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

Friday, 30 April 2010

Election Update

And so the debates are over!

The final installment of the ‘debate trilogy’ was held last night, following much hype surrounding the controversial topic for discussion...the economy. We were expecting the debate to produce some clarity on what the potential future government will do once in power, however what we expected was not necessarily what we received. The three leaders averted the important questions, and instead spent most of the time criticising each other's proposals...basically acting like typical politicians.

Polls following the debate have put Cameron as the winner with Clegg closely behind. Brown came out with the lowest percentage of the vote, a disappointing result considering this debate concerned issues that Brown, as Ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, should be well-accustomed to.

The clear issue of concern was how to tackle the deficit. Brown faced attack from Cameron over his party’s planned National Insurance Contribution rises, and retaliated by drawing attention to the Conservative plans of cutting Child Tax Credits as well as cutting the Inheritance Tax. Clegg, positioned in the middle, took advantage of the bickering and tried to show how voting for the Liberal Democrats would offer an alternative and fairer choice.

In reference to industry and manufacturing, the Liberal Democrats reiterated their plans to get the banks lending and to invest in green infrastructure. Gordon Brown spoke of his party’s plans to create 400,000 jobs in low-carbon industries, and emphasised his plans to retain the Regional Development Agencies. Cameron spoke of his party’s plans to invest in innovation, creating scientists and entrepreneurs of the future, and also mentioned plans to create 200,000 apprenticeships should the May 6th result fall in favour of the Conservatives.

All in all, last night's debate could be mistaken for a repeat of one the earlier debates. Nothing new was released and the party leaders just sought to defend themselves in a last-ditch attempt to secure votes.

Now that the Leaders’ Debates have finished, we would like to know what your voting intentions are. Take part in our Big Election Question this week.

Friday Guest Blog: What a hung Parliament may mean

By Jon McLeod - Chairman of Weber Shandwick Public Affairs

The manifestos have been published, the TV debates aired and by this time next week the last vote will have been cast – we will have heard it all. But has it been enough? Going on today’s polls the Conservatives are ahead with 34% of the vote, with Labour having 29% and Liberal Democrat, 28%.

The Conservatives may be ahead in the polls but in terms of forming the next Government but nothing is certain and a hung parliament is still a realistic outcome.

So, what does that really mean? A hung parliament is one in which no party has an overall majority, which means no party has more than half of MPs in the House of Commons. In the simplest terms, Labour will lose its absolute majority if it loses 24 seats and the Conservatives will gain an absolute majority if it gains 117 seats – which would include winning 25 seats from the Liberal Democrats to ensure a majority of one. Any result in between will result in a hung parliament and a coalition between the two parties with the most votes.

The concept of a hung parliament often evokes the response that it will have a detrimental effect on the UK economy. Political leaders and key financial markets will expect the new government to have a clear and concise strategy to address the nation’s debt. The coalition parties will have to agree the way forward swiftly as there is potential to slow down the decision making process and the actions required to ensure a responsible economic recovery. However a clear majority government can also make the decision making process long and costly.

Making two parties work together can possibly serve the national economic interest by forcing the executive to focus on good governance and economic management. This actually happened between 1976 and 1978, when the Liberal-Labour pact called the economy to order, brought the inflation to heel and introduced fiscal discipline.

But with six days left of campaigning, there’s still time for momentum to shift – will the Lib Dem momentum fall by the wayside, will Labour bounce back when it comes to the comfort ‘better the devil you know’, or will the country agree ‘it’s time for change’ and welcome David Cameron into Downing Street. As Harold Wilson said, a week in politics is a long time and an interesting 6 days await us all.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Election Update - Raving Loonies!

By Anna Purdue

This week the Monster Raving Loony Party has released its manifesto for the General Election. While the party’s policies are clearly ‘outlandish’ and rather unique, they can be credited for publishing policy statements with clarity - something that is sadly lacking in the main parties' Manifestos.

Will the lack of clarity over the economy finally be put to rest with the last of the three Leaders’ Debate tonight? We're all hoping that details over the economy will be disclosed and the electorate will finally have some clarity over what we can expect from the future government.

The 'poll of polls' has barely changed over the past week and the current percentages are – Labour 27%, Liberal Democrats 29% and Conservative 34% . Will we see a dramatic change tomorrow? We will have to wait and see...

