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East Midlands Chamber News

Toby Perkins at DNCC business briefing

Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins gave up his time to sit down with local businesses and discuss issues of concern to them. Toby is Labour’s Shadow Small Business Minister, with responsibilities for access to finance, government procurement, the Small Business Taskforce and deregulation.

What was discussed:

Skills and apprenticeships: There is a significant lack of technically-skilled labour among 16- to 18-year-olds. It was felt that people are being pushed into work without the necessary skills required by modern employers.
Chamber-members feel that schools and colleges need to move away from their focus on academic attainment, and that the Government needs to find alternative plans for those students not going on to University.
The UK needs to ensure we can still attract skilled immigration, and there needs to be more focus on literacy and numeracy skills with a better balance between practical and academic skills.
There was a feeling that young people need to be taught how to manage their finances – currently loans/overdrafts are given to 18+ yrs of age. This will improve personal credit ratings, and provide students with an additional ‘life skill’.
It was felt that there needs to be more grant support for businesses looking to take on an apprentice, and provision for a tax-incentive which should encourage more businesses to engage with the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS).
Many businesses are reluctant to engage with the NAS due to a perception of many Health & Safety issues involved in employing an apprentice.

Red Tape: Small firms present commented that the incoming regulations to simplify processes have actually had the opposite effect on business, which is inhibiting growth. It was felt that the Government has over-promised and under-delivered in this respect.
It was felt that EU regulations concerning flexibility of labour is damaging the UK’s attractiveness, although these arrangements have helped harness womens’ skills more effectively. The revised Maternity/Paternity laws will have a big impact on SME’s, with the Territorial Army seeing a 66 per cent increase in leave.
One delegate commented that despite the concerns over Health and Safety legislation, it has actually helped his firm become a safer place to work and to be a better employer.

Comments from Toby: He said that DNCC had a reputation nationally for its quality of work in supporting business.
The Growth and Infrastructure Bill is in the process of going through Parliament, following 40 amendments made by the House of Lords.

Comments from delegates: A delegate commented that B-rated empty shops are deterring speculative development, having a significant impact on retailers, and creating a growing number of voids in Chesterfield.

Other snippets: DNCC is hosting an event on 2 May 2013 with Baroness D’Souza, Speaker for the House of Lords, where delegates can raise questions relating to the Bill, among other issues, as the House of Lords is keen to engage with business leaders.

Our host: Kevin Raine, MD, Fusion Group
Company overview - The Fusion Group is a £116m turnover world leader in the manufacture of machines and tooling for polyethylene pipe jointing supporting gas, water and electricity infrastructure markets worldwide.
The Group’s headquarters are at Chesterfield, with manufacturing sites in the UK, China and Egypt, wholly-owned or joint-venture distributors in over 20 countries, and direct sales into a further 40 international territories - employing 506 UK employees and an additional 400+ overseas staff.
Fusion Group is active in the green energy sector, with businesses in ground source heat systems, landfill gas, photo-voltaic panels and carbon accounting.
Their growth over the past few years has been organic rather than through acquisitions with 75 per cent of onsite manufacturing exported via their eight UK depots.

Next meeting: The next MP Business Briefing will be on 3 May 2013 - Derby North Business Briefing with Chris Williamson MP.