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

Friday, 16 March 2012

Local Heroes

By Chris Fletcher, Policy Director at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

“I've been spending quite a bit of time out and about on home turf in Greater Manchester these last couple of weeks as our local member councils started their current round of meetings. In each of the 10 areas the Chamber covers in GM, we have a local council made up of members who are there to put a local spin on issues and the work that the Chamber does.

“This is a crucial part of the work we do and what, in essence, a Chamber of Commerce is about: being the voice of local business, but one that can be projected to the right people at a local, national or, following my Brussels escapades the week before last (Brussels shouts, an international level.

“Coupled with the expertise of our specialist committees that cover broader issues around skills, transport, etc, and fitted into the themes under Action For Business, you soon develop quite a bit of very useful firepower from business on the key issues that need addressing and what we can help with at a local level.

“The team and myself have been doing regular updates via Chamber News and also on our website (, so I won't repeat everything here, but I just wanted to put down some of the highlights.

“It would be completely remiss if I didn't express my gratitude and recognition for the time that members take to attend, and get involved with, our councils and committees. They are great people with great businesses and absolute staunch defenders of local trade.

“Despite what the doom mongers would have you believe, there is a huge amount of great business going on right under our noses here in Greater Manchester. Rochdale has, for some reason, become the soft option for some elements of the media to exemplify a town in decline. It may well not be a boom town, but I'd ask anyone with negative views about business in the borough to get along to our next Chamber meeting and listen for yourself to the passion, determination and the great work being led by the Chamber, with partners, to set the record straight.

“Procurement was another issue that got the temperatures raised in a number of councils especially the overly complex and downright obstructive processes and paperwork surrounding many procurement opportunities. It seems like even the code breakers at Bletchley Park would have waved the white flag with some of this. But why is it so complicated? Here's a secret - it needn't be. There are as many public sector bodies sick of the legislation as there are private businesses, but it is an easy cop-out to hide behind the rulebook. So let's change it.

“Business rates were high on many members’ watch lists because it's on the high streets and in the industrial estates where the impact of the upcoming 5.6% rise will be felt, and also where the warped logic behind the scrapping of empty property rate relief is in evidence. One council, which shall remain nameless, heard of a substantial town centre building which was ready for the wrecking ball as the owners chose destruction as an alternative to paying several tens of thousands of pounds in rates on empty property. How's that for a growth strategy?

“I could go on.

“So what do we do with this, because it's got to be more than a therapy session where members come to get it off their chest? We're currently updating our Action For Business document with all this information and the ideas discussed and we will be discussing these at the main Chamber Council on 30th March, then the fun part begins of making things happen and taking action with lobbying and campaigns.

“It's a simple process with complex issues, but that’s our job and that's what our members pay us to do.

“We are always on the look out for members to join our councils and committees. So why not give it a go? Drop me an email and I'd be happy to talk to you about your business, your issues and how we can help take action for business.”

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