Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 29th, Jun

The Foreign Secretary may appear to have a problem with business with his alleged expletive outburst this week but, as the International Business Festival comes to a close, we can reflect with pride on the diversity, entrepreneurship and innovation of British businesses showcased over the last 3 weeks here in Liverpool.

Covering a range of themes including culture and sport, cities and future transport, sustainable energy, manufacturing, creative and health, it demonstrated the insatiable contribution that businesses of all shapes, sizes and types makes at a social and cultural level as well as to the economy.

It is in this spirit that the Chamber’s Annual Dinner Awards on Thursday 1st November will once again recognise those businesses and individuals who are driving forward the responsible business agenda across the Liverpool City Region.

We are also recognising the city region’s most successful Exporter of the Year to acknowledge the economic contribution made by local businesses to the national economy as well as within the city region itself. Given our burgeoning digital and technology sectors we are also introducing an award for Digital and Technology to highlight local talent, innovation and success.

We will also celebrate individual achievements across all of our business community in our Local Hero Award, once again recognising those individuals whose actions often go unnoticed but whose enthusiasm, passion and tenacity make things happen!

The Awards will be presented at the Chamber’s Annual Dinner on Thursday 1 November at The Rum Warehouse and we look forward to toasting the contribution of businesses that ensure that in Liverpool every day can be a festival of business.

Awards and event booking details will be released next week but in the meantime if you have any queries contact the team at events@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

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Posted by Neil Ashbridge

Fri 29th, Jun

It has been an extraordinary few weeks on the international stage. From an acrimonious G7 Summit, changes in the leadership of both the Spanish and Italian governments to the media frenzy which surrounded the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. At home, the Brexit debate continues to expose the rifts on both sides of the House and as the German Chancellor is coming under increasing pressure at home, it is hard to predict what will happen next.

In fact the only thing that is certain is the uncertainty which currently exists around future trade agreements.

Post G7, journalists were in their element analysing the impact of what has traditionally been a predictable but friendly gathering, failing to agree on a final communiqué, and casting doubt on the future of the G7 itself. For the markets themselves however, it was business as usual, as they remained unmoved by the political rhetoric and exchange of personal insults.  Undoubtedly however it has left the G7 in a weaker position at a time when more stability and co-operation is needed, not just around trade.

The acrimony was not unexpected, coming as it did after the US announcement on tariffs before the Summit.  Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), warned of the impact on UK businesses and local communities of the US tariffs, urging the government to work with our EU partners whilst we can to “prevent a global slide into protectionism that would make all of us poorer”.

The position of the International Chamber of Commerce was also clear, with Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal stating that “Open markets underpinned by the rules-based multilateral trading system have been a vital driver of prosperity across the world over the past 50 years….Tariff hikes will inevitably impact small businesses that often rely heavily on imported goods and services.”  

For those businesses not directly affected, it is tempting to dismiss these global spats as someone else’s problem or simply not relevant. Whilst we should not let them define our negotiations around any future trade policy, the escalation of any kind of “tit for tat” tariff increases will have much wider ramifications, particularly post Brexit when, despite the resilience and determination of UK plc, it is unlikely to be business as usual.

As part of the BCC network we are in an excellent position to make sure the voice of business is not only heard but listened to and I would encourage you therefore to contact the team at the Chamber so we can understand your concerns and support you where we can. You can email us at policy@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

And finally, in the spirit of global co-operation I feel I must mention the World Cup! Securing a place in the final 16 after an unprecedented win over Panama on Sunday keeps England at the centre of the world sports stage – best of luck!

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Will Waller, Director - Head of Futures at Arcadis, looks at the implications for future investment in UK infrastructure and possible alternatives post Brexit.

Posted by Will Waller

Director - Head of Futures at Arcadis

Fri 29th, Jun

Brexit means the UK will lose access to the European Investment Bank (EIB), an unintended and little-understood consequence of the UK vote to leave the EU. Brexit may not happen until at least 2019, but the issue is more pressing.  The EIB has invested £34bn in UK projects since 2011 but following the trigger of Article 50 in March 2017, a slowdown in loans to the UK has bitten.   Just £0.88bn was invested in UK infrastructure by the EIB in 2017 – approximately a 78% drop from the circa £4bn invested in UK infrastructure by the EIB in 2016. 

