The A47: Only connect

In the first in a series of guest blogs, Rob Facer, Managing Director of developer, Barnack Estates UK Ltd , joins the chorus of approval for the dualling of the A47.

The A47: Only connect

The route of the A47 forms an arc between Peterborough’s and Norwich’s areas of influence – a part of the Eastern region which has yet to benefit from the economic prosperity which much of the rest of this region has enjoyed. A proposal to make this arc of the A47 a dual carriageway, with associated improved junctions for access, will go some way to unlock the full economic potential of this rump of the Fens which, arguably, is the final commercial development frontier of East Anglia.

The business case for the Highways England scheme for the dualling of the 115 mile stretch of the road between Peterborough and Great Yarmouth is indisputable and it is backed by some of the region’s political hard hitters who, with Whitehall and central government support, are set to make this happen.

Earlier this year (2019), I was part of a business delegation invited by the Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority to state the case and justify central funding for the dualling of the A47 to the then Secretary of State for Transport and his departmental advisors. I have no reason to think his successors in the current or any future administrations will not be equally as receptive to the rationale.

The area’s Combined Authority is four-square behind the dualling of the A47 in meeting its remit to serve the whole of the Cambridge and Peterborough areas of Cambridgeshire. Indeed, the Authority’s Mayor, James Palmer, cut his political teeth in the local town and district politics of the East Cambridgeshire fen district and acknowledges that better transport links are required.

But the A47 doesn’t just belong to Cambridgeshire; Norfolk County Council is also a driving force behind the dualling project which will put Norfolk’s fen and coastal areas in a more advantageous commercial position.

In terms of untapping the remaining potential in the Eastern region – internationally acknowledged as one of UK plc’s powerhouses with Cambridge and, I would argue for different reasons, Peterborough at its heart – the multimillion pound investment to dual the A47 will be a pump-priming project.

Improved roads and, thereby, transport connectivity are what attract private commercial developers like me. In bringing land forward for commercial development, the speculative development industry creates obvious and direct employment in construction and the related trades.

In turn, new companies or those re-locating to new commercial developments to take advantage of improved road links, create or add to local employment opportunities and the skill sets of the local population. Then follows the service industries, who finance or advise or feed or supply the new business area’s companies. We all generate tax revenue for central government coffers as well as creating wealth in the locale.

Finally, the “Fen Frontier” will have improved connectivity with the A11/A14 East-West corridor and the East Coast ports in one direction and the North-South opportunities of the A1(M) and the A14/M11 Cambridge to Stansted corridor and the improved A14 beyond Huntingdon to Midlands and the North and North West via the M6/M1 Catthorpe interchange.

Commercial development opportunities are all about making connections.

http://www.bsm.uk.com Barker Storey Matthews now the part of Eddisons is the sole agent on a number of Barnack Estates’ new commercial developments in Peterborough and Huntingdon and advises on the developer’s long term land interests and projects in the region.

Run of freehold disposals continues with sale of Stukeley Meadows industrial unit

Run of freehold disposals continues with sale of Stukeley Meadows industrial unit

The Huntingdon office of Barker Storey Matthews – now part of Eddisons – has confirmed the freehold sale of an industrial unit on the Stukeley Meadows Industrial Estate in the town to Playfords Ltd, a building services and engineering contractor.

Unit 18 Blackstone Road is a two storey, 496.25 sq m (5,341 sq ft), semi-detached industrial unit with production, storage and office accommodation and is Playford Ltd’s new premises where it will begin trading before the end of the year (2019) on its relocation from another unit on the Stukeley Meadows Industrial Estate where it has been since 2014.

Playfords Ltd – whose other locations are in Durham and Dartford – has purchased Unit 18 Blackstone Road following the review of its commercial accommodation requirements, prompted by the change in working practices in its sector where operational teams work on-site with clients on long term project contracts rather than service clients’ needs remotely from a central office.

According to Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons, who was the sole agent instructed in the sale of Unit 18, Playfords Ltd wanted to remain on the Stukeley Meadows business district given the estate’s proximity to the A14 and A1(M) and onward road links across the country.

While the final sale price achieved is not disclosed, Richard Adam of Barker Storey Matthews confirmed that Unit 18 Blackstone Road was marketed for sale with a guide price of £480,000.

He added, “This latest sale continues the run of freehold disposals in Huntingdon which companies in a position to purchase, such as Playfords Ltd, favour – subject to the availability of stock in the right location.”

