Winners announced at annual Raising the Bar Awards

Last night saw a packed house at the iconic Leeds Civic Hall for the 6th annual West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Raising the Bar Awards.

Attendees from across the business community came out to applaud the excellent work of companies in Bradford, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire over the past twelve months.

The Awards themselves were hosted by BBC Radio Leeds’ Andrew Edwards and once again supported by longtime Raising the Bar Partners the Provident Financial Group and Environment award sponsors LeedsBID.

Andrew Cooper, Chief Executive LeedsBID (Leeds Business Improvement District), said:

“We are delighted to once again have been involved with West & North Yorkshire Raising the Bar Awards.”

Winners were announced across six categories (full list below). These included the critical areas of the community, education, economy and the environment, with a new category celebrating individual contribution within an organisation.



Economy – The Broadway Shopping Centre

Education – Gordons LLP

Environment – Hungate York Regeneration

Community (Under 150 Employees) – Garbutt+ Elliott

Community (Over 150 Employees) – Arena Group

Individual – Charlene Wortley of SCP


Raising the Bar Judges Said:

“What we felt most clearly encapsulated the hard work of this year’s applicants was the numbers we saw attached to submissions. Raising the Bar 2017 applicants raised a combined £320,000 along with a collective 20,000 hours of volunteered time given up to support their chosen causes.

We saw significant first-hand examples of what the region’s businesses do beyond their regular call of duty to make Bradford, Leeds, York & North Yorkshire better places to live and work in.”

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Sandy Needham said:

“I am thrilled that Raising the Bar, now in its sixth year continues to grow and develop. The commitment by the business community to act more responsibly is something the Chamber will continue to champion and support.

This year’s winners exemplified what corporate social responsibility means, from tireless environmental commitments by Hungate York to the incredible fundraising efforts of Arena Group it’s indeed been the most impressive year to date.”

EU citizens in the UK and future status

See below a message from the Cabinet Office regarding EU citizens living and working in the UK.

The UK Government’s first priority in negotiations with the EU is to secure the status of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU. No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will have to leave at the point that we leave the EU.

If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, there is no need to do anything now, including applying for a permanent residence document. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU.

If you would like to find out the latest information you can sign up for email updates.

You can also find more information from the Home Office here.

Once an agreement has been reached with the EU on citizens rights, we will work closely with the Home Office to make sure that people know what has been agreed, and what they need to do next. We will be creating content which we will share with you to use on your channels and share with your partners, stakeholders and audiences where relevant. In the meantime, the more people who sign up to the email updates the better, so please do help get the message out, if you are able

Devolution survey results released

Results from the West & North Yorkshire and Mid Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce’s latest survey show the majority of business owners are in favour of devolution. The survey of businesses said that 76% of them either agree or strongly agree that powers, responsibilities and resources should be devolved from Whitehall. Powers for greater control over infrastructure, business support, education & skills all figured prominently. Also highlighted by businesses was the need for powers over planning & spatial strategy, and that housing policy should also be controlled at a regional level rather from Whitehall. The recently proposed central Government methodology for housing which would see targets lowered across the bulk of Yorkshire might have been reframed by a devolved administration to take greater account of economic growth ambitions for example.

Tellingly, 70% of businesses agreed that, subject to strong governance, transparency and commitment to economic success, they would support powers for a devolved administration to raise its own finance. As a Chamber network we would want to work with any future devolved administration in setting out how funds might be raised and what priorities this was seeking to address.

The really big question, which has vexed proceedings up to this point and stymied progress, is over which geography any devolution settlement might cover. 48% of businesses said they would like to see a devolution settlement which took in the largest possible Yorkshire geography with 26% favouring a county settlement and 18% favouring a settlement focused on city regions in West and North Yorkshire.

