key update from John Bridge OBE DL

Accelerate Your Innovation and 'Is it all going to end in tiers?'

At our Championing Business event this afternoon between 4.00-5.00pm, we’re giving you the opportunity to have your questions answered by the experts.

Sandy Findlay, Partnership Director of ABGI, a leading innovation funding consultant in the UK, will discuss the opportunities to accelerate your innovation activity by putting the right funding in place, through grants, tax incentives and commercial funding.

You are encouraged to put questions to the speaker during the event.

We will also touch on the Chancellor’s Spending Review and Christmas restrictions, and also the three tier system that is applicable to our area. We welcome your thoughts; further details can be found below.

Click here to register for today’s event. 

Chancellor’s Spending Review

This spending review comes at a critical time as business communities are fighting for survival in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The launch of the National Infrastructure Strategy is an important step in overcoming the longstanding infrastructure deficit. We’ve spent long enough discussing infrastructure projects - it’s now time to focus on delivery.

As well, the introduction of a UK infrastructure bank may significantly aid the transition to net zero if it has the necessary capital base to leverage the private sector finance needed to deliver transformational levels of infrastructure investment.

Measures to help people return to work at this challenging time will help limit long-term unemployment but Government must waste no time in putting these plans into action. Government and business will need to work together to re-train and re-skill the UK workforce. Investment in the Kickstart Scheme and the launch of the Restart scheme, will be critical in helping to achieve that.

We have long campaigned to ensure the skills system, including apprenticeships, has the flexibility and ambition to deliver the skilled workforce our economy so desperately needs. Small and medium sized businesses, in particular, often feel like their needs are not met. Innovative solutions that bring business and training closer together will help bridge some of the gap that currently exists.

Some of the flexibilities introduced to apprenticeships are a welcome first step. Front-loading apprenticeship training makes sense in the current climate and creating Apprenticeship Training Agencies will mean that many more firms can participate in apprenticeship schemes.

However, there are still other areas where the Government should go further, including flexibility around the use of the levy and the arbitrary 24-month expiration date for the fund.

The launch of UK Shared Prosperity Fund is long-overdue and significant unanswered questions remain. Business communities will now require more detail on how the scheme will operate and how the new fund will avoid damaging cliff edges in existing local economic development and business support schemes.

The government must work closely with business on determining key features of the new fund, including a commitment to maximise local autonomy, business voice and economic growth. Chambers of Commerce are ready to support the pilot schemes and help develop proposals further once published.

In respect of the latest outlook from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) this underscores the devastating impact of coronavirus on the UK economy with output not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until the end of 2022. The downgrade to the OBR’s forecast for business investment is a particular concern, as weak investment levels significantly limit the UK’s productivity and growth trajectory.

Even with a mass vaccine rollout, the deep economic scarring from the pandemic, including high unemployment, rising debt levels and weak investment, may mean that the road back to pre-crisis output levels is longer than the OBR currently predicts.

The OBR’s latest forecast highlights significant fiscal challenges facing the UK and the need for the Chancellor to remain flexible to business need in the difficult months ahead. However, the temptation to start fiscal consolidation too early must be resisted to avoid extending the economic pain from Covid. Instead, the focus must be on wealth creation and boosting economic activity to sustainably grow the UK’s tax base.

With an uncertain winter ahead, the government will need to maintain an open mind on providing further support to businesses struggling to survive. As we look to rebuild and renew local and national economies, businesses will also need further significant incentives for investment in people, productivity and the planet.

Despite the Chancellor’s announcement, there are still many businesses and individuals who have, through no fault of their own, been unable to access any government support since the start of the pandemic and will require support if we are to avoid significant increases in unemployment and business failures.

All the details of the Chancellor’s Spending Review 2020 can be accessed here

Christmas Restrictions

The government is changing some social contact restrictions over the Christmas period. For full details see here
As a reminder between 23 and 27 December:
  • You can form an exclusive ‘Christmas bubble’ composed of people from no more than three households
  • You can only be in one Christmas bubble
  • You cannot change your Christmas bubble
  • You can travel between tiers and UK nations for the purposes of meeting your Christmas bubble
  • You can only meet your Christmas bubble in private homes or in your garden, places of worship, or public outdoor spaces
  • You can continue to meet people who are not in your Christmas bubble outside your home according to the rules in the tier where you are staying  
  • You cannot meet someone in a private dwelling who is not part of your household or Christmas bubble
  • You should travel to meet those in your Christmas bubble and return home between the 23 and 27 December.
  • Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December.

Contact the Chamber

01223 237414 •
Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce
Clifford House • 2 Station Yard • Oakington • CB24 3AH • United Kingdom