The issue of National Insurance Contribution rises for employers continues to be an issue for Chamber members. The policy team have devised a spreadsheet which will help you to see how the three parties’ policies on national insurance will affect employment costs for your business. Businesses have found the spreadsheet extremely handy as an indicator of the possible costs and therefore we thought it would be useful to re blog the link.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Election Update - You Get What You Pay For

The IFS’s recent analysis of the party Manifestos and the tax rises and public sector spending cuts that will be required to achieve the parties’ commitments, all demonstrate one thing - you get what you pay for.

The IFS estimate that the Liberal Democrats would need to raise an additional £760 in taxes per household each year to meet its plans, Labour £610 and the Conservatives £390. Not surprising then that the parties’ plans require public sector spending cuts of £47bn, £51bn and £64bn a year respectively. What is necessary is for the next Government to layout a credible plan to address the deficit; the question is “How?”
The blend of tax rises and cuts will affect us all in different ways, individuals and businesses alike. Construction firms dependent on public sector contracts might want to see spending protected in certain areas, manufacturers may want to see lower taxes that enable them to retain money for investment.

Irrespective of the occupant of No.10 on May 7th, majority, minority or coalition government, the nation will get what it is prepared to pay for, borrowing is simply not an option. With this in mind the electorate needs clear details upon which to make an informed decision on which way to vote. What is clear is that the parties have been unclear – so roll on the final Leaders’ Debate tomorrow. As the leaders slog it out in the deciding match we need substance, or will style win through once again?

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Big Election Question

by Sana Nabi

There is now less than 10 days to go until the polls open to decide who will lead the country for the next five years - or will they? All surveys suggest we're heading for a hung parliament and the Leaders’ Debates have confirmed our speculation that this election is based on personality rather than policy; style is certainly winning over the substance. With the final Leaders’ Debate expected on Thursday, we are asking our members the following question:

What is your voting intention for the General Election?

To give us your anonymous opinion, click here.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Election Update

By Anna Purdue
Policy Researcher

With the latest polls still showing no clear front-runner in the election race, concerns amongst businesses have heightened at the prospect of a hung parliament after May 6th. In their monthly survey released today, the BCC asked its members to express their thoughts on how a hung parliament would affect their business, 65% responded stating that they were either “concerned” or “very concerned” about not having a majority government in power. Businesses fear that a hung parliament’s disagreements on action to tackle the deficit will result in a lack of clarity regarding which areas will be affected, running the risk of damaging the economy and businesses further.

In other news, the EU has fuelled already increasing speculation that VAT hikes are just around the corner by confirming that the UK VAT rate is one of the lowest in the European Union. The UK’s standard VAT rate of 17.5% falls short of the EU average of 20%, providing plenty of scope for a possible increase in the near future to cope with the huge debt burden that the newly-elected government needs to address.

With this week’s Leaders’ Debate tackling the thorny issue of the economy will the bubble burst over one of the personalities? The Presidential-style debates have dominated the headlines and little policy detail has been revealed. It’s all to play for and with only ten full days of campaigning left before the polls open it could go any way, will this final debate clarify future policy or the direction of the electorate? It will be a night to remember.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Election Update

by Chris Fletcher
Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director

With less than a fortnight to go, the election is still anybody’s and is probably becoming more about who will lose rather than who will win.

The second leaders’ debate last night was different from the one held in Manchester a week ago with both David Cameron and Gordon Brown taking a different tack in trying to stem the “teflonesque” momentum built up by Nick Clegg. The initial polls following the debate gave very mixed results on who had “won”, the suggestion being that both failed and the Lib Dem revival will continue. More importantly some themes are finally beginning to emerge on where the parties stand on the key issues and battle cries from each of the leaders are becoming clearer. It seems a bit of a shame that it has taken so long for this to begin to happen.

The Chamber has a team of policy experts scanning the papers and internet on a daily basis for major policy announcements in the lead up to the election. We meet daily to discuss what the latest issues are and how they will impact on business. The old saying is that a week is a long time in politics well, having waded through a weeks worth of political outpourings and trying to unearth the real issues that affect business a week is a very, very long time in politics. There is a real lack of any deep and meaningful detail from any party about what the future holds for business in very uncertain times. Yes the broad themes are there, yes everyone talks about change and fairness but the lack of clarity is notable by its absence.

