I’m delighted to announce that we are launching a new International Trade forum, open to our member businesses who export and import goods and services from overseas.
The forum will be tasked with exchanging information on international trade, exporting and importing and international trade policy. It will also steer Chamber representations on these matters.
The forum will also develop a Trade Manifesto for the local area and will meet for the first time at our Commerce House office (ST1 5BE), on Monday 20th November at 9AM. If you’re a Chamber member who exports or imports goods and services, we’d love to hear from you and will welcome your support in joining us. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
Our Chamber policy forums are a great way for member businesses to meet and discuss issues critical to their sector. These forums enable our members to share knowledge and best practice but also help us to represent them better in our dealings with the media and government. Our forums are recognised by the British Chambers’ of Commerce as being among the most influential in the country.
We deliver eleven policy forums, covering the topics of:
- Energy, Environment and Sustainability
- HR, Employment and Skills
- Money Matters
- Planning & Infrastructure
- Rural Business
- Social Value & Procurement
Each forum is made up of representatives from our member businesses and meets up several times across the year. Key topics for discussion are identified, guest speakers are brought in and our forums pick up that role of highlighting the matters that concern our members, at both a national and regional level. Each forum has its own Chair, who will steer both the meetings and objectives of that particular forum.
We welcome new faces in all of our policy forums but what’s in it for you and your business? It’s a chance for your views to be heard and the opportunity to work collaboratively with your fellow Chambers’ members in influencing our policy role on specific topics. You also get the chance to grow your networking contacts in similar sectors. It could also be a perfect development opportunity for one of your team, helping to empower confidence.
Some of our forum members have gone on to join British Chambers’ of Commerce (BCC) policy groupings, getting their voices heard at a national level.
Being a part of our policy forums is not a huge commitment with no more than four meetings a year. Meetings typically start at 9AM and last no more than an hour or so.
Being the voice of business is what we do but why not get involved and play your part….and remember that when the forum meetings are finished, you can pop next door to our Members’ Lounge and enjoy a brew whilst catching up on your e-mails.
For further details on our policy forums, please contact Declan Riddell:
It’s election season at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, as we invite our members to apply for places on our local area advisory boards, in both Stafford and the Staffordshire Moorlands. Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is the voice of business in Staffordshire and joining a local area advisory board is a great way to represent your local business community and provide the local input to matters of importance within that community.
Our Stafford Chamber Local Area Advisory Board (LAAB) has members representing the business community across an area south of The Potteries, down the M6 and over to Uttoxeter. Meetings are typically held at our Stafford home, in Shire Hall Business Centre.
Staffordshire Moorlands is one of the most scenic parts of our county and is home to a diverse mix of businesses in both rural and urban locations. Our Staffordshire Moorlands Chamber LAAB has a representation of businesses from across the area, stretching from Biddulph to Cheadle. Meetings are typically held in Leek but will discuss and address key priorities across the Moorlands.
During this last year, representatives of both LAAB have joined us in meetings with local MPs, Karen Bradley, Sir Bill Cash and Theo Clarke. We’ve used these meetings to raise key priorities such as boosting footfall in our town centres and transport infrastructure.
Guest speakers are invited to attend LAAB meetings to provide timely updates on upcoming developments and the impact on the local economy, meaning that our LAAB members are well informed about what’s happening.
We’re looking for applications from forward-thinking and influential Chamber members, with a determination to make a difference in the local business community. We welcome applications from across a range of both business sector and size of business. Being a LAAB member is not a huge commitment, with just five LAAB meetings across the year. We’re mindful of your time and that’s why we aim to keep meetings to no more than two hours duration.
The applications process is quick and easy but the clock is ticking! You have until 5PM on Friday 29th September 2023 to submit your completed application, which can be obtained by contacting Jade Holloway: email@example.com
On the theme of elections………
The major political parties will be holding their party conferences in the coming weeks. With the next General Election having to take place before January 2025, the parties will be keen to regroup and prepare for a critical year ahead.
In the coming weeks, Staffordshire Chambers’ members are invited to join us in meetings with all of the North Staffordshire MPs:
Friday 29th September – Jack Brereton, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South.
