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

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Season's Greetings

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce would like to wish all its members a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Our offices will be closed from the afternoon of December 23rd until January 4th.

The Chamber desk diaries have been sent out to members. If you haven't received a diary by the New Year, please contact Corbin Abraham in our membership team on 0161 233 2614 or email and a copy will be sent to you.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Chamber Reacts To Monetary Policy Minutes

Responding to the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee minutes released today, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “As we expected the Bank voted 7-2 in favour of keeping interest rates at the record low of 0.5%, with Adam Posen arguing that the asset purchase programme should be increased and Andrew Sentance looking to increase the Bank’s rate to 0.75%.

“The Chamber believes that the decision to stick with a rate of 0.5% is the right one at this time to avoid undue stress on business and household finances ahead of the New Year’s tax rises and spending cuts. In our release on the day of the interest rate decision this month we did however warn that due to the current level of inflation the Bank’s attention would start to focus on potential wage increases. Paragraph 23 of the minutes makes it clear that this is on the radar and sustained pay increases could raise medium term inflation."

The Chamber is looking to assess the likelihood of intentions to increase pay and is asking businesses to provide their feedback by clicking here

“The weather outside is frightful……..”

By Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

So, 2010 seems to be going out as it came in with unprecedented snow falls, sub zero temperatures and absolute chaos on the roads, rail and in the air (or the airport terminals at least). Whilst acknowledging the time of year I thought I would give my take on the last 12 months and look ahead to next year with more than a little nod to one of Charles Dickens’ all time classics – no, not “Great Expectations” but “A Christmas Carol”.

First up, Christmas past and this time last year we were seeing some recovery and increased confidence returning across most sectors, construction being the exception with performance sluggish at best. Base rate was 0.5%, VAT was set to increase by 2.5% in the New Year (sounds familiar?). There were 2.49 million unemployed, inflation was 2.9% and the UK had just come out of recession with the latest GDP figures showing some positive growth. The Regional Development Agencies were co-ordinating a huge range of organisations in delivering grant based business development schemes. Banks stood accused of not lending to business and there was much speculation about when the election would be called with all three main parties working on their manifestos.

Second, naturally, Christmas present. Well, base rate is still 0.5% (just), inflation and unemployment are both creeping upwards the former could continue to do so as VAT will increase on 4th January to 20%. Growth is increasing though slowly but business confidence has stalled somewhat with many businesses uncertain about what the next 12 months will hold and trying to assess what impact recent economic policy decisions will have. The biggest change though has been in the political landscape with a coalition government calling the shots albeit with a limited supply of ammunition as economic reality collides with the desire for change and the aspirations set out in both Conservative and Lib Dem pre-election manifestos.

The RDAs have a definite shelf life with a use-by date set at March 2012. Local Enterprise Partnerships will replace them but so many questions still remain as to what impact this will have on the ground. A flurry of activity between the Comprehensive Spending Review in October and the end of the year saw a succession of white papers and consultations that will fundamentally shift important elements of business support and how business will be able to grow. As we close 2010 down many people are still unsure as to what the future will hold.

To help with this and to keep in with the whole “Christmas Carol” theme let’s look into the future and Christmas yet to come.

Well, sorry to disappoint but I’m not one to break the habit of a lifetime by trying to forecast what things will look like in 12 months and give predictions on a whole range of economic data.

What I will say though is that more than ever in uncertain times the Chamber will be there to support you and we will be focussing on several priority areas in 2011 that if delivered will set the right environment and conditions for businesses to grow. Amongst other issues we will be calling for guaranteed delivery of local transport improvements to finally give Greater Manchester the transport system it deserves; we will be calling for changes to be made to make it easier for business to hire staff; we will be looking at how better use can be made of business rates to make sure investment happens in the right way and in the right place and all the while we will be keeping our finger on the economic pulse through the Quarterly Economic Survey now in its 20th year.

We will ask for your opinion and views , we will represent them to the right people and we will make calls for change.

There are, potentially, some great opportunities that lie ahead but we need you to let us know how these can be delivered in the best way, the way that benefits business.

All the very best for Christmas and New Year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Chamber Reacts To Infrastructure Report

Responding to the Government report by Infrastructure UK that £3 billion could be saved on the costs of infrastructure projects, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said “It is crucial that the Government takes action as a result of this report and reallocates these savings to other projects that can transform regional economies.

"The North of England is in urgent need of infrastructure improvements such as the Northern Hub rail project. Inadequate transport infrastructure in Greater Manchester is choking the economic development of not only the City Region but the entire North of England. Having identified this £3 billion of savings, the Government needs to make a commitment now to the Northern Hub project despite it being in the next control period for funding.
"This project is not simply about commuters, it is also about the movement of goods and services to and from the region. Committing to this project will give businesses the confidence to invest and help revive the fortunes of the region’s construction sector. The £550 million needed for this project has a benefit ratio of four times the investment, unheard of for a project of this kind, and less than the £600 million of savings identified from the Olympic Games alone."

For more information on the report click here

Friday, 17 December 2010

Guest Blog

Gareth Rose of Gresham Wealth Management LLP

The coalition government is to press ahead with a Labour scheme to force all UK firms, regardless of size, to automatically enrol their staff into a pension scheme from 2012. Companies will have to pay in a minimum of 1% of every worker’s salary into a pension, rising to 3% by 2017. Workers will have to pay in a portion of their salary, phased in over five years, starting at 1% of pay and rising to 4% by 2017.

Every employer, large and small, will have to participate, although not the self-employed. It will mean that hundreds of thousands of small firms that currently do not offer or pay into a pension scheme will have to begin making payments. Employers have the option of establishing their own pension scheme that meets the rules or alternatively offering the new government-run pension scheme, called ‘Nest’ (National Employment Savings Trust), which proposes low costs and charges and is set to be administered by Tata.

All employees earning above £7,475 (the personal allowance for income tax from April 2011) will fall into the new rules, with a ‘waiting period’ of three months for new employees.

The main difference between the new and existing rules is the introduction of ‘auto-enrolment’. If an employee chooses to do nothing in regard to pensions, under the new rules, they will be members of the pension scheme and both they and their employer will be obliged to make contributions.

Employers who fail to make payments on behalf of their workers will face sanctions from the Pensions Regulator, which will have the power to fine non-compliant companies. Employees will still have the right to opt out of the pension arrangements, but officials believe that auto-enrollment will mean that many more will start saving than at present.

Gresham Wealth Management LLP are independent financial advisors and experts in the area of corporate pensions. As part of their services they offer a fixed fee corporate pensions review at a discounted rate of £400 for Chamber of Commerce members. For more information please contact them on 0161 927 722, email at or visit their website

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Unemployment Claimant Count Falls

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Greater Manchester has fallen again. Last month 71,805 claimed the benefit compared with 72,466 the month before.

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Employment in Greater Manchester appears to be bucking the national trend. Nationally the number of unemployed and job seeker’s allowance claimants is up and the number of people in employment has gone down, but in Greater Manchester we are not seeing this.

“The number of job seeker’s allowance claimants has fallen slightly – as we anticipated given the responses to our Quarterly Economic Survey. Manufacturing is making a positive contribution to jobs growth in the region, but this is somewhat subdued.