For more information on the availability of industrial premises for sale or to let in the Huntingdon area, contact Richard Adam at Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons, tel 01480 451578 or see bsm.uk.com.

The A14 funnel effect

The beefed-up A14 is bringing forward a number of new enquiries for the Huntingdon office of Barker Storey Matthews which is now part of Eddisons. Richard Adam, Director and the office’s head of agency, considers the benefit of being perfectly placed.

The A14 funnel effect

Half an hour’s drive and just over a 22 mile drive to the north of our Huntingdon office sees you in Peterborough, just over 34 minutes away by car and just over 18 miles to the south is Cambridge where Barker Storey Matthews also has an office.

So our Huntingdon office couldn’t be more perfectly placed to benefit from the ripple effects of the commercial property market in the county’s two main cities.

Huntingdon is second only to Peterborough in our agency areas of operation for being a hive of industrial activity and premises and it’s a market sector in which operators are prevailing as we begin the phases of lifting out of pandemic business lockdown.

The landmark Alconbury Weald development off the A1(M), en route to Peterborough, offers a number of property opportunities on which we are instructed, including a phases offering industrial, office and R&D possibilities.

Particularly from the Cambridge side, we’ve seen a marked a number of enquiries funnelling up towards Huntingdon in the first half of the year. It can be no coincidence that the new 12 mile stretch of the A14 Huntingdon Southern bypass opened last December.

Huntingdon’s business sphere of influence extends to the market town of St Ives which has benefitted – and is set to benefit further – from the £1.5 billion investment programme to upgrade the A14 and the local road network.

There are a number of planned new developments coming through now on which we have instructions in St Ives.

New phases at Lakes Business Park, on the edge of the town – accessed from what is now the A1307, formerly the ‘old’ A14 route – are being marketed.

Oak Court and Chestnut Court are schemes at the development on which we have been recently instructed following the success of Willow Court which is now developed out and fully occupied.

Also in St Ives, Enfield Court is a brand new development of ten units in the town’s most established industrial location, on Nuffield Road.

How business lockdown and the office life experience of working from home will shake-up office requirements remains to be seen and that’s something on which the head of agency in our Cambridge office has recently shared his thoughts.

However, the road improvements in the Huntingdon to Cambridge corridor do now afford the opportunity for the Huntingdon district to funnel through a genre and calibre of blue chip level office occupier who, historically, may have looked more to Cambridge.

For enquiries or further information from Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons about commercial property and premises, contact the office in Huntingdon, 01480 451578.

Double win at the Estates Gazette awards

Eddisons (incorporating Barker Storey Matthews) has bagged a brace of trophies at the Estates Gazette Cambridgeshire 2020 Awards.

The company was confirmed as winners of the region’s “Most Active Agent” award this week – a continuation of BSM’s winning the award for the past 6 years.

The firm’s Julian Welch also garnered the EG “Dealmaker of the Year” award, and was delighted with the outcome.

“These awards mean a great deal to us as a national business and help us to continue cementing Eddisons’ presence as market leaders across the East of England region,” he said.

“It’s great news and testament to the ongoing hard work of the whole team for continuing our winning streak.”

Also name in the awards were Cheffins in second place, with Bidwells in third, Carter Jonas in fourth and JLL in fifth.

Postponement of 2021 Rating Revaluation

Martin Hughes of Barker Storey Matthews (now part of Eddisons) considers the Government’s announcement of the postponement of next year’s scheduled revaluation which will now take place in 2022.

Postponement of 2021 Rating Revaluation

Last month’s announcement by the Communities Secretary advising of the postponement of next year’s rating revaluation was just one in the wave of government announcements whose effect will have an impact on business occupiers as we move forward in the setting of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement has not passed by without comment from property industry professionals because business rates are one of the fixed costs occupiers and operators face. Arguably, it’s been the one most subject to scrutiny and criticism in recent years as being antiquated and not flexible enough – particularly in markets which have suffered structural change during a rating period.

The May announcement, against the backdrop of easing the business lockdown, supercedes that of last spring (2019) when it was intended that the planned 2022 revaluation exercise was brought forward by twelve months to 2021.

The rationale for the postponement is that the antecedent valuation date is always two years prior to the new assessments becoming effective. That is, the 2021 revaluation figures would have been based on the market of spring 2019 and, therefore, not reflect the impact of Covid-19 on the property market.

The one year delay in the revaluation date will see it based on rents as at April this year (2020) – before the effects of lockdown had played out in the market (in whatever form that will take).

