A Word From Our CEO – 13th February
13th February 2020
Tackling business issues
The government has been busy making announcements about ways to improve infrastructure and transport including boosting funding for regional bus links. At Surrey Chambers we will be keen to work with local government, bus operators and central government to ensure that this new funding makes a real difference on the ground. Buses matter to the success of our business communities, from high streets to industrial estates and better bus services mean less congestion, less pollution, and more reliable journeys. Speaking to local businesses these are issues frequently cited as barriers to productivity.
An additional ongoing issue is that of a skills shortage. In a recent survey carried out by British Chambers and Totaljobs the issues we face locally were amplified by the national response. Over half of UK firms attempted to recruit in the last quarter of 2019, but almost three quarters have struggled to find the right talent, the largest survey of UK employers found.
With greater political stability in 2020, 26% of respondents expected to be looking to increase their workforce in Q1 2020, further exacerbating the shortages. There were some sectoral indicators with shortages most apparent in the construction and hospitality sectors, with 79% and 77% respectively struggling to recruit. In both these sectors – and others – uncertainty over the UK’s future immigration regime continues to be a concern.
By gathering this intelligence, we are able to lobby the government to address critical skills shortages in the upcoming Budget, including commitments to long-term funding for vocational education and for apprenticeships in small and medium-sized businesses.
As a Chamber network we are also calling on the government to review the Apprenticeship Levy, which hits every firm with a payroll of over £3m, to ensure companies can use the funds to train their staff. Greater flexibility for employers on how funds can be used towards vital non-apprenticeship or accredited training could help to make better use of this budget and upskill the UK workforce.
Impact of leaving the EU
As the UK forms new economic relationships with the EU and partners across the world, businesses also need clarity on who they can recruit. As things stand, businesses don’t know who they can hire, and under what conditions, from New Year’s Day 2021. That’s unacceptable. The Government needs to act swiftly to deliver a fast, flexible new immigration system that allows firms to access staff at all skill levels, and limits upfront fees, delays and costly red tape. As a network we are working closely with government departments to ensure that we have an orderly exit from the EU and our biggest ask is that we are kept up to date with changes as they occur.
Happy birthday us!!
We are very excited, in a couple of weeks, to celebrate 25 years since Surrey Chambers of Commerce was formed. In terms of Chambers longevity this doesn’t sound too old but the individual Chambers that joined together to form Surrey Chambers have been in existence for over 100 years. We are thrilled that Fetcham Park House is hosting our birthday party, especially as the owners of the House are one of the original Chamber business members. We look forward to celebrating with many other members!