Stoke-on-Trent City Council have created an Enhanced Partnership with local bus operators which outlines ambitious plans to improve bus services across the city.
By creating the partnership with local bus operators, the City Council has secured £31.6 million funding from the Department of Transport to deliver a range of bus service improvements including lower fares, simplified ticketing, shorter journey times, more frequent bus services, longer hours of operation and improved bus stop passenger information, accessibility and security. Further details regarding the bus service improvement proposals can be viewed here.
As part of their commitment to improving bus services, the City Council are setting up an Enhanced Partnership Forum consisting of key stakeholders with an interest in local bus services. The Forum will provide the opportunity to raise and discuss issues affecting the Stoke-on-Trent bus network, consult on service improvements, and make recommendations for consideration by the City Council and bus operators.
The first Forum is planned for the 8th November. If you are interested in joining, please click here.
8 million sq feet – or the size of 140 football fields? Whichever way you look at it, the West Midlands Interchange (WMI) site in South Staffordshire will be a huge commercial development in our county. Situated between junction 12 of the M6 and the West Coast Mainline at Gailey in South Staffordshire, WMI will have a significant impact on Staffordshire’s economy as the site takes shape in the next decade.
WMI is a joint venture between Logistics Capital Partners (LCP) and Oxford Property Group and is regarded as ‘The UK’s most significant new rail served logistics development,’ offering up to 8 million sq. feet of prime logistics facilities. In our recent Planning & Infrastructure (P&I) forum meeting, we received an update from LCP on the development of WMI.
On-site activity started in earnest during the summer of 2023, with the flattening of plateaued land, guided by a construction principle of ensuring that no soil leaves the existing site and no soil is brought onto the site.
Community engagement is a key priority for the development, with approximately 109 acres of land being set aside as a community park. Local residents are being asked about what amenities they would like to see in a community park. The park will also be used by the 8,500 workers who will be employed at WMI, once the site is complete.
The WMI site will seek innovative construction of buildings to ensure that there is relatively low energy consumption. Buildings across the site will offer up to 150 acres of roof space, onto which photovoltaic cells will be attached. This will generate energy for the entire site.
A rail head facility will open in 2026, allowing freight to move in and out by rail, connecting with the West Coast Mainline between Stafford and Wolverhampton. Once this is opened, further development of the site should accelerate, with demand for space expected to be high.
During last week’s P&I forum, we also received an update from locally based social enterprise, Mondrem, which wants ‘to help make public services brilliant, everywhere and all of the time’. Mike Astbury of Mondrem explained that his team is working with planning teams at local authorities, helping them to deliver a faster and better customer experience, improve productivity and deliver their work within budget.
Delays in turning around planning application decisions can often be attributed to a lack of capacity or challenges with staff recruitment and retention. Mondrem encourages local authority clients to recognise the importance of making human connections, as being human is what we all have in common. Another key element is the need to build shared understanding, trust and confidence. A faster, better service is seen as a by-product.
Our P&I forum is tasked with exchanging information on planning policy, construction and regeneration. It also steers Chambers’ representations on these matters and receives updates on developments in planning law. We meet again on Tuesday 23rd January 2024 and if you would like to learn more about the valuable work of this and our other policy forums, please drop me a line:
HMP Sudbury, in collaboration with its Employment Advisory Board (EAB), hosted a unique careers event that united local businesses and the prison community to explore pathways for workforce reintegration.
The Employment Advisory Board, comprising prominent local business leaders, played a pivotal role in connecting businesses with the potential workforce available within the Sudbury Prison community. Their collaboration showcased a commitment to fostering second chances and opening doors to meaningful employment for those currently incarcerated.
The event drew a diverse range of businesses representing sectors such as warehousing, manufacturing, construction, as well as specialised companies offering self-employment guidance and tailored support across various fields. The attendees were deeply impressed by the wealth of talent and untapped potential within HMP Sudbury.
Particpants expressed their eagerness for more opportunities of this nature, and emphasised the importance of similar events involving businesses from across the country, especially from regions like the West Midlands and London, where many of them will be released.
This collaboration between HMP Sudbury and the Employment Advisory Board exemplifies how collaborative efforts can ignite hope among prisoners for realising their potential upon release. By providing access to quality employment opportunities, this initiative aims to break the cycle of reoffending and secure a brighter future for the individuals involved and their families.
