The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Thursday, 30 April 2009

For those who missed the Google marketing seminar...

For those who missed the Google webinar on 22nd April, it was a great success with over 170 members logging on for the session.

For a bit of background on the topics covered and how these can benefit your business, click here.

Equality Bill - help to address equality issues in business

by Samantha Dunbar,
Policy Manager for Employment, Skills & Workplace Legislation

A new guide from ACAS for employers explains how you can review your equality policy and action plan (or write one), monitor how it operates and take action to resolve any issues. It includes a sample policy and question & answer section:

Delivering Equality and Diversity (Requires Acrobat Reader to open)
A 12 page summary is also available

Delivering Equality and Diversity: A Summary Guide (Requires Acrobat Reader)

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Incentives to encourage action against climate change

by Richard Critchley, Policy Manager for Environment

A team led by Salford University has been asked by the Environment Agency to test the willingness of the public to carry out works to:

a) protect against flooding
b) to consume less energy

The initial phase of the study (due to finish at the end of May) will establish whether homeowners are willing to spend money to take proactive action against the threat of climate change. Where they are not, the study will discover whether they can be incentivised to change their minds.

The study is now looking for potential incentives partners. The scheme would work by inviting householders to invest in a range of climate change measures in exchange for rewards worth as much or more than the amount that they spent. They will be able to choose their rewards and be offered vouchers in exchange for the goods or services.

Incentives that are currently being considered include:
  • Free bus and train travel
  • Free meals at restaurants
  • Free tickets to sporting, cultural or entertainment events
  • Free food
  • Free services (such as landscaping or shopping assistance)
  • Free courses at local colleges

    The Salford team would like to know:
  • How many restauranteurs would be interested in talking to the research team to find out more
  • How many covers, and at what times they might be willing to donate to the project
  • How much (if any) subsidy would each operator/owner would be looking for to compensate for offering the meals
  • What other benefits (such as publicity) might be expected from participating restaurants
The pilot is expected to start in autumn 2009. If you'd like to know more or you're a restaurant or pub that would like to get involved, please let me know on 0161 237 4037 or contact Prof. Erik Bichard at Salford University on 0161 295 6826.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Friday Guest Blogger: Alan Salter, Transport Matters

Northern Way calls for Manchester Rail Hub

Experts have said today that the economy of the north of England will benefit by up to £16bn from improvements to Manchester’s rail network, for the congested tracks around Piccadilly are holding up trains linking all the north’s major cities.

The Northern Way group of Regional Development Agencies has published the first stage of a study into freeing rail congestion around the ‘Manchester Hub’ which was announced by then Tansport Miister Rosie Winterton at Piccadilly Station in October, 2007.

Network Rail will study the Northern Way findings and produce its own report on how much the improvements will cost. The Manchester Hub is “the greatest single strategic transport issue facing the North of England”, Northern Way officials said at the launch of their findings at Manchester’s Hilton Hotel today.

Professor David Begg, one of the country’s best known transport experts who led the research, said: “The most significant finding from our work is simply this: a feasible package of measures that includes greater connectivity across Manchester would bring between £13bn and £16bn economic benefits for the North of England and beyond.”

The findings say the work should aim for:
• more capacity to meet forecast 39% growth in demand by 2020
• reduced carbon emissions
• better performance of franchised rail services
• 60 miles per hour as a minimum for trains from Piccadilly and Victoria to neighbouring cities
• Train journeys which are quicker than car journeys e.g. Liverpool and Preston in half an hour; Leeds, Sheffield, and Chester in 40 minutes; and Bradford in 50 minutes
• Longer journey times to Newcastle, Middlesbrough and Hull cut to 133, 124 and 101 minutes respectively.

The improvements would support growth across Greater Manchester by improving access to the key town centres and Salford Quays, as well as the growth areas in and around the centre of Manchester.

They should promote more direct cross-Manchester trains or better interchanges where this cannot be done. And Manchester Airport needs better links to destinations across the North as well as North Wales and the West and North Midlands. It wants 95 per cent of the airport’s passengers to be able to get there by train seven days a week.

The three Trans Pennine rail corridors - to and from Liverpool and Central Lancashire in the west; and through to Tyne and Wear, Tees Valley and Hull and the Humber in the east via Leeds or Sheffield – should be improved to support high frequency, high quality, regular express trains. The improvements should meet forecasts of a doubling of West Coast Main Line demand by 2026 and to get ready for any new high speed lines being considered by Government.

