Leeds Dinner: President sets out hopes and fears

Leeds Chamber’s first female president spoke about her plans, hopes and fears to a business audience last night (Thursday 25 January).

Paula Dillon, a partner with law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, covered a range of policy areas in which she will be hoping to have some influence over the next couple of years, while also remarking that, tongue-in-cheek, if nothing else, she would be judged “the best female president for Leeds so far!”

While Paula noted that there are now many more women in leadership roles than there were even ten years ago, she has always stressed that any change should be based on merit; she also highlighted that the STEM professions (science, technology, engineering and maths) suffer from a lack of visible female role models, and that this needs addressing.  The president acknowledged that the lobbying and representation role will be dictated by what members want, while saying that she wanted to continue fostering closer links with education.  Paula also acknowledged concerns about the drop in apprenticeship take-up since the levy’s introduction, while explaining that parents are being won over when receiving relevant information.

In a spirit of inclusiveness and collaboration, Paula also covered a number of other areas:  on transport, she stressed Leeds’ support for Bradford’s campaign to bring the Northern Powerhouse Rail line through the city, and also the need to work with the airport and improve local infrastructure that would help economic growth.  Back on home soil, Paula wants to see the city deliver its own festival of culture, in light of the EU banning a British city holding the position post-Brexit.

Guest speaker Alex Salmond was able to shine light on how Scotland handles its devolved powers – something our region is still struggling to secure, but not through lack of effort on the Chamber’s part.  The business organisation wrote to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry last year on the risks to the region caused by no devolution deal.  Other areas covered by Mr Salmond included the differences between Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, and the conundrum of his party wanting independence while staying within the EU.

The event was held at Royal Armouries, Leeds, on Thursday 25 January 2018.

NOTE: Photos to follow.

MPs urged to work together for greater good

Bradford’s MPs were recently urged to work closer together for the betterment of the District.

A Chamber of Commerce lunch in the city recently heard from three of the city’s five MPs, and faced some tough questions on what they are doing to represent the city.

John Grogan (Keighley), Philip Davies (Shipley) and Naz Shah (Bradford West) heard from a business audience about the things concerning them, and what they feel are the priorities that the Parliamentarians should be focusing on.

While the MPs highlighted devolution and Northern Powerhouse as key areas to drive forward further economic success for Bradford, they were pressed on the need to work collaboratively, and to not let party politics disrupt local aspirations.

While John Grogan and Philip Davies have both spoke at previous events run by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, it was the first time for Naz Shah. All three were keen to take as many questions as possible, and only constituency surgeries later in the afternoon prevented John and Philip from meeting more business informally after the proceedings had closed. Naz stayed on to speak to guests.

Topics raised from the floor included: maintaining Bradford’s good business start-up rate; securing better transport connectivity and high-speed rail; securing jobs and investment to Keighley if the Marley waste-to-energy incinerator scheme fails; obtaining more tangible gains from the Producer City concept; and the inevitable questions surrounding Brexit and international trade.

Bradford Chamber President Nick Garthwaite, who chaired the event, said afterwards: “It was a lively, interesting and successful lunch event. They always are, and so well-worth coming along to. The MPs showed that they are keen to listen to the concerns of local businesses, while our members have always got plenty of questions for them, too. We appreciate that the House of Commons can be an un-naturally divisive place, especially in the Chamber, where opposing views come to the fore. So it’s good to know that MPs from different parties can, when required, work together for the local area.”

A recent example of the MPs working together is the campaign to bring a medical school to the city. This initiative would help train local GPs and address the current shortage. West Yorkshire currently has only one place where students can train to become doctors, and that’s Leeds.

A separate meeting between Chamber of Commerce members and government officials involved in Brexit is to take place in Leeds later this month. This is the latest in a series of Brexit-based meetings to help secure a good and relevant deal for Britain, and to ensure the concerns of business are being monitored.

The next Chamber MPs’ Lunch is in Leeds on 9 February, when Hilary Benn is expected to cover the latest on Brexit (he chairs the Committee on Exiting the EU) aswell as other current policy topics. Call 0113 247 0000/01274 206660 for more details or visit http://members.wnychamber.co.uk/WNY_Members/Events/WNY_Members/Events/Events_List.aspx?DisplayAreaOptions=No&hkey=e2a41341-e1bf-45f7-94c3-fc2c872d4044

(The event was held on Friday 12 January – before Transport for the North’s announcement to include Bradford on a new rail line as part of its plans.  Left-Right in the above photo are John Grogan, Naz Shah, Philip Davies, Suzanne Watson and Nick Garthwaite.)

Transport plan includes delivering on NPR

Plans for future transport investment in West & North Yorkshire have been outlined in a 30-year year plan to drive economic growth.

Transport for the North launched the plan via a public consultation announcement aimed at improving connections across the North of England and closing the economic gap with the South. If successful, the plan could deliver a £100 billion boost to the economy and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.  Seven ‘corridors of opportunity’ are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims.

The ‘Central Pennines’ corridor will improve east-west connectivity for some of the North’s important economic centres and assets in North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Riding and Hull and Humber through to Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Liverpool City Region. A complete list of improvements needed, according to TfN, has not yet been published but priorities for this corridor include making Leeds station HS2-ready and delivering on Northern Powerhouse Rail services. Delivering a rail-route across the central Pennines to prioritise freight, and improving the M65/A59 road corridor are also up there.