“Smaller businesses in the service sector have been creating jobs, though larger firms have been reducing headcount so this is the main reason the decrease in the claimant count has been so small, and of course the difficulties for the region’s construction sector roll on with a number of firms ceasing to trade in recent months.

“We believe there is more positive news to come in the New Year, though this will follow an initial increase in claimants during January as seasonal jobs come to an end.”

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "Today’s inflation figure, whilst still above the Bank of England’s target has remained fairly stable at 3.3%, a slight increase of 0.1%. Food and clothing were amongst the largest factors causing the rise, which is a result of increased wheat and cotton prices.

"These influences will ease, though the VAT increase in the New Year will add new pressures on inflation and therefore on consumer spending. The inflation figure and higher import prices of raw materials are adding to the growing argument for interest rates rises, though we believe the Bank of England must maintain low interest rates at this time to avoid further pressure on household spending and businesses."

Friday, 10 December 2010

Guest Blog

Andrew Billington of Action Training Services Ltd

How Many First Aiders Do I Need?

Below are the three points you should consider when deciding your First Aid needs:

1. Category of risk

2. Numbers employed at any location

3. Suggested number of first aid personnel

Now follow the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) recommendations listed. These will depend on the risk and nature of your business:

Your guide to carrying out a First Aid Needs Assessment

As you may be aware, the Health and Safety Executive’s (New) First Aid at Work Guidelines came into effect on October 1st 2009. A First Aid Assessment will identify the type of First Aid training your first aiders require and, most importantly, how many first aiders you will need and where they should be located.

You should consider the following topics in a First Aid Needs Assessment:

• The nature of the work, the hazards and risks

• The nature of the workforce

• The organisation’s history of accidents and illness

• The needs of travelling, remote and lone workers

• Work patterns such as shift or night work

• The distribution of the work force

• The available access to emergency medical services

• Employees working on multi-occupied or shared sites

• Annual leave and absences of first aiders

• Where relevant, the organisation’s first aid provision for non-employees.

The Nature of the Work, the hazards and risks.

One of the more complicated areas of the new first aid needs assessment is considering ‘the nature of the work’ and the ‘hazards and risks’. You should consider the risks and identify potential injuries in order to ensure that sufficient first aid provision is provided. The information opposite identifies some common workplace risks and possible injuries (compiled from information supplied by the Health and Safety Executive). Please note the above is not comprehensive and does not cover all risks that could occur in the workplace.


Slip and Trip Hazards - Fractures, lacerations, sprains and strains

Manual Handling - Fractures, lacerations, sprains and strains

Machinery - Crush injuries, amputations, fractures, lacerations, eye injuries

Workplace Transport - Crush injuries, amputations, fractures, lacerations, eye injuries

Work at Height - Fractures, sprains and strains, spinal injuries, head injury, loss of consciousness
Electricity - Electric shocks, burns

Chemicals - Poisoning, loss of consciousness, burns, eye injuries.

Please remember that appropriate cover should be made to facilitate any planned staff absences as the legislation applies all the time that an employee is at work i.e. Annual Leave of your first aiders etc.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Interest Rates Held

Commenting on the Bank of England's decision to hold interest rates and maintain the quantitative easing programme at £200 billion, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "This decision came as no surprise. Growth in emerging economies is driving up commodity prices and combined with a weakened Sterling there is inflationary pressure for producers’ raw material prices and imported goods. This is giving rise to arguments in favour of increasing interest rates, however the Bank should resist as this is the last thing distressed businesses and householders need at this time.

"The recovery remains weak a year on from exiting recession, and as a result the economy still has considerable slack to take up an increase in demand in 2011. This will help suppress domestic pressures on inflation, however the over target inflation we are experiencing must not in turn lead to wage inflation, otherwise the Bank’s hand will be forced."

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday Guest Blog

John Jones, Finance Partner and Head of Grants Consultancy.

The abolition of the Regional Development Agencies (“RDAs”) and the well-publicised comprehensive spending review is being heralded as the end of SMEs being able to access grant funding. But that’s not quite the whole picture.....

Announcements from the RDAs that they are not currently accepting new grant applications, or processing existing ones is a massive blow, given their significance as a source of funding support for SMEs.

But, contrary to popular belief, there is still grant funding and soft loans out there, from local, national and European sources. Accessing these will now of course be fiercely competitive. Searching and applying for grants has always been perceived as time-consuming, confusing and difficult due to the bureaucracy attached, and that is definitely not going to get easier in the current climate.

However, specialist help is available to guide businesses through the funding maze, and it’s worth considering before committing to any major project as, grants and soft loans can often be the missing piece in the puzzle which enables the project to go ahead.

So, although funding is scarce, it is still worth talking to a grants expert to see what is available. The most successful proposals are generally those where there has been up-front discussion of how best to position the project before submitting the application. Grants specialists have established relationships with the major grant funders, and this, coupled with a track record of successfully applying for grants, could save you time and money in the application process.

There is still grant funding available out there, but one thing’s for certain, unless businesses try to access it then they definitely won’t get their hands on it!

John Jones is Corporate Finance Partner and Head of Grants Consultancy at Beever and Struthers Chartered Accountants. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Impact Of The Snow On Business

Commenting on the disruption caused by the cold weather, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “The snowfall across Greater Manchester has caused delays for commuters and school closures.

“Obviously the problems affecting our transport network will have a knock on effect on businesses. But so far we've not seen disruption and absenteeism on the scale we had earlier this year. The cold snap in January saw around 20% of staff absent from work at a cost to the local economy of £26 million a day. That could be repeated if we get snow on a similar scale over the coming days."

Friday, 26 November 2010

Why Should I Export?

Clive Drinkwater, Regional Director of UKTI North West

This is one of the commonest questions I am asked when I'm out and about talking of the opportunities overseas in mature or emerging markets. I often answer “because you will increase your UK sales as well.” Why should this be so?

Well, I suppose I could have trotted out a battery of statistics about firms’ increasing their productivity by an average of 34% in the first year of exporting and that firms that export are 12% more likely to survive through difficult times. I could have emphasised the benefits of spreading your risk – if one market dips another can take up the slack; increased capacity utilisation, higher levels of growth, extending the commercial lifespan of your products are all important factors too. I could even mention that revenues are generally higher in export markets and you will dramatically improve your credibility by competing against the best the world has to offer. All powerful benefits and all facts based on an array of academic research on the subject.

If, however, I mention absorptive capacity, would it mean anything to you? In a nutshell, it’s the ability that a company has to adapt and change to different circumstances whatever they may be. Different styles or colour schemes in different markets, even simple voltage differences all need to be taken into account. Adapting to different cultures, ways of negotiating, having to use widely different market entry methods with different payment methods, often planning for different currencies are all things that exporters learn to take in their stride.

The best news of all is that you will use all these lessons in the UK market as well. Anybody who walks the streets of Manchester or London on a regular basis knows that it’s not just the accent that is different, the styles are different, the way of doing business is different; they could almost be in different countries. Firms that have learned how to adapt by dipping their toes into export markets will instinctively recognise this, will differentiate their product or service offer accordingly and see their home sales grow as well. To use a bit of a cliché, exporting is a win (overseas) win (at home) situation.

To read more of Clive’s blogs go

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Transport Announcement

Commenting on the announcement this morning by Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond of further investment in the UK’s rail infrastructure, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Deputy Chief Executive, Chris Fletcher said: "This is great news and could provide a real boost for the local business community but we will have to wait to find out exactly how much of this extra investment will be coming to Greater Manchester.