Speaking on the results, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Gerald Jennings said: “Our members have said very clearly that they support the Yorkshire brand and so we would urge politicians to move forward at pace. In acknowledging a deal is already in place for Sheffield, we would encourage Government to proceed as planned with that deal but look to work with local authorities and the business community to bring a deal forward to ensure the rest of the region is not punished for its lack of progress to date. Last week’s budget and the announcement of the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund which clearly favours those geographies with devolved powers, should be a wakeup call to our regional politicians to tell them that the train is already leaving the station and Yorkshire does not yet have a seat on it. This Chamber remains strongly supportive of devolution and stands ready to support a future administration in its objectives to grow our economy, foster innovation and improve productivity. We strongly believe that if we are given the tools we can make the difference we all want to see in Yorkshire. Brexit negotiations are rightly soaking up much political and civil service thinking and I believe that by bringing the powers, funding and decision making to our region  we can allow Whitehall to focus on getting the best possible deal with the EU. In the meantime we can channel the energy and creativity which is in abundance across Yorkshire through devolved powers to deliver an economy that works for all.”

Managing Director of Mid-Yorkshire Chamber, Martin Hathaway said: “It is important that Yorkshire makes the most of the opportunities created by devolution and politicians listen to our members. Following the Transforming Cities Fund announcement in the recent Budget, we must act quickly and not get left behind.”


For more information please contact Mark Goldstone at the Chamber.

About the results

  • The results are based on feedback from 847 companies across West & North Yorkshire
  • 59% of respondents felt very or slightly informed, 34% felt they were not very well informed and 7% did not know anything about devolution
  • 43% agreed strongly with devolution, 33% agreed, 7% disagreed and 5% strongly disagreed with the principal of devolution
  • Regional control over road infrastructure funding (68%) and business support (65%) were the policies most wanted by business

“Manufacturing is alive and kicking”: Bradford President

Manufacturing is alive and kicking, says Chamber President

Bradford’s manufacturing sector is alive and kicking – that was the key message from the city’s Chamber of Commerce last night (Thursday 24 Nov).

Chamber President Nick Garthwaite, in a keynote address at the Chamber’s annual dinner, proclaimed the sector to be in a strong position to be able to help drive the city forward, adding that many local firms are “punching above their weight.” With that in mind, said the President, the city is to host its first Manufacturing Week in 2018 – a celebration of all things great and good about the sector, both present and future.

During the speech, the Chamber President had those in the room involved in manufacturing to stand, getting several to convey a short ‘elevator pitch’ on themselves and their businesses, as examples of the positive things happening in the sector. BASF, Keighley Laboratories and Mansfield Pollard were singled out for special mentions at an event attended by many key decision-makers in and beyond the city, including Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe and some of the city’s MPs. Other notable firms still highly active in the sector, said the President, include Borg Warner, Carnaud Metalbox, Seabrook and Spooner Industries. Many others were highlighted by showing their logos on a large screen.

While other key policy areas, such as Brexit, devolution and Northern Powerhouse were all touched upon, the speech was very much a reminder of the importance of manufacturing to Bradford’s future, and that it is not a relic from the past. The President reminded the audience of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s 1967 speech about changing technologies, and called for a “new white heat of manufacturing digitisation”. This, he said, would help change young people’s perceptions of the manufacturing sector, and persuade them about the positive career options on offer.

The importance of education and skills was not forgotten about either: Nick, who runs Christeyns, an international chemicals and detergents manufacturer, announced that the Chamber’s two charities to be supported during his two-year term are both literacy support groups for the under-privileged – Beanstalk (formerly Reading Matters) and Canterbury Imagine.

The other keynote speaker was Mark Gallagher, a businessman with many years’ experience in motor car racing, especially Formula 1. After-dinner laughs were provided by comedian Funmbi Omotayo.

The event was sponsored by the Business Enterprise Fund, Christeyns, Ecology Building Society and Exa Networks.


Budget Reaction


“With confirmation that the economy looks set to slow over the coming year, the Chancellor found some wriggle room in his 2017 Budget.  More needs to be done to reduce the impact of business rates on investment and growth, but today’s announcement on pegging rises to CPI, rather than RPI, will lessen the impact on hard-pressed firms in our region. West & North Yorkshire Chamber, alongside fellow Chambers around the country, campaigned hard for a reduction in the relentless rises of this iniquitous tax, and we are pleased that the Chancellor has listened and reduced the burden.

