Funding for IT upgrades

Grants for websites, ecommerce and IT projects

Funding is available to help businesses upgrade their IT connectivity.

The Government has launched a ‘Gigabit Voucher Scheme’, with up to £3,000 for firms in West Yorkshire Combined Authority area (which includes York).  The scheme is being delivered locally by Chamber member Exa Networks – more information, including terms and conditions and how to apply, available here.

(NOTE: Those who have received funding within the last three years are ineligible to apply.)

Bradford best for new-starts, say Barclays

Research by Barclays has revealed that Bradford is the best place in the country to start a new business.

The bank’s SME Growth Factors Index uses 12 measures to determine the best conditions for businesses to thrive, with Bradford taking first place in four of them, so coming out top overall.  The district offers the best business rate relief, value for money in commercial space rent, number of job vacancies and road infrastructure.

Barclays compared the UK’s 20 largest cities, with data collected on growth factors such as broadband speed, number of skilled workers and business survival rates.  The report underlines what the Chamber and others have been saying for a long time – that there is massive potential for business success in the district.

Nick Garthwaite, president of Bradford Commerce, said: “This is great news for Bradford and reflects the hard work of organisations across the district who provide advice and guidance to those looking to start and grow businesses in the area.  The city council also has also played an important role providing business rates relief and listening to the business voice.  Indeed, the chamber is currently working with the council on the production of the city’s ‘Inclusive Growth Strategy’ which sets out ambitious plans to create the environment for even more businesses to locate, grow and scale up.”

Caroline Pullich, head of SME for Yorkshire at Barclays Business Banking, added: “It’s really encouraging to see that so many areas offering growth potential are outside of London and the south east, particularly with Bradford ranking as the top city across the UK.  We undertook this study because we support small companies right across the country, and are keen to help more people start and grow businesses wherever opportunities exist.  We’re committed to investing in Bradford’s SMEs and entrepreneurs, evidenced through our recent ‘Invest in Bradford’ business round table events with local key business people.  Entrepreneurs do need to consider the market for their particular company but an environment that supports growth can make a real difference.”

Read more on Barclays website here.

Brexit: swift talks on trade now urged

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has joined with national Chamber organisations from six countries bordering the North Sea, calling on the UK and the EU to swiftly move to talks on transition and the future trade relationship now that progress in the first phase of negotiations has been made.

The landmark statement, from Chambers of Commerce representing businesses in seven countries that accounts for 70% of EU-UK trade in both directions, calls on both sides to provide clarity on what the future relationship will look like as soon as possible, and to strive for a trade-friendly agreement with a realistic transition period.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Last week’s breakthrough in the negotiations was a welcome relief for business communities. Trade thrives between the UK and Europe, and all sides benefit from reaching a business-friendly deal. It’s clear that companies in the UK and in Europe all want talks to move forward to the future trade relationship without delay. There is a real clamour for the negotiations to start on the practical issues that will affect firms, from regulation and customs, to tariffs and taxes.

“Businesses trading between UK and Europe have done their best to focus on the potential impact of Brexit on their operations, rather than on the day-to-day political noise. However, businesses both in the UK and around the world want clarity on the key political issues, and it is up to the negotiators to provide that clarity.”

The statement reads:

The British Chambers of Commerce, Chambers Ireland, the Danish Chamber of Commerce, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Belgian Chambers of Commerce represented by Voka- Flanders Chamber of Commerce and BECI -Brussels Chamber of Commerce, call on the United Kingdom and the European Union to keep on striving for sufficient progress in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations to ensure talks on transition and the future EU-UK trade relationship can start as soon as possible.

  • This is a joint statement by Chambers of Commerce of seven countries, altogether accounting for 70% of EU-UK trade in both directions
  • We need clarity on what the future relationship will look like as soon as possible and call on negotiators to strive for a trade-friendly agreement
  • A realistic transition period, maintaining the status quo until the new agreement is implemented, is highly desirable
  • No deal is extremely undesirable for all sides

Countries from the northern European coastal area have always maintained exceptionally good trade ties. Trade between the United Kingdom and the other 6 EU countries in this area amounted to 344bn EUR in 2016, accounting for 70% of the total EU-UK trade. The English Channel, located in the middle of the North Sea area, is the world’s busiest shipping lane, with more than 500 vessels passing through the strait on a daily basis, as well as being a key transport link between the EU and Ireland.

Many companies are embedded in supply chains spread over several northern European countries that depend highly on tight ‘just in time’ management cycles, which can be severely disrupted by even the slightest unforeseen regulatory changes. All these companies that engage both directly and indirectly in EU-UK trade and EU-EU via the UK trade, most notably in the case of Ireland, need to start taking the necessary actions to prepare for new EU-UK trading arrangements as soon as possible.

However, most of the big issues that are of concern for our businesses have not yet even been touched on by the EU and UK negotiators. Issues like future customs procedures, the extent of regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU and the mutual recognition of standards- and safety checking agencies are just a few critical areas in which companies need clarity.

We therefore call on EU and UK negotiators to create clarity on the outlines of a future trade friendly EU-UK relationship in the following months. As it is in the interest of the EU and the UK to have a united and open Europe, the new relationship should fully respect all aspects of the integrity of the Single Market.

Given the monumental changes Brexit will bring, a realistic transition period is needed to provide time for companies to adapt to the new EU-UK trading relationship. A status-quo like transition period – announced with sufficient notice – ensuring the UK remains in the customs union and the Single Market for the duration of the transition period, with all the appropriate rights and obligations, would be best to provide business with the highest possible degree of certainty and predictability.

