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

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday Guest Blog: Alistair Marshall – Director, Alistair Marshall Consulting

Officially we are told we are no longer in recession, but many people are yet to feel the benefit of this growth. Alistair Marshall suggests how to speed the process up:

“So that’s it then. We no longer need to worry. The pundits say the recession is over. Well from talking to my clients, no one is expecting a quick recovery. As we are an impatient lot here at AMC, we thought it might be a good idea to throw a few ideas around to see if we can speed the process up!

First of all, don’t allow yourself to fall into the victim culture of ‘there is nothing I can do, it’s all down to the economy’. This is simply not true. There are dozens of things you can be doing on a daily basis, at next to no cost to drive your business forward:

Be positive, people want to buy from enthusiasts not manic depressives.

If people are not ready to buy today, prepare a list of potential clients for the future and start regularly communicating your expertise in your given field on a regular basis. You must ensure you are ‘front of mind’ on the day they decide to purchase in the future. Send them newsletters, blog updates, interesting articles etc.

Make compelling offers. Explain why they should not just choose you, but choose you now. Make an offer they can’t refuse and change it each month.

The next tip is to make sure you can be found. The first place they look is the web so is your site on that first Google page? What can you do to help yourself get found by the Search Engines? Have you considered testing a Pay Per Click campaign?

Whatever you do, do something today, this week, not next month. Don’t let fear lead to paralysis. Keep doing the things that will generate new leads, i.e.: marketing.”

Alistair Marshall Consulting
0161 748 0060

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Chamber Council

“What I want to know is………..”

Here is your chance to get your business issues in front of the right people.

The Greater Manchester Chamber Council meeting on 30th March will see the launch of the Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey Quarter 1 report for 2010 which will give an unrivalled update on the current and future position of the Greater Manchester economy, backed up by discussion and debate on the Budget and what it means for business.

In addition full details of the Chamber’s plans for getting Greater Manchester business issues at the forefront of the forthcoming election will be revealed as well as giving attendees first shot at getting their issues raised and discussed.

The Chamber wants to hear from members on what their issues are and we are asking you to complete the following question: “What I want to know is…..”

The question could be about specific issues or even be party related but must be about business. We will then ask the right people via our extensive contacts at local, regional and national level and get back to you.

To get ahead of the field and get your issue in the open reserve your place now for the event by e-mailing

The meeting is being held at the Midland Hotel, 8.00 am for an 8.30 start on Tuesday 30th March with a finish time of 10.00 am.

If you can not attend the meeting on 30th look out for further details of our activity leading up to the election and beyond as we look to represent your views to the people that make the decisions.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Chamber Reaction to Budget

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "There were some unexpected announcements that will benefit SMEs, particularly the reduction in business rates which will undoubtedly help some of the smallest businesses. A package of measures totalling £3.5 billion.

"We also welcome the Chancellor's announcement that RBS and Lloyds will have new targets for lending to businesses totalling £94 billion.

"The Chancellor's forecasts for 2010/11 remain optimistic and his spending plans lack clarity.

"The Chancellor wants the private sector recovery to create jobs. They could have done this more effectively by abolishing the 1% National Insurance Contribution increase."


The Chancellor has finished speaking. The Chamber reaction to the Budget to follow.


Increase of £4 per week in child tax credits from 2012 for one and two-year-olds.

Every pensioner will be entitled to £132.60 weekly income


£500 million to be raised by measures to tackle tax avoidance


£270 million one-off payment for new university modernisation fund


Darling: "Universities must make efficiency savings"

More investment in step subjects


£35 million university enterprise capital fund to support innovation.


Darling: "I will offer help to the computer games sector."


Darling: "We will not go back to the interventionism of the past."


£26 billion for new green investment bank


£100 million for repairs to local roads and motorways


Darling says he will help SMEs expand by doubling annual investment.

Chamber welcomes news that Capital Gains Tax will be held at 15%


Extension of time to pay scheme helping SMEs to pay their taxes. Business rates to be cut in October for small businesses.