Professor Begg added: “If the North is to play its part in national economic recovery, it will be through business growth in our major cities which are inter-connected by rail through Manchester. A joined-up North, provided with highly reliable, direct express services, is part of the vision that we have defined. Investment in Manchester is needed to deliver it.”

“The benefits we have identified are widely spread across the North. Manchester Hub is not about one or two key flows. Growth in rail demand is highest in Manchester local commuter markets, and the greatest rates of benefits are on the main corridors linking the North’s seven other City Regions with Manchester. There are also significant growth objectives related to the West Coast Main Line corridor and railfreight as well.”

“Manchester Hub is about a long term solution to a problem that affects the development of national, regional and local rail services. This is the question that Network Rail needs to address.”

“Given the scale of benefits on offer, it will be right for Network Rail to consider a full range of options in taking the next stage of work forward. Our work demonstrates Manchester Hub is a challenge to which it is worth devoting considerable resources.”

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the North West Regional Development Agency, said: "The Agency welcomes this first phase report. Investment in the Manchester Rail Hub is essential for effective rail operations not only in the Northwest but the entire North of England.

“It should help to unlock a number of key drivers of the economy, including faster journey times between our northern cities and extra freight and passenger capacity. Long term planning is essential to deliver rail infrastructure provision and we look forward to working with Network Rail on the second phase of this report".

Paul Plummer, director of planning and regulation at Network Rail, said: “The report shows how key rail is to the future of the north of England.

“In the past five years many more passengers have chosen to travel by rail across the north and we are committed to building on this success.

“Network Rail already plans to make significant investments in the north over the next five years. These will see longer trains carrying more passengers right across the north, improvements at a number of stations and more trains on time than ever before.

“But we also need to plan now for the longer term. Network Rail is taking the ambitions set out by The Northern Way report and looking for value for money solutions to meet these.”
Network Rail has now begun a follow up study to identify the options for long-term improvements to the rail network in the north of England"

Richard Critchley, Transport Policy Manager at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "Good railway connections are vital for the Greater Manchester economy. The Northern Way study shows the importance of network improvements in order to meet growing demand which could could be worth an additional £13 - £16 billion to the Northern Economy. It is vital that the Government looks seriously at investing in the long term future of the Greater Manchester rail network, an essential driver for our region's growth. "

About Alan Salter: Alan is the former Transport correspondent of the Manchester Evening News. Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport journalist of the year 2007 for the second time, he has covered every major development of the transport industry over the last three decades from the privatisation of the rail and bus industries to the opening of the Channel Tunnel and the coming of congestion charging. Alan is now the Managing Director of Transport Matters, offering journalism and Public Relations services to the media and transport industry. You can email Alan at:
If you would like to contribute your own Friday guest blog to GM Chamber, please contact Matt Hall.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Budget 2009: Your Response

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Advisor

The Chancellor presented his Budget on Wednesday and came up with few surprises. The main points are listed below.
We are now looking for your response. It will only take a couple of minutes.

Please click here to go to the survey

Results will be published on our website and form the basis of our updated version of Action for Business.

Thanks you very much for your support!

Overall summary of confidence and growth:
  • National debt forecast to be 59% of GDP this year
  • Borrowing will be £175billion in 2009/10
  • Borrowing will be £173billion in 2010/11
  • Economy will shrink by 3.5% this year
  • Economy forecast to grow 1.25% in 2010
  • CPI Inflation forecast to be 1% by the end of the year

Summary of measures targeted to help businesses

Tax & Relief

  • Extension of HMRC's Business Payment Support Service
  • VAT reduction will continue until December
  • Loss making firms will be able to reclaim taxes on profit made in last 3 years
  • Car scrappage scheme confirmed to encourage people to buy greener cars
  • Increase in capital allowances for new investment to 40% for one year
  • Petrol: +2% in September plus 1% each April annually thereafter
  • Income tax for those earning more than £150,000 to rise to 50% from April 2010
Business Support
  • A £750 million Strategic Investment Fund to support advanced industrial projects of strategic importance
  • Credit insurance scheme announced to support medium-risk businesses whose cover has been reduced rather than withdrawn
  • Guaranteed job, training or placement to 18-24 years olds who have been unemployed for 12 months
  • 75 million over the next two years for energy and resource efficiency in business, public buildings and households. Through an estimated 350 loans to businesses.
More information:

HMRC Business Payment Support Service

Loss Carry Back

Capital Allowances

Budget notes, a breakdown of announcements, press notices.
HMRC website

Download the complete budget
Full Budget Report

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

All you need to know about Budget 2009

Some useful sources of information, should you want to know more about today's Budget announcement.