We are increasingly concerned about continued rhetoric on a no-deal scenario. A ‘no deal’ scenario would be extremely undesirable for business as this would mean they will be faced with higher tariffs, more burdensome customs procedures and longer delays than under a negotiated separation.

We therefore urge both the British negotiator David Davis and the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier to start discussing the outlines of a future EU-UK trade friendly relationship as soon as possible now that sufficient progress has been made in the first phase of the Brexit negotiations.

 

Ends

Notes to editors:

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) sits at the heart of a powerful network of 52 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. Our Global Business Network connects exporters with nearly 40 markets around the world. For more information, visit: www.britishchambers.org.uk

Tender out on NPR study

Companies are being invited to bid to carry out a study on the additional demand that a Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) station in Bradford would generate.

West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) is inviting potential suppliers to bid for the £40-50,000 contract.  Bids need to be submitted by 15 December.

Earlier this year, the Chamber joined the ‘Next Stop Bradford’ campaign to press the case for the planned new Northern Powerhouse Rail line across the Pennines to include a stop in Bradford city centre.

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “This work with WYCA will help us evidence the huge boost that we’d achieve with an NPR station so we can make the best case possible to Transport for North and the government.”

The plans for a new Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) network, which will go out for public consultation in early 2018, were put to the board at Transport for the North, which has been commissioned by the Government to draw up the scheme.

A previous WYCA-commissioned report, carried out by global consultancy firm Arup, found there is a “compelling case” for a high-speed rail station to be built in Bradford.

Interested parties are advised to contact WYCA direct or check out the usual procurement procedures.

Currency volatility adding pressures

A new Chamber of Commerce survey reveals that a majority of businesses expect the fall in sterling to increase their costs.

The British Chambers of Commerce survey, which included members from West & North Yorkshire Chamber, found that 63% expect costs to increase in the next 12 months as a result of the sterling devaluation.  This includes a quarter (24%) who expect costs to rise significantly. In comparison, only 6% expect costs to decrease.  Almost three-quarters of manufacturers (73%) and business-to-consumer firms (71%) anticipate costs increases, compared to 55% of business-to-business firms.

The Chamber says that many businesses trading abroad are leaving themselves exposed to currency fluctuations, with nearly half (46%) of the survey respondents not taking pro-active steps to manage currency risk. Smaller firms are less likely to be managing risk (44% with under-10 staff, 70% with 50-249). Manufacturers have the highest proportion managing currency risk (76%), compared to B-2-C (57%) and B-2-B (39%).

The survey highlights the extent to which the depreciation in sterling is expected to compound the price pressures on firms, underlining the need to ease the domestic cost of doing business. There is also a clear need for more support and information for exporting businesses on the importance of managing currency risk.

Mark Goldstone, Head of Policy at West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“While businesses await answers on Brexit, and a return to a stronger currency, they must take steps to prepare for risk. For those trading internationally, it makes sense to explore the options to insure against currency fluctuations.  Companies are feeling price pressures from sterling’s depreciation. Following on from the steps taken in the Budget to act on business rates, further actions are needed on the upfront cost of doing business, so that firms can alleviate currency pressures.  Weak sterling reflects the current climate of political uncertainty and lack of clarity on the Brexit process. A clear strategy from government about the nature of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU would go a long way to reassure and stabilise markets.”

Other key findings include:

  • The most common forms of managing currency risk are invoicing in sterling (27%), opening foreign currency accounts (15%), and waiting for an advantageous rate and buying using the spot market (15%)
  • Less than a quarter (24%) of businesses say they have a complete understanding of the types of international payment methods available, with 23% saying somewhat and 13% none at all
  • The biggest challenges businesses face in making or receiving international payments are delays (21%), bad or misleading exchange rates (16%) and hidden fees (16%)

Notes to editors:

  1. In September and October 2017, the BCC surveyed 1,300 business people from all UK regions to understand how the devaluation of sterling is impacting on businesses, and whether they are taking action to mitigate currency risk.
  2. The BCC sits at the heart of a powerful network of 52 Accredited Chambers of Commerce across the UK, representing thousands of businesses of all sizes and within all sectors. Our Global Business Network connects exporters with nearly 40 markets around the world. For more information, visit: britishchambers.org.uk
  3. For more about West & North Yorkshire Chamber of commerce, visit http://www.wnychamber.co.uk/

What our MPs are doing for business in Bradford

What more would you like to see our MPs do for businesses in Bradford?

Three of the District’s MPs will spell out their hopes and aspirations and field questions from members at an upcoming Chamber event.

Philip Davies, John Grogan and Naz Shah will be at a business lunch at the Midland Hotel on Friday 12 January.  What issues should they be raising in Parliament?  What are the key concerns for Shipley, Keighley and Bradford West (which includes the city centre)?

  • Are they doing their utmost to back the Northern Powerhouse Rail campaign?
  • Can more be done to support devolution for West & North Yorkshire?
  • Is it all about Brexit, the reduced labour pool, and future tariff arrangements?

The last time Philip spoke at a Chamber event, he got a tough time due to his opposition to the land allocation plan being approved.  However, he never took a backward step and defended his corner vigorously.  John Grogan fought a similarly strong line at our EU Referendum debate in 2016.  This is the first time that Naz will be speaking to members.

Book your place now at what is sure to be another interesting event – call 01274 206660 or email events@wnychamber.co.uk

When: 12-2.15pm, Friday 12 January 2018

Where: Midland Hotel, Bradford

Cost: £30 members; £42 non-members