15% increase in central government contracts to SMEs and faster payment schemes.


Chamber welcomes news that RBS and Lloyds will loan £94 billion over the next 12 months with over hald of it going to SMEs


Darling: "We can't take growth for granted."


15,000 civil servants will be relocated within five years as part of efficiency savings.


Darling gives more details of £11 billion efficiency savings.


Darling confirms that duty on beer, wine and spirits will rise by 2% from Sunday.


Dr Brian Sloan: "Abolishing 1% employers National Insurance contribution in April 2011 would affect private sector job growth as this rise is causing firms to re-think further recruitment."


Tobacco duty will rise by 1% above inflation from today


Duty on cider to increase by 10% above inflation from midnight on Sunday


National debt forecast to fall from 56% to 54% of GDP


Borrowing forecast to be 11.1% of GDP in 2010/11 and 8.5% in 2011/12.


Borrowing forecast to be £163 billion in 2010/11 and £131 billion in 2011/12


Borrowing this year is £11 billion down on pre-Budget report in December


Growth of 3-3.5% forecast for 2011


Fuel duty to rise by one penny in April, then by a further penny in October and January


Darling confirms growth of 1-1.5% in 2010


New stamp duty limit to come in at midnight tonight


Stamp duty scrapped on properties worth up to £250,000 for first time buyers


Chancellor announces work and training packages for unemployed under the age of 24.


Chancellor is looking at options to scrap retirement age


Chancellor recognises the role businesses have taken in retaining employees


Chancellor says everyone is entitled to a bank account


UK economy contracted 6% over course of recession


Chancellor supports international bank levy


Tax on bank bonuses has raised £2 billion


Chancellor says we need to support growth and discourage protectionism


Chancellor warns recovery is not guaranteed


There will be a £2.5 billion package for small businesses. More details to come......


Chancellor says borrowing must be brought down without damaging services.


The Chancellor has started speaking....

Budget 2010

The Chancellor is due to begin speaking at 12.30pm today. The Chamber's Economics Team will be providing updates as he delivers the Budget.

What do you think of Piccadilly, Manchester?

What do you think of Piccadilly, Manchester?
by The Piccadilly Partnership

We're always interested to hear what you think about Piccadilly; the area of Manchester that we, The Piccadilly Partnership, aims to promote.

This month we are giving you the chance to not only have your say about what's good and bad about the area, but also the chance to win 2 First Class return tickets courtesy of Virgin Trains!

All we ask is that if you have 15 or so minutes to spare, please complete our survey. The survey asks you a set of questions about Piccadilly; an area you may live in, work in or just pass through on your arrival into Manchester city centre.

If you can spare some time to voice your opinion about the Piccadilly, Manchester, then please click on the survey here

Cyber and Information Security Breakfast Briefing

Friday 26 March 2010 (08:30am - 11.30am)

Cyber attacks and E-crime have shot right back to the heart of the news agenda in 2010, with Google's rift with China, and this month's discussions around a UK Strategic Defence Review.

Now experts including our Military Chiefs warn that the era of sustained homeland cyber crime and terror battles has begun. What can your organisation do to lower your vulnerability? And what should your staff be on guard for?

To end Business Continuity Week, this event brings together some of the country's best placed speakers to outline the UK Cyber threat, government approaches, and practical counter-measures for employers to take back to the office.

Topics include:
- Government strategy
- Commercial espionage and data vulnerabilities
- E-crime and organised crime a corporate perspective
- E-crime and organised crime a police perspectives and support

*Given each presentation's content and speaker backgrounds, Cyber and Information Security Briefing is strictly in accordance with Chatham House rules.

Booking details below.


Richard Bingley, Author 'Terrorism: 'Just the Facts'

Former security journalist and head of two political media units with Tony Blair's government (2002-06), Richard will outline: Governmental approach to Cyber terrorism and Cyber Crime; US post 9/11 and international comparisons; cyber attacks case studies; breaches and lessons learned for protecting high-profile assets and information.