"The Chamber on behalf of its members, has been campaigning at a national level for extra capacity for a number of years. Rail travel in Greater Manchester is reaching the point where overcrowding is seriously hampering the economy and without extra capacity it would only get worse.”

He added:” Whilst this is a step in the right direction it is just one part of what is needed to make the rail system truly fit for purpose for the local economy. The second element that we have been campaigning for is the long overdue works needed to unclog the bottleneck at Piccadilly station – the Northern Hub – which affects rail traffic right across the north of England. It is no use having extra carriages if the rail network grinds to a halt through congestion. The decision to proceed with this is still some way off and we will carry on campaigning for this until it gets the green light.”

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Inflation Figures.

Commenting on the latest inflation figures, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "A slight increase in CPI inflation to 3.2% is perhaps not unexpected given the fuel duty increase from October 1, and along with the upward pressure due to food and alcohol prices there will be little to cheer consumers as we move towards the festive period.

"Another tax increase, the VAT increase in January, will further increase prices so consumer demand will weaken. Our Quarterly Economic Survey is underway and will report on the latest economic conditions affecting the region in mid-December. Fortunately the Bank of England is likely to ignore inflation for some time yet and hold down interest rates, though this will mean we will be stuck with well above target inflation for some time. At present this is the lesser of the two evils, an interest rate rise at this time would make a double-dip recession a certainty."

Monday, 15 November 2010

Say YES to the Chamber’s QES

Quarter 4 of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is now underway with the Chamber urging you, our members, to help us to represent the region and ensure that we get our voice heard.

But do you really know what happens to the results? Why is it considered one of the most influential surveys in the UK? And what impact will the results have on your business?

Well here are the answers to your questions!

The QES is a regular assessment of the economic situation in the Greater Manchester region. The results from our survey help us to identify local economic conditions, critical for putting your case to local and national government so that the right environment is created for you.

The results from our regional survey are fed into a national survey which is sent to key decision makers including the Bank of England, HM Treasury, Ministers and local MPs.
The survey is highly influential which is clearly shown by the fact that it is one of three surveys regularly reviewed by the Bank of England when setting monetary policy and is also credited in the Bank of England Inflation Report!

Why should you spend the next 3 minutes filling it in?

We need to know what is going on in the real economy and what challenges your business faces. Without a fair assessment of the conditions in our region we cannot influence Government policy. We urge you, to use this opportunity to give your opinion on the economic situation. We need to ensure that as many businesses in the Greater Manchester region fill it in to ensure that our area is represented when the Bank of England and key Government Ministers are making decisions that will impact on our area.

The survey is not technical and will only take a couple of minutes of your time.
If you would like to review the results from previous surveys then please click here

Finally if you want government to hear how economic conditions are affecting the productivity of your business then say YES to the QES and click here.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Friday Guest Blog

By Sue Hamilton - Director of Modus, a Bolton-based foster care company working with children from across the region.

It’s amazing how many business people, at all levels, I speak to who have incredible jobs but still feel like they are missing out on something in their life.

Greater numbers than ever are coming forward to ask us about becoming foster carers, either as a short career break, or in addition to their regular day job.

The profile of the average foster carer has definitely changed in recent years. Once the domain of middle class empty-nesters, fostering now attracts people from all walks of life – and that includes business men and women who have succeeded in their chosen career, but want to give themselves a different type of exciting and rewarding challenge.

Fostering certainly isn’t an easy job, but it’s definitely satisfying. I think that’s the major appeal. Some people know that they can cope in a board room full of top level executives, but feel excited about the prospect of testing themselves when it comes to providing a stable, caring home for young people in desperate need of love.

Unfortunately, recent figures have shown a real crisis in the world of fostering, with the number of children and young people needing care far outweighing the number of foster parents available in the North West.

I started modus in 2002 as I had a passion that every child deserved a home, and I still firmly believe that today.

People who have worked in the world of business are often perfectly equipped with the skills needed to be employed as a great foster parent – patience, ability to juggle several priorities at once, people management, and even administration all come into play in a foster home.

The support package offered means it really is a viable option for people wanting a break from the day to day world of business, but the ultimate reward is to take on such a challenge, and see the real difference that it can make to the lives of children and young people.

For more information about modus, visit:

Monday, 8 November 2010

I’m Dreaming of a White….Paper

By Chris Fletcher - Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Since the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) on 20 October, there has been a blizzard of government white papers.

The pre-CSR landscape was dominated by all manner of speculation, estimates and forecasts. Since the Chancellor’s announcement, however, the environment has become a lot clearer, particularly in relation to the key policies that will impact massively on businesses.

So, what should we be on the look out for, what should we be concerned about, and what are we going to do to make sure businesses benefit?

Firstly, the Spending Review itself: This really did lay out the boundaries of what the government spending plans will look like over the next four years. However, in amongst the very detailed calculations, there are still quite a few gaps in the specifics. Take transport, for example, which will retain its capital spending, but we are yet to see details about key projects such as the Northern Hub, which is as important to Greater Manchester, and indeed the North West, as Crossrail is to London. This is just one example of many.

Hot on the heels of the CSR came the ‘Local Growth’ white paper: This was released on the same day that the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for Greater Manchester was given the go ahead. The ‘Local Growth’ white paper contains all manner of extremely interesting suggestions as to how local funds can be raised to fund capital spending in the future. For example, the paper looks at the retention and pooling of locally raised business rates, business growth bonuses and tax increment financing. A further review on this is due for the New Year when the ‘Local Government Resource Review’ gets underway. ‘Local Growth’ also covers the transition from the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to LEPs, housing and planning issues, and also sets out what the new Regional Growth Fund will deliver.

By itself the above would be enough to be getting on with, but it doesn’t stop there.

Next up were two more papers: ‘Financing Business Growth’ and ‘Backing Small Business’ . These were released on the same day that Lord Young was announced as the new Enterprise Tsar, a position held previously by Lord Sugar. In a nutshell, these papers get to the heart of some of the fundamental issues we have been raising with government for some time now, on behalf of members. These issues include: access to finance, help for exporters, better terms to help firms access government procurement opportunities and, linked with Lord Young’s other job for government, a realistic approach to cutting red tape and freeing business to get on with its job.

So, there we have it; a truly comprehensive list of policies and mechanisms designed to give business the environment and tools to grow, recruit and lead the recovery.

What next though? The next few weeks promise to be extremely busy for us. With our local councils and specialist committees we will be finalising our top priority issues themed around growth for the next 12 months. We will also be assessing, in detail, how the contents of the various papers will impact or affect these issues.

Once this has been done, we will let you, our members, know how you can get involved with this activity. We will also give some very clear messages to the decision-makers about what businesses want to see happen.

Whether you agree or disagree with the government, one thing is sure: they are reliant on business to get the UK economy back on track and are willing to listen. We need to make the most of this opportunity. You need to tell us what you want and we will be visible and vocal on your behalf.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Interest Rates Held.

Commenting on today's decision to hold interest rates, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "Today's decision was not unexpected. Higher than expected growth figures will have weakened the argument for a further round of quantitative easing, though this may still be needed in the New Year. The argument for higher interest rates is not yet sufficiently strong as inflation, though over target, is stable."