Budget notes, a breakdown of announcements, press notices and other supplementary documents are available to view at the HMRC website.

HMRC have also produced a microsite highlighting all the key points of how the Budget will affect you. Visit the site here.

Another place to go for a straight forward breakdown is the BBC website, who list the key points and have the full report available to download.

And finally, the Chamber's reaction to the announcement is below...

Reaction to Budget announcement

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Advisor

A lot of the measures had already been announced, so there were no nasty surprises. The measures that have provided real support for businesses have been extended.

The main negative point was the increases in fuel duty, which will have an impact on businesses of various sectors.

We welcome the extension of the loss carry back for businesses and the increase of capital tax allowances for investments to 40%. We also welcome the announcement of the credit insurance scheme and the £750million investment for emerging technology. We were pleased to hear the measures for energy savings, and investment in skills, but were disappointed that there was no mention of apprenticeships.
However, with all these schemes we need to see the details to gauge their likely impact. Also, all measures need to be implemented immediately.

There is record public debt, which must be repaid at some point.

The Chancellor failed to paint a clear picture of the medium-term since he has not committed to any future tax rises and the economic forecasts seem quite optimistic. It is doubtful, that this budget will instill confidence in businesses or consumers.

Budget 2009 Update #7

We'll be summarising the key points of the Budget and what it means for business here later today.

  • £20 increase in child tax credit
  • Rise in State pension by 2.5%
  • Redundancy pay increased from £350 to £380 a week

Budget 2009 Update #6

  • Introduction of new financial services regulations - extended to hedge funds to maintain world leadership position in the financial sector

  • New regulations to tighten up banking sector

  • £100million to build energy efficient homes

  • Incentives to increase North Sea oil production

  • Tax relief to encourage businesses to invest - capital allowance doubled to 40%

  • £750million fund for emerging technologies to encourage research and development

  • Support for energy saving in buildings and wind farms

Budget 2009 Update #5

We'll be summarising the key points of the Budget and what it means for business here later today.

  • National debt forecast to be 59% of GDP this year
  • Higher tax for people on £100,000 and above
  • Increases in duty on fuel, alcohol and tobacco
  • Petrol: +2% in September plus 1% each April annually after
  • £9billion of efficiency savings by 2013/14
  • £1billion to combat climate change

Budget 2009 Update #4

  • Loss making firms will be able to reclaim taxes on profit made in last 3 years
  • Car scrappage scheme confirmed to encourage people to buy greener cars
  • Chancellor says: cannot deflate out of recession
  • Bank bailout cost 3.5% of GDP
  • Borrowing will be £175billion in 2009/10
  • Borrowing will be £173billion in 2010/11

Budget 2009 Update #3

  • Under 25s out of work for 12 months or more will get job or training
  • Extend stamp duty exemption on homes under £175,000 until end of year
  • 3 years Loss carry back extended to November 2010

Budget 2009 Update #2

  • Economy will shrink by 3.5% this year

  • Focus on sectors: communication, advanced manufacturing, low carbon, protect and improve science base

  • Economy forecast to grow 1.25% in 2010

  • Reduce the deficit by half in four years

  • Inflation forecast to be 1% by the end of the year

  • Focus on retraining and new skills to get unemployed back into work

  • £1.7billion for employment support

Budget 2009 Update #1

  • Chancellor says recession worst for 60 years
  • Economy will grow again by end of year...
  • Confirms VAT reduction will continue until December...
  • 500,000 jobs protected by action taken

Live response to the Budget - here from 12:30

We'll be blogging our live response to the Budget here from 12:30!

GM Chamber's Budget Wish List

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Advisor

We realise that due to the state of public finances the Treasury has little room to manoeuvre in the upcoming budget, but that makes it even more important that any schemes and measures are well thought out and implemented for immediate impact. A lot can be done to create a more supportive environment for businesses to work in.

Since deteriorating cash flows currently go hand-in-hand with tightening access to finance for SMEs, we call for a halt or reversal of any measures exacerbating the business cash-flow situation, such as the increased tax rate for small companies, the withdrawal of empty property relief and the newly implemented increased fuel tax duty.

City regions have been identified as the key drivers of the national economy and we ask for the implementation of genuine statutory powers for city regions to allow a quicker response in accordance with each city region’s specific needs and help us to make a real difference for businesses on the ground.

As always we also hope for no nasty surprises in an economic situation that is already hampered by high levels of uncertainty. In order to create a more consistent environment any measures should also be planned and implemented on a longer term basis, rather than being an ad-hoc, purely reactive response like, for example, the 12 months reduction of the VAT rate.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

New website launched to help businesses in the North West

A website that should be of interest to you:

Support North West has been created by the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) for the North West to help businesses and families through the recession.