Declan’s Blog: Unique opportunity for Staffordshire’s importers and exporters to join inaugural Forum meeting
Next month sees the inaugural meeting of our new International Trade forum, and we’re calling on Staffordshire’s importers and exports to get involved and join the meeting on 20 November.
Our Chamber forums provide a unique and invaluable opportunity to meet with other Chamber members, share best practices, discuss sector issues and uncover new opportunities for your business. What are your main challenges when it comes to exporting? Is your business having any issues with export documentation paperwork? What can we do to encourage more local businesses to take the plunge and look at overseas markets for growth? Get involved with the Forum at Commerce House on Monday, 20 November, from 9:00am. The Forum, which is free-to-attend, is available exclusively to Chamber members. Spaces must be booked in advance via our website, here.
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 and 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. For further details on our policy forums, please contact Declan Riddell.
Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is regarded as the voice of local business in Staffordshire but what does this really mean? We deliver ten 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.
Forum dates are available on the events area of our Staffordshire Chambers website, here.
Staffordshire Chambers presented with King’s Award for Enterprise by Lord-Lieutenant for Staffordshire, Ian Dudson
Staffordshire Chambers has today been presented with the King’s Award for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity through social mobility by His Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant for Staffordshire, Ian Dudson.
The Promoting Opportunity award is issued to organisations that support people from disadvantaged backgrounds in improving their job skills and their chances of finding work – with Staffordshire Chambers becoming one of just nine businesses across the country to earn the accolade.
Two guest speakers joined the Chamber team at Commerce House as part of the celebrations; Charlie Beswick from our Boosting Women in Business Programme and Lucy Li from our Positive Pathways programme. Both programmes played a key part in the Chamber being issued with the King’s Award for Enterprise.
A full list of images from the presentation can be found here. Please use the password coc2.
Staffordshire Chambers CEO, Sara Williams OBE, said: “I am delighted, honoured and incredibly excited to receive The King’s Award for Enterprise – one of the proudest moments in the history of Staffordshire Chambers.
“Our members know that here at the Chamber, our focus is on community and the belief that business is the bedrock of that community. I must thank the whole Chamber family; members, Patrons, Board, Council, Forums, staff, stakeholders and partners. You have all won this award.
“I would also like to thank both of our guest speakers who joined us today – we are especially proud of the flagship programmes that both Charlie and Lucy have participated in that have been instrumental in promoting opportunity and social mobility within our community.
“Our ‘Boosting Women in Business’ programme offers tailored support to inspire, boost confidence and raise the self-esteem of women across Staffordshire, while our Positive Pathways programme is a business start-up and employability skills programme designed specifically for refugees who have fled war, violence, conflict, or persecution. Both of our guest speakers are living testaments to the success of these programmes.
“Our businesses employ people, empower people, educate people and work within the community to ensure opportunity for everyone, including the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, and I am proud that Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce is at the heart of this.”
The King’s Awards for Enterprise was previously known as The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, and the new name reflects His Majesty The King’s desire to continue the legacy of HM Queen Elizabeth II by recognising outstanding UK businesses.
Now in its 57th year, the award programme is the most prestigious business award in the country, with successful businesses able to use the esteemed King’s Award Emblem for the next five years.
I was intrigued by an article in Daily Focus last week that discussed the growing number of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) that now utilise social media as their main sales channel.
Recent research by BT found that 28% of businesses survey stated that their key sources of revenue are Facebook, Instagram, X and TikTok.
This news came as no shock, in fact I would have thought 28% was on the low side!
The adoption of digital technologies is as significant as the industrial revolution and we are only at the beginning with artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse already here and influencing business trends massively.
The BT research found a disparity between digital marketing and skills to implement them. It is a consequence of the speed of technological advancement that we have a situation where many business owners simply do not have the time or the skills to move with the times.
And I can say this; there are those of us of a certain age who just feel overwhelmed at times with the rate of advancement of digital technology.
Thankfully, we have much younger and tech-savvy people in the Chamber team who ensure we keep up and embrace the technology, not just for ourselves but for the benefit of every business in Staffordshire.
There is a great opportunity to get up to speed with the digital world if you visit our annual business expo, Let’s do Business at Uttoxeter Racecourse on 12th October.
The keynote speaker is AI expert Katie King who will be offering an exclusive insight into AI, digital transformation, and the future of marketing.
Katie, who was recently voted a ‘Top 10 AI influencer’ will explain how businesses of all sizes and across all sectors can harness AI ethically for competitive advantage by exploiting new tools and processes across their marketing, sales, the customer experience and HR, and provide insights into how they can get started, cost-effectively, using her ‘Scorecard for Success’.