Friday, 29 October 2010

Friday Blog: Barry McLoughlin, Director of B S Entwistle on the benefits that apprentices can bring to your business

By Barry McLoughlin, Director of B S Entwistle

Since 2004 apprentices have played an important role in our commitment as a business to training and development and making sure that we continue to develop our skills in-house as we continue to develop our business.

As an electrical contracting business within the construction industry, making sure you anticipate any potential skills shortages is vital and apprenticeships form an important part of this forward planning.

The positive impact of apprenticeships has had on BS Entwistle has been clear. As well as addressing our skills need, apprenticeships are a great way of ensuring you can train people to your standards, to ensure they understand the importance of offering the quality of service your customers expect.

I would recommend taking on an apprentice to any business. Apprentices help to inject new life into your workforce and are an important indicator to our clients that we are committed to investing in our employees and that they are at the heart of our future business development.

Any employer keen to find out more information about taking on an apprentice or about the advice and help available should call 0161 233 2656 or email: for more information.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Senior BIS Policymakers Seek Your Views

By Sana Nabi, Policy Officer, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Next week two senior policymakers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) will be coming to see Chamber members to seek their views on two important issues.

On Monday 1 November in Bolton, BIS want to hear members' opinions on supply chain finance and access to finance issues impacting on their businesses; the session will take place at the Business Enterprise Centre (BL3 5EY) from 12noon - 2pm and lunch will be provided.

On Thursday 4 November at the Chamber's Churchgate House office (M60 7HJ), BIS want to know member views on regulation. The session will be from 8.30 – 10am with breakfast.

Places on these two events are strictly limited. For full details and to register please contact or telephone Sana on 0161 237 4045.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Lessons to be learned from the Manchester Model: CIPD’s platform for business and jobs to lift economic gloom.

By Dr John Philpott, Chief Economic Adviser, CIPD.

As important as the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) is, another soon to be published official document, the government’s strategy for economic growth, will aim to contrast the pain associated with the CSR, with the prospect of sustained economic gain. It is set to provide the main context for debate when HR professionals from around the UK and abroad gather in Manchester early next month for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Annual Conference and Exhibition.

While our delegates are likely to be exercised by the national, regional and local impact of spending cuts – especially those working for public sector organisations hoping for practical ideas on how to do ‘more with less’ – the CIPD’s principal aim is to lift the evident economic gloom with a positive message about boosting business, improving the leadership and management capacity of UK plc, and creating the additional private sector jobs needed as state payrolls are slimmed down.

It’s clear that as a country we need to secure the emerging economic recovery by increasing the flow of finance to business – especially the SME sector – and ensure that employers are not unduly burdened by red tape. We also need continued investment in skills and infrastructure to help rebalance the economy toward high growth sectors, especially low carbon production, and raise productivity. And we need to enable company bosses and managers to improve their capacity to lead, engage staff and make the most of all the talent they employ. Only in this way will the economy drive the growth that ultimately creates future job opportunities.

These are of course generic needs. They obviously vary from region to region, locality to locality, variation that in turn requires different types of local response. And such difference is likely to be crucial in the coming period of fiscal austerity as the spending squeeze bites into some communities much deeper than others. Yet while there is no one size fits all response to the challenges facing different localities there are lessons to be drawn from areas such as Greater Manchester which wisely used the years of relative prosperity to move toward exactly the kind of collaborative growth strategy involving private business and public sector bodies that will be of crucial importance to securing economic growth throughout the remainder of this decade.

When staging last year’s annual conference in Manchester for the first time the CIPD was greatly impressed by the vibrancy and degree of innovative activity displayed both by the business community, especially Chamber of Commerce members, and local authorities in all parts of the city region. Although it is clear that success has yet to permeate to the most deprived areas where long-term joblessness persists, and that everywhere there is continued need for investment in skills and improvements in management capability, the fact that the local economy proved resilient in coping with the ravages of a major global recession is testimony to what I guess some might call the “Manchester Model”.

In bringing our own brand of knowledge and expertise about people management and development to the city next month we at the CIPD are eager to get further first-hand accounts of your experience of business growth and how this experience might be transferred onto the broader national and local stage. While we have our own ideas on a platform for growth we’re always in listening mode and would be delighted to hear what you have to contribute. Join us as we forge a path through the gloom and onward to a brighter future.

Dr John Philpott will feature as a panellist at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Annual Conference and Exhibition, 9-11 November, in the closing keynote “Forging a New Path Forward”, with Chris Grayling, Minister for Employment, Lucy Adams, Director of People, BBC, and Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Public Service, Unite the Union.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Comprehensive Spending Review

Reacting to Chancellor George Osborne’s Comprehensive Spending Review announcement today, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Whilst the Chancellor’s speech ends weeks of speculation, there is still a lack of clarity as to how the cuts will translate from Whitehall to the town halls and on to the business community.

“Of the Chancellor’s three themes, the announcements relating to growth are the most important to our region. These hit some of our key campaign areas, such as rail transport and investment in the low carbon economy.

“Over the coming weeks the Chamber will be watching local developments closely and listening to our members to assess what these cuts will mean for the Greater Manchester business community. What is encouraging is that this hopefully will end this prolonged period of uncertainty and businesses can plan for the future. Although the environment will be challenging and our latest Quarterly Economic Survey shows that growth is slowing both nationally and in the North West, there will still be plenty of opportunity for ambitious businesses that want to grow.

“We are in a period where the economy is being rebalanced. First and foremost we must support our members, be they small businesses needing finance to grow or large international businesses."

Friday, 15 October 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Stephanie Littler, Marketing Manager at St John Ambulance.

St John Ambulance is reminding Chamber members to take extra care this winter when attending or organising firework and bonfire displays and is issuing first aid advice to enable people to be the difference between life and death should an accident happen.

The most common injuries sustained on Guy Fawkes Night are burns, e.g. from picking up a hot sparkler, and injuries to the eye, caused when people look up at the fireworks. Here are St John Ambulance’s top tips on how to care for someone who may have a bad burn or sore eyes.


• Holding the affected area under cold water for at least ten minutes will cool the burn down and help to prevent scarring
• Burns covering an area larger than the palm of the casualty’s hand will require professional medical attention and so the casualty will need to see a doctor or go to hospital
• Major burns should be treated with water and in most cases an ambulance will need to be called to get urgent medical help on the way
• Burns must never be treated with lotions, ointments or creams and adhesive dressings must not be applied to the affected area
• To avoid infection the wound can be covered with any non-fluffy material such as cloth, a clean plastic bag or kitchen film.

Eye injuries

• Stand beside or just behind the injured person. Gently separate their eyelids with your forefinger and thumb and ask them to look right, left, up and down while you examine the eye
• If you can see a foreign object, wash it out by pouring clear water from a glass or jug or using sterile eye wash. Place a towel around their shoulders and pour from the inner corner of the eye
• If unsuccessful then try lifting the object off with the damp corner of a clean tissue
• If you still cannot remove the object, seek medical help.

Most large organised events will have first aiders on site many of whom will be St John Ambulance volunteers, ready to respond if needed.

Bonfire Night can be so much fun for people of all ages but can so easily be spoiled by injuries. It’s useful for everyone to know some basic first aid so if an accident does happen you will be prepared, or visit the first aiders on duty if you’re at a public event. It’s important to get prompt treatment as first aid can be the difference between a life lost and a life saved.

