2024-25 Manifesto

Introducing the 2024-25 Manifesto

Comments from Sharon Smith, Chief Exectutive:

I am delighted to launch Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce’s Business Manifesto for 2024-25. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this document, but most importantly all those who have completed nearly 1700 quarterly economic surveys over the last 12 months, providing valuable insight and enabling us to form our priorities.

At the heart of our mission at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce is a commitment to supporting the growth and prosperity of businesses across all sectors and both counties. This document encapsulates our collective efforts to address the most pressing challenges and opportunities facing our business community.

Business Growth

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

Through the national Chamber network and the British Chambers of Commerce, we will commit to lobby and work with the government and the Bank of England to implement greater financial investment, business support and ultimately plans for business growth.

Business Growth

Business growth is crucial for sustainability, competitiveness, increased revenue, market expansion, attracting talent, innovation, and fulfilling stakeholders’ expectations, fostering long-term success.

This is in an environment where concerns are highlighted towards inflationary pressure, energy prices and labour shortages are balanced with opportunities for growth through sharing best practice, access to training, and highlighting any financial support that may become available.

Your Challenges

The Quarterly Economic Survey measures business confidence in terms of turnover and profitability.

Over the course of 2023, projections of turnover improving have largely ended where they started. 54% of businesses anticipated improvement in quarter 1, this rose to 58% in quarter 2 before ending the year at 55% anticipating improvement.

Profitability projections are encouraging, however. Whilst those projecting improvement has remained the same throughout the year (47%), there is a marked positive change in anticipated profitability. In quarter 1 of 2023, when inflationary pressure and the supply chain pressures were at their height, 29% of businesses anticipated their profits would worsen. By November 2023 this had changed to just 14% of businesses expecting their profits to worsen.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • Deliver a series of industry specific, county specific and regular networking events and informative webinars for Members and help raise the profile of organisations across the region and nationally.
  • Deliver the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce Expo in October 2024 and March 2025 enabling businesses to help raise the profile of their brand, grow sales through purchasing stands and be able to engage with industry experts on key topical issues.
  • Use of Chamber communications, e-shots, Policy Newsletter and Business Direction magazine to highlight projects that may benefit all such as training and funding opportunities.
  • Continue the development of the Growth Forum designed for businesses of all sizes to learn of best practice, overcoming of challenges and developing relationships that will provide a platform to grow their business in the short and medium term, and sustain growth over a longer period.
  • Carry out Quarterly Economic Survey research four times a year, writing a report for each survey highlighting business confidence and concerns for that quarter.
  • Continue research into, and signposting of, local and national government funding schemes through the Cost-hub on the Chamber website highlighting funding, grants, and business support.
  • Chamber to facilitate regular Bank of England briefings with national economy updates from different businesses.

Business Costs

Increasing costs significantly impact businesses, leading to reduced profitability, constrained cash flow, potential layoffs, diminished investment in innovation, and constrained expansion opportunities. Rising costs of labour, materials, and overheads can disrupt supply chains, affecting product availability and pricing. Businesses may struggle to remain competitive, facing pressure to increase prices, risking customer dissatisfaction and market share loss. Managing costs efficiently becomes paramount, necessitating strategic planning, operational optimisation, and sometimes, restructuring to maintain viability.

Being aware of cost challenges and how they fluctuate over the course of the business year is essential. The Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) is the tool we use to monitor these changes. We will continue to concentrate on this valuable resource and commit to publish and make results available to our membership.

QES’s conducted in 2023 showed the variation in these challenges. In quarter 1, 67% of businesses expressed inflation as a concern. This reduced to 39% by November 2023. Equally in Q1 64% of businesses expressed energy costs as a concern. This, like inflation, fell to 35% in Q4. A positive picture, but as challenges below indicate, there are significant cost pressures elsewhere. As a Chamber, we belong to the British Chambers of Commerce network. This is a resource that we will seek to maximise in the year ahead, sharing news and initiatives from across the UK that will help business.