The role of the EIB

In total the bank has outstanding loans in the UK worth more than £48bn. Over 80% of these are in key infrastructure sectors - including energy, water, transport and telecommunications. High profile examples include:

  • £525m for the Beatrice wind farm off the coast of Scotland
  • £700m for Thames Tideway
  • £1.5bn for Crossrail 1.

The value of EIB loans to UK infrastructure in 2016 was commensurate with approximately 25% of infrastructure construction output in that year – a significant overall contribution. 

Why is the EIB so pivotal in the first place? The answer is simply because it exists and, being convenient, has ‘crowded out’ other sources of finance. It has become an important part of the funding model for private infrastructure development.

Weaning UK clients off the EIB’s readily-available finance is more important than ever if the UK’s infrastructure pipeline is to be delivered expediently. 

Weighing the options for infrastructure finance

1. The UK could remain a member of the EIB. 

However, this is unlikely as the rules state that members must also be members of the EU. Changes would need unanimous agreement by all 27 of the remaining EU countries. Given the current state of negotiations, this is unlikely, so other alternatives are required. 

2. The formation of an alternative (UK) investment bank. 

The UK has experience of setting up infrastructure-focused national investment banks. The Green Investment Bank (GIB) was capitalised with £3bn in 2011, to stimulate green infrastructure investment. The scale is much smaller than the EIB. By the end of 2015, the bank had invested over £2bn in 60 projects. The sale of the GIB to Australian bank Macquarie was controversially completed last year, demonstrating investor interest in these types of project finance bodies. 

The idea of a new UK Investment Bank (UKIB) to take up the slack from the EIB has been widely mooted. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said it would study the idea of a state-sponsored UK infrastructure bank, but there are several reasons why this is not straightforward: 

  • It will require scarce capital, estimated by the Treasury to be £15bn - £20bn.
  • It would take several years to set up. KfW, the German government’s development bank, has taken the best part of a decade to achieve scale. 
  • The UKIB would be on the government’s balance sheet, unlike the EIB, expanding the government’s stock of debt just as it is trying to reduce the deficit. 
  • The UKIB would carry a greater risk profile, being relatively concentrated geographically. This is in contrast with the EIB, which is massively diversified across a whole continent.    

However, the EIB, GIB, KfW and also the Canada Infrastructure Investment Bank all show that infrastructure investment banks can be hugely successful in financing national infrastructure at scale. The setup of a UK entity is a big challenge, but not an insurmountable one.  


3. Alternative sources of finance

There are other options. The Chancellor Philip Hammond has talked about expanding UK government financial support to infrastructure, in the form of a broader UK guarantee scheme, whereby government underwrites lending to infrastructure projects. Infrastructure bonds or gilts could also be used as alternative sources of finance. Could Chinese and other international development banks and investors also have a key role to play?

The importance of private finance

Infrastructure has a disproportionate reliance on private finance, with at least 50% of the £500bn national infrastructure and construction pipeline reliant on it. 

However, relatively limited availability and high cost of private infrastructure finance reflects the aversion investors have to delivery risk. The loss of the EIB threatens to make this worse, not because it is an alternative to private finance itself, but because a lot of private finance depends on EIB involvement to make deals work. 

Filling the gap

Whilst there is no easy or obvious solution for accessing affordable private infrastructure finance in the UK, filling the gap left by the EIB is possible. Collaboration of all parties to the deal map is required to make projects more investable:

  • Do project sponsors and the supply chain need to continue to deliver greater certainty of outcome so that projects are more predictable and investable?
  • Would better value be delivered if the government shared some of the risk associated with project delivery?  
  • Through early involvement with project development, could investors work with other stakeholders to shape more investable projects?