Northern Powerhouse Rail would see a new line connect Leeds with Manchester via Bradford, plus faster connections to Sheffield and Hull. An additional 344,000 businesses will then be able to connect with Leeds within 90 minutes and it is estimated that the impact of agglomeration between Leeds and Manchester alone would deliver an additional £60 million a year into the economy.  The Chamber has taken a particularly strong role in the campaign to bring a new high-speed rail line through Bradford.

The investment priorities are backed up by research that links the North’s prime capabilities in advanced manufacturing, digital, energy and health innovation. The cost of the 30-year plan is estimated to equate to less than £150 per northern citizen per year, or £2-2.3 billion per year.

This figure also includes spending which would already be expected as part of ongoing strategic transport investment in the North, with only £50 per person per year (£700-900 million per year) additional spending. Regional spend figures issued by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority for the four years from 2017 calculated that projected Government spend on strategic transport will be £1,039 per head for the three Northern regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber).

The consultation on the Strategic Transport Plan runs to 17 April with engagement events taking place in Leeds (5 March), Wakefield (2 March) and Bradford (21 February). A final version will be published later in the year.

Find out more by visiting www.transportforthenorth.com.


Practical help improving business-education links

Lobbying and campaigning

A booklet has been produced to help businesses and young people in Bradford come closer together and understand each others’ needs in relation to work.

As well as championing how and why the nurturing of better business-education links is important, the booklet also gives plenty of examples of activities and programmes by which this can happen.

The booklet (known as the Prospectus of the Education Covenant) highlights ways of bridging the gap between school and building a career.  With many businesses saying that job candidates and interviewees are un-ready for work or simply unsuitable, attempts to address this problem are long over-due (though acknowledged, hence the production of this Prospectus).

The Prospectus provides information on:

  • who a particular programme will benefit (pupil, parent, teacher, for example)
  • what core knowledge/skills will be developed
  • what stage of the learner journey is supported (e.g. career awareness, exploration or preparation)
  • what sector is involved
  • how a programme is delivered, and other details.

The Prospectus, produced by Bradford Council, can be found online here, or if you wish to speak to someone from Bradford Council about it, call 01274 439554 or email here.

Forster Square plans get public thumbs-up

A public consultation on the future of Forster Square station has resulted in an 85% approval rate for the new look.

The current building will be replaced, as will the lift and staircase as part of a £17 million redevelopment scheme. The short public consultation in December resulted in 340 online and 400 paper responses.

A process to procure services will begin within weeks/months, and the aim is to complete the project by Spring/Summer 2021.

The scheme is being financed by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s transport fund.

Read more about this item on the Telegraph & Argus website here.

Local Plan Allocation Process to be discussed

The next meeting of Bradford Development & Transport Forum will take place at 2pm on Thursday 1 February.

The Forum is described by the Council as “the premier portal for planning agents, developers and transportation professionals to:

  • learn about changes to services we offer plus new services
  • understand how Bradford is responding to changing legislation
  • developing its land use and transport strategies for the future.

The meeting will take place in City Hall, and the agenda includes the Local Plan Allocation Process and Brownfield Register.

Contact the Council direct for more information on 01274 432894 .

Trade with Europe to remain strong, says survey

The British Chambers of Commerce has said that any future UK-EU trade deal must minimise barriers to trade.

Survey results, carried out in partnership with DHL, show that UK businesses regard Europe as their primary trading partner for the foreseeable future.

The results found that over the next three years, the top two markets which most businesses plan to start or continue exporting to are Western Europe (44%), and Central and Eastern Europe (32%). Western Europe (36%) is also the market which most firms plan to import from.

Survey respondents foresee the most significant barriers to trading with foreign markets as tariffs (46%), customs procedures (39%) and local regulations (20%). The results also show exporters’ strategies over the next three years will primarily be influenced by increased demand from overseas buyers (48%), exchange rates (36%) and the UK’s future withdrawal from the EU (35%).

Businesses looking to import say they will primarily be influenced by the lack of suppliers in the UK (43%), followed by exchange rates (41%), and it being cheaper to import than source in the UK or produce within their business (33%).

The survey results underline the importance of the UK and EU reaching a business-friendly trade agreement that minimises costs and trade barriers. Europe will not only remain an important market for UK businesses to sell to, but with minimal evidence that UK businesses can substitute domestic inputs for imports in the short term, access to the European market will be crucial for firms to source components.

Dr Adam Marshall, Director General at BCC, said:

“Europe is the UK’s largest trading partner, so it will come as no surprise that businesses regard access to European markets and products as fundamental to their medium-term trading strategies. Now that negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship are set to begin, businesses need clarity on the practicalities of the future trading relationship between the UK and EU without delay.

“High tariffs, cumbersome customs procedures, as well as conflicting regulatory requirements can deter firms from trading overseas – so a future agreement between the UK and the EU must minimise barriers and costs, to allow firms on both sides of the Channel to continue trading as freely as possible.

“The devaluation in sterling seen over the past 18 months has been a double-edged sword, providing a welcome boost for some exporters, but a drag on many other firms, who report higher costs for their inputs and components. While UK firms would like to be able to source inputs on the domestic market, our evidence suggests that swapping imports for domestic supplies isn’t presently an option for many. If businesses can’t find or afford to source their supplies domestically, easy and quick access to foreign markets is crucial. Both the UK government and EU Commission must work together in the new year to move towards a friction-less trade deal that works for both British and European businesses.”