All that will change next week, there’ll be no hiding place after this week’s raft of economic news, completed with today’s GDP growth figure of 0.2% for Q1. This was weaker than expected, but is no cause for alarm. The recovery is very fragile and needs to be nurtured, so with this in mind it will be interesting to see how the leaders use today’s figures in their respective arguments. The spin doctors will be hard at work over the weekend so expect these figures to be presented at the Leader’s Debate as the best thing since sliced bread and the worst set of figures in the history of man, all in 90 minutes.

Last week we made a rallying cry to businesses to get more involved and you have. So this week let us borrow a key phrase from last night and make another call - this time to all the parties to “get real” and dare to be different by treating the electorate as grown ups, cut the personality war and concentrate on the real issues around economic growth, a better deal for business and getting the UK business community back on its feet.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Election Update

Back To The Election, Almost – Now It’s Volcanogate!

by Sana Nabi

Simon Calder suggested we were about to enter Volcanogate – and sure as night follows day the ban on flights across UK airspace has become a political football. Whilst the party leaders try to score points we remain focused on the key issues that will impact on the nation for the next five years. Yesterday the Chamber played host to two very important events; a private meeting between Chamber members and Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke, and a Question Time event at Manchester Business School with representatives from the main parties, academia and business fielding questions from the audience.

Ken Clarke spoke to members for almost an hour, explaining that in his experience when emerging from a recession business taxes are a “no-no”. Angie Robinson, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “This was a unique opportunity for business leaders to question the Shadow Business Secretary face to face. Having served in both the Thatcher and Major governments, he was able to speak with great authority on the economic issues of the last 30 years, as well as giving a hint of how he would act if he becomes Business Secretary.”
At Manchester Business School the Question Time event was well attended. The candidates held the party line, Jackie Pearcey, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Bolton West and clearly struggling with the effects of a viral infection of the throat, making frequent reference to her copy of the Liberal Democrat’s manifesto. Size matters by all accounts and Jackie was keen to suggest that not only did the manifesto have the length, but also the content. Phil Woolas, the Labour candidate for Oldham East and Saddleworth, suggested there is a need for radical change, and has a vision of Britain as a worldly responsible meritocracy.
Sajjad Karim the MEP for the North West represented the Conservative party and gave a European feel to the evening.
Professor Mike Luger, Dean of Manchester Business School joined the panellists along with Scott Fletcher, a business owner and board member at FC United of Manchester.

National Insurance Contributions continues to be an issue for businesses and it is frequently highlighted by our members.

We have devised a simple spreadsheet where you can compare the main parties’ policies on Employer’s National Insurance Contributions. This will help you to determine an estimate of the cost impact on your business.

This is a guide only and will not reflect individual circumstances or changes to the policies if implemented.

Shadow Business Secretary Visits Chamber

Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke has told members of Manchester’s business community that business tax is “a no-no” in a recovery.

The former Chancellor made the comment at a meeting organised by Greater Manchester Chamber yesterday. He stressed the need to resist increasing taxes while the economy was still emerging from recession.

He was quizzed by business leaders on a range of topics including taxation, the future of manufacturing and pensions during the private meeting at the Abbey Business Centre in Manchester.

He emphasised the need to rebalance the economy to prevent it being over reliant on the financial sector and highlighted the importance of manufacturing.

He said: “In recent years our country has staked everything on a financial bubble which wasn’t sustainable. We need a balanced and genuinely effective economy, which includes manufacturing.

“No German or Japanese minister would say that manufacturing wasn’t needed, but that is what we seem to have been saying in the UK in the last few years.”

However he drew the line at having an industrial strategy and said that grants to industry must be kept to a minimum.

Ken Clarke is the most senior politician to visit the Chamber during the election campaign.

Angie Robinson, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “This was a unique opportunity for business leaders to question the Shadow Business Secretary face to face.

“Having served in both the Thatcher and Major governments, he was able to speak with great authority on the economic issues of the last 30 years, as well as giving a hint of how he would act if he becomes Business Secretary.”

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

It's Going Up and it's not Volcanic Ash!

Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy

We're not talking about volcanic ash today, just inflation. Today's inflation figures, released for March, have shown an unexpected increase to 3.4%, up 0.4% from February. The rise is largely a result of increased petrol prices, fuelled by the growing price of oil and a weaker pound. Petrol prices are increasing transport costs, which are in turn holding up prices in the domestic markets. The weaker pound also means it is more costly to buy goods and services sourced from outside the UK.

These pressures make the Bank of England’s expansionary stance more difficult to maintain, but we urge them to resist any rise in interest rates as the inflation increases may be temporary. There is now a real necessity for the new government to clarify how it will tackle the massive deficit whilst still encouraging economic growth. These figures and the raft of economic data to be released later this week will intensify the election debate around the economy once again.

In other news, the Labour Party’s Business Manifesto has also been launched today - but is expected to be simply a rehash of their existing policy announcements from the Chancellor’s Budget earlier this year.

We will check the small print, but expect the fine details to be - as has become usual in the main parties' announcements throughout the campaign - absent.

Labour is expected to remain committed to a key tax break to companies investing in new plant and machinery. The manufacturing focused Manifesto will also maintain that the £100,000 Annual Investment Allowance will remain in line with inflation. The overall theme of the Manifesto is expected to show the party’s support for high tech companies and infrastructure improvements.

If you have not yet given us your opinion on this week's ‘Big Election Question’ then visit the election page of our website and make your voice heard. This week's question is on the controversial issue of taxation.

Inflation Figures

Commenting on today’s inflation figures, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “The surprise jump in inflation today to 3.4% will be a concern to businesses.

“This raises the prospect of interest rate rises sooner rather than later, but the Bank of England must persevere with its expansionary stance and maintain interest rates at the current level to support the recovery as it remains very weak.

“Petrol prices rose in March and the pound weakened, further adding to inflationary pressures that also fed through into higher transport costs for people and goods. The situation has not been helped by the poor weather.

“This is the first in a line of data on the economy that is likely to form a key part of the Election debate between the parties, and if this release is anything to go by the post-Election occupant of No.10 is facing an ever increasing challenge to get the UK economy back on track.”

Monday, 19 April 2010

Like the Icelandic volcano, waiting quietly for the right moment and eager for maximum impact, the PM leader debates have exploded the political campaign into action. The debates have energised the campaign and mixed things up with some suggesting that this is no longer a two horse race, and that is certainly the suggestion from the polls taken over the weekend. The Poll of Polls now shows Conservatives on 35%, Labour 30%, Lib Dems 24% and others 11%. This translates into 261, 288, 72 and 29 seats respectively - still well into hung parliament territory.

With a busy week ahead of us in terms of official data, latest inflation figures out tomorrow, the Bank of England minutes and unemployment figures out Wednesday, public finance figures on Thursday and GDP figures from quarter 1 on Friday; the election campaign is heating up. If you want to know how this will affect your business, stay tuned this week.

A few announcements continue from the main parties, fleshing out details of their manifestos.

The Liberal Democrats have started the week with the launch of their financial plans for the economy in “A Fair and Sustainable Economy”. Announcing their plan to create jobs that last by stimulating a green, sustainable economy, the Lib Dems have outlined how jobs will be created. These include:
-Expanding offshore wind energy in the north, creating 12,000 jobs.
-An Eco-Cashback scheme, entitling people with £400 for energy efficient home improvements creating 8,000 new jobs.
-A School Insulation Programme - invest £400m in interest free loans for energy saving renovations – 9,600 jobs. We can expect more of the Lib Dem’s plans on how they wish to reconstruct the financial system tomorrow and Wednesday.

The Conservatives have also launched their Public Sector Manifesto which mainly outlines the Party’s plans to give public sector workers the chance to take over the services they deliver. Under this policy, power will be given to form co-operative enterprises with colleagues who can bid to takeover the services they deliver. These will be paid through outcomes-based contracts or according to their ability to attract users, like parents and patients.

Volcanic Ash Costs Business Over £41 Million

The disruption caused by the volcanic ash has so far cost Greater Manchester businesses an estimated £41.5 million.

The figure comes on top of the £50 million lost by businesses as a result of the snow earlier this year.

Brian Sloan, Head of Business & Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “Having suffered terribly at the start of the year with snow, businesses have once again been hit by a major disruption.

“We estimate that businesses will have suffered costs of £41.5 million by 1am on Tuesday morning, when UK airspace is due to reopen.