Jason Hart, CEO of CRYPTOCard Europe

- How E-crime affects business
- A hacker's perspective
- Vulnerabilities around web stored information
- Case studies of cyber attacks against the businesses
- Overseas examples

As a former ethical hacker with seventeen years experience in the Information Security industry, Jason has used his knowledge and expertise to create technologies that ensure organisations stay one step ahead of the security game. Jason continues to raise the profile of Information Security risks and solutions, including the introduction of the term CSO (Chef Security Officer) within business and is seen as leading figure within the Information Security Industry Globally.
Jason has published articles and white papers and has appeared on BBC, ITV, CNN, and CNBC as well as Radio 5 and BBC World News. His expertise has been cited in Time, SC, InfoSec, Computing and Computer Weekly magazines and in the FT, Guardian, Times and Evening Standard.

John Julian, Ian Johnson Associates (IJA)

- Types and origins of most likely threats
- Corporate espionage between businesses
- Case studies of two major industrial countries
- Corporate espionage and simplicity of approaches with case studies
- Legal avenues and support
- Lessons on facilitating mitigation but retaining innovation

John Julian is senior consultant for Ian Johnson Associates (IJA). Both John and IJA personnel possess a long public service record in UK government helping to protect our international commercial interests in domestic and overseas settings.

Andrea Barnard, e-crime police manager for the Welsh Assembly Government

- How police and public sector can support employers through preventing crime
- Case studies of e-crime against business
- What businesses should be doing to mitigate cyber attacks and
- Available guidance to help managers confront and tackle e-crime
- Response mechanisms to inappropriate / illegal online material

Andrea Barnard is the e-crime police manager for the European Union backed e-crime Wales partnership. E-crime Wales (e-Drosedd Cymru) has been acknowledged by business security leaders across the world including Microsoft as being a leading supporter and innovator around preventing e-crime against businesses and employers.

- Danny Dresner, National Computing Centre

Daniel Dresner is head of information assurance practice at The National Computing Centre. Daniel advises NCC members on security, risk, quality, and IT governance issues, often working from NCC's own templates. His experience includes central government, construction, housing, and the financial sector. His research with the University of Manchester - where he is a visiting lecturer in IT Governance and Computer Security - has lead to a method for detecting the human vulnerabilities in network security and a unique approach to security awareness. Daniel chairs the England North Branch of the Institute of Information Security Professionals.


Booking Form:

MBCF Member Rate: £35 plus vat

Non Member Rate: £49 plus vat

Duration: 08:30am - 11:30am (Breakfast refreshments provided)

Venue Details: Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, MANCHESTER, M2 5NS


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Chamber Council Meeting

To coincide with the launch of our Quarter 1 Quarterly Economic Survey report, and closely following the Chancellor’s last Budget before the election, we will be holding our next Council Meeting on March 30th. The event will be held between 8.30am and 10.30am in the Trafford Suite at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.

The event will provide a unique opportunity for members to discuss what impact the Budget will have on their business and debate the major economic issues currently affecting their businesses. Guest speakers will be announced shortly.

We would really like to see you at this meeting and give you the chance to have your say.

To reserve your place at what promises to be a popular event please email
Further details and a full agenda will be sent out nearer the date.

GMEC Awards

Chamber members are being encouraged to make nominations for this year's GMEC Awards, which celebrate employers who make a difference.

Categories include the Developing Young Talent Award, Big Break Award, Clean Slate Award and Individual of the Year Award.

You can make a nomination for an award by clicking here The deadline is Friday 26th March.

This year's awards gala dinner will take place in the fabulous surroundings of the Hilton Manchester Deansgate on Wednesday 26th May. Through the generosity of the event sponsors tickets to the event are available for employers for free. Visit the website above to register your interest in attending and don't miss one of the most inspiring evenings in Greater Manchester's business calendar.

