North East Businesses call for Energy Reform
North East business leaders and politicians have attended a Business Energy Policy meeting hosted by leading law firm Muckle LLP to discuss how energy policy can help industry in the North East and beyond be more competitive.
Led by Iain Wright Chair of the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee and MP for Hartlepool, the group looked at how businesses and, in particular, the manufacturing sector can be supported via the Government’s emerging Industrial Strategy. Speaking on the importance of working with businesses to understand how policy can best assist local economies Iain Wright MP said;
“With the UK currently in the process of leaving the European Union we are seeing a great deal of political and economic uncertainty. It is now more important than ever to have a strong voice for local businesses and means by which they can connect with policy makers.”
The event organised by Invicta Public Affairs included businesses from around the North East including representatives from Emergya Wind Technology, the North East Automotive Alliance, Komatsu UK, Banks Group and Nifco. The businesses were able to provide insights on how energy policy can best support manufacturing in the region while also balancing the need to protect supply and meet national carbon reduction targets agreed by Government.
Planning policy was cited as a key existing area of concern. The Chair was told that current planning guidance puts U.K. manufacturers, including the North East’s large automotive sector, at an unnecessary competitive disadvantage. At present the Government does not discern between large rural wind farms and the use of small single turbines at industrial sites, which would reduce energy costs and carbon emissions for businesses. Mark Peebles, of Emergya Wind Technology said;
“To encourage business growth Government policy must better reflect the needs of manufacturers in the UK. At present, ministerial guidance governing planning policy is preventing energy intensive business in this country from reducing their costs and becoming more competitive. A small policy clarification from Government would help business and industry to invest in technology that would underpin wealth and job creation for many years to come.”
The North East is a leading example of the much emphasised ‘place based economy’ with a wealth of existing assets in the shape of a broad manufacturing base. The panel argued just minor changes to existing Government policy would help unlock this potential and spur the North East on to becoming a manufacturing-led economic powerhouse.
This point was reiterated by Chi Onwurah, Newcastle Central MP and Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy who advised;
“The UK’s Industrial Strategy should include a vision for the kind of economy we want – and that must include successful manufacturing industries with sustainable competitive energy supply. The roundtable was extremely useful in developing the policy approaches which can enable that.”
Andrew Davidson, Partner at Muckle LLP and Head of their Energy team said of the event;
“We were delighted to host the meeting. We are working with a number of businesses regarding energy generation and efficiency . It is important that we work with opinion-formers and business leaders in the region to help get the changes we need in policy. A focus on the availability of energy at a competitive cost will help to shape the wider industrial strategy and its successful delivery.”
The discussion will feed into the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Committee’s wider examination of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.
“Together we employ thousands of people across the region. EU membership has been an important driver of economic development in the North East.
Businesses in the North East need unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs.
We support the UK remaining a member of the European Union, and add our voice to the major unions, business organisations, manufacturers, local government leaders, major party leaders and our international allies and friends sharing this common desire.
We recognise the EU is not perfect. However, we also recognise that the UK has benefitted enormously since the joining in 1975, making the terrible 70’s a distant past, and helping in no small measure to make the UK one of the strongest economies in the world.
We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the North East economy at risk.
The UK is one of the most powerful nations within the EU and has made significant contributions to making the EU better in terms of trade, rights and security.
We wish this role to continue and we believe continued membership to be in the best interests of jobs, trade and investment, security and maintaining and enhancing the UK’s leading position in the world. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.”
Our Head of Public Affairs Mark Stephenson has been speaking to BDaily about the EU Referendum and what it means for businesses, particularly in the North East. Here is what he had to say:
Mark Stephenson – Head of Public Affairs
“For business confidence, investment, growth and freedom of trade there is only one way to vote – and that’s to stay in the EU. Divorcing ourselves significantly reduces the UK’s attractiveness to investors, including the large multinationals who seek entry to our region because they deem it attractive.
“Manufacturing giants Nissan and Hitachi are in favour of the UK remaining in the European Market and there is a reason for this. Likewise, the majority of businesses polled in every survey favour us remaining in the UK.
“Leaving would be disproportionately harmful to our clients’ operations in the UK nations and regions. Add to this exporters relying on the access provided by EU membership to a common market of over 500m consumers, and it is clear our economy is better off in.
“Devolution of policy and regulatory power to the nations and regions is now embedded in some areas and emerging in others. The PM’s deal with EU leaders ensures that the UK can take its place in the EU on terms we are comfortable with, without impacting negatively on other member states. The deal is not perfect, nor is the EU, but it serves us well.
“If we want to make our own decisions in the North East, devolution will continue to benefit from EU membership. Everyone interested in job and wealth creation, must play our part in communicating the importance of voting to remain EU members. All businesses are familiar with risk. We will opt for risk if there is reward but only with an evidence based plan. We have no such plan – Brexit is not bankable.”
Read the full B-Daily EU Referendum North East Business Round Up Here
NEWCASTLE-based political consultancy Invicta Public Affairs is celebrating its first birthday in the city, not with candles and a cake, but with a warning on the dangers that lie in a vote to leave the EU.
