Chamber ‘Raises the Bar’ to encourage social responsibility across Yorkshire

West and North Yorkshire Chamber is encouraging more businesses to ‘act responsibly’ in the areas of education, employment, environment and the community.

Retaining its annual Raising the Bar awards event, which celebrates businesses who are active in their local communities, the Chamber has gathered opportunities from charities and communities and “how to” case studies to unlock the potential of businesses in Bradford, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire by sharing experiences learning from what has worked well from award winners and others.

Chief Executive Sandy Needham said: “Raising the Bar has historically celebrated social responsibility success stories. Now we want to help more local businesses give back, by connecting with and learning from others who have already made a start.”

She added: “For those wanting to start or review their social impact activity, a steering group has pulled together the success stories of businesses of a variety of sizes who’ve shared their top tips. And that’s exactly where the Raising the Bar website can help with advice, information and support on colleague volunteering, fundraising and working with the community.”

In 2017, entrants to the Raising the Bar business awards recorded almost 20,000 hours of ‘giving back’ to their local communities with Leeds-based document management specialists the Arena Group securing the community category award.

Head of Software Development and Delivery Graham Harris said: “The Raising the Bar judges made special mention of our 25th anniversary year of fundraising when we picked up our community award. They recognised the huge effort of our 220 employees who collectively raised over £32,000 for local hospices and commended our success in involving everyone across the business.

“The effort we put in every year to our CSR activities benefits our communities and the charities we work with including sponsorship of local Run for All events which enable young people to participate in healthy activity regardless of background. Involvement in CSR also pays huge dividends in terms of employee engagement by enhancing our culture and making Arena great people to do business with. We’d definitely encourage others to put people and the community at the heart of their business and to get involved in Raising the Bar 2018 – receiving this great accolade has been a true source of pride to our employees.”

Sandy added: “Good social responsibility isn’t all about raising money – there is real value in transferring knowledge and skills through the gift of your time. Through Raising the Bar we want to unlock the social responsibility potential of local businesses and get them connecting, talking and learning from each other to help more firms take the steps that make a real difference in their communities.”

More information about the West and North Yorkshire Chamber’s inspiring case studies and top tips can be found at www.raising-the-bar.org.uk or by emailing info@raising-the-bar.org.uk or calling 08455 240 240.

Property Forum debates land shortage issues

Bradford Chamber of Commerce and Bradford Council are to work closer together on finding solutions to the issue of land shortages in the District.

The Chamber recently produced a report on the shortage of development sites for commercial use and how this could impinge on the District’s new economic strategy.  The two issues were discussed recently at Bradford Property Forum, a networking/lobby group for businesses in the property and development sector.  One of the outcomes was for businesses and the local authority to liaise more in the hope of finding new solutions to the land shortage issue.

The meeting heard how future economic growth within the District will be jeopardised if more land is not made available for development.  There is currently around 50% less land available for employment use in Bradford than there was just five years ago, with the Council currently part-way through its planning process to identify appropriate sites.

Presentations from Bradford Council’s Executive member for regeneration and planning, Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw and Assistant Director Julian Jackson were followed by a question-and-answer panel joined by Chartback Development’s Stephen McManus and Marianne McCallum, formerly of Turley.  The meeting was chaired by Allan Booth of local architects Rance Booth Smith.  The Council representatives acknowledged the issues raised by businesses about employment land shortages, and appealed for the business community to work with them to ease the issue.

Further meetings are due to take place between the Council and the Chamber of Commerce to look at options for resolving the issues raised at the meeting and in the report.

You could also include the link to the next event – https://members.wnychamber.co.uk/WNY_Members/Events/Event_Display.aspx?EventKey=BPL161018

The report can be found at https://www.wnychamber.co.uk/chamber-report-highlights-growth-opportunities/

Bradford’s economic strategy is at https://www.investinbradford.com/economy/economic-strategy-for-bradford-district-2018-2030/

BCC comments on inflation figures

Commenting on the inflation statistics for June 2018, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Inflation was unchanged in June for the second successive month, with the upward price pressure from higher fuel costs offset by falling prices for a number of items, including clothing.

“The continued pick-up in producer prices suggests that inflation may rise a little in the short term as the recent oil price increases pass through supply chains, fuelling higher consumer prices. However, any period of rising price growth is likely to be temporary, and inflation should resume its downward trajectory once the impact of the pick-up in oil prices subsidies.