The proposed delay to 2022 of the exercise will not, therefore, be as helpful as intended. As in the last downturn – immediately following the 2008 financial crash – by the 01 April 2020 date there will have been little or no actual evidence of the impact of Covid-19 on rents.

The VOA (Valuations Office Agency resolutely defended ratings appeal against the 2010 revaluations list where rents were anchored round values as at 01 April 2008.

The basis of the defence being that there was no evidence to prove an adverse impact which would come about later in 2008, post-September, when the crash was spearheaded by the collapse of Lehman Brothers (15 September 2008).

The VOA could well argue the same case again about 01 April 2019 rental values and not take a charitable view when challenges to the post-2022 rates regime may be aired.

Given that we are in such, to coin the phrase du jour, such ‘unprecedented times’, we can’t rule out another postponement to beyond 2022. It if were later, there will be some fair and useful evidence available if the antecedent date to the revaluation exercise were to be 01 April 2021, for example.

Of course, the property industry would like to see a complete overhaul to the current regime rather than a simple delay to the revaluation.

That being said, alongside other announcements intended to mitigate the effect on businesses of trading in Covid-19 times, there are some relief and grant schemes already in place for the retail, hospitality and children’s day nurseries, among other occupiers.

In addition, many local authorities are being proactive in this respect. However, business rate payers are advised to approach their billing authority sooner rather than later to ensure they are receiving and claiming every benefit or grant for which they qualify and are entitled.

For more information about valuation services see bsm.uk.com/our-services/rating-compulsory-purchase-&-compensation.

Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds: Business in the time after Coronavirus

Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons. Simon Burton is Chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Bury St Edmunds.

Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds: Business in the time after Coronavirus

The following article is reproduced here by kind permission of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and a version first appeared in the Bury Free Press earlier this month (May).

A recent survey by Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has found that virtually every business has now been impacted by the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19 and businesses of all shape and sizes across West Suffolk will be no different.

However, what does bode well is the resilience that many businesses are showing. Despite our rurality in West Suffolk, many businesses are finding new ways of working, most noticeably from home, but also via the different working hours of staff who may have to cope with varying demands in terms of home-schooling, social distancing and general day-to-day life.

Zoom, Teams and Blue Jeans have become everyday language across most households and businesses as an effective way of ‘keeping in touch’. As a result, some businesses are actually reporting an increase in productivity. Hopefully, when we begin to ease restrictions, the improving digital connectivity will allow us to continue these flexible working patterns.

Despite the positives, of course many businesses will be struggling and we’re grateful to colleagues at West Suffolk Council who have been able to pay out grants to businesses and ensure the government support scheme provides a vital lifeline to businesses who may be counting the days and weeks rather than months.

Furthermore, the announcement of the ‘Bounce Back’ Loans scheme will be another welcome addition to those businesses needing cash. I know our colleagues at the Chamber of Commerce are busy lobbying for additional support for business including a business rates holiday and ensuring that those who fall through the gaps will be supported.

Safety is obviously paramount but local businesses will soon be looking to reopen and this must be handled carefully to ensure a second wave of the infection does not come about. Nevertheless, our town centres and shops will need footfall to survive, and although local high-streets in West Suffolk have suffered in recent years, now will be the time to support them more than ever.

Let’s hope that any recovery package from government includes support for high streets and maybe a fundamental and long overdue change to business rates which so many business groups have been calling for. High streets are the heart of our local communities and with community spirit higher than ever, I’m hopeful that consumers can pull together to help our struggling shops, restaurants and coffee shops.

These are indeed challenging times, and our resilience is being severely tested. We need to prepare for the ‘new norm’ and that will come with its own challenges, as we adapt to a new way of supporting local businesses.

Whilst the online shopping trolley has been a welcome relief during ‘lockdown’, it isn’t necessarily the panacea for all, and therefore, our high street businesses need to strike the balance between attracting footfall and generating online traffic.

Our area has much to be proud of, from how our communities are working together, to the resilience of our local businesses and to the beautiful countryside that we all probably have a greater appreciation for. To date, the public and private sector partnerships on business support and the adherence to the ‘lockdown’ guidelines,have helped reduce the spread of the infection.

Now is the time to start thinking about the recovery and how we can support businesses when they might need it the most.

For more information about Barker Storey Matthews part of Eddisons in Suffolk, contact Simon Burton, [email protected] and for Suffolk Chamber of Commerce see https://www.suffolkchamber.co.uk

WFH and office occupation

Ben Green, Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons ’ Cambridge head of agency, considers what effect our recent en masse shared experience of working from home might have on office occupation.