Your Challenges

Concern remains for businesses working overseas, and for all businesses with premises.

14% of Businesses expressed in February 2023 that exchange rates were challenging. This continued and in fact worsened by November, when almost one fifth cited exchange rates.

Business rates, whether county or district controlled have become a significant challenge for businesses and could remain so in the year ahead. Concerns over their effect on a business has increased from 19% to 23% in the last year.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • Actively seek feedback from members as they experience new cost pressures.
  • Continue to share best practice displayed by member businesses to establish if application of such practice can help businesses reduce costs.
  • Continue to advise Members on policy changes and trends that arise in various sectors through press releases and the QES reports.
  • Continue to hold events and webinars such as the Manufacturing Forum.
  • Work closely with County and District councils to ensure all grant opportunities are made available to our members and highlighted in our Cost Hub launched in 2023.
  • Highlight the 2024 Salary and Benefits Report as a tool to ensure wage pressures are accurate and recruitment and retention of staff can be maximised.
  • Continue to update the Sustainability hub on the Chamber website highlighting support for businesses in the form of cost-saving, highlighting events and projects and funding.
  • Work with our partners (Herefordshire Council, Worcestershire County Council, District councils, and the Worcestershire LEP) in providing information and support to businesses.
Business Costs

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

Through the national Chamber network and the British Chambers of Commerce, we will continue to lobby government to ensure businesses are supported with cost increases, and any support in the form of funding, training, events etc are highlighted via the various forms of Chamber communications.

two men in building yard with hard hats, shaking hands

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

As a Chamber, we will continue to develop the Local Skills Improvement Plan (LSIP), whilst championing local apprenticeship offers, work-based experience and ensuring businesses are given every opportunity to work with local universities, schools, and colleges.

Workforce Planning

People and skills are the cornerstone of organisational success. A skilled and motivated workforce drives innovation, productivity, and customer satisfaction. Investing in employee development not only enhances individual capabilities but also fosters loyalty, engagement, and a sense of ownership. Moreover, a diverse workforce brings different perspectives, enriching problem-solving and creativity.

Skill gaps, however, can impede progress and competitiveness. It’s crucial for businesses to identify these gaps and provide training and development opportunities to bridge them. Effective leadership plays a pivotal role in nurturing a culture of continuous learning and collaboration, empowering employees to adapt to evolving challenges.

In today’s rapidly changing landscape, where technological advancements and market dynamics constantly evolve, businesses must prioritise people and skills development. By doing so, they ensure resilience, agility, and the ability to navigate uncertainties. Ultimately, organisations that invest in their people not only secure their own future but also contribute to building a sustainable and thriving economy.

Company social values reflect commitment to ethical, responsible, and sustainable practices. They guide decision-making, shaping interactions with stakeholders and the community. Upholding social values builds trust, enhances reputation, and attracts socially conscious customers and employees. It aligns business goals with societal needs, fostering long-term success and positive impact.

Your Challenges

The number of businesses attempting to recruit increased gradually throughout 2023.  58% in November compared to 52% in February.

It is significant that in the top four business priorities outlined at the end of 2023 were Wage costs (39.64%) and Recruitment and Retention (31.53%).

Equally challenging is maintaining the correct balance of employees working at home, or in the office, or on flexible working hour patterns.  This Covid working change will become even more relevant in 2024 as some businesses re-address their policies, many due to the product or service they create.

Health and wellbeing, particularly mental health wellbeing, was identified by 24.32% of businesses (23% 2023) as a key priority for the year ahead.  This is significant as it is often seen as a retention tool as employees are now seeking the best possible overall work experience.

