Restoration of an Executive
Since taking up the role in June, NI Chamber President, Cathal Geogeghan has wasted no time in making clear, publicly and privately, that his number one priority is the restoration of a stable, sustainably funded Executive.
In supporting this campaign, the Public Affairs team have continued regular engagement with key policymakers in Westminster, Dublin and with the local parties. In recent weeks, Cathal has led engagements with colleagues in the Business Alliance (including the IoD, CBI NI and the Centre for Competitiveness) with Head of the Civil Service, Jayne Brady on business priorities for a restored Executive. These include building on key asks on stabilisation of finances, public sector transformation, revenue raising, a Programme for Government and addressing key blockers to competitiveness like the skills deficit and the planning system.
We will continue to work collaboratively with our colleagues to ensure the business voice is heard in a crucial period as the summer draws to a close.
A Skilled and Inclusive Workforce
NI Chamber was pleased to support colleagues in the British Chambers of Commerce and Open University in the publication of the Business Barometer Report 2023. The annual report highlights that despite 68% of local organisations facing skills shortages, over a third (36%) of those businesses surveyed don’t have any specific initiatives, skills programmes or workplace adjustments in place for specific talent pools, including underrepresented groups such as people with disabilities, workers over 50, or workers with childcare responsibilities.
Commenting on the report, Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs said, “It is clear from this year’s Business Barometer report that the skills shortage has not improved, despite existing efforts from businesses. And while the report highlights the struggles organisations are facing, it also identifies potential solutions for employers. In the context of a challenging fiscal environment, NI Chamber is actively encouraging members to consider employer-led solutions to the skills deficit.”
As regards supporting employer-led solutions, the Public Affairs team is actively working on a number of initiatives for members in consultation with the Board, Council and the Department of Economy, with further details to follow in August.
The team is also engaging directly with local political parties around establishing mechanisms such as an all-party working group on skills to better inform and engage our local representatives on the acute need for investment and partnership to build our skills base.
One issue that is continually being brought to the attention of the team is the challenge of childcare and the implications for employers of inadequate and costly provision. It is our understanding that in September, the department with responsibility for childcare, the Department for Education will bring forward “costed options” for a childcare strategy. NI Chamber has been pressing for action on childcare provision for some time, as we have fallen behind our counterparts in GB and the Republic of Ireland.
However, we are also mindful of the challenging budgetary environment and are actively considering whether there are any potential employer-led solutions, in partnership with the third sector that could be incentivised as a mitigation. We are currently engaging with HM Treasury and the Department for the Economy on the issue and would welcome further discussions with any members who would be interested in helping to develop a viable proposal.
On the 25 July, the House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol published its report on the Windsor Framework agreed between the EU and the UK earlier this year.
Stuart Anderson, gave oral evidence to the Committee for and on behalf of NI Chamber in April and co-ordinated the collective written evidence of 14 industry bodies comprising the Business Brexit Working Group.
Commenting on the report, Stuart Anderson said, “This report is a welcome, and first, comprehensive analysis of the Windsor Framework identifying where progress has been made, but also, crucially, where gaps remain.
However, much of the evidence gathered as part of the inquiry was given in the weeks that followed the publication of the Framework. Over 100 days passed between the agreement and the UK government issuing its first set of guidance on the operational detail. Many questions remain unanswered, making the challenges that were identified in the report much more acute as we approach the first implementation deadline of the 1 October.”
We were pleased to support industry lead Renewable NI in its submission to the Department of Infrastructure’s Review of the Regional Strategic Planning Policy for Renewable and Low Carbon Energy. The submission is available for further reading here.
Please Get in Touch
Our Public Affairs team are here to help and support members with government relations and public policy. Please get in touch on any of the issues outlined above or any other matters of concern or interest:
Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs
Phil Murray, Policy and Public Affairs Manager