WFH and office occupation

In common with many office-based workers, I’ve been ‘WFH’ (working from home) for almost two months now. After a professional lifetime of commuting and conventional full time office life, it’s been something of a novelty but, by now, it’s beginning to lose its shine.

For somebody whose bread and butter business revolves around fulfilling office requirements to the satisfaction of landlords, tenants, property owners and developers with interests in Cambridge, it’s a relief to be feeling like this.

With the right adjustments – and government guidelines permitting – the return to the office looms on the horizon.

However, WFH has been instructive. It’s given me the space and time to think about how I might, in future, regularly combine some WFH days with ‘in the office’ days to reconcile better productivity with the pursuit of a better work/life balance.

It will be interesting to see if the nation’s office workforce’s shared WFH experience will have a long term effect on office occupation levels. Doubtless there will be some employees for whom WFH has been a welcome revelation. Whereas, for others, the office will be a welcome sanctuary.

Employers are being asked to consider the possibility of a phased return to office life for their workforce as the lockdown is eased. While it’s difficult to envisage office life repeating the shift work patterns of other areas of commerce and industry, phasing the return may give further impetus to the movement towards more flexible working hours in the longer term.

In office buildings, where many tenant costs are fixed and now with a workforce whose ‘flexibility’ has, paradoxically, been enforced by circumstances during the past two months, there are considerable benefits to be gained from occupying office space more creatively than the conventional 9 to 5, 5 days a week model.

In the short to medium term, employers’ obligations and employees’ considerations of social distancing requirements will definitely see office layouts alter. For this period of time too, the phenomenon of ‘hot desking’ will need to be addressed through, perhaps, a combination of WFH rotas and strict cleaning and hygiene regimes centred around shared office equipment, facilities and spaces.

These past months have sharpened our ‘Zooming’ and teleconferencing skills and these technologies will, undoubtedly, replace face-to-face meetings for a while and, it’s anticipated, some meetings forever.

We are, in the main, sociable creatures. Human interaction, encounter and collaboration are key factors in successful business dealings and transactions.

So, in time, we will need – and want – to meet again in boardrooms, conference rooms and break out spaces. I am confident office stock offering such ‘communal’ accommodation will remain in demand.

In Cambridge, as a centre of scientific excellence, the research and development sector adds another layer when it comes to office and laboratory requirements. Key occupiers here and in other centres of research across the UK and beyond have certainly – and thankfully – not been part of the last two months’ WFH experience.

 

For more information about office availability and occupier requirements in Cambridge, contact Ben Green, 01223 467155, [email protected]

Our post-pandemic High Street: an initial view and concern for Q2

Julian Welch of Eddisons Barker Storey Matthews is the Peterborough office’s agency lead on matters retail and leisure. Here he shares his initial thoughts on the way Covid-19 will reshape our high streets in 2020 and beyond- beginning now, in Q2.

Our post-pandemic High Street: an initial view and concern for Q2

The UK’s lockdown didn’t come until the final month (March) of Quarter 1 (2020) and so property eyes are immediately looking to Quarter 2.

On the high street, coronavirus and the lockdown have simply served to hasten the demise of those retail and food & beverage brands who were already limping on through the first quarter of this year.

The second quarter – anchored round June’s Quarter Day – will see a reckoning of sorts, notwithstanding the Government’s emergency – but temporary – moratorium on landlords’ ability to resort to law for non-payment of rent which, as it stands to date, ends in May.

Consensus abounds about the inevitable high level of business failures and en masse redundancies – particularly in the retail and food & beverage sectors – when lockdown ends. There will be no ‘Day Zero’ when it comes to lockdown ending with the mooted phased ‘return to work’ over the coming weeks.

As it stands, to date, the Government is only committed to furlough payments until the end of June. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently hinted that a phased removal of the furlough scheme is under consideration. Economic commentators talk of salary support dropping from its present 80 per cent to 50 to 40 then 30 per cent in consecutive months were any form of furlough scheme still in existence beyond June.

Then there is consideration of the inevitable effect on consumers’ disposable income and discretionary spending that drive high street retail and leisure fortunes. Even if furlough is extended, it just will not be enough to prevent job losses and business failures in the high street – and other – sectors.

Piling on another layer of uncertainty for operators in the sector is whether or not customers and patrons will return to their former high street and leisure pursuits. And if they come, will they stay?

