A long-term plan to coordinate future development and economic growth opportunities across Staffordshire has been approved by the county council’s cabinet.

 

The county’s Strategic Infrastructure Plan (SIP) will support the construction of new homes and ensure these communities are provided with job opportunities, high quality transport, leisure facilities and excellent digital connections. It will tie in with the county’s green agenda and the development of the Local Industrial Strategy.

 

The SIP will give evidence and provide a county wide overview to inform policy makers, potential developers, investors, transport organisations and energy and waste companies. The plan demonstrates the county council’s role as a strategic authority in coordinating future development and the infrastructure needed so that it can take place. It will also support funding bids to the Government and investors.

 

The SIP ties in with the local plans of all the county’s district and boroughs, along with the city of Stoke-on-Trent. It includes information about planned development in Staffordshire’s neighbouring border areas so that infrastructure can be put in place earlier on in the process and ensure the effective running of the county’s roads and community facilities.

 

Areas which will see larger scale homes development and employment site construction in the coming years include the Stafford Gateway and Burleyfields, Branston Locks near Burton, Liberty Park in Lichfield, Tamworth golf course, Rugeley power station, Keele Science and Innovation Park, Biddulph and Codsall.

 

Staffordshire County Council’s economic growth leader Mark Winnington said: “Housing development is an essential part of Staffordshire’s continued economic growth, ensuring we have thriving communities across our county. This development needs to be carefully planned and coordinated, considering neighbouring areas, transport infrastructure, community facilities and leisure provision.

 

“The Strategic Infrastructure Plan brings together the evidence needed for planners, investors, health and community providers and energy companies to promote the longer-term thinking necessary for future development. Crucially it also demonstrates to the Government and investors that we have a strategy in place to enable us to secure funding we will need to carry out our plans.

 

“This high-level plan for Staffordshire will stimulate better coordination to ensure new communities have excellent schools, healthcare, leisure and community facilities, in addition to protecting established town and village residential areas.”

A Staffordshire contract cleaning company is moving into new markets following a £50,000 cash injection from Michelin Development.

Cheadle-based Moorland Contract Cleaning is using the funding to launch a new division, providing janitorial supplies that feature greener formulations and sustainable packaging. Over the next three years, the business is forecasting turnover to double and more than 10 full time positions to be created as a result of the expansion.

Founded by Tim and Suzanne Davy in 2012, Moorland Contract Cleaning operates in the commercial, retail, leisure, industrial and educational sectors across the Midlands and Yorkshire. The company applied to Michelin Development to support its ambitious plans after largely self-financing the business over the years.

Michelin Development offers subsidised, unsecured loans of up to £50,000, for projects with the potential to create quality, sustainable jobs.

Suzanne Davy said: “We are very passionate about high quality standards of cleaning and providing a service that is second to none and our business has gone from strength-to-strength based on these values. The move into janitorial supplies feels like a natural progression for us.

“By expanding our supplier base, we can introduce greener; environmental practices into our own cleaning contracts and expand our market by offering a much wider ranges of cleaning materials, equipment, washroom products and cleaning machines through a fully managed service.

“The support from Michelin Development has been invaluable for us to take the next step. It is helping us to manage the projected growth of the cleaning business overall, coupled with the diversification into janitorial supplies, and has given us the confidence to move forward.

“It is a great service for ambitious businesses looking to scale up.”

Mike Cole, head of Michelin Development, is keen to hear from other North Staffordshire businesses looking to achieve the next stage of growth. Mr Cole said: “Moorland Contract Cleaning is a great example of a business looking to expand, create new jobs and support the local economy as a whole.

“Our message to other small businesses with the same mindset is that we are here to help.

“We have the funds in place, but we need to receive applications to deliver this support and investment in our community. The companies we can help know their markets and figures and they just need a little extra support to move along on their growth journey. That is where we can step in to help.”

To find out more visit www.michelindevelopment.co.uk

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) and Bibby Financial Services (BFS) have revealed that uncertainty around Brexit, tariffs and exchange rate volatility are holding back the potential of many UK exporters.

