The party conference season has drawn to a close and we have seen the Lib Dems gunning for ‘Blue Wall’ seats in the next election, buoyed by recent bye-election successes; Rishi Sunak scrapping the northern phase of HS2 and making strategic changes that suggest a significant transformation of the Conservative party. And this week it was the turn of Sir Kier Starmer at what has been dubbed as ‘possibly his last party conference as leader of the opposition’.
Sir Kier and Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves have stressed that they are for business, opposed to tax increases and pro-development with the announcement of several new towns and an accelerated programme of building on brown field sites to solve the housing crisis.
Labour is right to say that reforming the planning system, speeding up energy grid connections and delivering the infrastructure this country needs to grow are key issues facing business.
The commitment to invest and grow the UK’s world leading green industries is also welcomed as this sector is vital to the future of our economy.
Building 1.5 million high-quality homes, creating new towns in the places people want to live, and reclaiming appropriate land to do this will unlock growth across the UK.
But it is essential that there is good quality land reserved for business too, and that councils are proactively planning for employment. All too often, firms are squeezed out of towns and cities. Flourishing economies need the right balance of land for jobs and homes.
Planning has been a totemic issue for a long time and businesses will rightly want to see exactly how Keir Starmer plans to overcome resistance and inertia – and finally put this issue to bed.
Employers are crying out for more people with technical skills and will be keen to hear more about the proposals for new technical colleges. Working alongside business led Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) such as ours in Staffordshire, these must help ensure people are training for in-demand skills and giving employers access to a skilled workforce.
Ultimately, businesses invest more when there is a credible long-term plan, so it was good to hear Keir Starmer thinking beyond the here and now and committing to providing the clarity and certainty that firms crave.
I was able to put some of these points to Sir Kier and Jonathan Reynolds, Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Trade, when I attended the SME Day at the conference with the British Chambers of Commerce (if you ask me nicely next time I see you, I’ll show you the picture of me talking to Sir Kier!) and I was struck by the fact that everyone was very pro business and especially interested in the issues facing smaller companies.
I’m sure there is lots of issues raised through conference season that will be of concern or for which you would like to add your voice to Staffordshire and the British Chambers of Commerce representations to Government.
You can do this by contacting our policy advisor, Declan Ridell – email@example.com
My final Let’s do Business as CEO
It was fabulous to see so many members and friends at Let’s do Business at Uttoxeter Racecourse on Thursday. Let’s do Business was the first event I attended after my appointment as CEO back in 2011.
I had started in the job that week and remember walking around anonymously trying to take it all in, seeing strange faces and names on exhibition stands that were new to me.
Wind on twelve years and it’s difficult to get through the door and into the exhibition without stopping to chat and hugging with people I have got to know and who have become a part of my life.
This sums up, to me, the warmth and cohesive nature of the Staffordshire Chambers community and the incredible feeling of togetherness. I feel privileged to be a part of it.
As well as being one huge networking event Let’s do Business has become an annual affirmation of the fact that we are all working together to achieve our goals and that everything will work out because we have each other’s backs and best interests at heart.
And long may it continue!
If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222, call the Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staffordshire Chambers is thrilled to unveil the official exhibitor map for Let’s Do Business, the region’s biggest business show, which returns to Uttoxeter Racecourse this Thursday, 12 October.
As the countdown to the event continues, the map provides a sneak peek into the dynamic and diverse range of businesses that will be showcasing their products and services to over 1,000 delegates.
Let’s Do Business is an annual highlight for Staffordshire’s business community, drawing professionals, entrepreneurs and decision-makers from across the region to connect, network, and explore opportunities for growth.
Whether you’re looking to discover new suppliers, explore innovative technologies or establish valuable business connections, Let’s Do Business has something for everyone.
This year’s expo will also feature a full day of captivating keynotes and thought-provoking panel discussions with some of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of AI and data revolution. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn how to harness the power of programmes such as ChatGPT for your business. Find out more about each speaker, here.
To view the exhibitor map in full, please click here.
Last-minute delegate tickets are available free of charge via Eventbrite, here.
Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is proud to announce that we have been named a finalist for the 2023 Chamber of the Year Award by the British Chambers of Commerce.
