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East of England

3 Challenges to Business Growth in the East of England

Simone Robinson 11 Jun 2018

IoD East of England

IoD East of England Ambassadors share their thoughts on the issues holding back business growth in the region.

Each of the 5 branches within IoD East of England are represented by IoD Branch Ambassadors – IoD members who offer their time and expertise to represent the IoD in their geographical areas and for their individual portfolio areas.

We asked the IoD East of England Ambassadors what they believe are the 3 biggest challenges to business growth across the East of England.

  1. Infrastructure

    Nearly every respondent cited infrastructure as a challenge to business growth across the region. Here is a selection of their comments:

    Debi Adeyemi- IoD Hertfordshire Ambassador for Manufacturing / Infrastructure

    "There is need for more sophisticated pool of transport networks, especially rail and air to help mobilise supply chains both within the region and across it. This is always a great enabler for manufacturing / import/ export sectors to set up base within any given location. By connecting more metro/rail/airport areas across East of England especially and consequently redistributing economic activity in a more balanced way across the country, there would be stimulated growth that should bring much needed economic balance to the region and to UK as a whole."

    Malcolm Johnston- IoD Essex Ambassador for Marketing

    "We clearly need someone with vision to grip East Anglia’s disjointed infrastructure so that we make it easy for business to be done in this region and, particularly with our ports. Once again this is partly down to lack of bold leadership at County and Regional level."

    Graham Kill- IoD Suffolk Chairman

    "Passenger rail to London and Norwich is reasonable. Elsewhere it is slow, relatively expensive and sparse. Freight rail has issues. Issues are known. This particularly affects the port and related businesses. There is WIP and plans afoot, but time to resolution is an issue as the pace of competition goes unabated. Loss of productivity when key infrastructure fails such as the Orwell Bridge in high winds with no viable alternative routing is shocking - Britain’s largest container port is also reliant on the continuous availability of that key infrastructure. - Rural transport is virtually non-existant and a barrier to social mobility and opportunity as it is preventing travel for study and work."

    Vanessa Landreneau- IoD Cambridgeshire Ambassador for Human Resources

    "Our roads and railways just can’t cope with the load on them, which means commuting is a nightmare, and as much as housing is being crammed in to meet the demand (because businesses are keen to grow, and grow here) it’s just getting worse. I know they’re finally starting to tackle the A14, but goodness knows when/if the A10 will get any attention (although I know it’s on the mayor’s radar) and the train stations aren’t much help as the trains are crowded, not frequent enough and unreliable – even if you can find station parking… If people could park at the stations (because Cambridgeshire is a big, largely rural county so driving to the station is often a must) and get frequent trains with enough capacity at all of the stations it could go a long way to easing the road network (although the A10 still needs dualling given the thousands of houses being built along it…"

  2. Skills Shortage

    The second biggest challenge to growth across the region identified by IoD East of England Ambassadors was the shortage of skilled staff. A selection of their comments are below.

    Peter Basford - IoD Suffolk Ambassador for Tourism & Culture

    "Young talent is easily and regularly enticed away to London for larger salaries and the promise of the bright lights – one of the challenges particularly for Norfolk and Suffolk is to sell itself as a great place to work and live and have a balance of these instead of the bright lights of the big city and prove that high quality jobs can be obtained without the need to move away. With the UEA and the New University of Suffolk this should help raise the aspirations of Young people locally but it also should be noted that both Ipswich and Norwich are special action areas for education as the government sees that both areas are underperforming in educational results and the numbers of students moving on to FE. There is clear evidence showing if young people have 5 engagements with Successful business people whilst in education this will raise their aspirations significantly and it is important that local IOD business leaders help here with their expertise/business stories and act as role models to help young people achieve more"

    Ben Miller - IoD Suffolk Ambassador for ICT, Tech and Digital Creative

    "Recruiting the right people is not easy, when they can always get more cash in Cambridge and much more in London"

    Mark Ledger - IoD Suffolk Ambassador for Financial Services and Insurance

    "Skills shortage - this has been an issue for some years but feel it is going to get worse and be a significant barrier to growth. Obviously the immigration policy out of Brexit is critical."

    David Ramsey - IoD Norfolk Ambassador

    "Skills seem to be a standard problem everywhere largely because employers do not provide the levels of training which they once did."

  3. Uncertainty Over Brexit

    Several IoD East of England Ambassadors feel that uncertainty over how the Brexit negotiations will play out is another challenge to growth across the region. Here are some of their thoughts.

    Debi Adeyemi- IoD Hertfordshire Ambassador for Manufacturing / Infrastructure

    "Due to the uncertain nature of ongoing Brexit negotiations as well as its ultimate outcome, it is becoming increasingly challenging for organisations to invest into major infrastructure in the UK in general given the high volatility in sterling, rising prices of raw material imports, and higher costs of governmental borrowing. Many companies are moving their operations elsewhere due to Brexit and it still remains uncertain whether Scotland will hold another referendum to leave the UK but remain in the EU. Others argue that brand new innovative infrastructure investments are essential to supporting UK growth in a post-Brexit environment, allowing for inward investment that regenerates areas currently isolated from existing economic centres as well as growth in human capital and employment opportunities. Either way , the current trends are such that there's minimal activity in major capital/infrastructural projects."

    Christine Bhatt- IoD Essex Chairman and IoD Essex Ambassador for Gender Diversity

    "With our imminent departure from the EU, there is a lot of uncertainty facing businesses, leading to lack of investment to support long term business goals. We have observed companies halting their strategic business decisions until there are clear indications of trade agreements not only with the EU but other countries too such as India, China, Japan, Norway, USA, Canada etc. In turn, this is creating a lengthy time gap of actual investments being realised, leading to slow growth. As a business community, we hope that the government will be in a position to give us clear guidelines of where we stand in order for us to not only communicate with our international client base on future business transactions but also ensure the stability of our organisations."

Please do let us know your thoughts regarding the biggest challenges to growth in the East of England so that we can compile a follow up article. Email your thoughts to Simone Robinson, Head of Regional Relationships, IoD East of England

Contact IoD East of England

For more information, please contact:

East of England

Branch and staff contacts can be found on the main Contacts tab