Budget 2010

The Chamber's Economics Team will be providing updates on tomorrow's Budget via our Blog and Twitter.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday Guest Blog: Conflict in the Workplace - How to Address the Danger Signs

By Gemma Lockett - Sales, Management Development and Human Resources Expert and Training Consultant for Business Support Solutions

“Conflict can occur in any working environment, at any organisation, large or small. Where there are two or more values, perspectives or contradictory opinions there is the potential for conflict and if not brought to a satisfying conclusion early enough, it can result in discontented employees working in a tense and unpleasant atmosphere. Certainly not the best conditions to produce quality work.

Conflict situations arise for a number of reasons, however some of the most common include poor communication, lack of information, stress, poor leadership and discrimination. Behaviour is often driven by situation, so if you work in an industry where you are problem solving, dealing with complaints, or working in a high-pressure environment, it is likely that you will have experienced some form of conflict. Although conflict situations are generally seen as being negative, conflict is often the driving force for change and when managed well, can be constructive as opposed to destructive.

Many larger organisations tend to rely on Human Resource Departments to manage conflict situations, taking it out of managers’ hands in case they mishandle the situation and say something that could be held against them in any formal proceedings that could follow. For organisations without their own HR Departments, managers are expected to deal with conflict situations as and when they arise and many haven’t had the training to deal with the issues that have sparked the initial disagreement and the resulting conflict.

When not managed effectively, conflict situations can cause a variety of challenges, such as increased levels of sickness, project failure and people leaving the organisation. Some employees even experience violence in the workplace.

An important skill of a good manager is their ability to identify the danger signs. Managers are often surprised when conflict situations arise however there are often a number of signals that individuals will display to indicate that there are problems. These could include: increased levels of absenteeism or lateness, changes in behaviour and instances of bullying.

As the leader of a ‘Conflict Management’ Business Training event, I take delegates through differences in behaviour, how to read difficult personality types and how to handle aggressive people. One of the keys to reducing conflict is being able to anticipate it and I tell attendees how to read the signs, manage expectations and anticipate flashpoint situations. I talk about how to prevent workplace conflict from occurring in the first place and the importance of understanding the needs of staff and having a positive attitude. We look at the knack of taking control of the conversation and how to protect employees by removing them from conflict situations. I also include practical exercises so that delegates can practice techniques and I try and give as much help and guidance as possible when people discuss their ‘real life’ bullying scenarios.

The recent economic climate has seen many organisations making redundancies and cutting departmental budgets, which can lead to a general decline in staff motivation levels. Conflict is a major drain on most businesses, not only financially but also in time and resources. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are capable of identifying, investigating and knowing how to deal with conflict that may arise in your team.”

The next ‘Conflict Management’ Business Training event takes place on Tuesday 23rd March at Warren Bruce Court, Trafford Park. For more information and to book your place and for details on other courses available, call 0161 875 2352 or visit:

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Free Web-Surgery for Chamber Members

LAMP Digital, one of Manchester’s most innovative Web agencies, is holding a day of free ‘Web surgeries’ on Wednesday 7th April, aimed at helping Chamber members look forward and make the most of the opportunities the Web will offer over the next twelve months.

With over ten years in the sector, LAMP's MD Craig Taylor, will be able to answer all your questions and offer practical advice on the Web, social media, online business and e-commerce in a series of one hour, one to one Q&A sessions.

These are just some of the questions often asked:

• How can I maximise our e-commerce offering over the next twelve months?
• How do I know who visits our site? What is Adwords?
• What is SEO and is our site search engine friendly?
• What will social media be able to do for me over the next twelve months?
• What is Twitter for and how can I use it?
• How do I get a mobile Web site for mobile device users?
• What is an ‘iPhone app’ and what do they do?

The surgery will be held at the Chamber's headquarters, Churchgate House on Oxford Street, Manchester.

As we're offering hour-long appointments, places are limited so if you're interested in attending, please contact as soon as you can to avoid disappointment.