First aid advice can be downloaded by Chamber members via St John Ambulance’s iPhone application available from iTunes. For details of first aid courses in your area visit or call 0844 770 4800. Chamber members are entitled to a 10% discount off all St John Ambulance scheduled courses in the North West.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Stockport Breakfast Club

Stockport Council Chief Executive Eamonn Boylan will be the guest speaker at Stockport Breakfast Club tomorrow.

Mr Boylan will set out Stockport Council’s vision for the future and describe the challenges and opportunities that the borough and Greater Manchester face in the coming years.

The event will take place tomorrow (October 14th) between 7.15am and 9am at the Alma Lodge Hotel in Stockport. The cost is £16 including VAT for Chamber members and £32 including VAT non-members.

To book a place email or phone
0161 233 2663.

Friday, 1 October 2010

From Politics to Football – Remember Ossie Ardiles?

By Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy

A week is a long time in politics they say. This week has been more politics than business as the Chamber put the views of business to the Labour party at their conference in Manchester. This was an important opportunity for us to get your messages direct to the policymakers and opposition – they’re not my messages they’re yours! Ring me, phone or e-mail, it is important that your voice is heard and next week we’re off to the Conservative conference, so 5,300 e-mails this weekend please.

The Chamber attended a number of events this week and a recurrent theme was concern over the Government’s plans to abolish the Infrastructure Planning Commission, there is a sense that in this respect the Coalition’s localism agenda will hamper the infrastructure developments needed for future growth. Northern Hub, the proposed rail project for Greater Manchester, with knock on benefits across the entire north of England is a key project priority in which Government must commit to funding. The Chamber outlined the argument at a GMITA organised event and it was resoundingly supported by all. Skills also continue to be a business concern, with one large employer in the region describing the literacy and numeracy skills of entry level applicants to his business as “shocking”. We continue to work hard on behalf of business in these areas and more.

It wasn’t all politics though, to end the week I was invited to the Soccerex launch event at Cloud 23. There were a few famous football faces, Nobby Stiles, Dennis Law and Osvaldo Ardiles, oh and that rapper from New Order – John Barnes I think he’s called! Check out for details of their exhibition in Manchester next March. From manufacturing to media, construction to catering there are opportunities for any business to get involved and remember Manchester and the UK will be hosting many more international sporting events in the next few years.

Friday Guest Blog

Keeping Media Savvy

Stephen Marsden, Partner at Townhouse Communications

Since rejoining Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce at the end of last year, I’ve discovered a very different animal to what I experienced in the 1990s as part of the old Macclesfield Chamber.

As then, getting value out of it – and not just added business and more contacts – is partly down to the time and effort you spend on attending events (which in and around Manchester could now warrant a full-time job if your company can spare you!).

Two reasons we rejoined the Chamber were to keep up to speed on practice and developments in business sectors generally, and to add to or refresh our knowledge and skills in areas which impact on our work in media, copywriting and PR.

Although most events are pay as you go, I want to really commend the excellently organised and free ‘Meet the media’ evening at the BBC on 23 September, with five of the region’s senior editors from TV, radio and press all on hand and unstinting in their preparedness to answer questions and offer advice.

My most regular event is the Stockport Breakfast Club, which I’m glad to say now regularly hosts presentations aimed at fostering the business awareness and skills I think many members are after.

So another word of congratulation. As one of the recent main speakers, I ended my presentation on effective marketing media by inviting attendees to get creative and devise a brand name and slogan for a fictional new acne treatment with some clearly defined qualities.

Each entrant received a short personal critique, and such was the range and quality that I ultimately awarded a bottle of bubbly to both James Russell of James Russell Photography for “Dr Spot” and Paul Wareham of Access Self Storage for “Clear acne hell with Acnegel”…Spot on, guys!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Labour Party Conference Activity Update

Issues around rail in the North West were the topic of last night’s Greater Manchester Chamber/ Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority Fringe Event at Manchester Town Hall.

Entitled “Sustaining the Economy Through Rail” the panel included Dr Brian Sloan, the Chamber’s Head of Business and Economic Policy, Steve Butcher, Chief Operating Officer, Northern Rail, Tony Lloyd MP and Willie Bain MP Shadow Minister for Transport and was hosted by none other than Andy Crane.

Among the issues identified as key transport priorities for the area included the problems around the Northern Hub, high speed rail links, as well as calls for more rolling stock and the need for more frequent services to cover outlying areas.

Ahead of October’s Comprehensive Spending Review Mr Bain emphasised the need to continue to impress on government the vital role transport infrastructure investment plays in regional economic development.

A round up of all of our activity at the Party Conferences will be in the October edition of the Chamber magazine 53 Degrees

Monday, 27 September 2010

Labour Party Conference Update

By Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy

The steps Labour will need to take to gain back the support of business was the topic of British Chambers of Commerce’s Lunchtime Fringe Event.

The Rt. Hon Pat McFadden kicked off the session by outlining the need for Labour to adopt a sensible approach towards its opposition to issues including cuts in government spending. He also highlighted the party’s strong support of enterprise whilst in government, particularly in relation to skills development to support wealth creation.

Continued pressure to encourage increased bank lending, sensible questioning of planned spending cuts and continued investment in skills were all highlighted as key areas that the opposition should continue to press the new coalition government for to ensure the best possible conditions for businesses.

Keep an eye on our blog for a review of tonight’s joint event with the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority and remember you find out about all of activity at the Party conferences at

Labour Party Fringe Event Update

By Dr Brian Sloan - Head of Business and Economic Policy

Members raised their concerns about the planning system and skills levels of current school leavers at the first of our Labour Fringe events held at the Chamber this morning.

The event which included Hazel Blears MP, and Ruairidh Jackson from the Co-operative Group on the panel, looked the role that the opposition can play in helping local areas recover.

Delegates agreed that skills funding had been overly complex and that there was a need to have a more centralised funding body.

In addition, the meeting identified the potential problems a localised agenda may cause for planning and infrastructure development.

On the issue of city region governance delegates welcomed attempts to devolve more powers to Greater Manchester, due to a proven track record in successful public-private sector working.

Keep an eye out for our postings on other Labour Party Fringes we are involved in later in the day. Don't forget you can find out full information on all of our fringe events at the Party conferences at

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Nick Kettles, Marketing Director, CTI (The Coaches Training Institute), UK

In any position, whether managerial or a supportive role, it's not always easy to be authentic and say it as it is. Indeed, often the response to interpersonal conflict, whether caused by a clash over short-term goals, workplace values, or the status of employee relationships, is to ignore it until it’s too late.

However, viewed from the perspective of a company’s productivity, the elimination of communication barriers can help develop greater trust and the discretionary effort such relationships foster.

A common misconception of the value of Coaching in this area is that it’s just another tool for marshalling employees to toe the line. Used this way, coaching might achieve short term peace, but the opportunity for conflict to be a catalyst for change will be lost.

Facing up to what needs to be said, is just part of the equation. Unlocking new perspectives which might transform difficult situations, requires a shift not just in what we say, but how we see ourselves and others as well. By offering an orientation towards others which celebrates and embraces the natural creativity and resourcefulness in each individual, the Co-Active ® coaching model elevates conversations beyond simply defending our actions, or wanting to be the one who is right.

Consider the difference in a conversation, when our assumption about the other is not that they are limited, but instead hungry to learn, grow and become more effective as a human being?

As long as both parties are willing to take responsibility for their part in any misunderstanding, there then exists the potential for being curious about what the other really values in each situation. Even if we find we don’t share their values in quite the same way, giving them permission to share what they care about, without fear of being judged, creates the spaciousness in which common ground can be identified and an expanded resolution can arise.

It’s true that the art of having powerful conversations is not always mastered overnight, and yet even a simple shift in perspective like this can make a big difference in the way employees and employers relate to one another. When the alternative is the status quo, it behoves us to find the right relationship tools which realize the human potential of all our employees.

CTI offer coach training courses for executives, managers and new career seekers, in Manchester and London, throughout the year. For their forthcoming two and a half day Introduction to Co-Active Coaching at Salford Quays, Manchester, Nov 5-7, CTI UK is offering the course at 50 per cent off when two book together.

For more information call Judy Rich on 0845 299 8199, or

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Hospitality & Tourism Sector Event

The guest speaker at the next Hospitality & Tourism Sector event will be Paul Simpson, Managing Director of Visit Manchester. The event will start at 6.30pm on October 5 at Room Restaurant, 81 King Street, Manchester, M2 4AH. The cost is £15 including VAT for Chamber members and non-members.

This will be a fantastic opportunity to mix and socialise with some key decision makers in the Sector and enjoy a drink or two in this fabulous host venue.

Book securely online by clicking here

Labour Party Conference Fringe Event

New Statesman is hosting a fringe event at next week's Labour Party Conference. Big Brands: Key to Regeneration And Enterprise? will take place at 8.30am on Monday 27th September at Starbucks Coffee, St Ann's Square, Manchester.

Speakers include Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Financial Secretray to The Treasury; Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce; Professor Cathy Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University; Chris Ward, author of "Coffice"; Susan Hinchcliffe, Regeneration and Partnerships Manager at Business in The Community.

NB There is no need to book a place on the above event: simply turn up at the venue on the day. However places are limited and people will be turned away if the venue is full.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Chamber Activity and Events at Party Conferences

By Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy

It’s party conference time yet again and this year Manchester hosts the Labour Party Conference, with the Lib Dems in Liverpool and the Conservatives in Birmingham. The next few weeks promise to be very interesting indeed. In the mainly blue corner (with Lib Dem yellow tints) the coalition parties will no doubt face some internal issues as well as defending their economic policy against ever increasing hostility. Meanwhile, over in the red corner the Labour party will elect a new leader and we’ll have fun and games as shadow ministers start to jockey for position. So for political devotees very interesting stuff but what about the real world and what about business?

It is absolutely vital that we don’t lose sight of some significant challenges ahead as the spending review gets ever closer; we still await decisions around Local Enterprise Partnerships and the impending VAT increase. We still see problems about businesses being able to easily recruit skilled staff, train employees as well as get greater access to finance.

As you hopefully will know by now, here at the Chamber we are always on the case with one or more of the above issues at any one time, either talking to businesses about them or representing their views to key decision makers. Last week for example, I met with Danny Alexander MP the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to update him on key transport infrastructure projects facing the chop and ensuring he understood their importance.

Whilst these individual meetings are useful, the Conference season offers a huge range of opportunities for intensive bursts of activity making sure that we play as big a role as possible in making sure we stand up for business and influence future decisions. Having key politicians right on your doorstep helps as well.

This year we will be undertaking activity at all 3 main conferences. I will be speaking at several fringe meetings as well as the Chamber hosting events with partners. Full details can be found on our website at:

However it’s no use just having meetings we really need the ammo to back up what we’re saying. So now, more than ever your views do matter. The current government is ready to listen and act, the opposition is ready to pounce if it doesn’t. Take advantage of what we can do for you and play a part in shaping your future.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog - Claire Mclauchlin from Weber Shandwick

By Claire McLauchlin

Public Affairs Consultant at Weber Shandwick

I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ plan, in fact the term having a dog and barking yourself sprung to mind. However, Cameron has said that the concept would be a ‘big advance in people power’ and a change in the way we do things is inevitable following the recent financial fallout, so I am willing to be proven wrong.

It’s not that I don’t think there is a place for social enterprise, charities and voluntary initiatives working together to deliver public services – there undoubtedly is, if it is a proper co-operative of opinions and actions. It has to be organised and executed properly and not just seen as a way to cut costs – lets not forget the introduction of PSO’s, which not only reduced the number of trained police officers on the streets but often caused more problems than they solved.

The concept of ‘Big Society’ isn’t actually a new one – Margaret Thatcher always wanted more individual action and less state intervention. Also, in 1985 the Prince of Wales Community Venture began in Sunderland, the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council was aimed at encouraging a team of citizens to constantly strive and offer excellent services to within the community.

So the idea isn’t anything new, yet we haven’t actually seen much detail on how this is all going to work. We have been introduced to some initiatives including ‘Your Square Mile’ – an invitation for us to ‘make changes in the square mile where you live or work’. Also there are schemes like the ‘Big Society Day’ and the ‘Big Society Bank’ where the community can have first refusal on any state asset being sold off. And of course, no campaign would be complete without the obligatory advocate’s panel, in this case an MBE’s network to champion local heroes and citizen’s initiatives.

Perhaps my years in PR have jaded me but I can’t help but feel cynical that there are a lot of campaign concepts going on but not an awful lot of depth.
Cameron said: “I want other forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, community-minded people and neighbourhoods in our country to come forward and ask for the same freedoms, the same support too. If you’ve got an idea to make life better, if you want to improve your local area, don’t just think about it – tell us what you want to do and we will try and give you the tools to make this happen.”

How will the Government deliver the necessary tools with limited, if any, offer of grants or funding?

In Manchester at least, it seems that the responsibility will inevitably land on the shoulders of local businesses but not much is actually being said on that. With the demise of so many social enterprises, Manchester businesses will certainly play a key role in our ‘Big Society.’ But what are the benefits and incentives?

If the Government opens up and allows businesses to work with them, then it will be a good opportunity for self-regulation and co-regulation to define government and civil society agreements – but this would have to be with Manchester’s leading business people.

Our successful regional businesses can also play a key role in helping social entrepreneurs grow, this can happen through mentoring relationships or by serving as non-executive directors.

Also key to success will be the city’s industries contributing to our ‘Big Society’ by lending their expertise in specific areas and entering long-term partnerships with a view to building up social enterprises.

Committing employees’ time and expertise to help make the ‘Big Society’ a success is a significant undertaking, but I’m sure the Manchester business community would also stand to benefit from enhanced employee skills and stronger relationships within the city. It may also encourage a sense of community within the office and nourish more of a team building attitude, where we work together both inside and outside of the work place.

Of course it does beg the question, ‘who is picking-up the tab for this?’ Not only is the pressure on for private sector businesses to drag us out of the recession, but now we will turn to them to deliver our public services and provide economic leadership within our communities.

Business Link and the North West Development Agency were once vital resources for Manchester businesses and would have undoubtedly proved valuable in the success of our ‘Big Society’. However their demise is another example of the contradictory position the Government has taken on cutting back regional organisations only to depend on them to deliver our public services.

Cameron also said, “We’ve got to get rid of the centralized bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale.” Our business community can contribute massively to this and in improving Manchester’s services; however, their role must be crystal clear with shared responsibility with central Government.