Minister for the North West Beverley Hughes said:

"The Support North West web site has been set up to help businesses and families during these difficult economic times. The web site clearly sets out what help is available and how to access it.

"For business there is a range of free support to find finance, raise productivity, or save money by reducing waste and saving energy. Whether you need to increase cash flow, keep your staff on, improve their skills and flexibility, or simply reduce costs, you can get help and support to keep your business fighting fit."

Please take a look and let us know what you think.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Our reaction to Budget announcement blogged live here on Wednesday

The Chamber's Economic Committee will be getting together on Wednesday to watch the Chancellor's Budget speech and we'll be blogging our reaction here as it happens. Bookmark this page (press Ctrl and D), come back on Wednesday at 12:30 and be the first to hear what we have to say about the announcements.

You can also follow us on Twitter at for bite-size updates live.

Survive and Thrive: Free NWDA event

BusinessLink Northwest and the NWDA have set up a series of free, local events to 'help you on your journey through the economic downturn.'

Well worth a look. GM Chamber are partnering the Manchester event, which will be held at the Airport on Thursday 18th June. There's some further information below and a link to the site where you can book on for free...

For those who can't make the Manchester date, there's a series of events all over the North West.

Let a team of experts help you on your journey through this economic downturn and attend an event were you can:
  • be inspired by talks from key business leaders to guide you on your way
  • pick up tips to motivate you to take action, improve and grow
  • access business support, to steer you in the right direction
  • shift up a gear by networking with business advisers
  • visit an exhibition area for easy access to business information relevant to you
  • earn a CPD certificate for Chartered Institute of Management (CIM) workshops

'Survive and Thrive' has been designed to fit around your busy schedule. Simply create your own event by selecting the workshop sessions that are relevant to you.

The Manchester event will be held at the Concorde Conference Centre, Manchester Airport on Thursday 18th June from 08:30 to 17:00. Click here to book your place.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Accessing lending - a good news story from one of our members

A good news story for Friday - this is an article that will be appearing in the May edition of 53 Degrees (just about to go to print) about one of our members, S4 ICT who are going from strength to strength. It illustrates some of the problems businesses are facing in accessing lending but also a couple of really good schemes out there.

As always we want to hear your own experiences. Get in touch

Enjoy your weekend!


Leigh-based S4 ICT have been selected as a business with ‘high growth potential’ by an NWDA scheme designed to help 1,000 businesses in the region with the scope to grow themselves and the local economy. The business, a provider of IT and Communications solutions and services, has been bucking the trend of the downturn with significant new business lined up, however required investment to further expand.

Their first port of call was their bank; having devised a business plan, they hoped to secure funding made available to banks by the Government’s Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme announced last year. Despite the recent performance of the business, the bank declined.

Phil Donoghue of S4 ICT, said: “After the bank said no, I decided to do a bit of research and came across an organisation called Bolton Business Ventures who provide help to businesses across the North West. They helped me to revise my business plan and assisted me with the application process.”

After working again on the proposal, Phil sat down in front of a panel of representatives from the NWDA, Bolton Business Ventures and BusinessLink. The panel asked Phil about the plan, the skills and capabilities of the company and contacted him the following day to tell him they were happy to lend him the money. Ten days later, the cash was available to the business.

However, there was more good news to come for S4 ICT when June Poree, the NWDA representative on the panel, contacted Phil to say how impressed they had been with his proposals and that they had identified S4 ICT as a business with potential for high growth, suitable for the NWDA scheme. The scheme entitles the business to five days of consultancy with a professional business mentor, access to workshops designed to maximise the potential of high growth and networking opportunities among other businesses selected for the scheme.
Phil says: “We have been really happy with the growth of the business and especially the number of new customers we gain through recommendation from existing clients. I needed additional capital to continue growing the business at the rate we had. After the bank declined Bolton Business ventures were a massive help to us. Then to also be awarded a place on the NWDA potential high growth scheme was incredible, and will provide us with additional resource and expertise to help structure the business for long term growth.”


The Chamber works in close partnership with Business Finance Solutions to provide businesses with alternative finance, advice and planning. Please visit the website if you're looking for advice in this area or call Paul Breen on 0161 245 4977.

Business Finance Solutions
Bolton Business Ventures
NWDA - £10m High Growth Programme for the Northwest launched

Thursday, 16 April 2009

First Aid in the workplace - changes ahead

As of 1st October there will be changes to the regulation of First Aid in the workplace to ensure that businesses are undertaking the appropriate training for the size and nature of their working environment.