“Given the recent hawkish rhetoric from members of the MPC, we currently expect that interest rates will rise once this year, with the prospect of an August rate hike very much on the table. However, with inflation holding steady, wage growth sluggish and economic activity subdued, the case for tightening monetary policy continues to look very weak.

“Against a backdrop of significant political and economic uncertainty, the MPC’s focus should be on providing monetary stability to avoid further undermining business and consumer confidence. More also needs to be done to lift business investment, including tackling the high upfront cost of doing business in the UK and addressing longstanding issues such as the skills gap and the chronic under-investment in the UK’s infrastructure.”

BCC comments on inflation figures

Commenting on the inflation statistics for June 2018, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Inflation was unchanged in June for the second successive month, with the upward price pressure from higher fuel costs offset by falling prices for a number of items, including clothing.

“The continued pick-up in producer prices suggests that inflation may rise a little in the short term as the recent oil price increases pass through supply chains, fuelling higher consumer prices. However, any period of rising price growth is likely to be temporary, and inflation should resume its downward trajectory once the impact of the pick-up in oil prices subsidies.

“Given the recent hawkish rhetoric from members of the MPC, we currently expect that interest rates will rise once this year, with the prospect of an August rate hike very much on the table. However, with inflation holding steady, wage growth sluggish and economic activity subdued, the case for tightening monetary policy continues to look very weak.

“Against a backdrop of significant political and economic uncertainty, the MPC’s focus should be on providing monetary stability to avoid further undermining business and consumer confidence. More also needs to be done to lift business investment, including tackling the high upfront cost of doing business in the UK and addressing longstanding issues such as the skills gap and the chronic under-investment in the UK’s infrastructure.”

BCC: business alarm on potential Brexit VAT bombshell

Commenting on the passage of amendments to the Customs Bill, which commit the government to fully separating the UK from the EU VAT regime, Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“This is the first view businesses have on what the VAT regime could be like after Brexit – and it doesn’t look pretty.

“A separate UK VAT system will create significant on-going costs for businesses trading across borders, unless special work-arounds are put in place. This change will pile pressure on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which is already contending with other facets of Brexit, plus the delivery of a new customs system and Making Tax Digital.

“Firms need to know – now, not in a year’s time – whether and how the government intends to address the potential VAT bombshell facing businesses trading with the EU27 in future. Without a more generous deferment account scheme or postponed accounting, many companies face severe cash flow issues, big new administrative headaches, and a serious loss of competitiveness.”

Under the current system, firms trading with the EU report every quarter on what they have imported and exported, with a VAT bill calculated after. Without clear facilitations, the risk facing business is the need to pay VAT at the point of each cross-border transaction, creating a significant cash flow and competitiveness problem for many.

In the BCC’s Risk Register, questions around Import VAT and Services VAT remain at a red rating.

Adam Marshall added:

“Businesses are hugely frustrated that politics and ideology – rather than real-world economic considerations – seem to be driving every twist and turn in the Brexit saga. For businesses, VAT isn’t some obscure technicality. A clear, easy-to-use VAT system is crucial for businesses to trade successfully with partners in Europe – and around the world.”

BCC: UK wage growth undermined by poor productivity

Commenting on the labour market figures for July 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Robust jobs growth, together with another drop-in unemployment, is further evidence of the continued strength of the UK labour market.

“The second successive slowdown in regular pay growth is disappointing. This means that earnings growth in real terms remains in positive territory by just a small margin and so is unlikely to provide much of a boost to consumer spending power. UK wage growth continues to be undermined by poor productivity and the marked impact of underemployment. The failure to tackle the escalating burden of upfront business costs is also weighing on the extent to which pay is able to rise.

“The increase in the number of job vacancies to a new record high is further evidence of chronic skills shortages, a key business concern. Firms continue to report that they are facing an uphill struggle to find staff with the right skills, which is stifling business activity and productivity.

“While we expect that interest rates will rise sooner rather than later, with earnings growth underwhelming there remains sufficient scope for the MPC to keep a rates hike on hold for longer, particularly given the current economic and political uncertainty. Instead, more must be done to support firms looking to recruit and upskill their workforce, including reforming the Apprenticeship Levy to ensure its fit for purpose, easing upfront business costs and delivering a future migration system that helps, rather than hinders UK productivity and growth.”