With a little over a month until the referendum, the firm of business and political experts has outlined its fears on the potential devastating impact a Brexit could have on UK firms and economic growth. Mark Stephenson, Invicta head of public affairs, said:
“Invicta is celebrating one-year at our Milburn House base in Newcastle against the backdrop of huge political uncertainty, not least of all due to the EU Referendum on 23 June, which is clearly impacting on business’ appetite to invest and grow.
“We work closely with a wide range of investors from around the world and all, bar none, are concerned about the possibility of a UK-EU exit. Added to this, clients within the UK are holding back on major and minor investment decisions while this period of uncertainty lingers. The direction of policy and of our economy could change greatly come 24th June so businesses are being understandably cautious.”
The public affairs consultancy last year relocated its UK headquarters to Newcastle, while expanding its team of advisers which work with businesses in the energy, housing, retail and commercial development sectors.
“We have had a fantastic first year and we look set for that to kick on into our second,” added Mark. “But it’s a huge shame that the referendum is casting such a huge shadow across all sectors and our political landscape – it would be wrong of us to celebrate our anniversary when our clients are so concerned about the UK’s uncertain future.”
Invicta advises 150 clients and has helped businesses realise over £2bn of UK investment in the past ten years alone.
Jessie Joe Jacobs, North East Field Director with Britain Stronger In Europe, said: “Invicta, like many growing North East businesses, is doing well. It is no surprise therefore that they are fearful about the results of the referendum and want to use their birthday to highlight these fears.
“The 100,000 jobs related to EU trade, our economy, regional investment and hard earned workers rights are all at risk. Its enough to bring any party to an early end.”
Mark added: “Invicta has gone from strength to strength and we hope to recruit and grow further in the coming months. Ideally the UK will continue to reap the benefits of EU membership and this would undoubtedly provide opportunities for us, our clients with resulting jobs and wealth creation that this entails.”
Invicta Public Affairs’ Director Mark Cummings has argued last Thursday’s election results show a very fragmented picture and point to a new reality for British politics. Where in the past we would have seen a uniform sweep across local, national and devolved elections, the differential nature of voting throughout the UK now means far less political certainty.
Invicta Public Affairs has 15 years experience advising businesses across a range of sectors in Scotland, helping to navigate the often complex regulatory frameworks. The firm uses it’s expertise and experience in working with devolved Government to assist businesses throughout the UK in successfully navigating the challenges and opportunities that go hand in hand with greater decentralisation of powers.
Reflecting on the implications of Thursday’s results Director of Invicta Public Affairs Mark Cummings explained:
“We are currently in a period of significant political change. We see an electorate energised by the upcoming EU referendum and this is not necessarily good for businesses. The increase in support for UKIP in England and particularly Wales this week points to at least another 1-2 months of further political uncertainty as the referendum remains too close to call.”
While the results of the English Local Elections were largely unremarkable, Mr Cummings argues we are likely to see further fragmentation of voting patterns in England over the next few years as the planned devolution of powers to city regions becomes a reality. He explains the risks:
“There is still little certainty as to the expected political makeup of these devolved bodies or how they would operate. The truth is we don’t know how voters will react when asked to vote for a regional mayor but our experience working with devolved government suggests to us it will deviate from traditional voting patterns.
“As is the case with the EU referendum and the threat of a further vote for Scottish Independence, the lack of certainty engendered by these proposed changes ultimately discourages businesses from making investments and will stymie growth in the areas impacted.”
The results last week in Scotland on the other hand seem to signal an unexpected period of much needed political stability. He continued:
“The SNP’s failure to secure an overall parliamentary majority means they are far less likely to seek to push through a further independence referendum during this parliament. Without the necessary backing from MSPs they would struggle to get enough support for such a vote.
“This is excellent news for businesses in Scotland; it has reached a period of relative political normality and the leadership can now look forward to bringing in their programme of Government without the constitutional wrangling that dogged the previous Parliament.”
The Government has spurned a chance to secure thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in North East investment leaving jobs in energy and manufacturing industries dangerously exposed.
Investors in sectors as varied as carbon capture and storage (CCS), offshore wind and solar have been at pains to point out the damaging effects of government policy as support for key technologies has been axed.
Mark Stephenson, Head of Public Affairs for Invicta Public Affairs said:
“The government has recently cut support for carbon capture and storage as well as a range of renewables technologies. Not only will this push up bills and stifle investment in renewables, it will endanger jobs in energy intensive industries in areas such as the North East.”
“CCS for example could lower industrial emissions by as much as 90% and support many thousands of jobs. Offshore we have the opportunity to invest in wind farms such as Dogger Bank but policy uncertainty has now cost the North East and Humber over £2bn in investment and over 70,000 jobs owing to the downsizing of investment pipelines.
“The Government must understand that there are areas of the country which want and need energy as well as development, the North East is one of those areas.
“Unfortunately 2015 saw the brutal reality of what happens when uncertainty in government policy and poor market conditions collide. It is a huge injustice to those who lost jobs at the likes of SSI that these lessons haven’t been learned.
“It is not just energy generators which are set to suffer. Businesses across a range of sectors rely on local investment to grow and create job opportunities. Our manufacturers, transport and logistics businesses including our two biggest ports on the Tees and Tyne stand to gain hugely if the government can plan further ahead and provide sufficient policy stability that investors aren’t pushed out of the UK market.
“It is important now that the government looks ahead and takes action to reassure investors and employment in these key areas of our economy.”