Once places have been filled, a reserve list will be kept should any more appointments become available.

The hour long appointments are available throughout the day, beginning at 09.00 with the last slot ending at 17.00hrs.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Unemployment Falls Across Greater Manchester

By Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy

Unemployment has fallen across Greater Manchester according to figures released today.

The total number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance last month was 84,622 compared with 85,020 the month before.

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "Across Greater Manchester as a whole, the number of Jobseekers Allowance claimants is slightly down, suggesting the pace of job losses has slowed, though the number of long-term unemployed continues to increase.

"What we need now is to focus on job creation to get these people back into work. A good start would be to abolish the planned 1% rise in Employer’s National Insurance Contributions as this is one of the factors putting a brake on the recruitment plans of firms across Greater Manchester. Business confidence is evident in our Quarterly Economic Survey, but uncertainty over the Government’s plans for tax rises and public spending is causing firms to hold back."

Monday, 15 March 2010

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury to Speak at Chamber Event

Philip Hammond MP, the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will be the guest speaker at a business breakfast meeting organised by Greater Manchester Chamber later this month.

The Council Meeting coincides with the launch of the Chamber’s first Quarterly Economic Survey Report for 2010 and closely follows the Chancellor’s last Budget before the election.

The event will provide a unique opportunity to discuss the impact the Budget will have on business. The event will also offer local firms a chance to put their views across to a leading member of the Shadow economic front bench team on major economic issues currently affecting their businesses. They will also have the opportunity to hear first hand how the Conservatives plan on tackling the many economic challenges as we head into the General Election.

This event will be held between 8.30am and 10.30am in the Trafford Suite at the Midland Hotel, Manchester. The event is open to all businesses. For further information and to reserve a place please contact or call 0161 237 4451.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday Guest Blog: Social Media - Risk or Reward?

By Angela Workman, LEWIS PR

It could be argued that social media represents equal risk and reward to business. One thing is certain though – it shouldn’t be overlooked

With mainstream media outlets declining in readership and influence, and the ability for anyone to use the web to create their own publishing channel, social media can represent a massive opportunity, as well as a threat.

Communications is more global than ever. It is faster, more prolific and more direct. In the fight to be first, information can be less accurate and the impact, wether positive or negative, will be more acute for a company.

One of the most extreme examples to date where accuracy has been compromised in the name of speed, is the 2008 case involving United Airlines, in which a six-year old story about the company’s bankruptcy was incorrectly identified as a ‘new’ story. The rapid dissemination of this ‘news’ caused the company’s share price to drop by 75 per cent in a matter of hours, before the error was detected and share trading halted.

More than 1.5 billion people, or a quarter of the world’s population, have access to the internet. According to research company Nielsen, two-thirds of internet users visit social networking or blogging sites. With web technologies now empowering people to communicate, collaborate and consume in new and revolutionary ways, it’s no surprise that companies and brands are looking to get involved.

As the web gets more social and diverse, and stakeholders increasingly move online, social media will become a critical part of achieving business goals. Organisations will need a proactive, yet measured and controlled mindset, to drive and maximise its social media strategy. Here are ten steps to get you started on the road to social media success:

1) Do your homework – the more time spent on research, the more value you will get from a social media strategy. The most important influencers might not be the biggest bloggers, for example. Spend time researching the area, including forums and Twitter feeds, before you launch your campaign. Set up RSS feeds to monitor the conversation about the company, person, competitor or issue(s).

2) Don’t forget best practice – despite social media appearing a less formal communication medium, the same regulatory and legal constraints typically apply. The mechanism may need to be faster, but the rules of engagement still need to be in place. Elect a social media ambassador within your company to ensure consistency of messages and professional standards are adhered to.

