Intelligence Briefing 30th April 2015

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In this issue: Invitation to attend a manufacturing focus group on reform of the business rates system | CEEMET discusses employment and skills policy with MEPs | EEF meets with the Environment Agency to discuss charging proposals | MEPs vote on EU conflict minerals regulation | Plug the skills gap and become more ‘disability confident’ | Businesswoman of the Year Awards | In the media | Week in review | The week ahead | Blogs from this week

Invitation to attend a manufacturing focus group on reform of the business rates system

The Treasury is currently consulting on reform to the structure of the business rates system in England. A potential reform of the system could lead to significant consequences for manufacturers, from paying higher rates to more frequent revaluations.

Other sectors will be putting forward their own proposals for reform which could unintentionally affect manufacturers. EEF needs to make sure the views of our sector are heard just as clearly and are inviting manufacturers to attend one of our upcoming focus groups to give their valuable input on this important issue.

EEF are interested in hearing about:

  • The role of business rates on your business planning and your site operating costs
  • Having plant and machinery assessed as part of your rateable value during the revaluation process
  • Making appeals to your rateable value following changes to your site

The events will be held on:

  • Thursday 28th May - Morning session with a working breakfast – Broadway House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NQ
  • Wednesday 3rd June - Morning session follow by lunch – St James’s House, Frederick Road, Birmingham, B15 1JJ

For more information or to book your place contact Chris Richards, Senior Business Environment Policy Advisor

CEEMET discusses employment and skills policy with MEPs

This week EEF joined colleagues from our European Association, CEEMET, and its member organisations in France and Italy to meet MEPs in Strasbourg from across the political spectrum. On the agenda were key dossiers for the European Parliament Employment Committee, such as the European Skills Gap, the review of 24 EU Health & Safety directives, and the European Commission’s Better Regulation programme, REFIT.

EEF also met with UK MEPs, Siôn Simon (Labour), Anneliese Dodds (Labour), Amjad Bashir (Conservative), Kay Swinburne (Conservative), Molly Scott Cato (Green) and Seb Dance (Labour) on a range of issues including the EU’s €315bn European Fund for Strategic Investment, Better Regulation and reform of the EU flagship emission reduction scheme, EUETS.

For more information contact Fergus McReynolds, Director of EU Affairs

EEF meets with the Environment Agency to discuss charging proposals

EEF met with Harvey Bradshaw, Head of Environment and Business at the Environment Agency (EA), to outline our concerns with the Agency’s planned charges escalator for operators of EA-regulated sites deemed to be of high risk.

To determine which sites are high risk, the Agency uses a tool to assess operator competence, compliance, the complexity and risk of the operations and the location’s environmental sensitivity. Sites are graded A-F. Higher graded sites can benefit from reduced charges and less regulatory intervention. Lower banded sites are targeted by the EA and have increased charges as a result.

However, the Agency has said that its budget for regulating these sites is running in deficit. It is proposing to increase the escalator to sites that have been awarded a D, E or F grade for more than two years. Under the proposals, D graded sites will see a 200% increase (current 125%), E sites a 300% increase (currently 150%) and F sites a 500% increase (currently 300%).

EEF argued that the proposals are unfair because affected members will pay more than the costs associated with the EA’s regulation of the site. This is not in line with the requirements set out in both the Environmental Permitting Regulations and the Regulator’s Code. We also highlighted some concerning flaws in the system the Agency uses to grade sites.

The EA said that while the proposal has now been signed off by the board, it recognised the issues EEF raised and would reflect on them. EEF will now take our arguments to Defra and the Treasury who are required to sign off the Agency’s proposals.

For more information contact Susanne Baker, Senior Climate and Environment Policy Adviser

MEPs vote on EU conflict minerals regulation

The risk of mandatory due diligence requirements being introduced for manufacturers of products containing tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold has reduced slightly following a vote by MEPs in the European Parliament’s international trade committee last week.

EEF engaged with MEPs before the vote, urging them to stick to the voluntary self-certification approach recommended by the European Commission, which also focuses on the start of the supply chain where there are fewer companies and it is easier to control the sourcing of metals and ores.

The committee backed a mandatory approach but only for smelters and refiners. It also voted down a proposal to extend the regulation’s scope to other minerals and metals and agreed the EU should recognise industry self-certification schemes.

However, there is a risk MEPs will try and expand the regulation’s scope again in a vote in the full Parliament scheduled for May. To help prepare for this vote EEF is interested in hearing from members who are already struggling with conflict minerals requests from customers involved in voluntary schemes or affected by the US Dodd Frank Act.

For more information contact Roz Bulleid, Senior Climate and Environment Policy Advisor

Plug the skills gap and become more ‘disability confident’

Change100 is looking for businesses to take on disabled students and new graduates for a three-month summer internship this year. Now in its second year, the initiative matches talented disabled students with some of the UK’s leading employers, unlocking currently untapped potential and helping businesses feel confident about accessing this talent pool.

The programme aims to support businesses in becoming more confident about disability by providing advice and guidance. It has already received strong support from leading companies, including Barclays, Standard Life and Pearson.

Last year multinational brewing and beverage company SAB Miller provided three internships for disabled students. You can read about the company’s positive experience here and find out more about how your company can get involved here.

Businesswoman of the Year Awards

EEF is supporting the Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2015, which are designed to celebrate the achievements of female business leaders – particularly in science, engineering and technology. The awards help to promote inspiring role models who, in turn, encourage others to reach their full potential. Previous winners include Baroness Karren Brady CBE and Hilary Devey CBE, and entries from all sectors are welcomed.

The awards will be held on Friday 9th October. Entries and nominations can be made here.

In the media

The Financial Times (subscription required) quoted EEF in an article about manufacturing productivity levels in the UK.

For more information contact Sophie Carroll, External Affairs Executive

Week in review

GDP (first estimate)

ONS estimate that the UK economy grew 0.3% in the first quarter of 2015. Although positive, this number was below the consensus estimate of 0.5%, and down from 0.6% growth in 2014 q4. Manufacturing output is estimated to have grown by 0.1%, the eight consecutive quarter of growth for the sector.

The week ahead

1st May: Manufacturing PMI

Blogs from this week

29 Apr 2015 - Manufacturing around the UK | Felicity Burch
28 Apr 2015 - Q1 GDP - disappointing, yes. Surprising, no. | Lee Hopley
27 Apr 2015 - Why back manufacturing? | George Nikolaidis

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