The reality

There is no overnight solution for the loss of the EIB and fixing financing will require action by investors, clients, constructors and government alike. Infrastructure has a key role to play in the UK’s competitiveness but, whilst preferential access to finance is constrained, the industry cannot fully play its part in driving the UK forward.  

The challenge of replacing the EIB is just one of the thousands of initiatives that government will have to take to replace capabilities previously provided through the EU. The fact that the loss of access to the EIB is already having an impact on the market, highlights the urgency behind finding alternative sources of project finance and making projects as investable as possible, to make up for it.

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Gerry O'Leary, General Manager at Arriva's Southport Depot

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 22nd, Jun

Introduce yourself – name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

Gerry O'Leary, General Manager at Arriva's Southport Depot

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

I would like to see a more adaptable futuristic road network which allows our customers to get to their destination quicker without any hold ups or fuss.

What does a typical working day look like?

The best thing about my role is that no one day is typical.  From dealing with the day to day running of our business and then creating new opportunities, each day has its own independent outcomes.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Focus on the outcome and don’t be afraid to look outside your comfort zone.

Where would we find you on your day off?

Normally in a fine eatery somewhere in the Liverpool area with my family. 

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

Challenge the norm because more of the same does not work.  Change is inevitable so embrace it. 

Who is your role model in business?

There are many people who I currently work with who inspire me.  The GM team, Head of Operations and our MD, daily offer golden nuggets which are incredibly insightful.

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

Our region is a forward thinking area in all aspects of our industry. 

Partnerships form the basis of growth and our entwined thinking within the Alliance has helped customer satisfaction grow continually and rapidly.

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Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Fri 15th, Jun

This week I was invited to speak to and present primary school pupils with certificates for completing their Children’s University passport. The 'Passport to Learning Scheme' rewards after-school club participation and is designed to help prepare youngsters for secondary school and the opportunities beyond.

Listening to the children talk about their passion for sports, drama, dance, music – and one young man’s assertion that he “works hard, plays hard” (aged 11!) – it demonstrated how the excellence of our primary schools can inspire so many opportunities to create our next generation of working citizens with the skills and talent that we want and need within our society.

Our curriculum at secondary school has become increasingly focussed upon the traditional academic subjects and a ‘results at all costs’ mentality which has permeated education for the past 20 years. Yet we see an ever-increasing challenge of mental health and wellbeing in young people, at least partially stimulated by an inability to adapt to such a dogmatic system that fails to adequately reward or recognise talent in some of the more creative or technical subjects. We have some outstanding secondary schools in our city region but the pressures applied to them frequently result in students’ personal development and employability talent to be subjugated in the pursuit of exam results.

Careers advice and guidance is fragmented and disjointed, lacking resources to genuinely enable all school pupils to be prepared for, and guided into, the available opportunities. The ONS data released this week for 2017 demonstrated that 11.3% of our City Region population (108,000 people) had no qualifications against a rate of 7.7% in Great Britain. Our unemployment rate was 4.9% against a 4.4% Great Britain rate. It’s not good enough and needs adequate resources, funding and coordination for schools to tackle the problem.

On 20th July, we will deliver our latest economic business breakfast and will welcome representatives from the Department for Education and the Institute for Apprenticeships to enable the voice of business to be articulated and engaged about the impending changes and reforms to vocational and technical education and apprenticeships. 

For those businesses who seek to recruit or train people through apprenticeships, it is essential that you engage with this session and provide the ‘on the ground’ evidence and experience. The introduction of T-Levels, the development of further apprenticeship standards and continued deployment of the Apprenticeship Levy are all issues that our businesses will be experiencing every day and we want Chamber member businesses to fully engage with our guests at the breakfast to bridge the gap between policy-making and reality.

The apprenticeship system is a very real and tangible output from the school system. Both have their flaws and it is imperative that our businesses can influence our policy makers with insight, experience and credibility.

Children’s University provided a snapshot of some young people with dreams, ambitions and excitement for the future. We cannot allow our education system to fail them and as businesses, must contribute our resources to ensure that our requirements are met in the development of future talent at school and within our apprenticeship and technical education system.