The Chamber of the Year award, which Staffordshire Chambers proudly won in 2021, acknowledges and celebrates the remarkable achievements and contributions made by Chambers of Commerce in their communities and regions over the past year.
Staffordshire Chambers, Dorset Chamber, Cumbria Chamber, Glasgow Chamber and the North East England Chamber of Commerce make up the five finalists – having been selected from the 53 accredited Chambers across the UK.
The winners of the Chamber of the Year Award will be unveiled during the British Chambers of Commerce Chamber’s AGM on Wednesday, October 11, 2023.
If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of becoming a member of Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, please contact us at 01782 202222 or via email email@example.com.
A group of our Stafford Chamber Local Area Advisory Board (LAAB) members recently joined the Deputy CEO of Stafford Borough Council, Gregg Stott, to have a look at the centre of our County Town and identify some key discussion points on how to boost footfall and improve access.
In the space of an hour, we identified a number of areas which, if addressed, could help to significantly improve the appearance of the County Town. Commercial waste bins are an eyesore and moving these to the back of premises helps to increase space for pedestrians. Many commercial premises are blighted by graffiti, which creates a negative image.
During the previous week, it was announced that Stafford Borough Council had agreed to buy the town’s old Co-op department store as part of major transformation plans for the area. We welcome this news and see it as a very positive step in addressing the decline in both footfall and trade in the north end of Stafford Town Centre. The acquisition of the former Co-op Department store will bring empty commercial premises back into use.
Like many towns across the country, Stafford has seen a drop in footfall, largely driven by changes in shopping patterns/habits and changes in working patterns following the pandemic, with many workers opting to work from home for part, or even all of the week. Aspirations to fill empty commercial premises with retail continues to be a challenge and we acknowledge that one option is to look at conversion from retail into residential. A growing town centre population will use town centre retailers and spend money in the many leisure and hospitality venues across the centre of Stafford and we very much recognise the positive benefits that this can bring.
However, we continue make the call for more public services to be brought into the centre of Stafford. We really believe that this will drive footfall into the County Town. One example could be the transfer of certain outpatient services. At present, service users are travelling to County Hospital, which either involves a journey of two buses or driving around and looking for a car park space. Having outpatient services in the centre of Stafford would bring users into town by bus or train or using some of the town’s car parks.
Once in town, service users are likely to support other retailers, whether in the form of grabbing a coffee, collecting some dry cleaning or doing a food shop. It supports our hard-pressed town centre retailers and can make a real difference. Having a retail option at the former Co-op store is a good thing but we would really welcome the scope to bring in more service provision for businesses, with office space and even business hubs for start-up entrepreneurs, as well as hot-desking space for those wanting to work for part of the week.
If you have any suggestions about how we can drive footfall into our County Town, our Stafford Chamber LAAB would be delighted to hear from you. Your suggestions can be forwarded to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce are working with the Staffordshire Police, Crime and Fire Commissioner to support businesses across the region by offering free Domestic Abuse Workplace Champions training.
These Champions will get training to help to spot the signs of domestic abuse in the workplace and act as a confidential and supportive figure, being able to signpost to help and advice.
The dates of the next sessions are as follows:-
11 October 2023 – 09:30am until 16:00pm – This session is face to face in Stoke
16/17 November 2023 – 10:00am until 13:00 – This session is online and delegates must attend both dates.
7/8 December 2023 – 10:00am until 13:00 – This session is online and delegates must attend both dates.
If you are interested in being involved – contact Kelly.email@example.com
Two Staffordshire entrepreneurs have teamed up to launch a new business that offers a fresh approach to trading goods and services.
Mackenzie’s Swap Shop, which officially launched on 1 October, allows users to trade goods and services through an online platform – with a percentage of proceeds being split between two charities that support veterans.
Founders Tony Burn and Rich Hill believe that the initiative will not only support two good causes but help to boost sustainability efforts in Staffordshire and beyond.
Tony, who is keen to support two armed forces charities after serving in the forces himself, said: “The idea started when my daughter Mackenzie was asking for things over the summer holidays, and was already bored of things that we had brought for her the previous summer.
