Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 17th, Nov

Two events stood out for me this week as reflective and poignant in differing ways.

Last Sunday I had the honour of laying a wreath at the City’s outstanding Remembrance Service at St George’s Hall. The Chamber has undertaken this duty for many, many years and it was truly humbling to witness the dignity and respect conveyed to the brave men and women who served – and continue to serve – in our armed forces.

It was a tacit reminder that whilst we undertake our daily lives seeking to enrich ourselves and our businesses – with all the stress, anxieties and pressures it may incur – those who serve to protect and serve our country are undertaking a role which enables us to live and work in our great city with comparative freedom and safety.

The second event which caused genuine reflection also took place at St George’s Hall at a Waterstone’s event on Wednesday, where the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, spoke passionately and with a great deal of humour and humility about his time as Chancellor and the shifting political landscape of the past decade.

Listening to a relaxed, charismatic and genuinely statesmanlike Brown extol the virtues of ‘a national conversation’ about Brexit, Britain’s place in the world and the economic realities of austerity upon the inequality of the country, I was struck by how his persona differed from the perception of him as PM in the dying embers of the New Labour government.

There is no doubt that our country is a different place to that which Brown left in 2010, yet the chord struck with me was his reflections on the lack of consensus-building in politics and within society. We have seen in the build up to next week’s budget dominated by very public disagreements between figures within government on the way forward. Social media is dominated by extreme and entrenched positions on every subject – Brexit, transport strikes, northern inequality – and the prevailing environment appears increasingly bleak and negative.

Yet there remains much to be encouraged about and the opportunity for our city to be at the forefront of the UK’s economy – post-Brexit or otherwise – remains in our hands. Ten years on from Capital of Culture, the shift in politics and the economy can result in reflections of Mr Brown’s time in government being viewed through a misty-eyed haze. Now however, the opportunities reflected in both the Metro Mayor’s policy announcements on Wednesday and the government’s commitment to Transport for the North on Thursday are indicative that Liverpool need not be subject to the negative psychosis.

Issues remain and there will undoubtedly be ups and downs in the ensuring period as both the country and our city find our place in the world. There is no doubt that the Chancellor’s Budget will be one of the most intriguing and instructive for many years and we do not know at this stage the extent to which there will be good or bad news for our businesses. We hope that a commitment to limit additional up front taxes, to invest and commence imperative infrastructure projects in the North and to provide greater clarity and funding for our education and skills system will be prominent within the announcements. 

The poignancy of Remembrance Sunday should remind us all that a century on from the ‘war to end all wars’, our city has survived and emerged from difficult times in the past and remains capable of adapting to, and leading in, this new economic world.

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 29th, Sep

This week the Chamber welcomed Thailand’s Ambassador to the UK and his entourage for a meeting with colleagues from Warrant Group, Santander and Colloids, along with representatives of the Department for International Trade and Liverpool Vision.

The meeting with the Ambassador enabled a fantastic exchange of ideas and opportunities for both inward and outbound trade opportunities and demonstrated once again that global opportunities exist for Liverpool city region companies in multiple professions and sectors.

Such opportunities discussed ranged from the expertise sought by Thailand in key infrastructure construction to the merits of a Thai mango (seriously!).

Thailand is the second largest member of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, established in Bangkok on 8 August 1967. It is highly connected with Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and other countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei and Myanmar. Dialogue with the EU has already started to progress trade procedures and the Ambassador highlighted that the links between the UK and Thailand were so strong that Brexit shouldn’t impact these or any future relationship.

 We learnt about Thailand looking to accelerate economic growth and social progress and due to growing tourism and a developing hotel and catering sector there are opportunities for UK companies in:

  • innovative technology and products
  • organic and healthy food products
  • premium made in UK food and drink products
  • food packaging and processing equipment

Thailand plans to invest massively in the near future in strategic infrastructure projects, including:

  • upgrading national rail network with double tracking and expansion of the Bangkok mass-transit system
  • airport and port expansion projects
  • road and bridge upgrades
  • water management and flood prevention

Therefore there are opportunities for UK companies in the following areas:

  • project management
  • consulting engineering
  • design
  • operation of ports and major infrastructure projects
  • specialist innovative technology

Opportunities for exporting British expertise in education and management are also apparent based on the Ambassador’s observations.