Plus there will be lots of companies exhibiting or attending as delegates who are experts in all things digital.
You can book your free delegate here: Let’s Do Business – Staffordshire Chambers
You might also want to attend a meeting of our Digital Forum which meets quarterly.
It exists to drive the growing digital sector in Staffordshire, enabling businesses to freely exchange information, share best practice and discuss digital innovation, information communication technology and AI.
You can book on the next meeting here: Digital Forum – Staffordshire Chambers
Latest inflation figures
Inflation in the UK dropped to 6.8% in the year to July from 7.9% in June, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Helping the fall in inflation was a fall in the energy price cap on 1st July and a slowing of the rate at which food prices were rising – although those are still almost 15% higher than a year ago.
While some ingredients have got cheaper, retailers still faced higher bills for the likes of wages and transport – it’s often customers who pay the prices.
However, the underlying trends are still causing concern because if you take out food and energy so-called ‘core inflation’ remains close to a 30-year high.
That category includes many non-essentials, suggesting some households still had the means to treat themselves to these – and it’s that discretionary spending that the Bank of England is aiming at when it raises interest rates.
With inflation still way higher than its 2% target, most analysts expect a further rate rise come September. And it remains uncertain whether the government can fulfil its pledge to see inflation halve over this year.
The news that consumer price inflation continued to ease in July is encouraging. However, this comes off the back of months of high prices which have hit business hard. Many firms have yet to see the cost of raw materials fall.
Businesses tell us that confidence is improving slightly as inflationary pressures ease. However, our latest quarterly economic survey showed most companies reported no improvement to sales, cash flow, or investment.
High interest rates are now of real concern to firms. Investment across all sectors is suffering because of the cost-of-borrowing. Businesses need to be confident that interest rates have reached their peak – we shall soon find out!
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
Newcastle under Lyme Business Improvement District (BID) is thrilled to announce that Keele University has been confirmed as the headline sponsor for the prestigious LoveNUL Business Awards. The inaugural awards ceremony will celebrate the exceptional contributions of local businesses and community champions, fostering a sense of community and recognising the vital role these enterprises play in the town’s growth and development.
The LoveNUL Business Awards is an initiative aimed at recognizing and celebrating the outstanding efforts of town centre shops, restaurants, pubs, service providers, and individuals who have gone above and beyond to create exceptional experiences for their customers and clients. With a diverse range of 15 awards categories, the public has the opportunity to show their appreciation for their favourite establishments and community figures.
The awards sponsorship comes following the recent announcement of Keele in Town, a digital hub situated on the Ironmarket that will offer a gateway between Newcastle-under-Lyme and the University. The LoveNUL Business Awards provide an excellent platform for the university to reinforce its support for the local business ecosystem and its commitment to building further relationships with the public and key partners.
Professor Trevor McMillan OBE, Vice-Chancellor of Keele University, expressed his enthusiasm for the sponsorship, stating: “We are proud to be confirmed as the headline sponsors of the inaugural LoveNUL Awards.
The Awards celebrate the very best of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and as a University, we recognize the crucial role that local businesses play in driving economic growth and fostering a thriving community. Many businesses and talented individuals make a positive contribution to our town, and these awards provide a great opportunity to shine a spotlight on their work.”
The public nomination period for the LoveNUL Business Awards has now concluded, with the voting phase set to commence on Friday August 11th. The awards ceremony will take place on Friday, September 15th at the Newcastle under Lyme Performing Arts College. The event will bring together shortlisted businesses, BID levy payers, and key partners in Newcastle under Lyme, celebrating their achievements and contributions.
For more information about the LoveNUL Business Awards, award categories, and further sponsorship opportunities, please visit www.lovenulawards.co.uk or follow @newcastlebid
Join the Skills Revolution campaign aims to increase small and medium-sized enterprises’ awareness of a range of government programmes including apprenticeships, T Level industry placements and Multiply numeracy courses.
The campaign encourages employers who are considering hiring employees, offering work experience or upskilling existing staff to sign up to these programmes.
The campaign webpage features an overview of the full range of government training and employment schemes employers might be interested in.
As widely expected, the Bank of England has raised the interest rate by a quarter of a percent to 5.25%.
The rise in the interest rate comes as no shock, and we believe we are past the peak in inflation, but at 7.9% it is almost four times the Bank of England’s 2% target. However, the Government has pledged to reduce inflation to 5% by the end of 2023.
