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Steve Elsom explains changes to the structure of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce in the west of the county

As the transitional chair of Suffolk Chamber in West Suffolk I wanted to say hello to anyone who doesn’t know me and to explain the recent changes that have taken place at your Chamber.

At one level, how Suffolk Chamber organises itself might seem remote from the day-to-day needs of our members.

But through our current rolling programme of internal improvements, we believe that we are better able to both support and represent our valued members’ interests in a rapidly-changing world.

Steve Elsom
Steve Elsom

Following on from the launch of Suffolk Chamber in Central Suffolk (covering the Babergh and Mid Suffolk districts) in 2019, the process has begun to establish its equivalent covering the area administered by West Suffolk Council.

With Suffolk Chamber board approval and that of the three existing chapters in the west of the county, a new transitional Suffolk Chamber in West Suffolk board has been set up, comprising all existing board members from the old Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds, Haverhill & District and Newmarket & District, the last of which I’ve been chairing.

The aim is to develop a smaller board ready to tackle the key issues facing businesses in the area over the following years.

Suffolk Chamber in West Suffolk represents the best of both worlds. It’s certainly the right fighting weight to ensure that the views of businesses are listened to by councils and MPs, but in a way that allows us to escalate our campaigns across the county and beyond.

At the same time, the very localised matters in the main town areas will be looked after as there will be a representative from each, on the board, both during the transition and afterwards.

I’d like to thank the previous chairs of Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds and Suffolk Chamber in Haverhill & District, Simon Burton and John Mayhew respectively, for their years of service to Suffolk Chamber and for their ongoing involvement in our new local structure, such that the voices of those parts of west Suffolk remain as strong as ever!

The new local chapter of Suffolk Chamber in the west of the county will now start developing a new manifesto using the three themes of Infrastructure, People and Trade in the main Suffolk Chamber.

There’s been a lot of activity in the People area of our campaign and policy over recent weeks.

Firstly, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has publicly welcomed the aims and intentions contained within the Government’s ambitious White Paper on further education, which was published late last month.

The Chamber believes the focus on ‘skills for jobs’ is an exciting and pivotal moment for the sector and an opportunity to achieve fundamental change in the climate around technical education and skills.

Central to the reform proposals is the establishment of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) bringing together business representatives, further education providers and other interested parties.

In order to pilot LSIPs and other aspects of the White Paper, the Department for Education is seeking to identify a number of Trailblazer areas for 2021/22.

Having met with all of the county’s further education colleges, the University of Suffolk, Suffolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, as well as colleagues in Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk Chamber is trying to explore with the department the options for our two counties to be included in the initial Trailblazer discussions.

Secondly, I’ve referenced the Kickstart Scheme once or twice in recent columns. I’m delighted to report that the first placements for young people on Universal Credit secured through Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, part of the Suffolk Gateway Partnership, have gone live – including one for a manufacturing assistant in a Haverhill firm.

I’m sure they’ll be many more good job opportunities for our young people in the coming months.

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