It was heartening to hear the outstanding success stories from Russell Livesey of Colloids; whose growth in the past decade has seen turnover increase four-fold with 80% achieved directly from export sales. Similarly, Warrant Group’s success with plastic scrap recycling in Bangkok exemplifies the potential that fostering such trade links with the UK can achieve.

Discussing the International Business Festival (launched last night in London of course), it is apparent that Liverpool as a business destination has resonance with international traders. The prospect of an international marketplace providing genuine supply chain opportunities to UK businesses is the unique and valuable selling point in next year’s iteration of the festival and one that must be marketed to the hilt and made an unqualified success. Certainly, our Thai delegation were attracted by the proposition.

 After two good festivals, the attainment of tangible business between local and international buyers and suppliers is the next achievable step the festival should take to become great. After this week’s visit, we hope that Thailand representatives and businesses will play a full part in the opportunities presented by next year’s festival, to do business in and with the businesses of Liverpool.

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 22nd, Sep

This week Heathrow launched a multi-point vision for the future and initiated a campaign to the government for the elimination of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights.

It’s easy to become cynical about the case surrounding the UK’s recognised hub airport. It’s proposed third runway has had so many false dawns that any semblance of progress is greeted with a collective “yeah, right” rather than the anticipation one would expect.

APD is an impediment to domestic air travel. It is levied on the carriage of chargeable passengers from a UK airport on chargeable aircraft. It is calculated based upon distance from London and is split into bands – domestic connections incur a cost of £13 per person in standard class. Such costs are substantial when aggregated upwards and impair the competitiveness of aircraft operating domestic flights and particularly those at airports within close proximity to airports in devolved areas where APD has been waived.

Heathrow’s campaign is important in maintaining the focus of our region upon the support provided for Heathrow’s third runway, made on the contingent basis that regional airport landing slots are provided to the likes of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, providing a direct flight to and from the nation’s capital and times favourable to business.

The Chamber has frequently lobbied and expressed its support for a better transport deal for business, most recently concerning the freight access via road to the Port of Liverpool and rail connectivity across the North. This weeks announcement from the Department for Transport that the next stage of HS2 must contain a provision for Northern Powerhouse Rail was extremely positive.

Yet it is the multi-modal access to and from the City of Liverpool that must be pursued as the end goal. Heathrow expansion may be deemed a disproportionate benefit to the South East but, in our view, it enhances our capacity for transport connectivity to London and global destinations. The latest campaign to tackle the additional costs of APD is a step in the right direction in eliminating our barriers to transport growth and access.

See also: Chamber & LJLA welcome Heathrow Air Passenger Duty Proposal

 

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 15th, Sep

Last week it was announced that I'd been appointed as the Chief Executive of the Chamber and I want to use my blog this week to make a request. We need you to tell us what you want from us.

The Chamber of Commerce for Liverpool and Sefton has a key role to play with local, regional and national partners to create a city region where businesses want to invest, relocate, export and start up.

Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce will remain a private-sector led organisation which provides access to the largest, best and most diverse network of businesses and talent in the city region. In addition to helping to stimulate intra-member business, we will represent the collective interests of our members and ensure you receive the information and market intelligence to prosper in these complex times.

In particular, we will be working with members to ensure they are prepared for the outcome of Brexit negotiations, have a clear voice in the campaign for improving infrastructure in the North and are at the forefront of an insatiable desire to improve the delivery of skills to citizens in the City Region.

I have made a commitment to contact and arrange meetings with all of our member businesses before the turn of the year. It is essential that as a members-funded Chamber that we are providing the services, representation and information that your business needs.

