Business Sector Updates
Charity and Social Care
Difficulty recruiting skilled people ranging from health and safety professionals to skilled trades and accountants etc. People are not even showing up for interviews! On a positive note, this is forcing us to invest more in growing our own. Costs are rising generally but in particular with regards to salaries, fuel, building materials, new vehicle fleet and machinery. The rising costs of land, construction and building acquisition have resulted in an adjustment to our business plan – 200 fewer homes over 10 years (as social housing grant levels are not increasing to meet inflation. There are big issues with growing customer poverty: particularly costs of food and fuel. We have established a 50k Hardship Fund for 2022-23 to help us keep pace with these issues on top of existing investment in foodbanks etc.
Food and Drink
Due to inflation the cost of fertiliser, agrochemicals, fuel, energy and labour are all going through the roof. Fertiliser needs to be booked on the day to avoid prices going even higher, sometimes it was already sold when the quote was accepted. The long-term benefit may be that other ways of feeding and protecting the plants may be established but short term this could lead to reduction in yields and availability of produce. With regards to staffing the number of qualified people applying for advertised jobs has dropped considerably. It is getting much harder to fill roles. For harvest labour, growers are not yet sure who will help pick and pack their horticultural crops. In terms of transport, booking containers seems to have eased a little but prices are still very high. Many brewers are struggling for cash and we are seeing some closures. The pandemic and pub closures over lockdown are certainly taking their toll. Others with well established, popular brands are struggling to produce enough beer. We believe that the customers are now more inclined to order a brand they know rather than try something new. Turnover is almost fully back to pre-pandemic levels but profitability is down. Growers are going back to customers asking for an uplift on pre-inflation contracts to help them avoid losing money this year.
Property markets remain buoyant across residential and commercial (industrial and warehousing) despite economic headwinds and increasing talk of recessionary times ahead. Signs of improvement in the office market as businesses now back to work almost as normal albeit with increased flexi-working. Demand continues to outstrip supply particularly in our region. Will be interesting to see how the next few months play out and whether the inflationary ‘squeeze’ starts to impact our markets to a greater extent.
Food and Drink
Food industry struggling with new tool called Crispa that allows DNA removal from plants to improve their yield and quality. Issue with labelling as essentially being modified. Food industry pre-Brexit was harmonised, this is far from the case now. Challenge now with various aspects. One such is Titanium Dioxide. EU has banned, UK has not!
Many clients “cutting costs” reducing level of cover to save money. Often to a level that is unsuitable. Costs are leading to people needing to increase cover, particularly building insurance as re-build is so more expensive. Cyber claims up 300% since lockdown. Big demand for trade credit.
Orders at good level but operations challenging. Daily challenges for raw materials. China in lockdown, not essentially direct problem but many links to supply chain. Ukraine and Russia steel supply stopped. P&O crossing reduced so more delays. Operation Brock is taking so long. Suppliers “allocating” materials. “Escalation” meetings are more like begging meetings now. Non existing export from China will affect us in next few weeks. Export via Seafrieght to US is now subject to additional delays of two weeks to unload.
Embraced IT, created strong culture. Industry has 50,000 vacancies. To combat resource shortage, reviewing process to eliminate unneeded tasks. Office re-furb instead of moving. R&D Tax credit – working party dealing with changes in process and providers. Working with Chamber, BCC and central government. Many changes afoot.
Screen sharing scams on the rise (86%) Investment tools misrepresenting activity and displaying growth while removing funds behind scene.
National Cyber Security Website are investigating fraudulent links.
Expected student numbers to rise. Post Grad numbers increasing. 500/600 more international students expected in September. Pro-vice Chancellor changes to represent the 10 schools university now has. Allied Health facility due for completion Easter 2023.