On Wednesday of this we held our AGM at the newly refurbished Double Tree by Hilton on Festival Park. It is a lovely addition to the hotel spaces in Staffordshire and the service was impeccable. It was also wonderful to be back in person in front of Members to report on our activities of the most extraordinary and testing of year for business and ourselves.
We reviewed how the Chambers have adapted after face-to-face contact disappeared on 23 March 2020.
Highlights of our interactions with business during this period included over 10,000 calls to our business helpline; facilitating over 1500 places through the Government’s Kickstart Scheme for 18 to 24-year-olds; supporting 127 people to start their own business; supporting 189 businesses through our Mentoring for Growth scheme and facilitating over 200 online events and webinars as you can see, we didn’t stop trying to support the business community of Staffordshire.
Please do take a few minutes to view our annual review video. I think this shows why I am so proud of the team and how we work – in fact, I still get tearful even though I have seen it numerous times!
Wednesday also marked the handover of the Chamber presidency for Staffordshire Chambers and our two local area Chambers in Stafford and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
I would like to thank personally the outgoing Presidents – Matt Hubbard for Staffordshire, Carl Croft for Stafford, and Natalie Hewitt for the Staffordshire Moorlands – for all their support and work on behalf of the membership and all businesses in the county over the past two years. They have worked with the Chambers’ team to ensure businesses were supported through the pandemic whilst working in their own businesses during such tricky times.
We have a superb new president in Kate Beardmore, who has served as Deputy to Matt for the past two years. Kate will be well known to many of you through her role as a director at Chambers’ patron, Synectics Solutions Ltd, and as the outstanding compere of the Staffordshire Chambers Business Awards for the past two years. Kate brings energy, experience, and slice of humour to the role and I am sure we will all benefit from her time in office.
It’s also fabulous to welcome Martin Lennon and Rachel Buxton as Presidents of Stafford and Staffordshire Moorlands Chambers respectively. They both share a passion for their area and a very hands-on approach to working with businesses at a local level.
After the AGM, we held a Chamber Council meeting (and welcomed some new faces to this too). The role of the Council is to represent the Members’ interests and to provide direction, through our Forums and their reports, on issues that affect the business community. One of the topics we heard about was the proposals for the Clean Air Zones for Stone-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme and the impact this may have on businesses.
Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme are both set to introduce a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) as a measure to reduce air pollution – something we all passionately believe in as it affects so many people’s health. A similar zone already exists in Birmingham, and many cities and large towns up and down the country are also at an advanced planning stage for the introduction of a CAZ. Once approved, the zones would be in use no later than the latter half of 2024.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has already modelled the use of a CAZ covering Victoria Road in Fenton and the city centre which has shown that measures would be sufficient to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide to within legal minimum levels by the start of 2029, at which time the measures could be removed. Stoke-on-Trent’s City Council’s Leader, Abi Brown, estimates that vehicles using Victoria Road will face a daily charge of between £9 and £35, depending on the size and emissions rating of a vehicle. There are also proposals for ‘bus gates’ which would partially close certain routes such as the A53 at Basford to all traffic except buses during peak hours.
These proposals will have a marked effect on business and there are still unanswered questions around the impact closures in one area will have on other areas of the conurbation. Also, Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle approach seems disjointed which could bring additional access problems. A full business case will be drawn up for both the Councils and the Government to approve and it should include requests for additional funds to support affected drivers.
We are holding a free event about the proposed Stoke-on-Trent CAZ on 13th December where you can hear from the consultants working on behalf of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and find out more about the proposed zone and how it may affect your business. It will be helpful to us too as we can hear what will affect you and we can help to work out impact and mitigation. Click here to book your place.
If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org