The recent survey included 1,140 internationally active UK businesses, and found that general uncertainty around Brexit was considered the top barrier to export, listed by almost half (47%) of businesses, followed by specific concerns around tariffs and exchange rate volatility, listed by 35% and 33% respectively.

Administrative requirements or regulation were considered a barrier by 30% of businesses and the lack of free trade agreements by 23%. Only 7% of internationally active businesses said that they do not face any exporting barriers.

It is not only internationally active UK businesses that being held back from exporting. Among businesses that currently only trade in the UK (338 respondents), just 17% say that they do not face any barriers to export. Therefore, 83% face barriers to reaching their potential.

The lack of clarity around the UK’s future trading environment is clearly taking its toll. General uncertainty around Brexit is considered the top barrier to export by UK-only businesses (listed by 31%) as well.

As a result, amongst businesses currently trading only in the UK, just 7% per cent expect to begin importing or exporting over the next three years.

The research also highlighted the issues that businesses are increasingly facing in relation to stockpiling, payments and the transportation of goods. When asked about business changes experienced over the past 12 months:

  • around a third (31%) of businesses reported that they had increased the volume of inventory held;
  • 15% reported that it already takes longer to transport goods to and/or from overseas, even before the UK’s exit from the European Union; and
  • almost a third (29%) reported that it takes longer to get paid by customers.

Commenting on the results, Dr Adam Marshall, BCC Director General said:

“UK businesses are facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty on multiple trading fronts – and, unsurprisingly, they’re holding back on importing and exporting.

“Just this week, the government finally provided some certainty around tariffs – but, the damage of uncertainty was already done for many firms.

“While international trade always involves an element of risk for businesses, government should be working to lower barriers rather than increasing them. Preventing a messy and disorderly Brexit is the immediate priority, but ensuring continuity of trade with third countries and providing firms with clear and timely information about future trade processes, would go a long way to removing unnecessary obstacles.”

Edward Winterton, UK Chief Executive, Bibby Financial Services, added:

“Chronic uncertainty resulting from Brexit is undoubtedly stifling international trade amongst UK SMEs. Importers and exporters are in limbo, and many are postponing investment decisions, while they await further information. Many others are focusing resources on ensuring they’re prepared to deal with the potential impacts of a no-deal scenario.

“SMEs are telling us that they need clarity over the detail, and it’s imperative that the Government looks to provide this as soon as possible to enable businesses to trade with confidence, both domestically and internationally.”

 

Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce members will be able to check out customers’ credit-worthiness and access a 5.2m business database at a discounted rate as part of a deal with information services firm Experian

The Chamber B2B Listbuilder gives members access to the Experian database of email, post and telephone information for businesses, while the Staffordshire Chambers Creditcheck allows them to check out the credit-worthiness of potential suppliers and customers in the UK and abroad.

Both will be offered at a 25% discount as part of the deal.

The Creditcheck service enables members to monitor customers and suppliers by receiving alerts on changes to their financial status such as credit scores, county court judgments and late payments and to better understand their customers’ payment patterns to help manage their cash flow.

Chamber chief executive Sara Williams said: “The launch of our B2B Listbuilder and Creditcheck schemes, provided by such a well-known brand as Experian, provides a further reason for businesses to join your chamber and boost your business’s success.”

Jonathan De Gilbert, partnership manager at Experian, said “Experian is proud to be partnering with Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce. We are passionate about supporting UK businesses and want to help the chamber in supporting businesses across the region.

“We’ve been helping UK businesses for over 20 years to protect and grow their operations. Our products are specifically created for small and medium enterprises to help manage credit risk, target marketing offers and automate decision making.”

Staffordshire Chamber B2B Listbuilder and Creditcheck are only available to members of the chamber. Any Staffordshire-based business interested in joining the Chamber should contact Karena Pawlak via email karena.pawlak@staffordshirechambers.co.uk or call 01782 202222.