* Children’s University is a national scheme operated in Sefton Borough Council by Sefton EBP with graduation ceremonies taking place at Edge Hill University.

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Chris Witterick, Head of Operations at LAB by Capacity

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 15th, Jun

Introduce yourself – name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

Chris Witterick, Head of Operations at LAB by Capacity – An innovative Co-working space and business incubator for commercial start-ups and social businesses.

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

More opportunities for social businesses to deliver public services. They already work in the community, employ local people and deliver real social value.

What does a typical working day look like?

Usually an early start, overseeing the team at LAB and making sure we are delivering quality and value for our members. I’m not a fan of sitting at a desk, so always try and get out and about as much as possible.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Go to university! I pursued a professional golf career for around 10 years, which was great, BUT I regret not going to university.

Where would we find you on your day off?

Hesketh Golf Club – Although I have a 14 month old boy who is seriously getting in the way of my golf…

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

You can get anything you want in life, if you just help enough other people get what they want.

Who is your role model in business?

Probably my dad. He left a secure job 25 years ago, reinvented himself and set up a business from zero. The business went on to be the industry leader in the UK and Europe.

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

I’ve lived and worked around the world, and always looked forward to coming back to Liverpool. There is a real desire to make the city a success, and you get the feeling that most people are happy to work together to build something great.

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Gregory Kearns, Sales & Marketing Assitant at The Brain Charity

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Fri 08th, Jun

Introduce yourself - name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

I'm Gregory Kearns from The Brain Charity. We are an organisation that helps people affected by neurological conditions in a variety of different ways including community activities, advice and practical support. Our centre doubles up as a room hire venue as well as having our Brain Food Café. I’m a Sales and Marketing assistant which means dealing with mainly room hire but I’ve jumped into all sorts of roles in the organisation when required. 

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

At the moment the Third Sector seems isolated; people donate but aren’t always connected to the outcome of that money or necessarily have an understanding of what the charity actually does. I think if we could change the culture and bring the Third Sector closer to the education sector then we would have a future generation who would have a better awareness and understanding of all sorts of issues.

What does a typical working day look like?

For smaller charities like The Brain Charity typical work days don’t exist. I could be producing material for our social media to give to our Comms Team, going out with our Community Ambassadors engaging with the public or taking people around our centre, showing off our wonderful rooms.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

I don’t feel wise enough to be giving anyone advice, but I wish I could have just been less anxious. However telling someone to be less anxious is rarely helpful – or successful.

Where would we find you on your day off?

Don't try and find me - my sleeping face isn't pretty and it is best for all concerned that it remains hidden.

What is the best advice you have been given in your career?

Learn from your mistakes - recognise your achievements.

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

Throughout my childhood my grandparents were constantly working with the charitable sector. Every time we went around for Sunday dinner they would have so many interesting people there who they knew through the charity, but who ended being part of our extended family. I had worked briefly with The Brain Charity when I was at university, so when I emerged fresh-faced, I instinctively knew that that was where I wanted to work and start living the values my grandparents instilled in me – though I like to think that these values were innate in me.

The Brain Charity’s 25th Birthday is coming up - the party is on the 5th of July and I know a guy who can sort you some tickets! 

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Posted by Neil Ashbridge

Fri 01st, Jun

As the weather heats up so, I suspect, are tensions in households across the country, as we enter exam season. It seems timely therefore to reflect on the challenges which employers face on one hand, in finding suitably skilled staff, and on the other, the economic and social impact of not addressing the barriers which often prevent young people reaching their potential.

In the Chamber we have a long history of working with our local universities and colleges, in partnership with private sector businesses, providing work experience, mentoring and intern opportunities. I am delighted that our latest project is with Liverpool Hope Business School which aims to address some of the issues that businesses face in finding skills and the barriers many of our young face in achieving their full potential.  The project will bring business and students together through a range of initiatives such as placements, mentoring and networking events, while also facilitating a number of economic and business research projects.

