Declan’s Policy Update: Events, events, events!

Last week was a hectic week at Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce, with the delivery of more flagship events. 

During the course of the year, our Events team successfully co-ordinates a programme of more than 200 events.  Some of our events bring in truly inspirational guest speakers, others will keep our member businesses informed of local and national developments, whilst others are simply about networking and making those contacts.

On Tuesday, we hosted the ‘Unlocking opportunities for your business: An expert insight into the new Procurement Act’ event.   Guest speakers included Martyn Traynor, OBE (Small Business Crown Representative), who explained that there is a desire to make public sector procurement far simpler, which will help to encourage businesses of all sizes to come forward and bid for opportunities.  The annual amount spent by the government on goods and services, has now topped £60billion. 

The Procurement Bill received Royal Assent last year and The Cabinet Office has suggested a ‘go-live’ date of October 2024.  We learned that social value is becoming an increasingly important feature of public sector procurement.  Social value is all about being able to demonstrate wider benefit from the award of a government contract. Examples of social value could include creation of apprenticeship schemes for local people in order to deliver a contract, or investing in community groups to upskill local people as part of a technology bid. 

We also listened to Liz Barclay, of The Office of the Small Business Commissioner (OSBC), an independent public body set up by Government, to tackle late payment and unfavourable payment practices in the private sector.  We were astonished to find that 1/3 of payments to small businesses are late, with an average value of each payment reckoned to be worth £6,142.  Around 20% of small businesses have run into cash flow problems, so the devastating impact of late payments is clear to see. 

Liz said that she is keen to hear from more businesses who are facing difficulties in getting paid and her services are free to use, on a non-risk basis.

On Wednesday, I joined our first Big Business Breakfast of 2024, at the Bet365 Stadium.  This particular event was linked to the theme of ‘Innovative Skills Solutions’.   James Timpson OBE, of Timpson Group opened the event in front of a packed audience and shared some of the tactics he has used in finding, attracting and retaining the best talent for his business. 

James explained how he has recruited ex-offenders who have gone on to repay his faith in their ability by delivering exceptional performance.  He shared some of the ways in which he supports an empowers his staff on a day to day basis.  It was inspirational stuff and gave food for thought when it comes to staff recruitment.

Adam Whitehouse of TMT First shared the journey of how his business has grown in size, culminating in the recent launch of the very first Digital Device Repair Technician Apprenticeship, having spotted a gap in the skills market for tech repairs.  This will help to build a pipeline of talent, offering more apprenticeship and job opportunities for our school and college leavers.

Perry Smith of Hays discussed the upcoming launch of the 2024 Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Workforce Survey, which offers an insight into local salary levels, helping businesses to benchmark their own salary levels to support with the recruitment and retention of staff.  Watch this space for further updates.

Our Head of Business Services Tom Nadin, closed the event with an update on the delivery of the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP).  Staffordshire Chambers’ of Commerce has been appointed as designated employer representative body for the Stoke-on-Trent & Staffordshire LSIP.  Since the launch in October 2022, a high volume of activities and data gathering have taken place and good progress continues to take place, connecting businesses and training providers.

On Thursday, I joined a group of Chamber member businesses at Vale Park, when we welcomed Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Business and Trade), in an event hosted by British Chambers’ of Commerce Director General, Shevaun Haviland.  Mr Reynolds announced some of the Labour Party’s ambitions for small businesses and he was quizzed by the audience on a diverse range of topics, including energy, taxation, exporting and land value capture. 

I joined Mr Reynolds on a visit to Synectics Solutions, whose premises are just a free kick from Vale Park.  Synectics has been harnessing data in order to deliver effective and innovative fraud prevention solutions.  The company is a great success story, having grown exponentially since it started life in 1992.  After completing a very impressive site tour, we headed back to Vale Park where Mr Reynolds held a round table meeting with our Patron members.

If you would like information on any of the above events, please get in touch: