Fri, March 3rd, 2017
The role of Chambers has never been more important
With Britain set to begin negotiations on its withdrawal from the European Union, the role of chambers of commerce as the “authentic voice of business” has never been more important.
So it is perhaps fitting during such an historic period that our new chair, former Bank of England director Neil Ashbridge, brings such a wealth of knowledge and experience on the micro and macro views of the economy.
We’re delighted, too, that Neil joins us as we embark upon a critical period of change for Liverpool & Sefton Chambers. We shall almost certainly look to Neil, his experience and financial know how, to help guide us through the coming months as we continue to hone our strategy as an independent Chamber of Commerce.
And, whilst the uncertainty presented by Brexit will continue to impact on business for some time still, we must not fail to identify the opportunities it presents.
This week, I attended the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Conference in London and am pleased to tell you that much time was spent discussing northern cities. Imagine my wry smile, in fact, when I overheard my colleague at Thames Valley Chamber complain that too much time had been spent discussing opportunities in the North.
But there’s just something very special about the North of the country, isn’t there? Us Northerners don’t rest on our laurels – in the face of adversity we innovate, we co-operate and we create opportunities. What we need is for central Government to enable us to manage those opportunities.
A sentiment it seems echoed by former Chancellor George Osborne, who suggested regional devolution of powers could be key to Britain’s recovery strategy, saying "we have the makings of a revolution with incoming Metro Mayors".
Boris Johnson talked about opportunities beyond the North, saying "there is every reason as a nation to be confident" – I’ll second that. Particularly in Liverpool, where business confidence is at its highest.
So, let us turn that confidence into success. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs challenged us as business owners to become "world-leading agitators and champions of free trade" – and that is my challenge to you, our members.
Let’s see small businesses become large businesses, local businesses become global.
Boris Johnson said "A global Britain is a prosperous Britain". I put it to you that a global Liverpool is a prosperous Liverpool.
The time has come to step up. We have a lot to do to begin to address productivity gaps around transport, skills, and digital connectivity in order to bolster our own growth. We can’t do it without you.