Friday 13th October – Aaron Bell, MP for Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Friday 20th October – Jonathan Gullis, MP for Stoke-on-Trent North.
Friday 10th November – Jo Gideon, MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central.
Our ‘Meet the MP’ meetings are a great way of connecting the business community and the locally elected MP, discussing the key issues of the day, including regeneration, transport infrastructure, skills and a wide range of other issues. With a General Election around the corner, what are the key issues your business is facing?
During the latest Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Energy, Environment, and Sustainability Forum, a presentation on ‘The Great Greenwashing Crackdown’ was delivered. The presentation covered the concepts of greenwashing and greenhushing and explained the differences between carbon neutral and net zero. Case studies, including a tour by Coldplay, were used to highlight the importance of ethically reporting green credentials. The latest ASA guidance on carbon neutral and net zero claims was also discussed, emphasizing the need for clarity and transparency in reporting.
A recent presentation by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust on biodiversity in commercial developments was commended, and the possibility of inviting Gigi Hennessey as a speaker for a future forum was suggested.
Apologies and an update from the City Council were sent, highlighting progress in connecting the Goods Yard Development to the District Heat Network and other infrastructure upgrades.
An update from Keele University discussed the Smart Energy Network Demonstrator. The university has hosted numerous guests, including international visitors.
Disappointment in the recent LSIP findings was expressed, and the importance of giving energy issues higher priority for review as LSIP develops was discussed.
An update on behalf of Staffordshire University mentioned their participation in a webinar on tackling commuter emissions in higher education. The university’s representative will discuss this further at the Chambers’ Transport forum in July.
During the forum, an update from SBEN mentioned new sponsorships from Michelin and Steelite, enabling them to continue offering free services. The importance of SDG 6, clean water, and sanitation was discussed, focusing on recent news stories about water quality and sanitation issues in the UK and globally.
During the latest Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Social Value Forum, attendees welcomed new members and discussed various topics related to social value and sustainable development goals.
The chosen sustainable development goals for the month were Quality Education, Good Health and Wellbeing, and No Poverty. The forum addressed the impact of poverty on health and wellbeing in Staffordshire communities and explored ways businesses could get involved in initiatives like “Stronger together through winter.” They discussed the rising demand for food banks and how employers could support their employees to alleviate pressure on these resources.
The Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP) was introduced by Suzanne Quinn, aiming to reshape skills training to meet local employers’ needs. The LSIP process involves engaging with stakeholders, including employers, colleges, universities, and learners to understand their needs. Key findings included the need for more focus on Business Admin Level 2 training and supporting older workers returning to work.
The forum discussed the importance of work experience for young people and the need for schools, colleges, and universities to publicize the success stories of past students to inspire current students. They also explored the significance of social value in procurement and the challenges and best practices in integrating social value into procurement processes. The Responsible Business Scheme was mentioned as a way to support businesses in ensuring a sustainable supply chain and committing to social value.
Overall, the forum explored various ways to address social and community needs through collaboration between businesses and local stakeholders.
During the latest Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Planning and Infrastructure Forum, the concept of the ’15-minute city’ vision was discussed, which aims to meet most residents’ daily needs within a short walk or cycle ride from home. Members agreed that city infrastructure, such as cycle routes and paths, would need to be upgraded to support this vision.
A presentation on Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council’s Local Plan was given, outlining the long-term vision and development strategy for the Borough. The Council seeks views from the business community on potential future large-scale employment-led sites in the Borough.
Updates were provided on the Local Plans of various District Councils, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were introduced and found to be relevant to the earlier discussions on the Local Plan.
In the “Any Other Business” section, it was reported that Mondrem CIC has been successful in improving the performance of council planning application teams, leading to a faster and better customer experience. Members also discussed the need for more support in the area of planning, with some being part of the British Chambers of Commerce Expert Planning Panel and meeting with Ministers to address this concern.
In recent months we have facilitated meetings with Karen Bradley and Bill cash, MPs for Staffordshire Moorlands and Stone respectively.
Discussions focused on a wide range of topics including levelling up, rural business crime and rural broadband connectivity and boosting footfall into our town centres. Members also raised concerns about increased cost of professional indemnity insurance, tender contracts for small businesses and VAT on construction costs.