The British Chambers of Commerce today publishes an evaluation of official UK Government guidance to businesses on critical operational issues in the event of an unwanted ‘no deal’ exit on 31st October.  

The leading business group has found that, at the time of publication, 31 of 36 business-critical areas are still marked amber or red, indicating that firms have incomplete or insufficient information available to plan thoroughly for a ‘no deal’ outcome. 

The BCC does not believe that the impact of a messy and disorderly exit can be fully mitigated. Some of the key questions facing businesses depend on negotiation or some level of coordination between the UK and the EU. However, wherever possible, businesses need government guidance that is visible, clear, complete, timely and actionable to address key risks and prepare as much as possible for all scenarios.

With just weeks until the October 31st deadline, of the 36 questions most frequently raised by companies, the leading business group’s assessment is that:

  • 5 are marked green – the top rating for available information based on our quality criteria;
  • 21 are amber – indicating that some information is available, but there are gaps and/or other quality issues still to be addressed;
  • 10 are red – indicating little or no concrete information is available to help businesses to plan.

While government has noticeably ramped up the volume of communication, advice and engagement around a possible ‘no deal’ scenario in recent weeks, significant improvements are still needed to the level of detail and specificity in order to assist business contingency planning. The BCC continues to meet with government to discuss business readiness and government has committed to work with the business group to address the issues raised in the evaluation. As new and improved information becomes publicly available, the dashboard will be updated.

On issues such as the UK successor to the EU Structural Funds, access to an official UK market access database on tariff levels, rules relating to staff transfers between the UK and EU, and cross-border trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there is no clear information on which firms can base their future plans.

The research is not an assessment of the economic impact of a no-deal exit, or a judgement on the desirability of the policy change in each case. Instead, it is intended to evaluate whether official guidance is clear enough for business decision-making and forward planning. 

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

“While the government has ramped up communication to businesses in recent weeks, there are still big gaps in the guidance available to help businesses to prepare for Brexit, with just weeks to go until October 31st.

“Our business communities don’t want to see a disorderly ‘no deal’ exit on October 31st, which would lead to an overnight change in trading conditions. The guidance, information and advice available to businesses is not specific enough to enable firms to plan for an abrupt change.

“Averting a messy and disorderly exit is still critical. Businesses across the UK want politicians on all sides to come together and find a way forward – fast.”

Over two-fifths (43%) of businesses have had employees absent from work for more than four weeks due to ill health in the last two years, according to new research by the British Chambers of Commerce and Unum.

The overriding impacts of staff absences are operational (88%) and on staff morale (76%) according to the results of the survey of over 1,000 businesses of all sizes and across all sectors. The business-to-consumer sector, which includes retail, catering, and hotels, was more likely to report impacts with 93% of firms reporting operational impacts and 85% affecting staff morale.

Respondents also reported financial (44%) and reputational (36%) impacts from staff absences.

Most businesses recognise the importance of supporting employee health and wellbeing, with 62% offering benefits such as access to wellbeing support, private medical insurance, occupational support services and healthy lifestyle benefits such as gym membership and cycle to work schemes.

The survey found that 41% of businesses believe that providing financial protection benefits, such as income protection insurance and critical illness cover, could or does help them to attract and retain employees. This rises to 52% for larger companies with more than 50 employees.

The results reflect the economic impacts of ill health in the workplace and the actions businesses are taking to promote and maximise staff wellbeing. The government is currently consulting on proposals to prevent health-related job loss, which will require businesses to take a more proactive role.

Businesses want staff to maintain good health and help them to return to work after a period of sickness. However, the process can be difficult and expensive for employers to manage. Employers would benefit from financial support and clearer guidance to help them invest in services that can support them to prevent and manage sickness absence.

Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“People are the most important asset of any business and a healthy and happy workforce lends itself to increased morale and productivity. Many firms already take proactive steps to support the physical and mental wellbeing of staff and, when they have the capacity and resources, will offer a range of information, services and benefits.

