debate in Westminster needs a real shake-up, and so too do some of the lazy assumptions that guide government decisions on business and the economy. That’s why we’ve set out to bust some of the myths that do the rounds amongst politicians, civil servants and the media – and urge action on the big issues still holding businesses back across the UK. 

“The myths and half-truths circulating round Westminster should be the first things we throw on the bonfire tonight.”

View articles here.

British Chambers of Commerce gains Living Wage accreditation

To coincide with Living Wage Week 2015, the British Chambers of Commerce has announced its status as a living wage employer*.

The leading business group has committed to paying all employees and third party contractors the London Living Wage rate of £9.15 an hour, which is set annually by the Living Wage Foundation and calculated by the Greater London Authority.

In his Budget speech in July 2015, the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced a compulsory National Living Wage at £7.20 an hour for over-25s from next year, which will rise to £9 an hour by 2020.

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

“We are proud to have secured accreditation for paying the London Living Wage – a voluntary wage set annually by the Living Wage Foundation and calculated by the GLA according to the cost of living.

“We applaud all those businesses that pay, or aspire to pay, their staff above the Living Wage. That includes the majority of Chamber of Commerce members, with 61% paying all staff at or above the Living Wage, and a further 20% paying most staff above the Living Wage.

“While Living Wage Week is a time for celebration, many in business will have concerns about the government’s decision to introduce big minimum wage rises branded as a ‘National Living Wage’.

“Businesses want reassurance from Government that in future they will follow an evidence based approach, in consultation with the independent Low Pay Commission, when setting wage rates. This would be better than setting an arbitrary figure, which does not account for the huge cost impacts on some firms that could put tens of thousands of jobs at risk.”