This does not mean that your existing First Aid at Work certificate will expire in October but it is something that businesses will need to be aware of in future and it's a timely reminder that we all need to be compliant.

For the full article and an explanation from one of our members on how the changes will improve the standard of training across the board, click here.

You can also view the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) Guidelines here.

Another of our members, Ian Kershaw MBE of the Federation of First Aid Training Organisations is holding a conference to discuss how changes in the industry will affect employers and trainers alike, at Lancashire County Cricket Club on 16th May. If you would like to know more, contact Ian on 0161 494 9045 or email:

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

A few useful links for local business...

Real help for business
Business Minister Ian Pearson appeared at a regional lending roadshow in Greater Manchester today to urge local businesses to take advantage of government-backed support. You can take a look at some of the practical help available here and please be sure to let us know your views, good and bad by clicking here.

Real help for the North West
The site has a series of pdf documents available to view, depending on the area you live in. You can jump straight to the document for the North West by clicking here:

Tax deadline calendar
HM Revenue & Customs have produced a new tax deadline calendar for 2009/10 especially for small businesses. I know this will be a great help for many of our members who have said previously they'd like to see all the key dates brought together.

You can view it here:

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

by Ilona Krohn, Principal Economic Adviser

Despite a continuing negative trend in all other indicators, our Quarterly Economic Survey found the gap between those who said confidence was low and those who felt more positive has narrowed. Of course it is far too early to say that confidence is on the up but it may be that it has reached its lowest point and is starting to bottom out. Hopefully this is not just the effect of spring arriving and we will start to see a steady rise in confidence over the coming months. It is the first and vital step to recovery.

The survey also revealed that turnover has fallen for both manufacturers and services, and 78% of all companies reported that they were working at less than full capacity.

The fall in the value of the pound has not given the predicted boost to exporters either, with 67% of manufacturers reporting exchange rates as a major concern. It very much depends on individual circumstances how exchange rates affect manufacturers. If they have to import parts and raw materials then their costs will have risen.

Despite gloomy unemployment figures, the survey found the number of small to medium employers making redundancies was relatively low. Results show that it was the larger companies that are tending to shed jobs rather than small businesses.

There was less concern about inflation than in previous surveys, with the main concerns being exchange and business rates as well as competition. The full results will be available for you to look over shortly - you'll find a link here when they're up on the Chamber website.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Real help for business?

We're creating a 'Real Help for Business' area on the Chamber website which will include:
  • an at-a-glance guide to new legislation
  • free advice
  • support services
  • business glossary - if you still don't quite get what quantitative easing is!

Any other suggestions for content? We want to make it easy for you (and us) by bringing all the information floating around out there into one location. There must be loads of things we've missed. Email: to let us know what you'd like to see there.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Networking tips

How can you get the most out of the networking events you attend?

Or how can you make the networking events you hold, a success?

Send your ideas to Matthew Hall, Press & PR Officer at the Chamber. The best suggestions will go on the Events area of our website...

For those looking for tips, here's a great starting point:,

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Housing seminar on Tuesday...

by Hazel Kimmitt
Building & Development Committee

Another successful and well attended seminar organised by the Chamber's Building & Development Committee on Tuesday. Thanks to all the speakers and attendees. If you couldn't make it, we've posted some of the presentations for you on the Chamber site and there's a bit of background below...

The housing sector is facing tough challenges in the current economic climate. Whilst the demand and need for more homes remain strong, the effects of the credit crunch are depressing the market and having serious consequences for the building industry and the government's house-building targets. The seminar looked at ways to ‘kick start' the market. What action needs to be taken and by whom? And how important is more accessible finance?

The next one will be in November. Give me a call if you want to know more: 07773 350 753

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Manchester Independent Economic Review - results next Mon

by Ilona Krohn,
Principal Economist

The Manchester Independent Economic Review (MIER) is ready to report next Monday and if you'd like to attend the presentation, you're invited...

Myself and Chamber Chief Exec, Angie Robinson will be attending. A year's work has gone into the report; six reports commissioned from world-renowned Economists, a city region Economic Baseline and a full analysis of what has gone before.

The reviewers, researchers, academics and analysts that produced the report will be on hand to help make sense of it and respond to questions. There's a presentation of findings in the morning, followed by a networking lunch and then breakout sessions in the afternoon, finishing at 4pm.

The event is held at the Lowry next Monday from 10:30am.

So there's your info. If you'd like to attend, register with

Hope to see you there!