We will deliver our first Economic Conference, in November which will showcase a mix of inspirational speakers and discussion of key topics. Updates to follow.
There will be an opportunity to meet all three Stoke-on-Trent MPs during autumn. Find out more and book a space, here.
On Thursday 4th May, voters went to the polls in local elections taking place in many parts of Staffordshire. A week before we brought the then Leader of Stoke on Trent City Council, Cllr Abi Brown and the then Leader of the Opposition of Stoke on Trent City Council Cllr Jane Ashworth, together in our hustings event. Around 30 businesses attended and grilled both candidates on their future aspirations for the city.
Schemes earmarked for Road Investment Strategy (RIS3) – 2025-30 will continue to be developed and considered for inclusion within RIS 4, which will run from 2030-2035.In Staffordshire, this means no immediate improvements to the A50/A500, a key arterial route connecting the east and west of our region and a route described as a “North Midlands Manufacturing Corridor”, serving world recognised brands such as JCB. This route suffers from congestion at key pinch points, notably Uttoxeter and the urban area of North Staffordshire. It is disappointing to note that no further improvements would be ready for development until at least 2030. Transport is a key enabler to move people and goods and it’s essential for the A50/A500 to serve as a reliable route, particularly for a growing logistics sector in Staffordshire. We have written to Secretary of State for Transport (Rt Hon Mark Harper, MP), to outline our concerns about this delay.
We have written to Cllr David Williams (Cabinet Member for Highways & Transport, Staffordshire County Council), expressing concern about how Stafford grinds to a halt when traffic is diverted off the M6. When the M6 is closed there is a fundamentally different flow of traffic and altered priorities may reduce the gridlock in the town. Many of the road markings at key junctions in and around the town, have faded, creating confusion especially when the diversions are in place.
Furthermore, road surfacing at some of these key junctions has deteriorated and this creates a less than positive impression of Stafford. Thankfully road improvements are now planned to take place.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has proposed that WiFi connectivity on trains is withdrawn, and we have challenged this by writing to raise our objections to this proposal. A fast and reliable WiFi connection is expected by rail travellers.
We were also disappointed that East Midlands Rail is considering the withdrawal of some of the passenger services on the Crewe-Stoke-Derby line. Withdrawing rail services will make rail travel less attractive and becomes yet another barrier preventing us from leaving our cars at home.
The decision to pause the start of construction of Phase 2A of the line from Fradley to Crewe, for at least two years, is extremely disappointing for Staffordshire. HS2 is Europe’s largest construction project, and we want to ensure that Staffordshire businesses capitalise on any procurement opportunities, and we have the appropriate resources to upskill the local workforce, i.e. apprenticeships etc.
We have written to Chancellor and Secretary of State for Transport to call for commitment to ensure that any delay to the start of Phase 2A is not allowed to drift indefinitely.
We have called for clarity around the timetabling of HS2 services. The arrival of HS2 links with some exciting regeneration initiatives taking place across our county. Stafford Station Gateway will transform 27 hectares of brownfield land to the west of Stafford Station, with the potential to deliver high quality, low-carbon homes, grade A office space, a new hotel, retail and leisure space. The Goods Yard near Stoke-on-Trent Station is well underway with 174 design-led apartments for rent, with a mix of 1,2 and 3-bed homes, transformation of the signal box into a café-bar and a contemporary building with a raw industrial feel providing 5,000sq.ft. of workspace.
HS2 CEO Mark Thurston, was guest speaker at our Patrons’ Lunch in May. We spent time discussing our concerns about the pause in constructing Phase 2A of HS2 and were pleased to hear that he is keen for this stretch to be completed at the earliest opportunity.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his Spring Budget back in March. At the start of March, we wrote to Mr Hunt with a list of Budget ‘asks’. We called for measures to address the high costs of childcare, which serve as a deterrent to parents wanting to return to work after the birth of a child. In many cases, the high cost of childcare wipes out wages and parents simply choose to stay at home. We welcome the Budget announcement of 30 hours of free childcare for working parents in England, expanded to cover one and two-year-olds, to be rolled out in stages from April 2024.