Sterling volatility is major exporter concern

A national Chamber survey of 2,600 exporters has found that confidence in future operations remains strong, but external economic and political factors are having an impact.

The results show 60% of exporting manufacturers were more concerned about exchange rates in the second quarter of the year than previously. There was also increased concern among 43% of service exporters, highlighting the broad impact of the weakness of the pound.

The findings indicate that price pressures eased slightly on exporters during the second quarter, but manufacturers under pressure to raise prices say raw material costs are the main factor (81%). Service firms say raw material costs (39%) and other overheads (51%) are leading on cost pressures.  An escalating labour shortage is seriously affecting exporters, with 69% of recruiting manufacturers struggling to find staff.

Many exporters are maintaining competitiveness in foreign markets with healthy order books, but sterling’s weakness is increasing the cost of raw materials from abroad.

Key findings

  • 39% of exporting manufacturers saw orders increase in the last three months; for services, the figure was 30%
  • 35% of exporting manufacturers and 32% of exporting service firms expect the price of their goods/services to increase
  • For those manufacturing exporters under pressure to increase prices, 81% report the cost of raw materials as the leading source of pressure
  • 77% of exporting manufacturers and 67% of services firms attempted to recruit in the last three months, however, of those, 69% and 60% respectively reported difficulties finding the right staff.

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

“It’s been a summer of trade tensions and endless Brexit bickering, and exporters are particularly exposed to the consequences of that turmoil. Companies will always find a way to trade with each other, but messy negotiations and the threat of higher tariffs have implications, and can hit confidence and firms’ bottom lines. The UK government can’t control currency or the actions of trading partners, but it can take steps to mitigate the level of uncertainty at home.”

Ian Wilson, CEO DHL Express UK and Ireland, said:

“The resilience of UK exporters is highlighted with this quarter’s Trade Confidence Index. Despite a slight decline, the index remains up year-on-year and it is encouraging to see it stands at the fifth highest level on record. This strong performance also reflects what I hear from our customers and, at DHL Express, we continue to support an abundance of energetic, internationally-focussed UK entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the world.”

‘Light Night Leeds’ gets cultural backing

Leeds 2023 – the city’s new cultural festival – is to be the headline partner for October’s ‘Light Night Leeds’, the two-day arts and light festival that changes the city centre landscape.

On 4 & 5 October, ‘Light Night Leeds’ will see prominent locations across the city centre transformed by an array of light and sound installations.

Sharon Watson, chair of the Leeds 2023 steering group, said the event represented a unique opportunity to show support for a cultural festival celebrating the best of arts in Leeds as well as celebrating the city’s impressive international links.  “Light Night encapsulates the very best of culture in Leeds, bringing together artists from around the world for a celebration of diversity, innovation and creativity.  As we begin building our momentum towards 2023, we’re proud to be supporting this year’s event and to be laying down a marker about our intention to invest in Leeds and help build on the reputation as a global cultural city.”

Last year’s event attracted 80,000 to the city centre.  Leeds 2023 will see the creation of a five-year, £35 million cultural programme of events and activities, culminating in a year of celebration. For more information about light Night Leeds, visit: lightnightleeds.co.uk

For details about Leeds 2023, visit: http://leeds2023.co.uk/

The Challenge of Brexit for the North – conference in Leeds

Businesses are being invited to attend a conference in Leeds in September to discuss the challenge of Brexit specifically on the North of England.

The full-day conference, at Leeds University on 20 September, will feature business leaders, academics and politicians, and will address areas such as education and skills, energy and infrastructure, and possible impact on investment.  The focus is specifically on Brexit’s impact on the North, and has been organised by a new network of academics and policy-makers, Global Policy North.

Lord Jim O’Neill, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management and one of the architects of the Northern Powerhouse concept, said:

“Brexit shouldn’t be seen as an excuse for anything, whatever the rights and wrongs of that vote. Perhaps if the Northern Powerhouse idea had taken off a few years earlier than it did, perhaps northern voters might have swung the vote the other way. In this regard, my main message, is, even as an objective remainer in that vote, I believe that dealing with our weak productivity, regional inequality, education, skills, transport and leadership challenges, are much bigger issues that the UK has to sort out, and now the realities of Brexit make that even more stark.”