“Maintaining employees’ health and resilience is always the best option, but when people are absent though ill health it is in everyone’s best interests that they are supported back into work as quickly as possible. But managing sickness absenteeism can be difficult and expensive for businesses, especially smaller firms who don’t have access to specialist in-house HR services.

“Employers need access to good quality, affordable services to help them understand how to support their people in the best way, together with clear, up-to-date information and guidance on everyone’s rights and responsibilities. The BCC is calling for any additional statutory payment to be reimbursed or off-set in some way, to reflect the extent to which firms are already struggling with the cumulative cost of employment.”

Peter O’Donnell, Chief Executive Officer, Unum UK, said:

“Sickness absence has a major impact on businesses of all sizes and across all sectors and it’s vital that employers prioritise the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

“Coping with illness can be very hard for employees and their families and good employers want to both support their people as much as possible and manage the negative impact on their business.

“With the financial assistance and rehabilitation support they provide, GIP products are invaluable during a period of illness, but equally access to early clinical help whenever it’s needed is also very helpful and reassuring for both employers and employees.

“After reviewing some of the biggest problems for SMEs and their people, we found fast access to key medical services would bring very tangible benefits. As a result we recently launched help@hand to provide employees and their families with access to remote GPs, second opinions, physiotherapy and mental health support via an easy to use app. Not only can fast access to these services bring peace of mind to employees, early intervention can help reduce the risk of long-term sickness absence and lessen the operational and financial impact on companies.”

Bartec Engineering services have had a significant boost to their business after recently receiving valuable funding from the Michelin Development Fund.

Specialising in mechanical and electrical installation, Barry and Chris Hallam have clocked up over 70 years of combined experience between them. Boasting clients across a multitude of sectors including municipal water and waste companies, the food and beverage sector, construction and industrial sectors, Bartec are highly regarded within their industry.

The loan from the Michelin Development Fund has assisted Bartec to move into new premises and in turn has given the team the resource to secure larger and more prestigious contracts. Impressive new sub-contractor projects have included water recovery and treatment projects for Heathrow Airport Ltd, Thames Water, Southern Water and Severn Trent Water.

In addition, to enable the team to service the contracts, the workshop area has more than doubled and Bartec have also taken on a second unit adjacent to their existing premises to accommodate extra site and project staff.

Commenting on the funding, Barry and Chris Hallam said, “Michelin funding has been a welcome addition to our overall expansion plans, The Michelin team have a genuine understanding of the requirements of local small business we thank them for their continued support.”

To find out more about the services offered by Bartec Engineering, visit www.bartecuk.com

For more information and to find out if you could be eligible for the Michelin Development loan, please visit https://michelindevelopment.co.uk/

Research published yesterday by the British Chambers of Commerce found that in a survey of over 1,500 companies across the UK – nearly a quarter of firms (24%) say that in the event of a ‘no deal’ exit on 31st October they would revise investment plans down, while just 4% would revise up. 71% of respondents did not state that they would revise investment plans. Larger businesses surveyed (firms with more than 50 employees) were more likely to report that they will revise investment (33%) and recruitment (31%) plans downwards in a ‘no deal’ scenario. 5% of surveyed businesses reported they would revise investment and recruitment upwards, respectively.  Additionally, nearly one in five firms surveyed (18%) said they planned to move some or all of their business overseas in a no-deal scenario, signalling the possibility of a significant movement of operations by some firms away from the UK.

This news may be disconcerting for some businesses, but with less than 50 days to go before 31 October our aim is to help you to carry on trading successfully whatever the final outcome.

We’re hosting a number of Brexit workshops across the region to help businesses to learn and upskill their workforces to trade successfully across borders and how to get “Brexit” ready. We’re also hosting a number of training sessions which focus on specific areas of international trade. Click here for our list of workshops and training sessions.

Our dedicated Brexit advice website ‘bresilience.com’ provides companies with information, resources and a detailed checklist to help businesses to understand the issues surrounding international trade after Brexit. It’s also a resource containing the latest news and details on how we can help you plan your international business needs post-Brexit, at both the operational and boardroom levels.