3) Become one of ‘them’ – Social media etiquette is such that newcomers, rightly or wrongly, are often rejected – particularly if they try to join in the conversations that are already happening. To be accepted, try some of the technology, read blogs associated with your area of expertise, post comments on forums and articles, and follow Twitterers from your industry. Above all, always try to add value to conversations, rather than extract value. The creation of value is in the exchange. You give something, you get something back… eventually.

4) Be selective – there are some great services out there in the social sphere that will help you spread your message. Choose the channels that are going to add the most value to your campaign, and make sure you mix text with audio and video. Think about whether you need to monitor and respond or proactively engage. Not every social media tool suits every company or individual. Always keep your objectives and target audience in mind when deciding which ones to use.

5) Integrate – web-based marketing deserves a place at the heart of your strategy. If you decide to launch a blog, video or online influencer strategy, it should be in line with your wider corporate messages. At the same time, any marketing outreach should tie back to your web-based properties, as well as your offline campaigns.

6) Be realistic – human nature dictates that people are more driven to communicate a bad experience than they are a positive. Expect online conversations to be in part negative, but view this as an opportunity.

7) Pick your battles – ask yourself if the issue you are concerned with will impact your core business. Only argue with facts, not opinions, and never engage with the anonymous. Those that don’t admit who they are often aren’t credible sources, and love a drawn-out fight.

8) Be honest – don’t try to ‘spin’ the truth. Apart from being a poor practice, you’re far more likely to be found out online. Be helpful, polite and frank. If you don’t know the answer to something, be up front about it and make a commitment to find out and come back.

9) Build an online community – one of the most compelling ways to transmit your message is for others to do it on your behalf. Achieving this is marketing nirvana, and as such it’s not something that is going to happen overnight. Foster your community by involving people in your cause, asking for opinions, seeking feedback, circulating links and being responsive to requests.

10) Measure outcomes – measuring the success of your marketing campaign is often the hardest part. But with social media, you can often track outcomes right back to the tactic that started the process. Regularly measuring the impact of a social media channel and responding to successes will result in a swift return. Decide on key criteria that are aligned with your objectives and use these to measure against. Don’t try to use every metric tool available.

Chances are, your brand or company is already being discussed on various social media channels. Don’t believe me? Just type your brand or company name into the search box on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter. This simple act can be most illuminating, with many people underestimating the volume and depth of discussion and insight about their brand or company taking place online, right now.

Whether your strategy needs to be one of reactive defence, or pro-actively fostering a brand-advocating community, your move into social media is just a mouse click away.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

High Speed Rail Announcement: Connections are Key

By Richard Critchley, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Transport Policy Manager

“We enthusiastically welcome the Government’s commitment to High Speed Rail and its proposals which will place Manchester at the core of a future high-speed rail network. The extended remit of HS2 to look at routes to both Manchester and Leeds is certainly a step in the right direction, but with capacity filling up on existing routes it is essential that we start to see some firm progress in the development of the network. The plans outlined today focus heavily on the southern end of the line and connectivity with the capital’s existing infrastructure, but we would like to see more detail on how the project will continue outside the south east. Connections to the existing network and within the regions will be the key to the success of the HSR project and ultimately the economy of the region will benefit from the plans as long as they come to fruition, incorporating Manchester and the north of England.”

Monday, 8 March 2010

Chamber Awards 2010 now open for entries

The Chamber Awards 2010 is now open for entries. Run by British Chambers of Commerce and sponsored by the royal Bank of Scotland Group, the awards aim to recognise and celebrate business excellence through the successes and achievements of its Accredited Chambers of Commerce and their members.

