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British Chambers of Commerce News

British Chambers of Commerce News (534)

Commenting on the Apprenticeship statistics released today by the Department of Education, Jane Gratton, Head of Skills at the British Chambers of Commerce said: “Since the introduction of the apprenticeship reforms, the statistics have shown a marked decline in the number of apprenticeship starts and, sadly, the latest numbers are no different.

“Businesses are crying out for skilled workers to fill job vacancies and apprenticeships should be very much part of the solution, but the system just isn’t working. For SMEs in particular, the new rules have added to the barriers, complexity and cost of recruiting and training staff. For larger firms, the inflexibility of the system has made it difficult to spend their levy funds as they see best, making it feel more like a tax, and leaving less money available to pay for the training people need. Businesses want to invest more in upskilling their workforce, and to offer great career opportunities for young people, but this system is holding everyone back.  

Commenting on the labour market figures for May 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “With unemployment declining and employment levels continuing to rise, the latest data confirms that the labour market remains a bright spot for the UK economy. However, while the latest figures are likely to reinforce the MPC’s hawkish rhetoric, labour market data tends to lag behind the wider economy, so any broader weakening in economic conditions wouldn’t be expected to appear in the figures for some time.

“While regular earnings growth continues to marginally outpace inflation, the decline in UK productivity in the first quarter is a clear warning sign that positive real wage growth should not be taken for granted. While businesses are reporting some upward pressure on pay, sluggish productivity and high upfront business costs are restricting the extent to which wages are able to rise.

Commenting on the Bank of England inflation report and interest rate decision published on ‘Super Thursday’, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

“The decision to keep interest rates on hold, while unsurprising, was the right decision given the loss of momentum suffered by the UK economy in the first quarter and the downgrade to their 2018 GDP growth forecast. That said, the limited lowering of its GDP growth and inflation forecasts over 2019 and 2020, and the hawkish tone of the minutes from the latest MPC meeting, suggest that the prospect of an interest rate rise this year looks to have been delayed, rather than discarded.

Reacting to comments made by Business Secretary Greg Clark MP and other political interviewees on the Andrew Marr programme regarding future customs arrangements, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Whatever the final customs deal, the UK government must ensure that trading businesses face only one set of changes, not two, as they move goods across borders whether by land, sea or air. 

“An agreement to maintain something close to the status quo until new rules, technology, infrastructure and staff are in place is a no-brainer. The alternative is greater uncertainty, disrupted supply chains, and one costly adjustment after another. 

Commenting on the GDP figures for Q1 2018, released today by the ONS, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Sadly, the latest GDP figures confirm what we have been saying for some time: the UK is stuck in the global growth slow lane, while other countries race ahead.

“Westminster politicians need to start focusing their attention on a much stronger, more proactive drive to boost growth and investment. While the ‘Beast from the East’ clearly had an impact in the first quarter, the underlying slow-growth trend is real cause for concern.

New research by the British Chambers of Commerce, released today (Monday), in partnership with the Port of Dover, finds that over a third (36%) of traders rely on the just-in-time delivery of material and components, but that many are not preparing for changes to customs procedures after Brexit.

The survey, based on the responses of over 835 businesses from across the UK that export or import, found that delays at UK or EU ports would lead to considerable business disruption, particularly for those operating a just-in-time model.

Only half of businesses believe the UK’s phone network is more reliable than five years ago, according to new research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) released today (Friday).

A survey by the BCC of over 1,100 businesses, found that while 53% of firms believe the reliability of the UK’s mobile phone network has improved compared to five years ago, 30% believe there has been no change and 16% say that it is less reliable.

Commenting on the inflation statistics for March 2018, published today by the Office for National Statistics, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “Inflation slowed again in March, confirming its downward trajectory. The largest downward pressure came from clothing and footwear prices which rose by less than a year ago. The latest figures also provide further confirmation that real wage growth has returned to positive territory. 

Commenting on the labour market figures for April 2018, published today by the ONS, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “The continued rise in employment, coupled with a further drop-in the unemployment rate, is further evidence that the UK jobs market remains in good shape, with firms continuing to recruit despite sluggish economic conditions. However, the rising number of hours worked indicates that the recent pick-up in UK productivity is likely to be short lived.

Over a third of businesses don’t believe that the UK’s road and rail networks are meeting their needs, according to new research by the British Chambers of Commerce, released today (Tuesday).

The results, based on a survey of over 1,100 business across the UK, found that 39% of firms don’t believe that UK’s rail network meets their needs in accessing new and existing customers, suppliers and employers, compared to 34% that do.

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