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Date: 05/02/2016

This week’s policy update looks at strong job figures in Herefordshire, the EU draft reform deal and the critical BIS committee report on the Government's Productivity Plan.

  • Government's Productivity Plan lacks focus says BIS report
  • EU Referendum: Draft reform deal worth fighting for, says Cameron
  • Don't ignore the workplace pension: key points for employers
  • Superfast Worcestershire announces further Broadband roll-out
  • Herefordshire's job figures continue to impress

Government’s Productivity Plan lacks focus says BIS committee report
The Government’s heralded ‘Productivity Plan’ lacks clear, measurable objectives and largely amounts to an assortment of existing policies, says the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee in its report. BIS has called on the Government to explain how it is going to implement the plan and measure the success of policies on skills, innovation and investment, with particular concerns on apprenticeships.

The committee has noted the lack of Government consultation with industry on the ambitious target of 3m apprenticeships by 2020. They have raised concerns that the decision has been made with no consideration for what type of training businesses actually require.

On the apprenticeship levy, considering the government have said the skills agenda should be employer-led, the committee has said it does not believe the Chancellor has provided enough information about how the policy will be implemented and protect sectors that – for legitimate reasons – do not use apprentices. They have urged for further Government consultation with industry.

Dr Adam Marshall, Executive Director of Policy at the BCC, said:
“A strategy is only good if it results in real-world outcomes, and the government’s productivity plan is no exception. The BIS Committee is right to press for a clearer timetable to address the deep-rooted structural problems that holds our economy back.”

You can read the report here.

EU Referendum: Draft reform deal worth fighting for, says Cameron
David Cameron has said the draft deal aimed at keeping Britain in the EU will deliver the ‘substantial change’ he has been demanding to how it is run. But admitted there is still work to be done before the summit on the 18 – 19 February.

The draft deal was published by the European Council president Donald Tusk after months of negotiations. The deal which includes an “emergency brake” on migrant benefits, paves the way for the UKs EU referendum to take places as early as June.

EU exit campaigners have said it did not come close to what the PM had promised, but Cameron has said that it is a deal “worth fighting for” and is urging other EU leaders to sign up to it.

You can read the letter here.

Sophia Haywood, Policy & PR Executive at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said:
“This is only a draft report and a lot can happen in the next few weeks. Most business people will want to wait and see what the final UK-EU deal is before assessing its impact on their business and their vote.”

Would you like to learn more about the EU ahead of the referendum? We are hosting an Introductory EU Policy Seminar on the 6 April 2016. For more information or to register your interest please email

Don’t Ignore the Workplace Pension: Key messages for employers
The start of automatic enrolment for small and micro employers has been a success with more than 90% of the first group to reach their staging date now compliant.

With a significant rise in the number of employers having automatic enrolment duties it is no surprise that there has been an increase in the amount of times that The Pensions Regulator has used its statutory powers. It takes a risk based proportionate approach and the vast majority of employers who do the right thing want to see that non compliant employers are dealt with.

The Pensions Regulator has developed a ‘Duties Checker’ to confirm you’re staging date and gives you the information you need to meet your duties. It’s important to not get this wrong to avoid risking a fine. You can also use this to enrol your staff into the workplace pension and pay contributions into the scheme, as while automatic enrolment is automatic for staff it is not for employers.

For more information visit

Superfast Worcestershire announces next communities to benefit from Superfast Broadband roll-out
Superfast Worcestershire, the partnership between Worcestershire County Council and BT spearheading the fibre broadband roll-out, have recently announced the parts of the county to benefit from major expansion plans.

More than 8,000 additional households and businesses across Worcestershire will get access to the technology as a result of the multi-million pound ‘Superfast Extension Programme’.

It will enable businesses in Arley, Cotheridge and Spetchley to access faster fibre broadband for the first time. As well as expanding across the county brining fibre broadband to areas such as Broadway, Hallow, Ombersley and Pershore to name a few.

Mike Ashton, Chief Executive of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said:
 “It is good to see Superfast Worcestershire addressing some of the broadband ‘not-spots’ in the county. The business community in Worcestershire needs high quality broadband to ensure increasing growth and productivity. I look forward to seeing the results of this project.”

Herefordshire’s job figures continue to impress
The number of unemployed adults in Herefordshire has fallen for its twelfth consecutive month. Just 630 working age residents across the county are currently receiving Jobseekers Allowance – the lowest in more than 20 years.

The latest figure of 630, released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), means that just 0.6% of the county’s working age population is out of work, lower than the national average of 1.5% and the West Midlands average of 1.8%.

Mike Ashton, Chief Executive of Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said:
“It is excellent to see that Herefordshire’s job figures have continued to improve over the last year. Nationally, unemployment has fallen to its lowest rate in more than a decade but to see Herefordshire set an example is great for businesses in the county.”