Businesses express mixed views on rate reform

Cash flow forecasting

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce recently asked members for their views about the Government’s planned reforms of business rates. (We are grateful for their input – it is very much valued and appreciated.)  Below is a summary of the main points made by respondents, some of whom expect to benefit, while others fear a negative effect.

  • Many businesses in the Leeds City Region (LCR) have not seen an increase in their business rates and, depending on their location, may see a reduction
  • Concern was expressed about the potential negative impact of any increases on high street retailers, especially when there is a major shift towards online shopping with associated warehouses located out of city/town centres with lower business rates
  • The increase in the relief threshold for SMEs is welcome but some said it should be even higher
  • There is concern that the increase in business rates (no matter how small) is yet another cost burden and comes quickly after the introduction of new pension arrangements and also increases in minimum wage levels
  • Concerns over the complex nature and lack of clarity in the ratings process
  • There is a general lack of understanding/awareness about how the rateable value is determined, where the collected money goes, and how it spent
  • The reforms now mean that it could be more than two years before a ratings appeal goes before a tribunal, during which time the business has to pay the higher rate
  • A fee has been introduced for taking an appeal to tribunal and although small could be a barrier to SMEs
  • A number of respondents called for the whole system to be reviewed
  • Rates in London and the South-East seem likely to increase the most.

Further information and advice about business rates from the Valuation Office Agency can be found at

Full speed ahead as HS2 gets Royal Assent

Article thanks to

HS2 Bill gains Royal Assent paving way for new rail line that will increase capacity on our railways, connect the biggest cities, generating jobs and economic growth.

HS2 took a major step forward  (23 February 2017) as Britain’s new railway successfully completed over 3 years of Parliamentary scrutiny to receive Royal Assent.

Construction will now begin on schedule in the spring. Today also sees the launch of schemes totalling £70 million for communities along the route between Birmingham and London.

Full article can be found here.

Chamber trade report boost ahead of Brexit move

The British Chambers of Commerce has published its latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook. The report shows that confidence among exporters that their turnover will improve jumped in Q4 2016, ahead of further moves towards Brexit.

Although the number of businesses reporting that their export sales and orders would improve remained largely constant in the last quarter of 2016, businesses in both manufacturing and services are increasingly confident that they will continue to improve turnover, and that profitability will increase or remain steady in the coming 12 months.

The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, fell by 1.42% on the quarter – but remains nearly 5% up on the last quarter of 2015.

The results serve as a reminder that businesses are continuing to trade in spite of the uncertainty around Brexit. But to maintain this positivity, the government must focus on the fundamentals of the economy – helping exporters recruit to close a growing skills gap, and provide support for those seeking to navigate currency fluctuations.

Key findings from the report:

  • The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, a measure of the volume of trade documentation issued nationally, fell by 1.42% on the quarter. The Index now stands at 119.96 – and is up 4.81% on Q4 2015
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export sales fell slightly to +16, down one point from the previous quarter. Looking at services, the balance of firms reporting improved export sales remained constant at +8
  • The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders rose to +13 from +12 in Q3, while in services this rose one point to +6
  • Looking at expectations of turnover over the next 12 months, the balance of manufacturers confident of an increase rose nine points to +43 – in services this rose seven points to +35
  • Confidence that profitability would improve rose to +21 for services companies – up from the four-year low of +15 seen in Q3 2016. The balance of manufacturers remained constant at +22

Commenting on the findings, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General, said:

 “Many exporters remain confident, in spite of uncertainty over our relationship with the EU. Our findings serve as a reminder that it is businesses that trade with other businesses, not governments – but they need support if they are to continue to be positive.

“Our economic forecast suggests that inflation is going to rise above the 2% target this year, which will create pressure on many firms. In addition, the fluctuating currency markets are affecting our exporters and importers – so there are warning signs on the horizon.

“The government cannot give businesses much certainty around either Brexit or currency markets, but it can act closer to home. The Chancellor’s Budget must focus on cutting the up-front costs that government imposes on every business, and promote investment and exports.”

Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said:

“UK exporters continue to be undeterred in their ambition to take their products and services overseas, despite turbulent economic times.

“Whilst this confidence might come as a surprise during these uncertain times, the rapid evolution of e-commerce and technology means that more businesses than ever are realising the opportunity that exporting presents.

“With online technology in overseas markets advancing, UK exporters should remain confident that their products are now more accessible than ever.”

Heathrow Airport expansion consultation

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has published proposals for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. A national consultation (  will take place on the proposals.

Late last year Chris Grayling confirmed that the government’s preferred scheme for adding new runway capacity in the south-east is through a new north-west runway at Heathrow Airport. In line with the recommendation made by the independent Airports Commission , and that the policy for this would be brought forward by way of a draft national policy statement (NPS) which would be subject to public consultation. The Government’s draft NPS, Airports National Policy Statement: new runway capacity at airports on the south west of England lays down the planning policy framework which the applicant for a new north-west runway would have to comply with in order to get development consent. It also sets out the need for additional runway capacity in the south-east and the reasons why a north-west runway at Heathrow is the government’s preferred scheme.