With some notable exceptions however, there tends to be a less formal engagement process with the education sector more generally, and I believe we are missing a real opportunity to engage with young people at an early age to support their aspirations and give them the confidence and skills to develop their future career path.

The growth of our burgeoning technology sector in the city region is a pertinent example. With experts forecasting increased overseas investment from the US, Europe and Asia, we need to develop the right skills base to support sustained growth in the city region. Our local universities and colleges provide a source of highly talented graduates but could the private sector be doing more to grow talent from the city region itself through raising awareness and inspiring all students at an early age to consider the sector as a future career path? Engaging at an early stage would also help to create a more diverse talent pool and address issues around the gender pay gap. Providing local apprenticeships and supporting young people who want to set up their own business (through mentoring for example) are all ways in which we can start to expand and future proof our skills base.

There are already some excellent initiatives where businesses are working with the local education sector to inspire young people but we need to see more.

We need the capacity to deliver high quality and consistent employment preparation experience for our young people which we can only deliver in partnership and with a realistic level of resources.

The Government recently announced details of a pilot project with over 40 business advisers signed up to provide hands-on bespoke business support to schools to reduce running costs and maximise resources and budgets. The intention is that this will free up teachers to focus, quite rightly, on teaching. Advice will cover aspects of financial management including smarter ways to buy essential services like water or electricity for example, or innovative ways of timetabling classes to free up teachers time.

Admirable as this initiative is, could we not consider taking it a step further so that students can also benefit from this expertise which covers a range a skills relating to financial health and efficiency, not traditionally a core part of the curriculum, but essential for increasing employability and ultimately growing our economy, whether starting up a new business or working for a multinational company.

Other government policies have had a less positive impact, despite good intentions from successive governments, primarily because they have been vulnerable to, and undermined by, the swinging of the political pendulum. To achieve a truly successful programme of education for our next generation, policies must insulate our practitioners, students and businesses from upheaval every few years. The implementation of the apprenticeship levy has demonstrated the difficulties faced by learners and employers in changes to both the funding and the practicalities of the scheme.

We will be looking at the skills agenda (always a priority for our members) at the next Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) Breakfast Briefing on Friday 20 July which will give participants the opportunity to directly input their experiences to those who are tasked with making education work for business. Whilst the views of our FTSE listed companies are important, we also need to ensure that SMEs (which make up 98% of our business base) have a voice to influence the development of any future skills policy. The panel will listen to the practical impact that apprenticeship reform has had on business and discuss how policy will evolve in the coming years.

If you haven't completed the QES Survey yet you have until 11 June click here so you don't miss the opportunity to have your voice heard.

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Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Tue 29th, May

The Chamber Transport Forum met on Friday 18 May, kindly hosted by Mott McDonald at their offices in the Liver Buildings. One of the aims of the Forum is to provide a wider social and economic context to the transport agenda and we were delighted to welcome Simon Rawlinson, Partner and Head of Strategic Research and Insight at Arcadis, who gave an excellent presentation on the recently published Arcadis report, Investing in Britain. The report looks at issues which impact on the wider investability challenge, recognising the UK’s growth potential and identifying key levers for enhancing growth. Simon gave a fascinating insight on the findings of the report specifically tailored to the city region.
 
Richard Perry, Area Lead for the Department for Transport, picked up on the wider economic theme as part of his update on government policy, outlining the department’s key priorities which include the recognition of the importance to the economy of local and regional transport as well as transformational schemes like Heathrow expansion and HS2. Robin Tudor from Liverpool John Lennon Airport rounded off the session with a short presentation on the Airport’s longer term proposals for growth (Our Journey to 2030) which sets out the potential for how it can further enhance its economic and social impact across the region. We were also delighted to be joined by local MP Louise Ellman, who continues to be a champion for transport policy. Louise gave her usual insider insight as well as taking questions from the Forum.
 