Savvy civic and private stakeholders in the high street had rung the changes over the past decade and acknowledged that, as customers and patrons, we were looking to have a shopping and leisure ‘experience’.

Who can say for sure that we will want to linger and experience the vibe of eating and socialising in the wider company of strangers?

Proprietors who can organise social distancing will prevail, for the time being at least. However, from this vantage point in the pandemic’s phase, it is difficult to make the call as to whether it will be the large or small operators who will best cater to customers’ new socialising and spending priorities.

On the one hand, larger venues might be better placed to capitalise on their available space by setting aside cordoned-off areas. Or will, with a squeeze on discretionary spend, patrons want to enjoy the exclusivity and intimacy of the niche, independent operators whose offering can charge a premium for a non-en masse experience?

The flip side is that some operators have come through the past two months in a better place than others because of the flexibility of their response and position during the period of lockdown.

Those retailers who were already serving the public with click and collect or online ordering/delivery services across a number of channels will continue – for the foreseeable phases of any future lockdown periods – to enjoy trade. These operators have seem a massive increase in trade in the past two months and they will seek to retain this market share going forward

Consumers have learned to love their neighbourhood grocers, butchers, farm shop or at ‘farm gate’ outlets again – alongside their local milkman.

Additionally, a number of wholesalers of fresh produce, baked and pre-prepared goods and confectionery who once supplied restaurants, schools and institutions have been turning their hands to direct ‘doorstep’ deliveries. From their warehouse units, these wholesale suppliers have, in the main, done this by harnessing the power and reach of social media platforms in their communities and local word of mouth recommendation.

Colleagues specialising in industrial agency – where the warehouse and distribution operators reside – are experiencing a demand as unprecedented as the times. It will be interesting to see how this plays out when it comes to rental values in the industrial sector.

Even if the Government is not minded to extend its moratorium scheme curtailing civil litigation against non-payment of rent to the June quarter, it is not unreasonable to assume landlords will still act reasonably. However, operators who have been overly reliant on this layer of protection do leave themselves exposed now.

Landlords are pragmatic and we would urge occupiers to proactively open up a dialogue now and not wait – and thereby run considerable risk – before addressing the issue.

In the immediate term, CVAs (Company Voluntary Arrangements) and rent holidays and temporary moratoriums – whether or not Government-led – will dominate commercial property reporting on the high street because voids are not in landlords’ interest.

The next phase of thinking about property in the post-pandemic shakedown will be for property owners and investors to consider alternative uses for what were once retail or leisure units. This could be a change of planning use within commercial business use classes or, alternatively, a more radical change of use.

The past two months have put in to sharp relief what has been playing out on our high streets for the past decade. For the high street, there can be no going back to its old offering as that had been in doubt and in transition for a number of years before Covid-19 came along.

Along with our economic, civic, cultural, public and private prosperity, high street property fortunes face a long haul to a very different place than that of just eight weeks ago.

For more information about retail, food & beverage and leisure property prospects and opportunities, contact Julian Welch on 01733 897722.

“Confessions of an APC student”

The popular saying, ‘Every day is a school day’ implies that we never stop learning and when you’re a new graduate in a property surveying practice, every day is a work day too. Thomas Campbell is based in the Huntingdon office of Barker Storey Matthews – now part of Eddisons – and he is one of the firm’s graduate surveyors. He shares his thoughts on combining work and study as he strives towards full membership status of the RICS.

“Confessions of an APC student”

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is our industry’s professional body. The gold standard of achievement for any new graduate in our profession is the attainment of the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) qualification and, thereby, full chartered surveyor status.

There are a number of routes – called ‘pathways – endorsed by the RICS to achieve the APC qualification. Most graduate surveyors in Barker Storey Matthews choose the Commercial Property pathway. And this is the one I am now pursuing just under a year after graduating last summer (2018) with an honours degree in Real Estate from Sheffield Hallam University.

The APC assessment, by way of a written submission, and the accompanying panel interview are held in two bursts in any one year – the spring and the autumn. It’s a general expectation in our profession that a graduate surveyor should sit and complete the APC process in short order once enough relevant industry experience has been gained to demonstrate what is termed, ‘competencies’.

The RICS specifies a number of mandatory competencies and there are also technical competencies which APC candidates are expected to achieve. Mandatory competencies include: Accounting Principles and Procedure; Conflict Avoidance, Management and Dispute; Data Management and Health and Safety, among others. Technical competencies can cover aspects such as Agency, Development Appraisal, Valuation and Inspection.

