Everyone has their opinion about Brexit – but a first of its kind scheme is looking for two people to give professional advice to Suffolk businesses that would help them not only survive but flourish during this time of uncertainty.
At the beginning of the year, the Government announced it was going to award all the local councils in England extra money to help with the Brexit preparations in their areas.
In Suffolk, the Suffolk Public Sector Leaders (SPSL) group has decided to pool this money to create a joint fund – and grant some of that fund to Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to create these new posts to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) meet the challenges and opportunities presented by Brexit.
“Individually, each of the councils would be limited in what they could achieve with this extra funding. However, by pooling the money, we can really make a difference and help those most in need of our support, the small businesses (or SMEs),” said Stephen Baker, chief executive of East Suffolk Council, representing the SPSL.
“This is another example of how the local authorities in Suffolk work together with our partners to address the problems that we face, working towards a joint goal.”
The SPSL has joined up with the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce to push ahead with the idea of setting up a ‘help desk’ facility, offering support as well as the latest expert advice to local businesses on how to best prepare for Brexit in this time of uncertainty.
As well as raising awareness and signposting the information available through all the official channels, the advisers will take a problem-solving approach by speaking with businesses to diagnose barriers to their survival and growth, then help them devise action plans to address the issues.
The two specialist advisers will be employed for up to two years to support business and employment resilience in the area, helping businesses to survive and grow in the build up to and following the UK’s exit from the European Union
The two posts, will be managed by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and will work with the local authorities across Suffolk, as well as the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
In welcoming the new initiative, John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, said: “The period since the 23 June 2016 referendum has been extremely frustrating for the business community in Suffolk and across the UK.
“Business leaders and entrepreneurs are by nature pragmatists, able to make the best of virtually any eventuality, but clarity and good quality advice and support are needed to drive business on.
“These Brexit Business Advisers will be the perfect complement to our already wide portfolio of support professionals, who are using their expertise to assist businesses across the county seize growth opportunities. This includes the New Anglia Growth Hub advisers, who we manage on behalf of New Anglia LEP.”
A recent survey of its members by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce revealed the lack of certainty around Brexit has already had a negative impact on business sentiment and, therefore, investment and employment plans.
And the Suffolk Chamber’s Quarterly Economic survey results for the first quarter of 2019 showed a further decline in business activity and sentiment compared to previous quarters, especially as regards cash flow, orders and profitability
“We have received reports of many companies stockpiling inventory, including one company which has brought forward a quarter’s worth of stock - £40m in total. Clearly, this is only sustainable in the short-term as stockpiling both eats into working capital and becomes increasingly expensive as warehousing capacity grows more scarce,” said John Dugmore.
It is hoped that both Business Brexit Advisers will be in post by July 2019.