If you would like more information on the Transport Forum please contact policy@liverpoolchamber.org.uk

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Julie Sankey, International Trade Executive at the Chamber

Posted by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce

Thu 24th, May

Introduce yourself – name, where do you sit in the business, and what does the business do?

Julie Sankey. I have been with the Chamber since January 2014 working in various aspects of International Trade. I am currently the lead for the New Markets 2 funding programme which provides financial support for companies who are exporting, including costs of flights, accommodation and exhibiting at international trade shows. If you think you might be eligible you can find out more information here.

What changes would you like to see to improve or develop your sector?

Whilst there is support for new and start-up businesses at both a national and regional level, many businesses struggle with the paperwork – so any reduction in red tape and bureaucracy would be a real bonus!  

What does a typical working day look like?

Each day comes with a new set of priorities. In supporting a small business to apply for funding through the New Markets 2 programme, I need to understand what their business objectives are as well as ensuring they understand the eligibility criteria and what the funding covers. They often require wider support and information on exporting more generally and I will refer them to colleagues in the Department for International Trade. I am always looking for opportunities to promote the programme to make sure as many businesses benefit before it comes to an end in September 2018. I get a real sense of personal satisfaction being in a position to provide support for small businesses, helping them to grow through developing new markets.  

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today! Be decisive in pursuing what you want from life, but don’t be afraid to change direction either.

Where would we find you on your day off?

Ideally walking up a hill in the Lake District.

Last weekend I ran the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in Liverpool. My chosen charity was Genie in the Gutter who support people from all walks of life who suffer from substance misuse and mental health issues.

Who is your role model in business?

Anyone who has the drive, confidence, determination and tenacity to start up their own business and succeed.

Why choose Liverpool City Region?

Liverpool has its own clear identity and culture which make the people great to work with. It has a wealth of history and has easy access to gorgeous countryside in North Wales, the Peak & Lake Districts.

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Happy 9th Birthday 6th Door Ltd

Tue 19th, May

As I’m leaning on the stand-up desk in my makeshift home office, that over the weeks has been turned into a video and podcast recording studio

How to take back control of your water costs

Fri 13th, Mar

While most businesses already have a comprehensive strategy in place for their electricity and gas consumption, water management is often overlooked.

How to choose an energy consultancy

Fri 13th, Mar

Most business owners recognise the advantages of shopping around for the best energy deal, but without the time, resource and expertise to find the best tariff, it can be an almost impossible task.

Business energy: Don’t get caught out by rollover rates

Fri 13th, Mar

As a busy business owner, you may feel there are not enough hours in the day to secure your next energy contract. You know you’ll get around to it, but when you’ll get around to it is another matter.

Business water matters – Top 3 water saving tips

Fri 13th, Mar

Water is often referred to as ‘the forgotten utility’. While many large businesses are clearly focussed on their comprehensive energy strategies, it seems many are yet to implement a strategy around managing their water usage.

Know where your cloud data is stored or risk a GDPR fine

Thu 27th, Feb

For businesses who have chosen cloud-based data hosting services there’s a temptation to relax and think “great, we’re paying someone else to take care of our data, we don’t need to worry about it any more.”

Transparency plans could slow down region’s business growth

Thu 27th, Feb

Efforts by regional start-up initiatives that have led to Merseyside outperforming the rest of the UK when it comes to business growth could be hampered by new government proposals, a leading legal expert has claimed.

Backup or risk losing your business

Thu 13th, Feb

Maintaining a robust backup is hard work, it’s important to not only build the correct solution for your business and trust your IT support provider to look after it, but to also maintain a sense of urgency as a business owner to...

Information Destruction and Compliant Data Handling in the Education Sector

Thu 13th, Feb

Identity theft costs the UK economy £5.4 billion and a recent BSIA report showed 169,592 cases of identity fraud, representing an increase of 49% over the previous year.

Give Your Business Utilities a Refresh for 2020

Mon 20th, Jan

January is a time for reflection for most people and this includes business owners, with the new year bringing with it an opportunity to take stock of performance during the past 12 months, create goals for the year ahead, and ensure...