Consider the following and let us know:

1.       How can the Chamber of Commerce tangibly support your business objectives?

2.       What are the biggest issues impacting upon your business either now or in the coming twelve months?

3.       As a member, what one thing could the Chamber of Commerce do to generate the maximum benefit from your company’s membership?

We've got some great things coming up - our Annual Dinner on 2nd November, the arrival of some new faces in the business, an exciting 'Marketing Power Hour' programme, the reforming of our Members Council and the introduction of a refreshed membership offer. 

I’m extremely grateful for the support organisations have provided to the Chamber through investment in membership and I hope that we are reciprocating that support with value. If we aren’t, you're in the best place to help us shape a Chamber of Commerce that works for business.

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 08th, Sep

The announcement of Birmingham’s successful nomination as the UK’s location for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be a disappointment for many in Liverpool, but it’s certainly not a cataclysmic setback. It should, however, focus the attention on the important times ahead for our business community.

It was perhaps appropriate that whilst the news of the outcome broke via Twitter, I joined the launch of the Institute for Civil Engineer’s ‘Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy’, where the fundamental priorities for the North’s economy were detailed and proposals for a Council of the North were re-asserted.

As with the multitude of other studies undertaken in recent times, the lack of infrastructure investment in the North vis a vis the national average, the disturbing skills shortage and lack of connectivity between Northern conurbations, remains clearly demonstrable and quantifiable through the detailed studies undertaken.

Yet, there must be a political will to enable the delivery of transformational programmes to avoid such studies becoming doorstops. The devolution deal struck with Government must be built upon and the status of the Metro Mayor must be elevated to the figurehead role it was intended to be. This requires resources, power and mandate. We will never know whether the 2022 bid could have been improved with a Metro Mayor leading like in Birmingham (recognising the colour of his political allegiance), but we now require an ‘all or nothing’ position concerning the Metro Mayor model – the halfway house position cannot achieve the longer-term objectives.

So, whilst the failure to land 2022 is a shame, perhaps it will focus the attention on the ‘big stuff’ that is coming down the tracks – additional port access for freight movement in Liverpool, investment in transport and digital infrastructure and investment in a fundamental shift in skills delivery.

These objectives are perhaps more valuable to our business and economic prospects over the longer term. The business voice is a key element in the formulation of strategic and operational plans, as is collaboration between the regions in the North to agglomerate its economic strength and create the strong environment for business that is required for longer term prosperity.

So if 2022 lacks the short term boost of a fortnight’s sporting competition, let us aspire for a greater focus on what our region needs for longer term benefit and ensure we use the result as a spur to get on and do it.

Leave a comment

Posted by Terry Dray

Director Graduate Advancement and Employer Engagement, Liverpool John Moores University

Fri 01st, Sep

In a turbulent higher education and graduate recruitment landscape a strategic imperative is to re-vision approaches to career support. Fundamental to this is for university careers teams to optimise relationships with stakeholders - let us call them partners, to create more tailored careers support, focus on engagement and prioritise smart use of data to inform professional practice.

Employers want graduates with the right blend of skills and attributes so they can hit the ground running. However, the skills gap continues to be a challenge. The Association of Graduate Recruiters 2017 winter survey showed 52% of respondents were not able to fill all their vacancies. Students rightly want successful outcomes from their investment in higher education. Some demonstrate consumerist behaviors, expecting services that mirror those received on the high street or online. These increasingly include a choice of different ways to engage that are tailored to the individual. In order to provide career development support and services that are fit for purpose it is vital that these are informed by and co-developed with partners, not least students and employers.

At Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) over the past 7 years, we have seen unemployment fall and those obtaining graduate level jobs and postgraduate study increase. The LJMU Careers Team systematically works with students, academics and employers as critical friends to co-design and co-evaluate provision. Discussing student affinity with our Student Advisory Panel led us to move away from producing a single, one size fits all, annual Career Planning Guide. We now produce 14 Guides - one for each academic school, collaborating with students, employers and academics in doing so. The greater sense of affinity with the guides has been notable.

Meeting with our Employer Advisory Group 3 times a year helps us to better understand recruitment challenges, transition pathways and the complexities of the “graduate market”. We meet for 2 hours and at each meeting we consider 2 different discussion questions, for example how to best use social media to attract students, how degree apprenticeships will affect hiring practices, whether careers fairs are still effective for employers etc.

In all our interactions with students there is a need to tailor the approach. Understanding more about student affinity with academic subjects, occupations, industrial sectors, location preferences and lifestyle helps us to engage them by providing more bespoke services and resources. This approach also includes running focused fairs and events, for example, for pharmacists, engineers, nurses and midwives, accountants, sports industry professionals etc.

LJMU has a large student community and multiple sites. This has led us to re-vision how we offer career support in physical locations. Being committed to offering students this support where and when they want it, we are developing a “hub and spoke” model and set on a course to develop Careers Zones located in areas with high student footfall. A new Student Life Building will house a Careers Zone and act as the hub from 2019. The Careers Zones have resulted in many more students accessing career support and also meeting employers as we actively encourage employers to connect with students at the Zones.

Our re-visioning sees us focusing on many priorities and these are just some. As the turbulence continues it is imperative to operate strategically and optimise partnerships, particularly with employers, to grasp what they want from the Careers Team and our students and graduates.

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 18th, Aug

This week finally resulted in the most pressing trade issue surrounding Brexit coming to the fore – membership of the Customs Union and the implications for trade, specifically the movement of goods across borders.

There is no doubt that Chambers of Commerce have identified the issue as one of considerable concern and consternation. The rhetoric concerning the UK’s negotiating position during the initial Brexit discussions had failed to identify the key fundamental principles under which the UK envisaged such trade being undertaken. Several of our members who export their goods to – or import raw materials from the EU - had already identified fundamental concerns regarding the anticipated costs they will incur without a favourable customs arrangement.

This week it was announced that there are fundamentally two options envisaged by the UK government for the post Brexit customs arrangements:

1. A highly streamlined customs arrangement with a simplified system – using technology – to speed up the passing of goods through ports
2. Establishment of a new customs partnership with the EU that would remove any customs border and essentially enable the maintenance of UK customs union membership benefits whilst independently negotiating trade deals with non-EU countries.

The movement towards understanding a longer term operating model is welcome news but it remains true that it is only a negotiating position at this stage. Also, there are fundamental differences between the practical applications of both options that will need to be addressed.

The potential of a transitional deal muddies the water further. Though eminently sensible in principle, the potential for a ‘hard Brexit’ with the technology-driven ‘light touch’ customs arrangement would be massively complex to manage given the investment required for the development of such technology and the affordability for organisations using it to transport their goods, particularly smaller companies. A transitional deal could cause the adjustment costs of such development to be prohibitive for all concerned.

The further announcements this week confirming the maintenance of an open border arrangement between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland “at the heart” of the UK’s exit negotiations is undoubtedly welcome but again, from a movement of trade perspective, adds further questions regarding the trade status of Northern Ireland and its access to the mainland UK.

All of this context comes as the British Chambers of Commerce/DHL trade confidence index results were issued yesterday revealing the maintenance of a strong performance in the most recent quarter but an increasing level of concern regarding exchange rates, access to skilled workers and price pressures.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) International Trade Summit on Thursday 12th October will address several of these issues and provide businesses with some clarity regarding the implications of Brexit. BCC are also seeking first hand experiences of member companies in this negotiating period and their expectations regarding a post-Brexit trade impact to enable the use of qualitative evidence to be provided to government with the existing quantitative data.

Contact membership@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

Leave a comment

Posted by Bagnall & Morris

Thu 17th, Aug

A more efficient waste management strategy could be the key to saving your business money. Rather than viewing waste as costly but necessary problem, taking a step back and looking at potential improvements could enhance your organisation’s environmental and financial performance.

