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East Midlands Chamber News

Breakfast briefing with Lilian Greenwood MP

DNCC Business Briefing with Lilian Greenwood MP (Nottingham South)
Friday 21 June at National College, Nottingham

This month’s Chamber MP meeting took place today with Lilian Greenwood, Member for Nottingham South and Labour’s Shadow Rail Minister.

The image of Nottingham as a city – particularly in its appeal to would-be inward investors – was a key message from this discussion.

Investment in localised infrastructure has been a positive development, although short-term difficulties are likely to exist during the summer, particularly for visitors, as various infrastructure works are being carried out simultaneously around the railway station, including the closure of the station.

The Chamber and D2N2 (the LEP) have a key part to play in making sure that firms can minimise the risk of disruption to their business through, for example, websites such as www.thebusinessadvicewebsite.co.uk which contains logistical information to make travel planning easier during the disruption.

It is hoped the upgrading of the station, given its proximity to the shopping centres, will give a fillip to the fortunes of retailers in the city and it was felt that priority now ought to be given to Nottingham’s connection to the HS2 hub, nominally earmarked for Toton, so that the region can take full advantage of this start-of-the-art railway infrastructure when it eventually arrives.

More immediately, Chamber members noted that electrification of the Midland Mainline is essential for shortening journey times on the route and that the widening of the A453 has been terrific news for Nottingham, although concerns remain regarding the tram and the implications of the City Council’s Workplace Parking Levy on the business community.

The Contemporary’s presence – and its significant cultural contribution – was also noted as the city tries to improve its image. One Chamber member did express concern that Nottingham’s image, the way it is perceived by the world at large, was a barrier which would inhibit the chances of third-sector groups accessing finance from larger grant-making bodies.

Following the recent election, we could take advantage of an opportunity to strengthen relationships between the City and County Councils, which would be enhanced by involvement with D2N2, the Chamber and the wider business community.

It was also though to be important to keep a close eye on the activities of neighbouring LEPs to ensure they work in a co-ordinated way to minimise the risk of counter-productive initiatives which hinder competitiveness at a time when everything possible is being done to foster growth.

The significance of foreign direct investment was also noted, a particular aspect of the local economy where sectors like bioscience play a major role. There was recognition of the limitations of UKTI, whose national remit often hinders the development of the local firms that embrace it. And it was also recognised that politicians are grasping this ‘silo mentality’ in a way that the civil servants have yet to get to grips with.

A discussion arose about how Nottingham leverages-in public money to access private capital, and the “Launchpad” initiative has been unveiled to show inward investors exactly what the region has to offer, underlining its credentials in these difficult times of meagre resource.

It was felt that the banks were doing their best to lend, bearing in mind the constraints imposed on them by the regulators, and that security and a solid business case are paramount when attempting to access funds.

Firms nevertheless appear to be building-up large reserves of cash but are hesitant to invest it owing to the prevailing low-level of business confidence. However, the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey confirms that businesses are more optimistic now and expect that optimism to grow throughout the rest of the year.