Training spend fluctuated throughout 2023 indicating that expenditure on training plans can reflect overall business performance when costs are re-assessed.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • Continue to maintain the Skills Hub on the Chamber website.
  • Develop the chamber training offer to help Members develop people in their organisations and provide targeted and bespoke training for current and future business needs.
  • Continue to promote equality and diversity in the workplace through case studies, forums, and training to maximise our impact on society and local communities.
  • Continue to be represented on the Skills Boards and embrace the activities of Worcestershire Skills team.
  • Build on excellent work in 2023 with Universities, Further Education establishments and training providers in order to work with partners on local support schemes.
  • Continue delivering Young Professionals events aimed at helping young professionals develop their networking skills.
  • Continue to provide forums and opportunities for HR professionals to share best practice and grow their knowledge.
  • Build on the successful launch in 2023 of the Health and Wellbeing Forum.
  • Continue to develop the Worcestershire LSIP through collaboration with employers and providers, articulating the skills needs of businesses within the county and enhancing the mechanism which unites these two groups.
  • Continue to work with Herefordshire Council and Growth Hub, local employers and further education providers to understand the skills needs of businesses within the county and ensure employee access to training in order to gain these skills.

International Trade

International trade is critical not only for business performance and growth, but also for overall economic growth. International trade enables businesses to expand their markets beyond their own country, resulting in enhanced economies of scale and employment. As a result, it is critical that international trade is regarded as a strong characteristic for both the economy and businesses, with a growth in the number of business communities in the UK exporting.

Herefordshire and Worcestershire businesses import and export all over the world. Our Quarterly Economic Surveys in 2023 reported that two/thirds of businesses that answered the survey were importers/exporters in some way. There are several elements to international trade. Making the sale, delivery, and receiving the goods and then looking for new markets.

Brexit remains a hugely challenging factor. Prices and paperwork leading in many cases to a change in volumes. Uncertainty can lead to a loss in confidence and resulting loss of sales. Businesses cited constant changes in shipping and transportation prices, unexpected customs charges, exchange rate volatility, delays at borders and fluctuating fuel costs for the uncertainty.

The Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber remain committed to working with local, national, and regional government to ensure UK businesses in the two counties are able to effectively trade with EU and non-EU states to help the economy and drive growth.

Your Challenges

Global events and conflicts mean businesses are reporting supply chain delays and upwards cost pressures.

26.13% of importers and exporters reported red tape and regulation as a key issue to their business.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • The Chamber’s International Trade and Membership teams will continue to deliver international business support and advice and maintain a global network through the International Chamber of Commerce, 120 Embassies and High Commissions around the world.
  • Launch of new International Trade Forum.
  • The Chamber will continue to supply Export Documentation services for companies and deliver an Import and Export Customs Declarations service via the Chamber Customs Service.
  • The Chamber will continue to develop and expand its international trade training courses for businesses looking to upskill on a wide range of relevant international trade topics for new and experienced exporters, as well as small and larger corporates across multiple sectors.
  • The Chamber will continue to support international trade with a full translation service, ATA Carnet service, and Declarations Service.
  • The Chamber will continue to promote the latest international trade news and updates.
  • The Chamber will share news of new contracts, examples of best practice and new trade initiatives through regular communications.
two men in building yard with hard hats, shaking hands

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

Through the Chamber network and the British Chambers of Commerce, we will continue to provide expert advice to businesses on how to navigate the ever-changing world of international trade.

two men in building yard with hard hats, shaking hands

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

To continue to lobby government to provide funding and incentives to encourage innovation for businesses that want to introduce new technologies to enable business growth.

To continue to highlight the risks of Cyber security and provide information to businesses to protect them from Cyber-crime.

Cyber Security and Technology

In today’s digital era, cybersecurity threats pose grave dangers to businesses. Cyberattacks, including data breaches, ransomware, and phishing, can result in significant financial losses, reputational damage, and legal liabilities. Moreover, as technology rapidly evolves, emerging trends such as cloud computing, IoT, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) introduce new vulnerabilities that cybercriminals exploit. Businesses must adapt their cybersecurity strategies to address these evolving threats and protect sensitive data effectively.

