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View from the chamber: Committed to safeguarding business and helping young into work amid Brexit chaos

PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 January 2019

Archant

These are testing times for businesses nationwide.

Brexit uncertainty is causing stagnation as businesses are forced to delay important decisions and seek to minimise risk.

Christmas saw a dramatic drop in footfall across the UK’s high streets, while the New Year has seen Marks & Spencer announce 17 store closures. In Camden, we have concerns about empty shops and larger stores like Waitrose leaving Camden Town.

Overall, though, Camden’s business success means we are bucking the trend. Camden is home to 33,000 businesses and 367,800 jobs, representing 7 per cent of all employment in London and contributing 2pc to national GDP. Employment in Camden has grown by 27pc since 2009, outstripping the national average increase of 9pc.

However, for our economy to truly work for our communities, it must also be inclusive. Inclusive growth means encouraging a local economy that everyone can participate in and a local job market, training and skills offer that enables people to work and afford to live in Camden.

The scale of the challenge is significant. About 8,000 households in Camden are in work but living in poverty or on low incomes. More than 10,000 people are out of work because of health conditions. The disparity between salaries and housing costs has become entrenched.

Universal Credit and government cuts to public services will only make this challenge greater. However, in Camden we believe we can take it on.

On Monday, we, alongside our Camden Business Board, launched the Camden Business Charter 2018-2022. This not only aims to make Camden the best place in London to do business, but also the best place to work, setting out a shared ambition to increase equality of access to the opportunities our economy provides. It aims to ensure our young people have the creative and technical skills they need to access 21st century jobs and that our workplaces are flexible and supportive enough to be accessible to those facing barriers to employment.

Working in partnership is key to eliminating these barriers. We fund organisations like Camden Ability, a network of employers in Camden actively looking to improve disability awareness, to support residents with disabilities into employment, while simultaneously supporting businesses to improve their approach to employing people with disabilities.

Our apprenticeship service helps 250 people into placements each year and Camden Council is a proud Timewise Council and London Living Wage employer, inspiring many Camden businesses to follow suit to confront inequality. The Business Charter includes a call to action to work with businesses to create a Gold Standard of employment practice in Camden.

Looking ahead, despite significant government cuts, we are committing an additional £5million to increase the visibility, reach and impact of employment support in Camden. This will support residents furthest from the labour market to get a job that’s right for them, with personalised support that’s delivered in local neighbourhoods.

In the coming years we need businesses, Camden’s public and voluntary sector and our communities to work ever more closely together to confront inequalities and barriers to work. Together we will foster an inclusive economy that is outward looking, dynamic and creative, giving everyone the opportunity to reach their potential.

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