Hilary Benn, Member of Parliament, said:

“Brexit will have a considerable impact on all of our lives and on the economy of the North. It’s vital that we get the best deal we can for jobs and investment.”

Lord O’Neill and Hilary Benn are both speaking at the conference.

Contact the event organiser at gabrielle.f.barkess-kerr@durham.ac.uk or visit Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/global-policy-north-conference-the-challenge-of-brexit-for-the-north-tickets-45430972261

More information on Global Policy North is available at https://www.dur.ac.uk/gpi/gpnorth/

Request for survey completion

Please spare three minutes to complete the latest quarterly economic survey (QES).

Click here to go to the online survey.

The survey provides a finger on the pulse of the region’s economy; the Chamber also makes extensive use of the findings to help guide policy-makers and ensure that regional business sentiment influences decision-making. By completing the QES you are helping us to make the case for policies that promote local business growth and support this region’s economy.

Past survey responses have helped influence investment into broadband and transport infrastructure, direct funding into skills programmes, advised on regional growth funds and targeted support for exporters.

Survey responses remain confidential and respondents’ details are not passed on to third parties.

The survey closes on Tuesday 18 September.

Don’t forget – please complete the survey here.

‘Any Questions’ to broadcast from Leeds

A live broadcast of Radio 4’s ‘Any Questions?’ – chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby and currently celebrating its 70th anniversary – is being hosted at Leeds Minster on Friday 7 September 2018.

Free tickets are required, and these can be obtained by emailing admin@leedsminster.org.

More info, including panellists, available at http://www.leedsminster.org/events/BBC-Radio-4-Any-Questions/

The panellist for this event are the following:
Lord Eric Pickles
Dan Jarvis MP
Laura Parker
Selina Scott
Picture attribution: Rwendland (via Commons Wikimedia)

Business Lunch, Friday 14 Sep: Andrew Jones MP

Andrew Jones has been Harrogate & Knaresborough’s MP since 2010.

The Conservative politician has held ministerial posts in the Department for Transport and the Treasury, and is currently one of the Party’s vice-chairs, with responsibility for business engagement.

If you live or work in an area with connections to Andrew’s parliamentary seat, you should think about coming along to this event.  Whether your business issues are related to Brexit, transport, skills and education or myriad other topics, Andrew will be answering questions on the day.

Aswell as telling us about his day-to-day work in Parliament, Andrew will cover off what he sees as the major business issues of the day affecting firms in his constituency, and wants to hear direct from you.  Come along and put your burning question to him – aswell as enjoying a fine lunch and networking session with other great businesses!

The event is at the Cedar Court Hotel on Park Parade in Harrogate. Call 01904 201010 to find out more and book a place.

Picture Attribution: David Lally (no changes made)

York Property Forum: Mon 3 Sep

York businesses are invited to the next Property Forum to hear about new opportunities in the sector.

Speakers from higher education and the Local Enterprise Partnership will set out ideas and plans that will help drive forward the sub-region’s economy over the next few years.

The five-year capital investment plan of York St John University will be demonstrated by Rob Hickey, Executive Director for Innovation & Growth; while Chief Operating Officer at York, North Yorkshire & East Riding LEP, James Farrar, will spell out how he sees the current review helping businesses, once the changes are implemented.

Mike Cartwright from the Chamber’s policy team said:

“As always, we are determined to help push forward the region’s economic growth by supporting local business communities.  At a time of growing concern with Brexit or attention to outstanding issues such as devolution and skills shortages, we have to look at all areas where that support and growth can happen.  Universities are not only promoters of higher education, but also (often) owners of significant land and property; so hearing from Rob will be useful for many businesses.  We also need to liaise closely with the LEP to make sure they hear the business voice, so this is a good platform for our members to ask questions of key influencers in the local economy.”

The event takes place on Monday 3 September at York’s Grand Hotel (5-7pm); £15 Chamber members, £30 non-members.  Call 01904 210010 for more information or email events@wnychamber.co.uk

GCSE Results: Chamber Reaction

GCSE Results – 23 Aug 2018 – West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce Reaction

“We welcome the news today that GCSE pass rates have risen overall.  The announcement that standards are increasing – and also that the gap between boys and girls is narrowing – is good news for employers, although this is, of course, not the only measurement for a good route into employment.