“However the cost of the snow and volcanic ash is still less than the £120 million a year that businesses would lose through the Government’s plan to put an extra 1% on Employer’s National Insurance next year.

“The Government needs to rethink this tax on jobs that is not based on the ability to pay and will divert investment funds away from the private job and wealth creating sector to the presently inefficient public sector.”

Don't miss your chance to ask your questions to Ken Clarke tomorrow

By Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber

We are delighted to welcome Ken Clarke, Conservative MP and Shadow Secretary for Business, to Manchester on tomorrow (20 April) for a question & answer session with Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

The hour-long event will take place at the Abbey Business Centre at 53 Fountain St, Manchester, M2 2AN between 2.30pm and 3.30pm. Tea & coffee will be served on arrival at 2pm.

Places are still available. Please email or call 0161 237 4451 for more information and to reserve a place.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Election Update

By Dr Brian Sloan

16 April 2010 - Black Holes and Other Theories

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has demonstrated that black holes really do exist. In fact, there are three of them here on earth itself, each the size of £30bn in the main parties' manifestos, thus making the future of public sector spending cuts and tax rises under any future government increasingly uncertain.

We need to probe deeper than the Voyager space craft for the answers to the parties' plans that are yet to be announced. Conservative Shadow Business Secretary Kenneth Clarke is visiting Chamber members at a Manchester city centre venue on Tuesday 20th April at 2pm. To register for this event, which is free of charge, please contact for full details and to submit your question beforehand.

A week after we looked at the Poll of Polls and saw the possibility of a hung Parliament, the same Poll of Polls shows no movement in voter intentions this week. The Conservative party lead with 38 percent of the vote, Labour trail with 31 percent and the Liberal Democrats are on 20 percent. However last night we saw the first of the three Prime Ministers’ Debates with the leaders battling out their policies, desperate to capture the public vote. According to post-debate polls, Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, won an unexpected victory, with him gaining the most public support. If his success in the debate affects voting polls, the prospect of a hung parliament is going to be significantly more likely.

Will the public vote on party policies or is a more ‘presidential’ style going to affect votes where personality comes into play? The decision of who is going to form the next government has just got a bit more difficult. With two more debates to go, anything can happen. Regardless of which party comes into power, we need to ensure that the future government has business matters at the heart of their strategy.

The Big Election Question

So last week we asked our business members to inform us on, “Which party they felt was best for business?”
We thank you for your responses and the results are:

Labour - 57%
Conservative - 36%
Liberal Democrats - 7%

Next week we are asking our members a question on the controversial issue of taxation.

Find this question on the Election Page of our website:

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Election Update : Businesses "Where are ya?"

By Richard Critchley

Businesses “Where are ya?”

In the style of Delia Smith pleading with the fans of Norwich City Football Club we’re asking businesses across Greater Manchester “Where are ya?” Labour’s proposed National Insurance Contributions' hike on employers is set to cost businesses in Greater Manchester £120m a year. In response to our recent economic survey, 75 per cent of employers are telling us that they are already rethinking their recruitment plans. You and your employees have made incredible sacrifices during this recession to keep unemployment low. Over 700,000 jobs have been retained - more than even the most optimistic of economists had hoped for! This tax will halt private sector job creation at a time when it is expected to invest to take up the inevitable job losses that will soon start in the public sector – this will happen irrespective of who is occupying No.10 on May 7th. The Institute for Fiscal Studies have estimated that there is a £30 billion hole in each of the parties' Manifesto pledges. This means that we can expect more tax hikes and more public sector spending cuts.

Make Your Voice Heard

NIC will rise and jobs will be lost unless you have your say. Make the difference by meeting the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates; attend your local Hustings event. Candidates have expressed an interest in hearing business views and they want to hear what you have to say. You do make a difference and if you don’t speak up now then the new government will impact on you and your business possibly for the next five years.

Make sure you get involved and have your say, visit our website for more details.

Air Travel Policy

The three main parties have now all announced their policies for tackling congestion at Heathrow Airport, but none appear to be offering anything to support our regional airports. Most worryingly, all parties are supporting increases in Air Passenger Duty or a new per flight tax, which has been shown to have a disproportionate impact on airports outside of the South East, due to their smaller markets and less profitable routes. If parties are serious about tackling congestion at London airports and supporting regional economies, they must recognise that a one size fits all policy for the airline industry will not work in the national interest. Are the regions once again being forgotten?