I am open to the idea of businesses and the community working together to provide some sort of collective responsibility but I can’t help but be sceptical that the ‘Big Society’ concept is a little vague to be successful.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Unemployment Claimant Count Rises

Unemployment Claimant Count Rises

The number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance in Greater Manchester has risen. Last month 74,987 claimed the benefit compared with 74,325 the month before.
Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Today’s Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant figures paint a mixed picture across Greater Manchester. Most boroughs saw a rise but there were falls in Stockport, Tameside and Wigan.

“Coming on the back of the fall last month, this small rise is worrying but was something that we warned about as no doubt once spending cuts begin to bite the figures will increase.
“There are still positive signs for businesses to recruit but the opening up and easing of access to get people back into work needs looking at urgently.
“Many businesses are still put off by some of the complexities and legislative burden involved in recruitment.”

Friday, 10 September 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Malcolm Evans Founding Partner at corporate culture specialists The Cultureship Practice.

There’s a huge amount of talk going on about the emerging composition of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) – and it is right that there should be this level of interest.

There are huge regional disparities of wealth and economic development, the country as a whole is limping through challenging economic times, and we face endless global pressures on Britain’s core commercial viability and status.

Politicians of all hues generally agree that the State should direct energy and resources into stimulating and supporting enterprise, although some businesspeople (I’d count myself in this category) might see an over-optimism within all governments on the limits of what public sector intervention can ultimately achieve.

I am privileged to work in MMU’s Innospace incubator amongst numerous ambitious younger businesses.

From this perspective, I wish to see this manifesto put clearly to the fore:

1. Simple, transparent enterprise foundation grants, giving start-ups a real boost.
2. Everything possible done to see more funds getting through to enterprise, not being swallowed up in support agency staff and bureaucracy costs.
3. A removal of enterprise support duplication across multiple bodies.
4. A huge cull of inexperienced business advisor mentors and a vigorous effort to attract pro-bono mentoring support from experienced businesspeople.
5. Simple to access R&D funds.
6. Cheap incubator/expansion space.
7. Genuine academic/commercial collaboration.
8. Valuing business participation as highly, if not higher, than the support bureaucracy.
9. An extension and development of intern and apprenticeship incentives.
10. A major review on access to capital - a process advised also by savvy and experienced entrepreneurs, not just bankers and venture capitalists

The Cultureship Practice:

Chamber Diary 2011

Chamber Diary 2011 - The Chamber is compiling the data for the Member Directory section of our 2011 Diary. Members are asked to check that the details which appeared in the 2010 diary are still correct by clicking here. If your details are wrong, please let us know by one of the following methods:
  • completing the online form linked here

  • downloading and completing the Fax Back form

  • changing your details on Chamber Online (entering the Directory Code into your 'Company Description' field)

  • calling the membership team on 0845 602 9469

ONLY REPLY IF YOUR DETAILS ARE INCORECT. The deadline for amendments is Wednesday 22nd September. If you are a new member you can check what details we have for you by calling the membership team or going on Chamber Online (details above).

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Add Your Voice to the Chamber Economic Survey

By Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey is currently underway for Quarter 3.

The survey is widely recognised as one of the most reliable indicators of economic conditions. It is highly regarded by the Bank of England and other policymakers, yet it takes just a couple of minutes to complete by simply completing tick boxes.

By increasing the number of responses in each local area the survey can be used to inform both national and local decision makers of the conditions being encountered by our businesses, ensuring the correct policy response is made.

This is an important part of the Chamber’s activity and we would very much appreciate it if you could spare a little time to complete the survey online at . All responses are anonymous and the results of this quarter’s survey will be released on 1st October and will be available on the Chamber’s website.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Double Benefits On Etihad Airways

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce members can now receive double benefits from just one return journey in Etihad Airways' Pearl Business Class when travelling from Manchester or London to any destination on the Etihad network. Enjoy the award-winning service on board the World's Leading Airline and you will automatically achieve Etihad Guest Silver status PLUS earn double Etihad Guest Miles for all trips taken before 31 October 2010.

Double miles means you are able to redeem your rewards in half the time. For just two return Business Class flights to Abu Dhabi you will earn 40,908 miles which is enough to earn you a free return Economy flight to Abu Dhabi.

This double rewards promotion is valid for flights taken between the 01 August to 31 October 2010.

For full details and to register for the promotion, click here

Etihad Airways is delighted to announce that its award winning lounge concept will be coming to Manchester later in the year. Silver and Gold Etihad Guest members will have access to its lounges across the network so make sure you fly now to get your Silver card and ensure that you are one of the first people in Manchester to enjoy the Etihad lounge experience.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Chamber Calls For Skills Rethink As A-level Successes Result In Disappointment.

Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Firstly, many congratulations to everyone celebrating successful A-level results today.

Now to spoil the mood with the harsh reality that many students will today not just find out their results but will also discover the fact that success at A-level is no longer a guarantee of a university place and many are left wondering where now?
I’ll come back to that in a minute.

As a first step in preventing any more repeats of the above, we have today called on the Government to rethink its approach to skills policy to prevent any more students discovering that their dream of going to university is going to end in potential disappointment.

The Chamber has led the response on behalf of the British Chambers of Commerce to the recent Government consultation paper: “Skills for Sustainable Growth”.

This consultation paper seeks views on the Government's future skills strategy.

Our response welcomes much of the new Coalition Government's approach. However it picks out a number of areas where we feel the strategy needs amending or strengthening. These include:

• the need for a much more coherent and integrated approach by Government departments and agencies
• the need for a much more flexible and responsive approach which recognizes that individuals and employers typically do not want full qualifications, but rather to address their immediate skills needs and to then have the potential to build on these in due course
• the importance of gearing skills provision to meeting labour market needs and priorities
• the need for better information and advice and guidance, particularly for young people, where there is a particular concern about the threat to careers and advice in schools and Further Education colleges
• and the need for fundamental reform of higher education

The last two of these points are particularly relevant to today's developments.
Our response also argues that the Government needs to act urgently to improve drastically the quality and impartiality of careers information and advice for young people, which is currently at risk from local authority cutbacks.

So, that’s what we’d like to see in the future but what of today?
Over the last week or so the Chamber has been banging the drum on apprenticeships as being a real, viable alternative to university. The government sees apprenticeships as being ever more important for the future success of the UK, so much so that funding has been increased to enable 50,000 more apprenticeship places by spring next year.

The important thing is though that whilst this is an alternative that some disappointed students will take up over the coming weeks some will still see it as a second class option.

It isn’t and should never have been put in that position.

It’s not just the view of policy experts though. Here’s what Jo Lynch, HR Manager at Thomas Storey and Chair of the Chamber’s Employment and Skills Committee has to say: “It is a tragedy that so many young people have been encouraged to believe that a three- year full time degree course is their entitlement and the only route to a good job and career.

"Ample evidence shows that for many young people this is a fallacy and that they would have been better off going into work at 18 and developing their skills in the workplace through an Apprenticeship and/or part-time courses. We need to rebalance the education system and the recruitment practices of employers so that there is much more emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects.

"It should be much easier and quite normal for young people to go into work after A-levels and to gain higher skills on the job, through a part-time, flexible approach. The ones that don’t will potentially rack up vast amounts of debt taking subjects of little or no economic value and could be left with lifetime earnings below those of their counterparts who took an Apprenticeship.”