The draft NPS is now open to an extensive public consultation which closes on the 25th May 2017. Although the NPS will apply to England only, given the national significance of a north-west runway at Heathrow, the government is consulting across the UK. During the consultation, there will be a series of local information events. In addition there will be events taking place across the UK, including one in Leeds scheduled for the 24th of March, for business, industry and other interested parties. At the same time, and as required by the Planning Act 2008, a period of Parliamentary scrutiny will begin for the draft NPS, ending in 2017. Following consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny, a final airports NPS is expected to be laid before Parliament for debate and vote in winter 2017-18.

UK labour market in good health

Commenting on the labour market statistics for February 2017, released today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Overall, with employment levels rising and unemployment still falling, the latest figures confirm that the UK jobs market is in good health.

“It remains likely that even if economic conditions become more subdued over the near-term, the underlying resilience of the UK’s jobs market will help ensure that we don’t see a marked deterioration in recruitment.  Our own survey data suggests that hiring expectations have improved, although firms continue to report considerable difficulties in recruiting the right staff.

“With pay growth slowing slightly, the differential between price increases and wage growth continues to close. If this trend persists earnings in real terms could be squeezed, stifling consumer spending, which is an important determinant of UK growth.

“A key priority for the upcoming Budget must be to support firms looking to recruit and grow their business. This includes tackling the high up-front taxes and costs of doing business in the UK, which weigh heavily on companies regardless of their stage in the economic cycle, performance or ability to pay.”

HS2 Consultation information event

A HS2 information event is being held at the MET Hotel, King Street, Leeds on the 22nd of February between 12.00 – 20.00. There is no charge to attend.

On 15 November the Government announced the preferred route for the proposed High Speed Two (HS2) railway from Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds – known as Phase 2b.

As part of this announcement, the Government launched two consultations on:

  • seven substantial changes being proposed to the route; and
  • the property compensation and assistance schemes being proposed for people affected by the plans.

we are holding events along the whole Phase 2b route to support the consultations. We hope you will take this opportunity to talk to the project team about the proposed property schemes and the changes to the Phase 2b route from Crewe to Manchester and West Midlands to Leeds.


BCC – Dash for housing must not sacrifice business land

Commenting ahead of the release of the housing white paper by the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Business communities around England want to see housebuilding on the rise – as it supports construction and property businesses locally, and increases confidence across the board. The government’s renewed commitment to raising our poor record on housebuilding is to be welcomed. So too is a drive to build homes for rent, as well as homes for sale, as they represent an important mix in many areas where businesses are seeking staff.

“Yet a dash for housing that leaves no room in our towns and cities for offices, depots, laboratories, workshops and factories would be a huge mistake. Ministers must ensure there are enough well-connected sites for commerce and industry across England, where far too much prime business land has been sacrificed to housing development in recent years. Building homes without leaving room for workplaces would be a mistake that takes a generation to correct.”

Bradford staff commute info needed

For Bradford-based businesses only.

In order to help secure a trans-Pennine high-speed rail line (i.e. Northern Powerhouse Rail) that comes through and stops in Bradford, we are gathering information about your staff’s daily commute.  This is a short poll but we appreciate that it takes time, so apologies if this pre-amble gets straight to the point!

We’d like to know how many staff commute to your Bradford site from west of the city OUTSIDE the city boundary (e.g. Brighouse, Halifax, Skipton, etc).  The information will support the Chamber’s work to get the best possible deal for Bradford businesses.

Thanks in anticipation of your response.  Please complete this poll by Friday 24 February.  Thank you.

Click here to complete the poll.

Industrial Strategy: A Message from British Chambers of Comerce


INDUSTRIAL STRATEGY – A Message from Adam Marshall of British Chambers of Commerce

The launch of the government’s industrial strategy green paper was an important win for Chamber business communities on three fronts.IndustStrat10Pillars

  1. The development of a long-term approach to supporting industrial growth.
  2. Following intensive discussion with ministers and officials, a strong focus on place and a recognition that such strategies need to be sensitive to geography and the comparative advantages it conveys.
  3. Business Secretary Greg Clark’s important commitment to building the strategy deliberately and with business – rather than in a Whitehall bunker. 

The Chamber Network now has an important opportunity to influence a ‘blueprint document’ that could direct business success for years to come. BCC will shortly be communicating with all accredited Chambers an approach that will allow us to develop a powerful and influential place-based submission to the consultation – reflecting the needs of business communities in every part of the UK. By aggregating the priorities of our places into a single document, and by getting ministers and senior officials out to see Chamber business communities over the coming months, we will ensure that real consideration is given to the success of business in every part of the UK. 

The consultation runs to 17 April.