Friday Guest Blog: The benefits an apprentice can bring to your business

Mark Smeeton from Motorsave Ltd. on the benefits apprenticeships can bring to your business.

Since 2006 apprentices have played an important part in our commitment to training, making sure we continue to develop our in-house skills as we continue to grow our business.

We knew we might face a skills shortage and we saw apprenticeships as a great way to fill these potential skills gaps as well as providing a great opportunity for a young person to get that all important foot on the first rung of the job ladder.

We have steadily continued to grow and we now employ 19 staff of which 7 are on apprenticeship programmes, studying a variety of subjects including, motor vehicle repairs, maintenance, accounts and administration.

For me the positive impact apprenticeships have had on Motorsave Ltd are clear.

We pride ourselves on low staff turnover, and find that skilled technicians and apprentices are very committed and loyal. We all work as a team, with the same aim to ensure that the company achieves its objectives. We also find that apprentices bring energy and new ideas to Motorsave Ltd and can actually keep us up to date with some of the motor industry developments thanks to information they’ve picked up on their training days.

I would recommend taking on an apprentice to any business. For us apprenticeships have become an integral part of our internal training procedures and a part of our training plans as we continue to move the business forward.

For further information on taking on an apprentice contact Skills Solutions on or call 0161 233 2656

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Election Update by Dr Brian Sloan

The Chamber hosted its first hustings event today in Salford.

The morning provided a great opportunity for business members to question their potential future Members of Parliament. The Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from the three main parties included Graham Stringer from Labour, Iain Lindley from the Conservatives and Norman Owen representing the Liberal Democrats. A range of questions were asked and the Labour candidate Graham Stringer emphasised how he valued such meetings which provided direct contact between MPs and businesses, and explained how they were crucial opportunities to find out what the issues were amongst the business community.

The Chamber's 5,300 members employ over 300,000 employees, therefore your views on the business environment, the future prospects of the economy and issues affecting your business have a direct relevance on the future job prospects of a large number of voters - that's why these events are crucial to you and to the politicians that want to be elected. Your voice will never be more effective in Westminster. We therefore urge you to make your voice heard, because without your views we cannot take action.

Every week we will be posting a question on our website on key issues and questions of the election 2010 campaign. Please visit the election page on the site to make your voice known. Alternatively visit your local Hustings event and pose your questions directly to our future representatives. All details can be found by clicking here

Liberal Democrats Manifesto launch

And finally, though with the prospect of a hung parliament surely not least, the Liberal Democrats launched their party manifesto this morning. The policies related to business are highlighted below:

-A tax exemption on the first £10,000 of annual earnings. This would be funded through a variety of measures such as tax relief on the basic pension rate only and the plans to tax capital gains at the same rate as income, a move which could prove controversial if and when more details of the proposal are announced.

-A pledge to break up the banks and encourage the development of local and regional banks was announced. This will build up diverse sources of business finance which will benefit Chamber members.

-The establishment of Regional Stock Exchanges to create a route for businesses to access equity without heavy regulatory requirement. Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director at the Chamber, said "Businesses may see the advantages in raising funds, but might shy away from relinquishing control of their business."

-The Party proposes business rate reforms in the manifesto. These include basing the rates on site values rather than rental values, and give the responsibility of them to local authorities. The Chamber welcomes plans to make Small Business Rate Relief automatic and to ensure that the burden is spread more equitably between small and large businesses. This will reduce the time and money spent by business and local authorities in contacting and redistributing SBRR funds.

-In terms of apprenticeships and jobs the party has pledged to meet all up-front costs for adult apprenticeships and has committed itself to begin its first term in office with a one year job creation and green economic stimulus package. £3.1 billion of public spending has been identified to create 100,000 jobs.

-The party is committed to establishing the UK Infrastructure Bank. This will be established to provide direct private finance to projects such as rail services. In terms of high speed rail, the party has not mentioned any planned routes but has stated that money from the Infrastructure bank will be used to fund such a system.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Election Update

By Dr.Brian Sloan

Labour today was the first of the three main parties to unveil its manifesto of the campaign, “A Future Fair for All”.

