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Encouraging our politicians

As our politicians head off for the summer recess we have been busy suggesting what we need them to do to support our business community once they return. Sometimes the voice of business is not loud enough. That’s where the strength of Chambers can be demonstrated because we can pull together the business views and deliver them in a helpful, succinct and, hopefully, influential way. It is key for our MPs to make even more time to learn about the realities of the local business environment, and the challenges and opportunities facing those who create jobs and prosperity in their area. 

Our members don’t care about the comings and goings of ministers around Brexit. What they really need to know is who they’ll be able to hire in future, how they’ll pay VAT, whether their goods will be stopped at borders, and whether the contracts they enter into will be enforceable. They need clarity, precision and reassurance. The longer businesses wait to understand what the future UK-EU relationship will be, the bigger the hit to near-term investment, expansion and confidence. That said, Brexit isn’t the only thing where business needs action. Even the best possible Brexit deal is worthless if we don’t get the fundamentals for growth and prosperity right here at home. 

Challenges for businesses

The biggest current barrier to growth is people. Chamber research shows we’re currently in the midst of a mass labour shortage, as firms struggle to find the people they need. In our most recent quarterly survey the percentage of firms looking to recruit jumped from 67% to 77%, while the number of those struggling to recruit also rose, to 71%. Businesses recognise they have a role to play in creating a pipeline of future talent, but for too long Westminster has been tinkering with the training system and introducing piecemeal policies, undermining the stability and coherence of the system, and causing companies to disengage. What we need is a stable apprenticeship and training system – one where we have a coherent long-term strategy and an end to constant upheaval. 

With the government set to publish its Immigration White Paper in the autumn they need to listen to businesses of all sizes and sectors and think about how the local economy will suffer if access to skills is restricted by heavy costs and Home Office bureaucracy in the years ahead. 

The Chamber delivers

Surrey Chambers is busy planning 2019 events as well as refreshing the rest of 2018 to make sure we are keeping our members up-to-date with anything affecting their business. We are working with the Local Enterprise Partnerships (EnterpriseM3 and Coast to Capital) to ensure that any support for businesses is made easily accessible. We have also been very well entertained by the Guildford Fringe and the Guildford Shakespeare Company. Networking around these performances has proved very popular and we continue to think of more innovative ways to make connections.

Surrey Chambers of Commerce can be reached on 01483 735540, info@surrey-chambers.co.uk, @surreychambers

Louise Punter

CEO Surrey Chambers of Commerce

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