Harsh words and maybe of little comfort to those young people facing some important decisions over the coming days. However the more impact we can have on government thinking the quicker we can get real change made to what is developing into an annual tragedy.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Inflation Figures

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "Inflation has shown only a marginal fall in the latest figures for July. The upward effects from food and transport are likely to bear down on consumer confidence and suppress demand.

"On this basis the Bank of England is right to maintain interest rates at record lows, and must do so well into the New Year to avoid an economic setback. The concern moving forward is that it is difficult to see inflation pressures easing due to the VAT increase, the impact of wheat prices and growing demand in the emerging economies. The UK is set for a difficult period of stagflation during which wage restraint must be exercised if interest rate rises are to be avoided."

Friday, 13 August 2010

Eurozone Growth Figures

Commenting on today's Eurozone growth figures, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: "The Eurozone saw growth gaining pace in Quarter Two led by Germany, France and Spain, which is encouraging. Much of this growth can be attributed to demand in the world economy picking up in the emerging markets.

"For the UK this is bittersweet news. It suggests the outlook is positive for world demand and there are opportunities for our exports, though it can be no coincidence that the export-led growth in Europe has been led by countries that have supported their exporters with state-backed export credit schemes during the recession.

"The Chamber has repeatedly called on the Government to introduce such a scheme here in the UK, but to date it has not done so, putting our exporters at a clear disadvantage. Failure to act has inevitably held back growth and the much needed rebalancing of our economy, causing a permanent loss to the UK economy."

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Friday Guest Blog

Chloё Brittain, Employment Solicitor at Weightmans LLP in Manchester

As part of the Coalition government’s publicised commitment of doing away with the unnecessary red tape they now want your comments.

Members of the public together with businesses are now able to access the government’s recently set up “Your Freedom” website:

On this site people can nominate what laws they think should be removed or changed. The website states “Regulations can stifle small businesses in particular, so we’re especially keen to hear from those of you in companies employing fewer than 250 people.”

In addition Vince Cable, the Business Secretary has promised that from the 1 September 2010 Ministers will not be allowed to introduce new regulations imposing costs on businesses without identifying current regulations with an equivalent cost to be removed (“One in One out”). Vince Cable stated “By ensuring regulation become a last resort, we will create an environment that frees business from the burden of red tape, helping to create the right conditions for recovery and growth in the UK economy.”

The Government has requested that the independent Regulatory Policy Committee (RPC) scrutinize the proposals for the introduction of new regulations prior to policy decisions being made.

This is potentially very good news for those small businesses that have grappled over the last few years with the introduction of various regulations (largely arising out of European directives) which have, in some views restricted businesses. The government’s own figures, highlight the cumulative cost to business of new red tape since 1998 which has risen to £88.3bn. Most costly of all the laws since 1998 are Working Time Regulations, which have cost businesses a cumulative £17.8bn.

Whilst it is encouraging to note the government’s intention to make it easier for small business we will have to see how this works in practice. Many employers and businesses find themselves restricted by what can be regarded as unnecessary regulations, a large part of which derive from European directives which the UK is obliged to enact. The Working Time Regulations are a prime example of this.

However the government has promised more of a presence in Brussels during the policy process; taking strong cross-Government negotiating lines; and ending the ‘gold-plating’ of EU legislation. The RPC will also analyse proposals for implementing EU legislation to ensure that by incorporating EU laws into UK law does not put British business at a competitive disadvantage relative to other European countries.

For now it’s “ watch this space” with businesses being encouraged to get their views heard.

Weightmans LLP provides employment law advice to a range of businesses and individuals alike. Further information can be found at:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Latest Unemployment Figures

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce: "Today’s Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant figures paint a mixed picture across Greater Manchester. Most boroughs saw a fall, but there was a rise in Bolton, Salford and Trafford.

"This is a concern given that we are yet to see the real impact of the impending public sector cuts on job losses. Despite positive headline national figures for unemployment there is a timing issue if trying to compare these data. The slow down in the fall of claimants demonstrates that business confidence in the economic outlook is impeding job creation.

"Whilst we expect to see a similar picture next month unemployment looks almost certain to rise and the Government’s hopes for private sector job creation must be in doubt. With a wealth of employment legislation to deal with employers are more reluctant than ever to commit to job creation given the level of uncertainty over the economy’s prospects."

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Interest Rates Held at 0.5%

Commenting on the MPC’s decision to hold interest rates at 0.5%, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “Although inflation remains a problem we believe the Bank was right to maintain rates at 0.5% today, though we cannot ignore the growing case for interest rate rises sooner rather than later.

“However, the private sector recovery remains in doubt. In addition to this, though public sector cuts are underway, the numbers are not yet showing the impact this is going to have on growth and demand.

“A concern for us is that not enough has been done to promote an export led recovery whilst the value of Sterling has been relatively low. This is now being diminished and weak domestic demand is going to bear down on growth for sometime to come, making the Bank’s job even more complicated in the months ahead.”

Friday, 30 July 2010

Friday Guest Blog: The size advantage: Why SMEs are better placed to compete in the digital world

By Tom Cheesewright, strategy director - AND Digital

Let's face it: size matters. In most spheres of business, big companies carry an advantage. That's not to say the smaller players can't compete - many of the businesses I meet through the Chamber do just that. It's just rare for the smaller enterprise to have a well-defined advantage over the industry gorillas.

But in the digital world, I see that they have just that.

This isn't a pop at larger companies: that would be unwise given the size of some of our clients. Rather it's the recognition of a trend, and an exhortation to the smaller business to take advantage.

Small businesses have always had the advantage of agility: small, tight-knit organisations can be flexible enough to respond to market opportunities that large companies simply cannot. Big businesses have to train more people, adjust more policies, account for more challenges etc. This makes them (generally) risk-averse and conservative.

By contrast, small businesses can often afford to take risks without seriously jeopardising the health of the company.

Today there are some small risks on the web that are worth taking because they carry huge potential rewards. The web is flooded with powerful, low-cost tools, learning materials, sales opportunities, marketing vehicles and more. Businesspeople have an opportunity to reduce their costs, increase their productivity and grow their sales through using these tools. All you need to access them is a broadband connection, a reasonably up-to-date computer and an open mind.

Unfortunately for the corporations, up-to-date machines and open minds are often in short supply. The cost and complexity of upgrades leave many organisations running software that is years out of date. Innate conservatism means that access to the web is often locked down, leaving employees with little opportunity to seek out new opportunities online. If you work in a large corporation, the chances are that you are blocked from accessing social networks, video sharing, photo streams, blogs, software downloads and more. Even if you can, your web experience is likely degraded by the fact that your browser software is years behind the state of the art. In a world where the standards change almost weekly, this is a major disadvantage.

Small companies don’t need to be encumbered by these problems. If there are social networks where your customers hang out, you can likely do a better job of connecting with those networks than your corporate competitors. If there are free or low-cost software tools out there, don't be afraid to give them a try - you could save a load of money and find that they are many times better than the expensive solutions designed for corporate environments.

So I encourage SMEs to get online and live the web in the way that the large corporates cannot. Take a little risk and you could find a huge reward.

Tom will soon be launching a new software tool that helps companies to get better returns on their online marketing investment. If you'd be interested in finding out more and testing an early release of the software for free, please email him at