Sara’s Blog: Party conference season draws to a close & my final Let’s Do Business as CEO

Staffordshire Chambers Chief Executive, Sara Williams, talking to Blue Sky Radio at the Let's Do Business Expo

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 –

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:

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