Chamber leaders in talks with PM

AT short notice, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) were invited to take a small group to meet with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No.10 on December 1.

AT short notice, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) were invited to take a small group to meet with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown at No.10 on December 1.

Led by the President Neville Rayner, also participating were the Presidents of London, Manchester, the North East and the Director General David Frost.

BCC used the opportunity to give an overview of the current state of the economy, both from the national perspective of their Quarterly Economic Survey and also local conditions as represented by the individual Chambers including Norfolk chamber of Commerce feeding in the thoughts of the Great Yarmouth businesses.

BCC then discussed their response to the Pre Budget Review. The PM said he did not think that BCC were being positive enough about the measures in the announcement.

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BCC's response was that collectively and individually Chambers had acknowledged the support measures, not least the HMRC Business Payment Support Service, Small Business Finance Scheme, the extra EIB funds and the introduction of a foreign dividend exemption for large and medium-sized businesses.

However, BCC did have concerns about Empty Property. The threshold should have been scrapped completely rather than being restricted to a £15,000 RV; Fuel Duty increases; and importantly the raising of National Insurance Contributions (NIC's).

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Gordon Brown responded by saying the fall of commodity prices would help businesses and that the increases in NIC's would only happen if it were necessary for public finances. The Government "has to show that it has sustainable public finances".

A considerable part of the meeting was spent discussing the relationship between the Banks and Business.

The BCC team pointed out the failings at the present time and the way that business was being impacted. They did point out that the Banks were in a difficult position as they clearly needed to raise their own capital. This is clearly an issue that is exercising the Prime Minister, the Treasury and BERR, and the BCC's role in the Small Business Finance Forum was acknowledged.

Finally, BCC highlighted the good work that Chambers across the country are doing to help business get through the current difficulties and the real efforts that were being made to secure the future of local economies.

Caroline Williams, CEO Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “Businesses need to continue to lobby for what they believe needs to happen especially relating to infrastructure. This includes keeping the pressure on ensuring that the dualling of the A11 process moves as fast as possible and that the rail network is improved.”


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