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Date: 10/03/2016

This week’s policy update looks at Worcestershire's local economy, the CMA's latest report into the energy market and we also announce the results of our Chamber Business Expo EU snap poll.

  1. Snap Poll: 65% of Expo goers surveyed want to stay in the EU
  2. Committee Report released today reveals true cost of NLW
  3. CMA Report: "A good first step" to fixing problems in the energy market
  4. Worcestershire's economy consistently top of the tables for growth 
  5. Last chance to book: Annual Budget Breakfast 2016

1.Snap Poll: 65% of Expo goers surveyed want to stay in the EU

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of businesspeople polled at the Chamber Business Expo last Thursday revealed they would vote to stay in the EU.

Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce held an EU Referendum snap poll at their highly regarded business expo on Thursday 3 March 2016. Over 100 businesses cast their vote and the overwhelming majority expressed a wish to stay in the EU. 24% of businesspeople asked wanted to leave the EU and 11% did not know how to vote. 

A recent British Chambers of Commerce survey carried out UK wide between the 25 January and 4 February 2016 revealed that 60% of business leaders would vote to stay in the EU and 30% would leave.

In light of recent events Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce would like to confirm that the Chamber is a neutral, apolitical organisation which provides its members and businesses in the community with information, advice and debate to enable them to make an informed decision. The Chamber will not be campaigning for either side due to the diverse views of our membership.

2. Committee Report released today reveals true cost of NLW

The Regulatory Policy Committee today welcomed the opportunity to offer its first update on the measures it has so far verified, and which are expected to count toward the government’s £10bn deregulation target.

Changes directly benefiting business include a deregulatory measure aimed at speeding up cheque payments, saving £100m per year and a new regulation resulting in charging of plastic carrier bags expected to save £203m per year.

The measure that will impose the greatest cost on business is the National Living Wage (NLW), with a net cost to business of £821m in the first year. As announced last week, Government has decided to make this a non-qualifying regulatory provision through a specific exclusion from the business impact target.

Read the full report here.

Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the BCC, said:
“This report shows that the introduction of the National Living Wage will be a very expensive new obligation for many firms. Businesses want reassurance that there are no more costly changes on the government's agenda - so they can make their recruitment plans for the year ahead.”

Sophia Haywood, Policy & PR Executive at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said:
"The Regulatory Policy Committee plays an important role, though many businesses might not have heard of it. Business should support its continued efforts to identify ways that the regulatory burden can be reduced." 

3. CMA Report: "A good first step" to fixing problems in the energy market

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has made several proposals designed to reform the energy market and increase competition to help consumers save money.

Proposals follow an 18-month investigation into the energy market which found that customers may have been paying approximately £1.7bn a year more than they would in a competitive market.

Proposals include:
  • Price cap for all households using pre-payment meters
  • Strengthening the ability of price comparison services to help consumers find the best deal
  • Ending the restriction on suppliers to offer just four tariffs
  • Tackling ‘rollover contracts’ where customers are automatically put on less favourable terms
Any moves to increase competition in the market will help businesses at a time when they are faced with an enormity of business costs. However, these measures need to be coupled with a significant energy security strategy for the long term.

Read more here.

Ashley Shackleton, Head of Public Affairs at the BCC said:
“Businesses tell us that rising energy costs are a growing concern, so the measures laid out in the CMA report to increase price transparency and end auto-rollover contracts are a good first step to fix the obvious problems in our energy market.” 

4. Worcestershire’s economy consistently top of the tables for growth

Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has revealed that the County’s economic growth continues to go from strength to strength.

The latest statistics released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) have shown that the County’s productivity between 2009 – 2014 grew on average by 3.1% in terms of GVA per hour worked, placing second of all 39 LEP areas.

The economy has also grown on average by 4.5% over the last five years (2009 – 2014), putting Worcestershire in fourth position nationally for economic growth.

Gary Woodman, Executive Director of the Worcestershire LEP, said:
“Significant investment is being made for the long term prosperity of the County and alongside the drive and innovation shown by our local businesses, these statistics show how our local economy is benefiting and how Worcestershire is a great place to invest and work.”

5. Last chance to book: Annual Budget Breakfast 2016

George Osborne will stage his first full budget of the parliament on Wednesday 16 March as he seeks to steer the public finances into the black by 2020.

The Chancellor, who already has an emergency Budget and Autumn Statement under his belt since the Conservatives won the election last May, is expected to maintain a course that will generate a £10bn surplus by the end of the parliament. But will there be any surprises?

CB, Chartered Accountants and Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce will be hosting their annual Budget Breakfast on Thursday 17 March 2016 at Browns at The Quay in Worcester from 7.30am.

Join our expert team including John Painter, Managing Partner of CB, Chartered Accountants, his tax partner Chris Hobbs and Mike Ashton, Chief Executive of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce for all the latest reaction. Listen to analysis of all the announcements as well as practical and innovative tips and ideas on how to plan your financial affairs in light of the outcomes.

To book your free place e-mail