I am working towards the APC with a view to achieving MRICS status with the ‘M’ standing for Member but there is an APC pathway towards ‘Associate’ status – AssocRICS – too.

Regardless of which chosen pathway, the RICS APC is a globally recognised qualification and it’s acknowledged as a marque of excellence and professional competence in the property surveying discipline – and that’s worldwide.

It’s not easy balancing study for the APC and the demands of a full time job so time management skills are vital. On average, I spend about five to six hours on study, weekly, in addition to my ‘paid’ working week hours.

As with any course of study, it’s important to read around the subject to reinforce and supplement an understanding of our profession and its commercial application and execution.

Trade journals such as Estates Gazette and Property Week, among others, are essential reading to keep up to speed with industry trends, thought leadership from industry opinion formers and influencers and latest best practice. You can bank on the APC assessors having read the latest editions when the time comes for the panel interview.

While formal study and supplementary reading are an investment in my future career, Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons supports study with holiday leave and by paying the fees for the APC qualification. I can also take time to study within a working day if required.

At Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons , we are assigned a dedicated mentor in the office in which we work. This is always somebody senior who has years of professional experience in practising chartered surveying. I work closely with my mentor, Michael Beardall, particularly on valuations, but he also oversees all the work I do and it’s reassuring to know he’s there with guidance and constructive input on every aspect of my working day.

Michael is my professional ‘agony uncle’ but there are other current and newly qualified APC students in other Barker Storey Matthews’ now part of Eddisons offices across the region with whom it’s good to consult and share thinking and APC study tips.

The RICS’ MATRICS network is useful and I’ve attended events in Cambridgeshire which are designed for APC candidates, exclusively. The firm is a member of PAI Commercial Property Network where a group for APC candidates is hosted to discuss different topics. These networks are proving really useful for insights from APC applicants working in property sectors other than commercial and in all sizes of property consultancies.

It’s reassuring to be within such a supportive and collaborative network of peers in property practice but, ultimately, attaining APC status is down to an individual’s effort and achievement.

It’s the next step – after completing a degree – on a career path where continuous professional development is a requirement to the benefit of the individual RICS member, the practice and, of course, the clients.

For information about current vacancies at Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons , see https://www.bsm.uk.com/useful-pages/vacancies-at-barker-storey-matthews/

Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds: We must improve workplace training

Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons. Simon Burton is Chair of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in Bury St Edmunds. The following article is reproduced here by kind permission of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds: We must improve workplace training

Two of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce’s many roles are to use our members’ expertise and insights to both shape policy changes at a national level and to promote the county to a wider audience.

We’ve already been very busy across both fronts this year.

As regards the former, we hosted a meeting Elena Magrini, a senior analyst at the Centre for Cities and a commissioner for the Workplace Training and development Commission, which has been set up by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the national business body to which we are affiliated.

The commission has been gathering evidence for a number of months and will be issuing an interim report in the spring into how the UK can better support workers from the age of 25 and upwards.

The final report will provide the basis for the BCC and accredited chambers, such as Suffolk Chamber, to lobby the Government for changes to be made.

The round-table event identified a range of challengers facing companies, including diifficulties in navigating the skills system, the reluctance of some staff to retrain due to work and domestic time pressures, and concerns about staff leaving for new jobs once they receive training investment.

Many businesses also felt that there was too much focus on formal qualifications and not enough on developing the right attitudes among staff and their willingness to learn and adapt.

Participants had a clear list of what they want from the Government to improve workplace training and development.

These include reducing the constant changes in the education system, establishing a single source of advice and support for businesses to turn to and increased capital investment, as well as revenue expenditure in boosting training facilities, including new technologies.

The businesses present also wanted a better mix of classroom and on-the-job training in more bite-sized chunks and a more joined-up approach between businesses and skills providers.

At the same time, we are starting another year of working with Suffolk County Council on the next Invest in Suffolk Ambassadors’ programme.

Invest in Suffolk was launched by Suffolk County Council in 2014 to promote the county as a business location and to respond to inward investment inquiries and opportunities.

Working together with Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Invest in Suffolk has recruited more than 100 high-profile business leaders and professionals to become ambassadors, who are willing to use their expertise to positively influence other decision makers to ensure Suffolk reaches its potential as a top business location.

For more information about Barker Storey Matthews now part of Eddisons in Suffolk, contact Simon Burton, [email protected] and for Suffolk Chamber of Commerce see https://www.suffolkchamber.co.uk