Data from the Office for National Statistics clearly shows that input cost pressures for firms are finally falling. And recent BCC research backs this up, with 45% of companies now expecting to increase prices, a 15-percentage point fall compared to six months ago. We are also likely to see a further substantial fall in inflation in July as last year’s energy price rises drop out of the data.
Vicky Pryce, of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) Economic Advisory Council, said that “Businesses will be hoping that today’s rise in interest rates is the last they will see. While many firms will have already factored this increase into their plans, it is clear from the recent rise in insolvencies that the economic environment is becoming stacked against smaller firms. They are the ones with less cash reserves in the bank and greater exposure to finance”.
While inflation remains the top concern for businesses overall, interest rates have emerged as the second top concern, with 41% citing this as more of a worry than three months ago in the BCC’s latest survey.
And there are concerns now that the economy could be pushed into recession as it takes 18 months for changes in interest rate rises to filter through. With all the cumulative pressure of past rises yet to come, business will be watching closely for any further indications on the Bank’s plans.
At the same time, it is encouraging that the Government has recently expanded the list of shortage occupations to recruit more workers from abroad. Hopefully, it will now be considering what more can be done to ease staff pressures.
We are really pleased that Vicky Pryce will be the headline speaker at our forthcoming ‘Economic Conference’ on Wednesday 22nd November.
The conference will focus on what the business community may expect to see in 2024. In addition to Vicky there will be other speakers and a programme of panel discussions. We will confirm the venue and booking details in the next few weeks so save the date in your diaries.
If you have any questions or issues around the latest interest rate rise or any business issues, contact our policy advisor Declan Riddell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chamber welcomes its latest patron.
Earlier this week I was delighted to welcome international construction company, Swietelsky as our latest patron.
The Swietelsky Group is a leading construction company operating in Central and Eastern Europe with around 12,000 employees. The firm is proud of its ‘big family’ philosophy, nurturing a supportive and collaborative environment to help drive toward a common economic future. They offer a full range of construction services and are known for their high quality, flexibility and adherence to deadlines.
As a patron of Staffordshire Chambers, Swietelsky joins a vibrant community of businesses who are dedicated to promoting economic growth and supporting the development of local enterprises.
Becoming a patron of the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce identifies a business as a leading and strategic player in the Staffordshire economy. We provide our patrons regular access to key influencers and decision-makers in government and other agencies ensuring that they are well placed to influence and make the optimum contribution to growing our economy.
Patron’s support and expertise is priceless. Personnel from all our 27 patrons populate our Board of Directors, Council and our member forums. They give freely of their time to offer their expertise which covers every aspect of business, education and skills and make a huge contribution to local good causes and charities through their corporate social responsibility activity.
If you would like to find out more about becoming a patron contact Karena Pawlak email@example.com or call 01782 202222
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
Grace, 43, from Stafford, was recognised at the international Speaker Awards ceremony, held at London’s Hilton Docklands hotel. The awards honour speakers from all corners of the globe who inspire, motivate and ignite change through the power of their words.
Since 2012 Grace has delivered over 750 virtual workshops and keynote speeches for an extensive global client list, including Sage, 3M, Pearson and BT. Up to 2019 she had delivered 32 virtual sessions, however recent demand for her virtual talks has grown by over 840% to almost 300 virtual speaker engagements.
Grace won the Virtual Speaker category based on her inspiring video talks for Member Masterclass, a series of exclusive content created by Sage, the leader in accounting, finance, HR, and payroll technology for small and mid-sized businesses. Grace’s videos were commissioned by Sage for its audience of small business owners, accountants, HR and finance professionals. They are live in five countries (UK, Ireland, US, Canada and South Africa) and are soon to be rolled out in France, Germany and Spain.
Grace partners with event companies, marketing agencies, HR and internal communications departments to deliver popular talks on emotional resilience, productivity and work life wellbeing, based on her third book.
The book has been described as honest, uplifting and ‘the antidote to fake positivity’.
Grace explains: “My talks are designed to help people face adversity, navigate uncertainty and overcome overwhelm with more resilience and compassion, as well as to help companies look after their staff through difficult times.
“I address the question; ‘What do you do when things go wrong?’ and encourage us all to look at struggle in a different way – because out of struggle comes innovation, growth and strength.”
To find out more about Grace’s speaking opportunities, please visit www.gracemarshall.com