Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns joined the Welsh Business Awards winners for a roundtable discussion on current policies and to hear more about what works for them as business leaders.
The roundtable event, which was held at the UK Government Offices, Cardiff Bay, focused on business policies – which ones worked and areas of difficulties – as well as what else businesses would like to see from government policy and assistance.
Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “The UK Government has worked closely with the Chambers of Commerce in Wales for many years, and meetings such as these provide us with an opportunity to ensure businesses’ needs are at the heart of policymaking.
“The Welsh Business Awards recognise the sacrifices it takes in order to be successful, and I’m inspired by the hard work and dedication these companies have put in to take home one of these awards, whilst ensuring that economic growth is felt right across the country.
“The UK Government is committed to supporting Welsh businesses to take advantage of every opportunity available to them to grow and expand into new markets, and I look forward to continued discussion with Wales’ exemplary firms to explore the best ways to do that.
The event was attended by winners of the South Wales Chamber Welsh Business Award 2017 who represent a wide sector coverage, including Richard Sugarman, Lightology; John Burns, Burns Pet Nutrition; Richard Selby, ProSteel Engineering; Daniel Jeffries, University Cribs; Ashley Davies, A&R Cleaning; Peter Brewin and Will Crawford, Concrete Canvas; and Joyce Jervis, Ty Mawr Lime.
The Secretary of State opened the roundtable event by congratulating the award winners before the conversation moved onto the positive and negatives of current policies.
One of the main issues raised was the difficulty and complexity of the planning system and how it was administered. The system’s complexities add to costs, which results in businesses being discouraged from expansion opportunities.
IP protection, export opportunities, EU patents, research and development (R&D) tax credits and patent box, and public sector procurements were all brought up in the roundtable as being expensive and/or time consuming, with a lot of the regulations taking larger businesses into account rather than SMEs.
EU Patents, for example, are very expensive for a business and it was suggested the UK Government think about a patent charge to cover the whole of the EU, rather than a country by country patent, which can cost more than £50k – a cost that most SMEs cannot afford.
R&D tax credits and patent box, on the other hand, were seen as positive contributions to business growth and development, and while they were accessible to most businesses, they are over-regulated with time delays being cited as one of the biggest issues. Costs were also mentioned as an issue for smaller or newer businesses as R&D Tax can involve more complicated matters and require specialists tax advisors.
IP Protection was debated as being hugely expensive and time-consuming. The systems are slow and fragmented with insights into the German and US IP systems being suggested as ideas for UK learning.
Heather Myers, director of the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce, said: “We are delighted to be able to host a roundtable event with business leaders from a range of different sectors and bring to light some of the issues with government policies and how they can affect SMEs.
“Being able to facilitate events like this demonstrates the value of the Chamber for SMEs and I hope Secretary of State Alun Cairns will take on board the comments made and present them to the Welsh and UK Government for consideration.”
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