“Owning a renewable energy company, I thought, why don’t we look at swapping things we don’t want for things we do want. With that, the idea for the shop was born.
“From the site subscription fees, a percentage is paid to our two chosen charities, Walking with the Wounded, who have Royal Patronage, and Tough Enough to Care, which supports people with mental health issues.”
Swaps currently available on the site include anything from swimming lessons and TV’s to hypnosis therapy treatments and a fully-installed solar PV system.
Rich, who founded the business alongside Tony, explained: “When Tony had the idea of Mackenzie’s Swap Shop, it made perfect sense that everyone could simply swap things that they no longer want or need, for something that otherwise they may not have had the opportunity to own.
“I have also been as sustainable as possible, but with three children and my beautiful granddaughter, it made me fully realise the impact that the disposable economy that we now seem to be part of, is making. This initiative will hopefully help to combat this.”
Find out more via the website, here.
Planning is always a hot topic of discussion at the Chambers’ board, council and forums, so it was heartening this week to see the British Chambers of Commerce calling for a series of urgent improvements to unlock the planning system across the UK. The proposals aim to create a more effective and efficient system that boosts business investment. The BCC’s immediate priorities are:
- Improved resources for council planning teams and more use of digitisation for applications.
- Political stability on planning reform so the system can operate unhindered for a lengthy period.
- More priority for business’ needs in the development management and plan-making process.
- Co-ordination between local and national infrastructure must be a key part of long-term planning.
- Planning system to make grid connectivity easier for infrastructure projects and new building developments.
The proposals are outlined in a new report: Planning for Business – 2023 and beyond. The report was put together by the BCC’s Planning Expert Panel, made up of industry specialists who are all chamber members including Carl Copestake from solicitors Knights who chairs Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce’s Planning & Infrastructure Forum.
The policy document also highlights how the planning system must support the transition to net-zero and calls for a more robust appeals system.
Since the Covid 19 pandemic, most SMEs have not increased investment. In the BCC’s Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2023, which includes input from around 200 Staffordshire firms, the number of firms who said they planned to increase investment dropped to 23%, compared to 25% in Q1.
The planning system has a major role to play in helping to unleash the potential of British business. But all too often firms are left frustrated by a slow and complex process.
We urgently need more resources for local planning authority teams, greater stability of planning policy and more focus on the supply of land for business use.
BCC research shows that as companies continue to face an unprecedented set of economic challenges, investment is suffering. An improved planning system would help unlock investment.
Co-ordination between local and national infrastructure projects must be a key part of the long-term planning strategy. Recent speculation about the HS2 project is deeply concerning. It highlights why businesses and local authorities need certainty from government. That will give them confidence to plan and invest.
Successful businesses are at the heart of local communities. The planning system most focus more on economic growth and achieving the right balance of land for jobs and homes.
The next meeting of our Planning and Infrastructure Forum takes place on 2nd November, and it would be great to see you there and hear your input and views. You can book your free place here: Planning and Infrastructure Forum – Staffordshire Chambers
In the meantime, if you have any issues around planning, please contact our policy advisor Declan Riddell: firstname.lastname@example.org
To view Planning for Business – 2023 and beyond click here: www.britishchambers.org.uk/news/2023/09/unlocking-the-planning-system-to-boost-investment
If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222, call the Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: email@example.com
Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is proud to unveil an exciting and groundbreaking initiative aimed at driving ethical business practices, enhancing sustainability outcomes and fostering positive regional impact – the Responsible Business Accelerator.
We are now looking for forward-thinking businesses in Stoke-on-Trent to participate in the pilot phase of this exciting new programme, spanning a period of nine months. By becoming a trial participant, you’ll gain exclusive access to this innovative service and have the unique opportunity to shape its future development.
Key Highlights of the Responsible Business Accelerator:
The Responsible Business Accelerator is designed to empower businesses across Stoke-on-Trent to enhance and measure their economic, societal, and environmental impact. It gives businesses the opportunity to:
- Assess Your Starting Point: Evaluate your company’s current responsible business practices across five priority areas.
- Explore Our Comprehensive Action Library: Gain access to a diverse range of actions aligned with local priorities and global sustainable development goals.
