Latest economic survey underway

The Chamber’s latest economic survey is underway now.  The findings we get from this work help us portray an accurate picture of recent and projected business performance, and support our lobbying and representation activities.

Therefore, it is important to us that businesses take a few minutes to complete the survey, so that we can act swiftly and accurately on their behalf.

Results are fed back via this website, on social media and in the wider Press. (It takes less than five minutes to complete the survey, which is open to Wed 16 September.)

Please take the survey here now – it is much appreciated.

Any questions/issues, call us on 01274 230057.

Survey: Employment costs damage prospects

Three-quarters of businesses have seen their costs increase this year through changes in employment legislation, according to a new survey.

West & North Yorkshire Chamber contributes to the annual workforce survey of the British Chambers of Commerce.  Findings reveal that pensions auto-enrolment, the National Living Wage (NLW) and the Apprenticeship Levy have increased the cost base of businesses, and could lead to reduced opportunities for investment and wage growth.

The rise in NLW this year increased employment costs for 50% of UK firms. In the North, that figure rises to 55%, whereas in the South it is 43%.

For the UK to remain an attractive and competitive environment going forward, action is needed to prevent unsustainable rises to the cost of doing business. Chambers are asking for no new upfront costs or taxes – which sap investment, growth and recruitment potential – to be imposed on business for the rest of this parliament.

Survey findings include

  • Three quarters (75%) of respondents report an increase in costs as a result of pensions auto-enrolment, with nearly a quarter (23%) indicating a significant increase
  • A fifth (20%) of businesses have seen costs increase from the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, and 8% from the Immigration Skills Charge
  • Based on the forecast that the National Living Wage will increase to £8.75 per hour by 2020, 38% of respondents said in response that they would raise prices of products and services, with a further 25% expecting to reduce pay growth
  • Consumer-facing industries were particularly affected by the rise in the NLW, with 73% of B2C sector firms – including wholesale, retail, accommodation and foods sectors – seeing an increase in costs. In comparison, 56% of manufacturers and 41% of B2B services report higher costs
  • 25% of businesses say they would respond to future planned increases to NLW by reducing pay growth for staff, 21% by reducing staff benefits and 20% by scaling back recruitment

An info-graphic of the results is available here.

Stephen Wright, Chairman of West & North Yorkshire Chamber, said:

“Many employers in Yorkshire are facing serious skills shortages. It is important that they have the resources and flexibility to invest in their workforce and the future needs of the business.  Employment is one element of the high upfront cost of doing business.  The cumulative impact of the changes, and the pace of their introduction, is a cause for concern and a challenge for many firms.  There is little scope for firms to absorb further costs without damaging their competitiveness and growth prospects. The government must ensure that there are no upfront further costs or taxes on businesses and entrepreneurs for the remainder of this parliament.”

Jane Gratton, Head of Business Environment & Skills at BCC, said:

“Businesses are under increasing pressure from the burden of employment costs, and this will influence the choices they make and outcomes for employees. Higher employment costs impact on the bottom line and reduce the resources available to invest in the business and its people.

“Our survey shows that two thirds of businesses will need to take action in response to proposed increases in the National Living Wage over the next three years.  Firms are most likely to respond by raising prices or adjusting employee pay growth and wider benefits.  Increasingly, manufacturers are looking towards greater use of technology and automation. There comes a point at which rising employment costs can no longer be absorbed through reduced profits.”

Hollywood stars in Bradford-based film

A new film made largely in Bradford, featuring international stars, will debut at a top festival next month.

Lies We Tell, starring Gabriel Byrne and Harvey Keitel, is to be screened at London’s Raindance Festival in September.

Bradford, a UNESCO City of Film since 2009 – and the very first one, to boot! – is seeing more and more film and TV production companies seeking out destinations in the city in which to use as settings.  Recent examples include Peaky Blinders, Gunpowder, Gold, and Funny Cow.

The film goes on general release in 2018, with an expected screening in Bradford.

Read more on this in the T&A here.

Plans for former mill brought forward

Conditioning House

Plans to redevelop one of Bradford’s most iconic buildings has taken another step forward.

Conditioning House, which stands on land between Canal Road and Forster Square Retail Park, was bought by developer, the Priestley Group, a year ago, and proposals have been submitted to Bradford Council for a residential conversion.

The former textile mill has been derelict for nigh-on 30 years.  It is Grade 2 listed, and was built in 1902.  Priestley want to create 130 one and two-bed apartments, which would be complemented with offices, a gym and cafe. The scheme is expected to take about 18 months and will cost about £8.5 million.

The site has had several owners since it became empty in the 1980s, the last being Caddick Developments.  Priestley hope to secure planning approval by December. The company has a joint venture partner for the development, Singapore-based Muniment, which provides financial investment.

Read more on the T&A website here.

New faces for Chamber Board

New blood for Chamber Board

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has some new blood on its Board.

The group that represents and supports businesses in Bradford, Leeds, York & North Yorkshire has gained two new directors.  Andrew Digwood of Rollitts solicitors and Suzanne Watson of Approach PR were both elected by members and took up their posts in July.  Ed Everard of Saville Audio Visual has stood down.Andrew Digwood

Andrew has worked in dispute resolution since 2004, acting for a range of clients including corporates, charities and educational institutions. His work includes tenancy litigation, copyright and design infringement, and professional negligence matters.  He has been a partner with the firm since 2012.  Andrew is a trustee of Leeds University Union and away from work his interests include motorsport, reading military history and cricket.

Suzanne joins the Board by virtue of becoming Vice-President of Bradford Chamber.  The Ilkley-based business woman has run Approach PR since its creation in 2001.  Specialising in advising clients on strategy, objectives and delivering powerful social and traditional media content, Suzanne has more than two decades of expertise in business-to-business and business-to-consumer sectors, representing brands including GlaxoSmithKline, Northern Foods, Acorn Stairlifts and Delifrance.

Suzanne WatsonStephen Wright, Chairman of the Chamber Board and Managing Director of Thorite, said of the appointments:

“While we are sad to lose Ed, we are pleased to recruit people of the quality of both Andrew and Suzanne.  They are both keenly dedicated and successful business people with knowledge and experience in abundance.  These appointments can only strengthen what is already a first-class Board of Directors, to help steer and guide the Chamber as it continues to deliver quality services that connect, support and represent businesses in our patch and beyond.”

The role of the Board of Directors is to advise, challenge and ensure the business of the Chamber is run in a sustainable way for the long-term benefit of members, and act as ambassadors for West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.