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

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.”