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

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

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

You might well ask. The list of benefits from Chamber membership are all readily apparent and easily accessible when you need them, except perhaps when it comes to policy. Our policy work might seem unresponsive but dealing with Government, both local and national can be a drawn out process. We are constantly seeking your views and feedback on the things that matter to your business, but often letting you know what the result was takes time; but be assured YOUR VIEWS ARE OUR VIEWS. So back to the question, what what have we done for you lately?

The Chancellor's Budget Statement was filled with policy announcements that the Chamber has played a big hand in influencing. The centre piece of the Budget was tax simplification. I sit on the Office of Tax Simplification's (OTS) advisory committees to each of the two reviews, tax reliefs and small business taxation, that made recommendations to the Chancellor. The Chamber is pleased to report that he has listened to our views, and has acted on the Chamber's views, including our previous work on income tax and national insurance, something we have campaigned on for many years - yes policy can take some time! Our work with the OTS also led to other announcements in the Budget that weren't directly linked to them:

The changes to the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trusts were supported by the Chamber as part of the OTS' work.

Changes to the Entrepreneur's Lifetime allowance, including the doubling of the allowance to £10m was supported by the Chamber.

Further on simplification, the Chancellor quoted the cost of regulation over the last ten years to business was £90bn. What he didn't say was that this figure was determined by the British Chambers of Commerce Burdens Barometer and this year the research for the Burdens Barometer was conducted at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce by Sana Nabi.

The fuel duty increase was widely expected to be dropped, and indeed it was. The Chancellor responded to suggestions of a windfall in his speech, saying that he actually was not going to get one at all. Why then Chancellor did you say yourself you had got one in the Emergency Budget last June? Anyhow, the Chamber was the only organisation to establish highly accurate estimates of the scale of the windfall and costs to businesses and consumers with our fuel duty model and the Chancellor responded sensibly.

The Chamber has also made a number of representations regarding more apprenticeship provision ahead of this Budget led by our Policy Adviser Paul Thomas who is also directing national policy development for the British Chambers of Commerce. It is therefore pleasing to see the Government has taken note of the need for additional funding and is to support a further 50,000 apprenticeships, including adult apprenticeships.

And finally, but by no means least, a long time in the pipeline has been the Chamber's campagin to secure investment in the rail network. Richard Critchley has been working for around 18 months on this campaign, meeting senior ministers of both the current and previous Governments long before others knew what Northern Hub was. £85 million investment in the Ordsall Curve, part of the Northern Hub project, has been confirmed, which will kick start this important infrastructure improvement that will benefit passengers and freight services across the entire North of England and give businesses the confidence that they can move goods and services around the region with ease.

Our work however never ends and we are driving forward the policy agenda with our Action for Business priorities. We need you to input into those policies and ensure that Greater Manchester continues to set the agenda and delivers the right environment for business and job creation. Watch out for further announcements in the coming weeks and let us have those views - you all have them so we're all ears.

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