Here are some of B&M’s top tips to help you achieve this –

Know what waste you produce

It’s easy to assume that your business will produce ‘general’ and ‘recyclable’ waste, but to tailor the right solution, at the right cost, you need to understand the actual type, quantity and source of waste generated at your business premises.

Whatever the size of your business, take the time to look at the waste going into your general waste containers. You might be surprised at how much recyclable material is mixed in there.

Embed practical recycling processes

By seeing what areas of your business produce what waste, you can modify the waste storage provisions to segregate more recyclate and reduce the more costly general waste collections.

Are the bins situated in a practical location? Are they clearly signposted? Is your recyclable waste being cross-contaminated with other substances? Does everyone have a desk bin that makes it too easy to mix the contents?

You need to have the right storage facilities available and ensure that all members of staff buy-in to their obligations.      

Minimise the amount of waste you generate

Once you have assessed the type, volume and source of the waste streams, you can also find ways to minimise waste. This may involve rolling out a company-wide waste minimisation campaign, for example by encouraging people to print less paper, reuse their coffee cups, and wash out containers to remove food residue.

Speak to an expert

Now that you have garnered a better understanding of your waste, speak to a commercial waste management company who can advise on an effective strategy that is bespoke to your requirements.

Perhaps you have enough of a particular commodity to bale the material and generate revenue, or could use a compactor to reduce general waste transport and disposal costs. We can use the data you have collated to help determine if this is the case.

Contact B&M today to arrange a free waste audit so that one of our experts can put forward a custom-made no obligation proposal.

0330 1234 100  |  www.bagnallandmorris.com

Leave a comment

Posted by Claudia Font

Gunnercooke

Wed 16th, Aug

Have you lost your deposit money on an Off-Plan Property in Spain?

Up to 100,000 UK investors who lost money when buying off plan in Spain could be entitled to claim their money back (plus interests and Court fess) based on a Spanish Supreme Court Decision.

In accordance with Spanish Law -Act. 57/1968-, builders and property developers that received deposit money for off-plan properties in Spain were legally obliged to pay this money into a specific bank account and provide their clients with a bank guarantee.

The purpose of the bank guarantee was to protect those deposits in the event of non-completion or liquidation- but this obligation was frequently breached by builders and property developers and up to 100.000 UK investors lost their money.

During the Spanish property bubble, most of new developments were sold off-plan and with the financial crisis that started in 2008, many developers went bust without finishing their developments and without returning the buyers’ deposits.

However, the aforementioned Act 57/1968 also seems to state that the bank which received the payment could also be held liable if it knew that the account was set up for the purpose of receiving deposit for off-plan properties.

This interpretation of the law was then confirmed on the 21st of December 2015 by the Spanish Supreme Court who made a Decision that gives some new hopes to buyers who have lost their money, saying that banks are obliged to pay investors back for the deposits they paid for their future houses off-plan.

In accordance to the said Decision, which now constitutes case law, banks are responsible, together with the Spanish property developers, for the loss of the deposits paid by Spanish property buyers. And this responsibility is regardless of the solvency status of the developer.

Obviously, it is not a “one-size fits all” approach. Each case needs to be studied separately as there are other factors that need to be considered such as whether the property has been legally finished or not, etc but it is encouraging news for those who invested in off-plan properties in Spain and lost their deposits.

It should be noted that the future off-plan buyers will not have the same protection because a new rule approved by the Spanish Parliament (on the 1st of January of 2016) has revoked Act.57/1968 reducing the bank´s obligations and liabilities to certain case scenarios.

However, this only applies to future purchases. Those who have lost their deposits for purchases made in the last 10-15 years are still entitled to file a claim against the bank. If you had made payments for your off-plan property in Spain before that date, you will be covered by the old, and more protective, rule.

