Declan’s Policy Update

Photo of Declan Riddell

Last week, we brought together a group of member businesses to meet with the MP for Staffordshire Moorlands, Karen Bradley, MP.    This was a great opportunity to get the views of our members on a range of topics.

We discussed digital connectivity for our rural communities in Staffordshire, which are home to almost 60% of Staffordshire’s residents.    We believe that by supporting the development and progression of our rural areas, we can promote rural economic growth.

Access to a reliable digital connection is crucial for businesses in our region.  Gaps in broadband and mobile connectivity stifle business productivity and competitiveness.   We want to bring an end to ‘digital exclusion’ with rural businesses having access to decent connections allowing them to compete with rivals based in urban areas.

A bid has been submitted to the Restoring your Railways Fund (RYRF), to develop a feasibility study to look at the re-opening of a rail line between Leek and Stoke-on-Trent.    Mrs Bradley is chairing a delivery board to look at a full range of options and Staffordshire Chambers’ of Commerce has lent its support to the scheme.   Transport is a such a key enabler and the re-opening of a rail line will help to connect the Moorlands and Stoke-on-Trent, opening up travel for business and leisure.

We talked about plans to redevelop the centre of Leek, with the award of Levelling Up funding.    Plans include the refurbishing and re-purposing the first floor of the Nicholson Institute to provide blended, complementary cultural and education facilities (in partnership with Staffordshire County Council and Buxton and Leek College); investment in improved retail facilities and trader opportunities at the Trestle and Butter markets.

Reports of business crime in rural areas have continued to grow in recent years.   This was raised with Mrs Bradley, who said that following a remodelling of staffing at Staffordshire Police, there are an increased number of dedicated police officers across Staffs Moorlands and we hope this will lead to a decline in rural business crime.

Meeting with an MP is a great way to discuss common themes and issues which cut across all business sectors but during last week’s meeting, one of our members took the opportunity to raise some specific concerns affecting her business, including a significant rise in the cost of professional indemnity insurance and the process of tendering contracts for small businesses.   Mrs Bradley agreed to undertake further investigation into these topics and will report back with her findings.

This week, we’ll be meeting with some more political leaders in our area.   On Friday 28thApril, businesses are invited to join our Hustings event at our Commerce House office (ST1 5BE).    Current Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council (Cllr Abi Brown) and the current Leader of the Opposition of Stoke on Trent City Council (Cllr Jane Ashworth), will be questioned on their respective policies and aspirations on the eve of the Local Elections, which take place on Thursday 4th May.

You can book your place at our Hustings event, by clicking on the link:

Business Matters: Stoke-on-Trent City Council Hustings Event – Staffordshire Chambers

Please note that pre-booking is essential.    Anyone who hasn’t booked, won’t be allowed to attend and online bookings will close by the end of Wednesday 26th April.

When casting your vote in the Local Elections, remember to bring photo ID.

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