As expected there were no surprises, most of the policies and ambitions have already been announced; many in the Chancellor’s Budget Statement

Whilst the manifesto outlines many plans, it lacks clarity and doesn’t explain how these plans will be funded or implemented. Although the Party dropped the idea to charge a 50p levy on telephone lines in the Finance Bill, the Labour party intends to reintroduce the tax on landlines to fund super fast broadband. The Chamber supports the need to fund improved digital infrastructure, but the means chosen has been ill-conceived and will have a negative effect on many of our business members.

Plans for high speed rail have also been slightly amended to include Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield in the first stage of implementation. The Chamber welcomes this news as we have lobbied to ensure that the project comes to Manchester as a priority at the earliest stage.

With the Conservative manifesto expected to be launched tomorrow, policies to look out for will be the announcement of their policy to introduce of a “Fuel Duty Stabiliser”, particularly with prices at the pump hitting record highs, the national insurance debate is likely to roll-on and there may be announcements concerning apprenticeships.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Election Update

By Sana Nabi

Liberal Democrats Launch Their Party Manifesto for Consumers

The Liberal Democrats party has today released their consumer manifesto entitled “People Power: A Manifesto For Consumers”. Whilst the document lacks detail, the Chamber welcomes the policy reducing the time banks take processing cheques and online payments. This is not only burdensome for consumers but can also cause small business members considerable problems with cash-flow.

We also welcome the proposals for a local competition test for all planning applications for new retail developments. In principle this may go some way to preserving the viability of local town centres and smaller local retailers by enhancing competition.

Members Meet Decision-Makers

Members of Greater Manchester Chamber met with the Minister for the north west and the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas MP this morning, at the Bower Hotel, Chadderton, to address the concerns of local businesses.

Amongst the issues discussed were the planned increase in National Insurance contributions, bank lending and late payment to subcontract firms. Dr. Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at the Chamber, attended the meeting and said: “There was a useful exchange of ideas and views. Phil fed back to the group on issues impacting on businesses in Greater Manchester that he has discussed directly with Lord Mandelson. Phil also told the group that engagement with Chamber members was very important to his work, as this gave him practical examples to discuss with civil servants that made a real difference.”

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce is holding a number of local events with existing MPs and prospective parliamentary candidates over the next two weeks. Members are being encouraged to take this opportunity to meet with the decision-makers that will form the next government, and forge relationships for the future. The events are free to attend and more information can be found at

A Hung Parliament Looming?

After just a few days of electioneering the pollsters have been hard at work. Sky News’ Poll of Polls puts the parties in the following positions:

Conservatives, 38%
Labour, 31%
Liberal Democrats, 20%
Other 11%

If this was replicated at the General Election the number of seats each party would have would be Conservatives, 299; Labour, 270 Liberal Democrats, 52; Other 29. This would result in a hung parliament.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

2010 Election Update

With the Election campaign now underway two items in the news so far stand out as themes Greater Manchester Chamber has been lobbying on for our members.

Update on the National Insurance Debate

The proposed increase in Employers' National Insurance contributions continues to be a hot topic for this election campaign, with many of today’s newspapers dominated by how businesses will be affected should the increase be introduced. The Chamber has continuously campaigned against this increase since the 2008 Pre-Budget report and 75% of respondents to our Quarterly Economic Survey for the first quarter of 2010 are rethinking their recruitment plans as a result. Dr. Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy said, “This proposed policy is a tax on jobs and will deprive businesses across the Greater Manchester area of £120m each year that might have otherwise been used for investment to support the recovery and create much needed jobs.”

The Conservatives are proposing that they would reduce the amount of tax collected from both businesses and employees by raising the threshold at which the additional rate of NICs applies.

50p landline tax dropped

The Chamber welcomes this news that the Government, under pressure from the opposition has amended the Finance bill and dropped the 50p landline tax it was proposing to fund super fast broadband.

Dr. Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy said "The Chamber recognises that revenues need to be raised for investment in high speed broadband, but we feel that this ill conceived idea could have a costly impact on many businesses, that have multiple lines for their business as this is a tax on each line per month. In addition to this many businesses already pay a premium for improved broadband connectivity to their providers, so it is unfair to charge them a tax to provide infrastructure that they are already paying for."

