Making our voice heard in Whitehall
Because our Chamber is part of the Business West Group we benefit from sharing in the contacts a sub-regional organisation can make in Whitehall. So when a top team of Civil Servants from the Treasury visited recently, we didn't miss the chance to talk about issues of concern to business in Bath.
David Payne from Polamco represented the voice of the manufacturing sector and seized the opportunity to make two important points to the Chancellor's officials.
First he gave an excellent example of the sort of red tape regulation that so frustrates many businesses. He explained that components made for the defence industry required a licence, which in some cases could take 60 working days to be granted. This posed serious problems to them since customers usually wanted their orders completing in a month.
Second he pointed out that capital allowances, which might be adequate for some businesses, were set far too low for manufacturing companies like his, which may need to spend £150k on a single machine.
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I was able to raise the vexed question about the rate at which the Community Infrastructure Levy is set by local councils. This is the charge which will largely replace Section 106 agreements and be paid by developers to fund affordable housing and infrastructure improvements.
The first draft of the charging schedule for B&NES suggested that some housing developments may face a charge of £200 per square metre, far higher than neighbouring Bristol. The Treasury officials said all local authorities would need to satisfy tests to ensure the rates would not make developments unviable and they would ensure they were met.
The Treasury team heard a chorus of calls for a reduction in regulation on business, for far faster broadband speeds to be brought in to help companies which needed to send and receive very large files and for more to be done to provide finance and business support for small and medium enterprises.
The message from the Treasury was that Government is committed to making it as easy as possible for business to succeed by improving the conditions in which they operate. We played our part by telling them what was needed.
At least the voice of Bath and the West of England has been heard and our views will be taken into account when big decisions are taken.
If you would like to hear more about Bath Chamber of contact, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ian Bell, executive director, Bath Chamber of Commerce