CEO’s Column – Louise Punter, Surrey Chambers

30th August 2017

Airport business opportunities

One of the massive benefits of being in Surrey is the access to two international airports. For obvious reasons the connectivity to the world is really important to a growing business but in addition to this the economies around both airports are huge and give rise to many chances for local businesses to bid for work. Surrey Chambers is supporting two excellent events which bring many of these opportunities together. On October 18th, Gatwick Diamond Meet the Buyers brings local, regional and national buyers together with local businesses at the Arora Hotel in Crawley. Less than a month later, on Wednesday 8th November, the Heathrow business summit takes place at Hilton Heathrow Terminal 5. We are urging all our members to look at attending these worthwhile events.

Employment costs concerning businesses

Results of our annual workforce survey have just been released and 4 in every 5 businesses have seen their costs increase this year through changes in employment legislation. The survey carried out with British Chambers of Commerce and the University of Middlesex reveals that pensions auto-enrolment, the National Living Wage and the Apprenticeship Levy have increased the cost base of businesses, and could lead to reduced opportunities for investment and wage growth. The rise in the National Living Wage (NLW) in April of this year has increased employment costs for one-in-two companies (50%) in the UK. There appears to be a North/South divide, with firms in the North of England (55%) and the Midlands (51%) more likely to be impacted by the National Living Wage than firms in the South (43%). For the UK to remain an attractive and competitive environment going forward, action is needed to prevent unsustainable rises to the cost of doing business. We are calling on the government to ensure no new upfront costs or taxes – which sap investment, growth and recruitment potential – are imposed on business for the remainder of this parliament. Businesses are under increasing pressure from the burden of employment costs, and this will influence the choices they make and outcomes for employees. Higher employment costs impact on the bottom line and reduce the resources available to invest in the business and its people. Our survey shows that two thirds of businesses will need to take action in response to proposed increases in the National Living Wage over the next three years.  Firms are most likely to respond by raising prices or adjusting employee pay growth and wider benefits.  Increasingly, manufacturers are looking towards greater use of technology and automation. There comes a point at which rising employment costs can no longer be absorbed through reduced profits. At a time when employers across the country are facing acute skills shortages, it is vital that they have the resources and flexibility to invest in their workforce and the future needs of the business.

Time for change at Surrey Chambers

After a 2 year tenure as President, Frankie Tierney of Herrington & Carmichael will be handing over to Yvette Etcell of Gavin Jones. Yvette is Director of Business Development & HR so will be very familiar with the type of issues facing businesses in Surrey. The formal change will take place at our AGM on 27th September followed by networking generously sponsored by the HG Wells Conference and Events Centre.

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