If your business employs EU nationals and you’d like HR advice on how a no-deal Brexit will affect employment contracts you can also contact the Chamber to speak to our Growth Hub HR advisor.

For any other queries on Brexit, please contact the Chamber’s International Trade Team on 01782 202222.

The government has also devised a useful checklist for you to complete to check that your business is Brexit ready. Click here for the checklist.

Do you want to make business better in your local area?

Nominations are now open for dynamic, influential and forward thinking business people to join the Chambers’ Council and/or two Local Area Boards (Stafford and Staffordshire Moorlands). Council and Local Area Board Members represent their peers and are advocates for the Chambers and the private sector.  They are elected by the Chambers’ membership. Together with the Chambers, they have the power to increase the prosperity of Staffordshire and the local community by forging outstanding connections and lobbying local authorities and the Government for a better business environment.

Council and Local Area Board members are expected to attend up to 6 meetings per year.  Meetings usually last for around two hours and aim to discuss a range of business issues affecting Staffordshire. The meetings include a guest speaker on a topic relevant to the local area. This provides a great opportunity to increase local knowledge and to influence the local business landscape.

If you are employed by a business that is a member of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce you are eligible for nomination. All nominees must be supported by two proposers.  The proposer’s business must ideally be from the same locale as the nominee and a Chambers member. For example, if a nominee wishes to be nominated to join the Staffordshire Moorlands Local Area Board, the proposer’s business must also be located in the Staffordshire Moorlands. For more information, please see the proposer’s form:

Click here to view Nomination form

Click here to view Proposer form

Click here to view current Council Members

Timeline.

10 September 2019 – Nominations open

09 October 2019 – Nominations close

14 October 2019 – If an election is needed, voting opens via Staffordshire Chambers’ website

22 October 2019 – Voting closes

24 October 2019 – Scrutiny committee meets to confirm votes

25 October 2019 – Candidates informed

Candidates will be ratified at the following Council and Local Area Board Annual General Meetings:

14 November 2019 – Staffordshire Moorlands Local Area Board AGM

18 November 2019 – Stafford Local Area Board AGM

27 November 2019 – Staffordshire Chambers AGM

UK Export Finance (UKEF), the Government’s Export Credit Agency, works very closely with the Department For International Trade with a main aim to boost exports for the UK.  Anne Lockett is one of 24 regionally based export finance managers who try to ensure that no viable export contract fails due to lack of finance or insurance. Anne covers Staffordshire, Shropshire and Black Country and explains below how UKEF may be able to offer support to your business.

The best part of my job is engaging with many local businesses in Staffordshire  (either by phone or a visit),  understanding your  financial challenges and helping you to find a solution. The best part for your business is that the advisory element is completely impartial and free of charge.  Ultimately, my primary aim is to ensure that you do not turn an export contract away due to lack of finance or because you fear you might not get paid – I want to help you grow your exports and help you become a more successful international business.

The challenges that businesses face in raising finance to support export activities are many and varied.  It might be that you have won a new, larger than normal contract, or that you have received an influx of orders and you will need more finance to fulfil them all.  You may have negotiated an advance payment for which your buyer requires an advance payment guarantee or performance guarantee.  When exporting, the trade cycle is often elongated whilst you wait for the goods to be shipped across the world before payment is received and this can put a strain on the working capital of your  business.  Part of my role is to help you raise the finance, either by working with your bank or by helping you find another funder.  This can significantly shorten your search to find a solution.

You may be dealing with a new customer in a new overseas market that you are not familiar with and you require some certainty about getting paid.  Again, I can suggest ways to mitigate the  risk of not getting paid  which could include directing you to a credit insurance broker or helping you apply for an export insurance policy offered by the Government.

If you would like to know more or arrange a consultation, please contact me at anne.lockett@ukexportfinance.gov.uk  I am happy to talk to any size of  business in any sector.