“Achieving good exam results should be one of a range of criteria for employers to consider when looking at potential job applicants, although we of course want secondary education standards and outcomes to continue to rise.  The business community will continue to work with schools, colleges and others involved in education and training to push those attainment levels even higher, while many Chamber members are also becoming more involved in other ways to offer support, such as work experience and school talks.

“Other forms of help to get young people tooled up for the world of work are always being explored too, and they currently include tips with CV writing, job interviews and general presentation and attitude.”

The rise comes despite changes to GCSEs to make them tougher – with more demanding content, less coursework and a focus on exams at the end of two years.

NOTE: The pass rate in 2018 was 66.9% of all entries (from 66.4% last year).

17.4% of boys attained at least one grade A, compared with 16.4% last year.

71.2% of girls’ entries passed, compared to 62.1% of boys

BCC comment ahead of ‘no deal’ Brexit notices

Commenting ahead of the publication of technical notices from the government relating to the possibility of ‘no deal’ in the Brexit negotiations, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“Businesses have waited too long for answers to some basic questions around Brexit – and have been particularly frustrated by the lack of clear guidance on some of the issues that are within the UK government’s own control. ‘No deal’ preparations should have happened far earlier, and the onus is on government to move quickly and give businesses as much detailed technical information as possible to avoid significant disruption in any scenario.

“Our test for the Government’s ‘no deal’ notices is straightforward: do firms now have the clarity they need so that they can continue to conduct business both here at home and across borders on March 30th 2019?

“Companies need to know how the UK government will handle customs and VAT procedures at the border on day one after Brexit. Companies need to know what the immigration rules will be on day one, both to reassure existing staff and to recruit successfully. Firms need to know what they need to do to ensure that their contracts are valid, their transactions processed, and their rights protected.

“We will be assessing the content of these notices with businesses around the UK – and we will not hesitate to tell ministers if we find the content unclear or unhelpful to business decision-making.”

Head of BCC speaks at launch of export strategy

How to sell into international markets

Speaking at the launch of the Government’s Export Strategy today (Tuesday 21 August 2018), Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, will say that at this time of immense change for the UK economy, it’s crucial to get the national approach to export and trade right.

Welcoming the government’s pledge to work in close partnership with business to identify and maximise opportunities for UK companies in markets around the world, Marshall will say that the new Export Strategy must be complemented by a strong push to ‘fix the fundamentals’ of the domestic business environment in the UK.

Giving the leading business group’s view on the route to export success, Adam Marshall will outline four key ingredients:

  • First, the best possible business environment at home – where dynamic companies have incentive to invest and grow.
  • Second, products and services that are second to none – where quality and reputation underpins competitiveness.
  • Third, consistent efforts to promote the best of British around the world, and
  • Fourth, a strong trade policy that helps UK companies and sectors build on their competitive advantages.

At the launch, Adam Marshall will say:

“We warmly welcome the government’s pledge in the new Export Strategy to work hand-in-hand with business to unlock opportunities for UK firms all across the globe. Working together, business and government have a real opportunity to help our fantastic firms raise their sights even higher.

“Over the decades, we have seen a number of trade and export strategies and schemes come and go. So, it is absolutely critical, at a time of immense change for the UK economy, to get our national approach to trade and export right.

“Getting day-to-day support for exports right is as important as efforts to negotiate new trade deals. Trusted, face-to-face support is key to export success. When firms get the information and connections they need to develop new markets and find new customers – that is when we see confidence, investment, and results.

“The comprehensive Export Strategy that the Minister and Secretary of State will launch today is crucially important. So, too, is ‘fixing the fundamentals’ to support growth here in the UK.

“We need a great export strategy and a good Brexit deal, but we also need to get the basics right here at home for our future trade and export success. We need airports with capacity for direct flights to link British businesspeople and goods to customers around the world, clear immigration and training policies that let UK firms secure talent from around the world, top-class digital connectivity, competitive tax rates and growth finance for ambitious firms.”