Categories include:

• Business of the Year
• Award for Innovation Through Technology
• Most Promising New Business
• Entrepreneur of the Year
• Achievement in International Business
• Award for Excellence in People Development
• The Green Award
• Excellence in Customer Service

Previous winners have experienced year round exposure from the Awards programme and the national winner of the grand prize also receives £25,000, with prizes of £15,000 and £10,000 being given to the second and third prize winners.
The deadline for entries is 25 June. Entries submitted before 28 May will also be entered into a prize draw to win £250 or high street vouchers.
For further information on all the categories and information on entering visit the Chamber Awards web site at

Lend Us Your Ear, Mr Darling

As Chancellor Alistair Darling prepares the particulars behind his latest Budget announcement, Dr Brian Sloan, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce’s Head of Business and Economic Policy, sets out his ‘Budget Wish List’. So Alistair, if you’re listening…

• We need a credible plan to deal with the Budget deficit

“The Government needs to lay down as a matter of urgency a credible plan to deal with the Budget deficit. The nation now expects the inevitable tax rises and public sector spending cuts, but the current uncertainty over where the axe will fall and where taxes will rise is damaging business confidence and leading to lower levels of investment. Only through investment will we create wealth and jobs to sustain a recovery.”

• Abandon the 1% increase in Employers’ National Insurance Contributions

“This is a tax on jobs and this will deprive businesses in Greater Manchester of £120m a year, £3.43bn nationally, that might have been better used for investment and job creation and would make a positive contribution to addressing the budget deficit.”

• The Government should provide a short-term trade credit insurance scheme for exports

“There is evidence, particularly across the North West, that exports are driving the recovery, though not to the extent that weakened Sterling would suggest. The Government needs to provide trade credit insurance to help businesses achieve the full potential of overseas demand.”

• Commit transport expenditure to critical infrastructure developments that have been announced

“These include Northern Hub, rail electrification and active travel management on motorways. The Government also needs to commit to High Speed Rail plans when formally announced later in March.”

• Implement a discretionary relaxation of the 16-hour rule for Job Seeker’s Allowance

“This will have the longer term benefit of enabling people to support themselves through training and education to achieve a more valuable qualification that leads to more sustainable employment.”

Friday, 5 March 2010

From Stuart Beaumont, MD at The Safety Group

Businesses Grit Their Teeth During Adverse Weather

The snow that swept the country earlier this year brought many businesses to a complete standstill, with losses of up to £600m a day . Employees were left reeling at having to take unpaid leave or use up precious holidays as they were confined to their homes by the snow. But what lessons did businesses learn from this year’s snow fall and how prepared are they to deal with staff absences in future adverse weather conditions?

Employers should exercise great caution in these circumstances, as controlling an employee’s holidays could actually breach the terms of their contracts.

Very simply, if employees are unable to get into work because of adverse weather conditions there is no legal obligation for employers to pay for this time off therefore, it is unpaid. In many cases, employers have been asking employees if they would prefer to take the time off as a holiday rather than unpaid leave, to which many have said yes, although the question of whether the employer can ‘force’ an employee to take a holiday is debatable.

Legally, employers are allowed to fix holidays i.e. the employer can determine when employees take their holidays, but it’s advisable that employers look at the detail contained within employee’s contracts of employment in relation to holidays, as some contracts are worded as follows: ‘The Company will fix three days holiday per year to account for the Christmas shutdown, however all other holidays can be taken at times suited to the employee in line with business needs’. Where such statements exist in the employee’s terms and conditions, employers need to be careful about breaching contracts of employment, as they could find themselves embroiled in a costly and time consuming tribunal.

Furthermore, news reports have revealed that the number of reported slips and falls almost doubled during the heavy snowfall, leaving many companies running to the rescue of workers and the general public. But with the increased risks of an accident during bad weather, how much consideration are companies giving to health and safety regulations?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a legal duty of care to employees and all those who may be affected by their business or activities, this includes visitors, contractors and members of the public accessing the premises or sites a company is responsible for.

Regardless of adverse weather, over 10,000 employees suffered a major injury as a result of a slip or trip at work in 2008/09, according to the HSE, with forty people dying and £800 million lost across all industry sectors due to slips, trips and falls at work.

Business owners need to identify slip, trip and fall hazards, assess risk and keep areas of work safe and hazard-free at all times, especially during adverse weather. Failure to do so will result at best in a fine and at worse; the possibility of a charge of Corporate Manslaughter should an employee die as a result of negligence.