Obviously, there are some requirements that need to be checked to confirm that you have the right to claim your money back. Gunnercooke’s Spanish desk can advise solicitors or their clients as to whether they may have a case against a Spanish bank.

There are many law firms who have been recently approaching prospective clients out of the blue or cold-calling them offering their services on a no win-no fee basis. Those who lost their deposits need to be careful when engaging law firms or companies that are cold-calling them, as those presumably attractive packages and fees may make them jump into instructing a firm or a company that does not have the real expertise to deal with this type of matters.

Also, those sort of fee offers usually come with hidden costs that can prove a burden if the case is not won. As usual, make your own research and comparisons before you instruct a law firm for a litigation case, specially if the matter involves foreign law, and then take an informed decision.

Claudia Font & Antonio Guillen Spanish desk gunnercooke llp claudia.font@gunnercooke.com www.gunnercooke.com 1 Cornhill / London / EC3V 3ND 53 King Street / Manchester / M2 4LQ

Leave a comment

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 11th, Aug

This week marked the unofficial tenth anniversary of the financial crisis.

I doubt there were too many celebratory parties across the business community but it is perhaps a good time to reflect on the prevailing wake of those mid summer days of 2007 when the collapse of Northern Rock precipitated the subsequent demise of the banking system as we knew it. 

We grew accustomed to periods of profound booms and busts throughout the twentieth century, yet it is telling that this particular collapse continues to resonate so fully today. A decade, it is worth remembering, is a long time and whilst the upheaval in the geo-political world has been monumental, the credit crunch and global financial crisis has remained a tether in people’s conscience and collective memory. “Where were you when Northern Rock went bust?” feels like our equivalent to JFK being shot, such is the ongoing narrative coverage of this epochal moment.

Politicians, economists, journalists, business people continue to speak of the crisis as today’s news, no doubt accentuated by ongoing austerity programmes and a consistent political discourse citing caution over the previous recklessness.

“Events, dear boy, events” was Harold Macmillan’s articulation of a Prime Minister’s principal fear. The 2007 crash was pre-empted by a multitude of factors across multiple continents, including a lax culture of banking regulation, financial institution’s exposure to toxic debt and the insufficient insulation between such institutions which led to the inevitable domino effect.

Alex Brazier’s recent visit to Liverpool enabled him to share his thoughts about the Bank of England’s principal concerns about the current status of the UK economy. Particularly notable was the contention that there are signs that the institutional knowledge about the circumstances surrounding the crash within banks and financial institutions has shown signs of being eroded.

Alex specifically stated that “Lenders have been the lucky beneficiaries of the benign way the economy has evolved. In expanding the supply of credit, they may be placing undue weight on the recent performance of credit cards and loans in benign conditions.” Complacency is creeping in.

The UK economy’s current dependency upon consumer spending (and associated debt) should not fall victim to the ostrich approach. Maintaining a level of incentive to keep us spending on goods is key amid the uncertainty of the Brexit state of flux, but the efforts of government must be to create the conditions within which the wider economy can lessen such dependency upon our personal wallets, particularly as the historic low levels of inflation show signs of increasing.

“Build it and they will come” may not be an economically sound basis to run a sustainable economy, but whilst control measures need to be reasserted within the personal lending markets, a greater commitment to delivering an infrastructure plan – particularly in the North – must be a priority upon the resumption of Parliament in the Autumn. Failure to invest soundly will maintain a flat-lining of economic growth external to the consumer bubble. Chamber members responding to the most recent quarterly economic survey in Liverpool reported a reticence to invest in training or machinery amid the current trading conditions.

Ten years on from the financial crisis, the maintenance of our understanding of its causes remains critical. However, such tacit knowledge and associated safeguards must not suffocate the wider ability of our country and city to grow our economic strength. The prolonged austerity measures pre-empted by the crash remain prevalent, in thought, word and deed. Such a psychosis is inherent to the challenge facing us and is a warning to us that a spiral of underinvestment will ultimately lead to a spiral of economic decline.

Leave a comment