Furthermore, the interconnected nature of modern technology amplifies the impact of breaches, with potential ripple effects across supply chains and business ecosystems. Regulatory requirements around data protection, such as GDPR and CCPA, add further complexity, necessitating stringent compliance measures. Neglecting cybersecurity exposes businesses to severe consequences, including disruption of operations, loss of customer trust, and even business failure. Therefore, investing in robust cybersecurity defences, employee training, and staying ahead of technological advancements are critical for safeguarding business continuity and maintaining resilience in the face of cyber threats.

Embracing AI in businesses enhances efficiency, innovation, and decision-making. AI-driven automation streamlines processes, reducing costs and time. Predictive analytics offers valuable insights for strategic planning. Personalised customer experiences improve satisfaction and loyalty. Ultimately, integrating AI empowers businesses to stay competitive, agile, and responsive in today’s dynamic marketplace.

Your Challenges

According to HM Government surveys 32% of businesses and 24% of charities have experienced data breaches or attacks during the last 12 months.

This is much higher for medium businesses (59%), large businesses (69%) and high-income charities with £500,000 or more in annual income (56%).

The proportion of micro businesses saying cyber security is a high priority has decreased from 80% in 2022 to 68% this year. Qualitative evidence suggests that cyber security has dropped down the priority lists for these smaller organisations, relative to wider economic concerns like inflation and uncertainty.

24% of businesses in Herefordshire and Worcestershire stated that Cyber Security was a challenge to their business in 2023/2024.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • Work with members of the tech sector to highlight benefits of technology to wider Chamber Members.
  • Highlight risks of Cyber security and provide solutions.
  • Continue training courses to allow employees to maintain competency and develop new skills.
  • Continue to work with local universities, including the University of Worcester, NMiTE and the University of Wolverhampton to ensure learning matches industry needs and developments.
  • Continue to promote Midlands Centre for Cyber Security via marketing and events.
  • Promote and highlight Technology and Innovation funding opportunities via the Chamber Cost hub.


Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of sustainability as they strive to minimise environmental impact and address social responsibility. Adopting sustainable practices entails implementing measures to reduce carbon emissions, conserve natural resources, and minimise waste. This commitment to sustainability not only contributes to mitigating climate change but also aligns with evolving consumer preferences and regulatory requirements.

Moreover, embracing sustainability offers numerous benefits to businesses. It can lead to significant cost savings through improved efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and optimised resource utilisation. Additionally, sustainability initiatives enhance brand reputation, attracting environmentally conscious consumers and investors while fostering trust and loyalty.

Furthermore, promoting sustainability drives innovation, inspiring the development of eco-friendly products, services, and business models. It also encourages collaboration across industries and stakeholders to tackle global challenges collectively.

By prioritising sustainability, businesses can future-proof their operations, remain competitive in a rapidly changing market, and contribute to building a more resilient and equitable society for future generations.

Support can also be found on the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce Sustainability Hub on the Chamber website and the Net Zero Hub on the British Chambers of Commerce website.

Your Challenges

19.82% of businesses expressed the importance of developing and maintaining sustainability plans.

18.92% of businesses were seeking more information on availability of sustainability grants.

14.41% of businesses expressed that their employees were seeking more sustainable practices.

11.71% of businesses stated that their customers were more focused on how sustainable their supply chain is.

What the Chamber will deliver in 2024/2025
  • Deliver sustainability forums with companies and industry experts on the challenges of climate change and how organisations can become greener and more sustainable.
  • Following end of European funding Chamber will ensure that members are informed of grant opportunities in Herefordshire.
  • Challenge our own costs and activities towards a more sustainable business.
  • Promote more case studies of best practice, so businesses can see the practical steps they can take to contribute to this agenda.
  • Maintain Sustainability Hub on Chamber website.
two men in building yard with hard hats, shaking hands

Our Policy Commitment

How the Chamber can support you?

Lobby government to ensure advice and funding are provided to businesses to increase every opportunity for them to become more sustainable.

Ensure support in the form of funding, grants, events, and networking are promoted to businesses to reduce the impact of rising inflation and energy costs.

Become a Chamber Member!

Contact our Chamber Membership team to find out how we can help your business.