Business expert Tim Parker, President of the Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire Chambers of Commerce, says business can look forward to 2014 with optimism following a year of sustained growth in the local and national economy.
In his New Year message to businesses, Mr Parker said that although challenges remain, the economy has progressed well throughout the year.
He also outlined some of the key areas of business policy which the Chamber will be lobbying for throughout 2014 and in the run up to the 2015 General Election.
Mr Parker said: “2013 has been a significant year for business in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, and for us as the Chamber of Commerce. As the year comes to a close, what is clear is there are lots of reasons to be optimistic for 2014 but also lots of hard work still to be done.
“The year has seen the economy – both here in the East Midlands and nationally – go through some significant changes. From business responses to our Quarterly Economic Survey, it is clear we are in a much healthier position now than we were 12 months ago, when businesses reported low levels of activity and a dubious outlook for the coming months.
“Now, businesses of all sizes and from all sectors are telling us they’re experiencing uplift in sales and activity and have greater confidence this will continue into the New Year.
“However, this growth – hard won by business – is not yet secure. While the Coalition Government has announced numerous measures intended to support business, we are yet to see the decisive policies which will have a meaningful impact.
“Business Rates provide a good example of an area where the Government has tinkered around the edges, using the Autumn Statement to announce a two per cent cap, as opposed to delivering the real reform of this iniquitous and unfair system we have called upon them to do.
“Despite measures announced, businesses still report to us issues in accessing finance, getting tangled up in restrictive red tape and being unable to recruit staff with the right skills and attributes.
“All of these act to hinder growth. 2014 is the year where business needs to see Government policy deliver for business.
“2013 has also involved an historic change for the Chamber. This month [December] DNCC and Leicestershire Chamber formally merged, consolidating us as the second largest Chamber in the UK, with a membership around 4,000 strong.
“Bringing together the three counties and cities puts us in a unique and powerful position to represent the voice of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire business in the big national discussions.
“We have worked with members on the issues which are important to them for next year and leading up to the General Election in 2015. In January, we will launch our policy manifesto for the year, taking these messages to national, regional and local decision makers.
“The savings associated with creating one bigger organisation also mean we are able to put greater resource into representing business needs on the local issues which impact upon the day-to-day activities of our members and are of most importance to them.
“This work is part of the bread and butter of what we do and we remain the champions of business in our villages, towns and cities.
“As we reflect on the year gone by, there is much for business to be proud of. When the economy struggled at the start of the year, businesses across the three cities and counties demonstrated resilience and a commitment to growth.
“This has enabled us to end the year with a sense of optimism that few would have predicted. 2014 brings with it challenges and opportunities for business.”
Throughout 2014 and beyond, the Chamber aims to actively campaigning to bring about:
A full review of the fundamentally flawed Business Rates system
The swift implementation of a British Business Bank that is effective and fit for purpose
Further measures to ensure loan funding is getting to business
More incentives for businesses to recruit
The faster roll-out of high-speed broadband across the region
Further infrastructure investment to improve connectivity
Incentives and support to get more businesses exporting.
Mr Parker added: “We look forward to continuing this work and ensuring we can rise to those challenges, exploit those opportunities and create an environment in which businesses in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire can succeed.
“I wish you all Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.”