There is a lot of conflicting advice on whether companies should grit their premises or sites during extreme snowfall, or whether they should clear snow away etc. Beaumont says: “It’s advisable to make sites as safe as possible, which includes laying grit or salt to make surfaces less slippery, clearing snow or spilt materials. Everyone should be looking to prevent accidents from happening as much as possible.

To reduce the risk of a slip, fall or trip, in snow, ice, frost or spilt materials, employers need to identify high-traffic areas, such as building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, short cuts, sloped areas and places where water may gather.

The following tips may be useful:

• If you can, try to keep employees / contractors / the general public off the slippery surface
• Use grit or similar, on areas prone to be slippery, or sand to soak up oils
• Consider covering walkways e.g. by an arbour high enough for people to walk through, or use an insulating material on smaller areas overnight
• Divert employees / contractors / the general public to less slippery walkways and barrier off any potentially dangerous areas
• Gritting is a relatively cheap, quick to apply and easy to spread option for reducing slippery surfaces. Rock salt (plain and treated) is the most commonly used 'grit'. It is the substance used on public roads by the highways authority.
• Salt can stop ice forming and cause existing ice or snow to melt. It is most effective when it is ground down, but this will take far longer on pedestrian areas than on roads. The best times are early in the evening before the frost settles and/or early in the morning before employees arrive. Salt doesn't work instantly; it needs sufficient time to dissolve into the moisture on the floor.
• If you grit when it is raining heavily the salt will be washed away, causing a problem if the rain then turns to snow.
• Compacted snow, which turns to ice, is difficult to treat effectively with grit and ideally needs to be shovelled away.
• Be aware that 'dawn frost' can occur on dry surfaces, when early morning dew forms and freezes on impact with the cold surface. It can be difficult to predict when or where this condition will occur.
• Bags of rock salt can be purchased from most large Builders Merchants.

The key is proper risk assessment and control measures, which if put in place from the very beginning could prevent unnecessary accidents.

To find out more about accident prevention contact The Safety Group on 0845 224 7013email: or visit for more information.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Quarterly Economic Survey – Register Your Views

We’ve already had over 300 responses to the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) and if you haven’t completed it yet, there is still time!

The QES helps us to gauge your views on how business is going for you and what the economic outlook is in your area.

The Survey is completely anonymous and quick to fill in, so to register your views follow this link:

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Neil Turner guest speaker at inaugural Wigan Business Forum

By Patrick Prinsloo, Local Manager

Wigan businesses will have the unique opportunity to quiz local MP Neil Turner at the first ever Wigan Business Forum being organised by Greater Manchester Chamber next Friday (March 12).

Businesses from across the borough will be able to ask questions on a variety of business concerns affecting firms in Wigan including transport, inward investment the environment, and business support.

The meeting is the first of a planned series of quarterly Business Forums being organised by the Chamber to bring together member and non-member businesses from across the borough to discuss key issues and hear from prominent local figures.

The free event will be held at Park Inn, Leigh from 12 noon. For further information and to reserve a place please contact Patrick Prinsloo on 0161 237 4250 or email:

Chamber urges businesses to support petition against NI rise

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

The Chamber is encouraging businesses across the area to add their names to a national petition calling on the government to abandon its plans for a 1 per cent rise in Employer’s National Insurance contributions next April.

The petition set up by a coalition of some of the UK’s leading business groups aims calls for the 1 per cent employer National Insurance Contributions increase - planned for April 2011 - to be scrapped.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce has estimated that the proposed 1 per cent increase in Employer’s National Insurance Contributions in April 2011 will cost businesses across Greater Manchester around £120m a year. The proposed rise is already causing businesses to rethink their recruitment plans, so not only is this a tax on jobs it is undermining the recovery. The £120m might alternatively be used by businesses for investment to help Britain compete as the global economy recovers.

The petition, can be found in full at the dedicated website