- Action Pledges: Commit to delivering specific actions from the action library. The platform will recommend actions tailored to your business’s needs based on your initial assessment. You’ll receive guidance, resources, and templates to aid in the development, implementation, and measurement of your pledges.
- Earn Accreditation: Successfully fulfill your action pledges within the specified timeframe to become eligible for a Responsible Business accreditation.
Interested businesses are asked to join us at Commerce House, Festival Park on 4 October from 9:00am-12:00pm.
This scheme is available to both Chamber members and non-members.
This project is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund for businesses in Stoke-on-Trent.
For more details and to register your interest, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Staffordshire Chambers today joins hundreds of UK organisations as we raise a flag to show support for the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This September marks eight years since the world embraced the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, reflect a shared objective and ambition across all countries to end poverty and hunger everywhere, to combat inequalities within and among countries, to build peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, to protect human rights and promote gender equality of women and girls, and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources by 2030.
The 17 Goals are supported by 169 targets and 232 indicators, enabling progress to be prioritised and tracked.
On 25 September Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is joining hundreds of businesses, government departments, and civil society organisations in a global movement to fly an SDG flag to spread awareness of the SDGs and mobilise stakeholders for the 2030 agenda.
In the UK, there have been some significant milestones towards the SDGs. In 2022, the UN Global Compact Network UK released Measuring Up 2.0, a multi-stakeholder report assessing the UK’s performance against the SDGs and their Targets to understand how and where businesses, government, and other organisations should focus efforts for the remainder of this decade of action.
The report found of the 132 Targets relevant to the domestic delivery of the SDGs, the UK is only performing well on 17% of them. It highlighted how persistent inequalities within and between communities in the UK mean that we continue to leave people and places behind. It is because of this. that the 2030 Agenda is more important than ever, and worldwide collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society organisations essential.
With only 1 in 10 people in Britain familiar with the SDGs, raising the SDG flag this September is key to raising awareness and mobilising stakeholders for action.
Join the global movement in championing the SDGs so together the 2030 Agenda can be achieved.
I’ll start this week’s blog by turning the clock back to 25th September 2015. David Cameron was the Prime Minister. Barack Obama was the US President. The United Kingdom was a member of the European Union and Marko Arnautović was tearing up Premier League defences in a Stoke City shirt.
25th September 2015 also marked the date when the world adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG are a set of 17 goals which have been agreed by global leaders, in order to build a greener, fairer, better world by 2030 and every one of us has a role in achieving the SDG.
The SDG were agreed in 2015 and we’re now just over halfway to the target end date of 2030. As a global community, we face huge challenges in todays’ world. There is a need to reflect a shared aim across all countries to end poverty and hunger everywhere, to combat inequalities within and among countries, to build peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, to protect human rights and promote gender equality of women and girls and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.
Huge challenges need bold action if we are to succeed and this is where the SDG play a part in achieving this, calling for worldwide collaboration between governments, businesses, and civil society to deliver a powerful vision for improving our world by 2030.
Staffordshire Chambers’ of Commerce is proud to be a UN SDG Ambassador and we hope that more Staffordshire businesses will join us in showing their commitment to the Global Goals and the action that they’re already taking to combat major global challenges including climate change, decent work, gender inequality and poverty.
UN SDG are discussed across all of our Chamber policy forums to raise awareness of how we can collectively play our part in helping to overcome the global challenges and make a difference to the life experiences of people everywhere.
• Do you have sustainability pioneers on your organisation? Why not give them a platform! Encourage them to publish their stories and ideas on your company website and social media channels.
• Encourage your colleagues to commit to both personal and professional pledges towards achieving SDG.
• Encourage your company’s suppliers and customers to embrace your pledges towards achieving SDG.
All the information you need can be found here.
On Monday 25th September 2023, we’re hoisting the SDG flag to show our support for the SDG and to mobilise support in looking ahead to the next seven years. Whilst notable progress has been made across some of the 17 SDG, further effort is needed if we are to achieve the SDG by the start of the next decade. We hope you’ll join us and play your part in shaping a better world for all.