“Commitments on road and rail infrastructure, and improving mobile phone signals on key transport corridors, is welcomed as this will support local business productivity.  Investing in mobile connectivity on the Trans-Pennine Express route will help businesses on the move.

“The Chancellor recognised the need for more housing and the surprise rabbit from the hat was the abolition of stamp duty for first-time buyers. This may ease the burden and enable more young people to get on the housing ladder, but there still needs to be a big push on developing more houses in the right locations. Otherwise, limited supply will continue to exacerbate and distort the regional market.

“Of particular note was the £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund, half of which will go automatically to those six areas with devolved powers and elected metro mayors. The other half will be made available for locations to bid into, with no guarantee of success.  Surely this must serve as a wake-up call for the region’s business and civic leaders to come together and hammer out a devolution deal to ensure future funds are distributed.

“Good news also that £400m is ear-marked for electric vehicle charging infrastructure, something we feel is vital if we are to tackle air quality issues in our towns and cities while creating a market for new technologies. We also welcome money made available for digital technology and tech scale ups. This region has a strong track record in starting and scaling up businesses especially in the digi-tech sectors and we would want to companies benefit from this fund.”

The Key Points can be found (along with the above reaction) in a separate PDF here.

Chamber welcomes TfN powers and legal footing

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce has responded to a government announcement that Transport for the North is set to get legal powers and responsibilities.

The move will make TfN the only pan-regional body and helps underpin the Northern Powerhouse project.  Aswell as being granted £260m of government funding, the new sub-regional transport body is to be allocated £18m to develop a smart ticketing programme by the end of 2018.

Chairman of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Gerald Jennings, said:

“We welcome the government announcement today (Thursday 16 Nov) that Transport for the North (TfN) is to get statutory powers and duties.  We also welcome the funding promise that accompanies this move.  The powers being given to TfN will help re-affirm that commitment, and help to drive economic growth across the North.

“TfN will bring a more strategic approach to pan-Northern infrastructure, able to identify and prioritise those investments that will bring the greatest economic benefit. More importantly, the thinking going into these strategies will be based on strong local knowledge, rather than views from Whitehall.

“TfN will provide a coherent voice in support of Northern Powerhouse ambitions. We would want and expect great weight to be given to recommendations made by TfN from the Department for Transport and the Treasury, if there is serious intent to rebalance the UK economy.”

TfN is a partnership of 19 local authorities, business leaders and 11 local enterprise partnerships.  It will develop a statutory transport strategy that will help determine the North’s objectives, which must be considered by the Transport Secretary when making national transport decisions.

Rate Rise: Chamber Reaction

Bank of England

For the first time in more than ten years the Bank of England has raised interest rates.

Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee
Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee

The official bank rate has been lifted from 0.25% to 0.5%, the first increase since July 2007.  The move reverses the cut in August of last year – made in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

The Monetary Policy Committee justified the rate increase by saying that falling unemployment means there is “limited” slack in the economy.  They believe that growth cannot accelerate much more without causing prices to rise more quickly.  Seven out of the nine members voted in favour of higher rates.

However, the MPC repeated previous guidance that future increases in rates would be at “a gradual pace and to a limited extent”.  Market observers are indicating two more interest rate increases over the next three years, taking the official rate to 1%.

The Chambers has reacted to the decision with the following comment:

“The rise was being predicted by many observers and so does not come as a shock.  However, as the first rise in 10 years, it does put a marker in the sand and we need to make note of the action.  With seven of the nine MPC members voting for the increase, that’s also quite a clear message.  Our message back to the committee would be to stress the importance of taking things steady and monitoring reactions and outcomes carefully.  While the Brexit-related constraints on investment and labour supply referred to by the committee are real, there is still plenty to be positive about within our local business community.  Our last survey results showed that confidence is still strong, with many firms looking for new markets and opportunities, and not simply waiting to see what happens with Brexit negotiations.  With the Bank of England’s latest forecasts of sluggish growth for the next few years, the government must use the upcoming Autumn Budget to boost business confidence and investment, and reduce the pressure on prices from policy decisions such as the forthcoming hike in business rates.”