Both main parties remain committed to improving broadband infrastructure in the country. The Chamber’s Digital Infrastructure Group has been campaigning extensively on this issue and successfully held an event last month in Stockport, attended by over 35 businesses, highlighting the need for improved broadband speeds. If digital infrastructure and broadband connectivity is a problem for your business please contact

Husting Events

This is your opportunity to pose your questions directly to the prospective parliamentary candidates in your local areas. We lobby on your behalf, but this gives you immediate feedback on how the main parties stand on the issues that affect you most. Visit our election page for details of the events and other Election information for Greater Manchester.

Interest Rates Held at 0.5%

The Monetary Policy Committee has decided to hold interest rates at 0.5%. Commenting on the decision, Dr Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: “As expected the Bank of England once again maintained its expansionary position, holding interest rates at 0.5%. With inflation coming under control as anticipated in the Bank’s forecasts, this is not unexpected and helps support the weak recovery indicated in our latest Quarterly Economic Survey.

“The General Election will result in a slight delay to the next MPC decision, which will now be on May 10th. This will be one to watch closely for the committee’s deliberations which will be published on May 19th. This could provide the first authoritative verdict on the new Government’s stance on dealing with the country’s budget deficit and debt mountain.”

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

General Election Update

by Brian Sloan, Head of Business and Economic Policy

You would have had to have been living under a stone if you hadn’t realised that the election campaign started yesterday!

The campaign finally got underway with an announcement that polling day will coincide with local elections on May 6th.

In the lead up to the election the Chamber will be providing regular updates on campaign activity - commenting on key policy announcements from all the main parties and how these link in with the Chamber's wishlist, outlined in our Business Manifesto.

The Chamber is continuing to lobby the parties on issues important to you, and we therefore urge you to come forward with your opinions and feedback on the election campaign. Our work is only as good as the input we receive from you - our members.

You can join in the debate and let us know your views via Twitter and by email at:

The North West is seen as a key battleground in the fight for power, with the Conservative party naming many areas in the region as major targets.

Your voice is more important than ever and we at the Greater Manchester Chamber need to know what you want from the future government.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Chamber members invited to Insider Election Debate

GREATER Manchester Chamber has teamed up with North West Business Insider, Manchester Business School, Addleshaw Goddard and Weber Shandwick to organise an Election Special Evening Event 2010 on 20 April from 5.30pm.

This special debate at Manchester Business School will feature representatives of the major parties and senior business leaders from the region with aim of raising the business agenda in the campaign.

Demand is expected to be very high so members should contact Francesca Staffa at the Insider events team on 0161 907 9741 or email: to avoid disappointment.

If you have been successful you will receive a confirmation email to guarantee your place, two weeks prior to the event.

Chamber Gears up for General Election Campaign

By Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive and Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber

Greater Manchester Chamber is gearing up for the General Election with preparations for hustings style events in all 10 local authorities.

The events will give members a chance to quiz the candidates from the main political parties on key business issues and policies. The event will also provide candidates with an important opportunity to hear the concerns of the local business community in their constituency ahead of polling day.

This election takes place against the backdrop of one of the worst recessions in decades.

During this time the Chamber has been visited by Alistair Darling, David Cameron and Vince Cable, and each one explained to our members how they would tackle the economic problems that still face us. Our job as a Chamber is to ensure our members have the full facts so they can make an informed decision when they go to the polling station.

As well as posing your questions directly at these events, the Chamber is also inviting members to ask questions via Twitter and its dedicated email address: You will also be able to keep up to date with all the business issues during the campaign on a designated area of the Chamber's website:

For information on all of the hustings events contact Catherine Fleetwood on 0161 237 4451 or email:

Details of the husitngs events are as follows:

Bolton - 19 April, 5pm, Holiday Inn, Higher Bridge St, Bolton

Bury - 27 April, 6pm, Bury College Business Solutions

Manchester - 22 April, 9am, Abbey Business Centre, Manchester

Oldham - 30 April, 12pm, Bower Hotel, Oldham

Rochdale - 23 April, 8am, Broadfield Hotel, Rochdale

Salford - 14 April, 8am, Holiday Inn, Salford

Stockport - 22 April, 8am, Hallidays LLP, Stockport

Tameside - 21 April, 5pm, The Village, Hyde

Trafford - 12 April, 6pm, Warren Bruce Court

Wigan - 23 April, 12pm, Wigan Investment Centre