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Celebrating Business in Doncaster

Speech delivered by Dan Fell, CEO, Doncaster Chamber at the Doncaster Business Awards 2018.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, thank you for joining us at the Doncaster Business Awards.  These are exciting times for our borough and we have much to celebrate this evening.  The animation that played as I came to the stage highlighted just some of the game changing projects and interventions that have really helped us up the ante in Doncaster.  It also gave a teaser of the amazing things that are still to come.

Crucially, every single project listed in that animation has been – or will be – delivered through meaningful collaboration between a number of stakeholders.  Partnership working is in our DNA in Doncaster.  It’s how we get things done for the benefit of our economy, our businesses and our people.  It’s something that defines us and something that is being recognised and applauded across the UK.

The need for public-private sector collaboration is understood by all in Doncaster and, on behalf of the business community, I applaud the leadership of Ros Jones and her Cabinet in valuing and championing the private sector as vociferously as they do.

Such a stance is thrown into sharp relief when we compare and contrast with the national picture.  Given the events of recent days and weeks, private sector colleagues in the room could be forgiven for looking at our national politicians with utter dismay, and for thinking that the needs and frustrations of business communities across the UK have been dismissed out of hand.

We have a Government that is paralysed by Brexit and unable to sell a compelling vision of the UK’s future role in the world to its own MPs, let alone the public or international markets.  Instead of working in the national interest, it is intent on tearing itself apart.  Additionally, the cavalier attitude towards the economy that characterises the ‘no deal’ Brexiteers will, I am sure, appal the majority of people in the room this evening.

Over the last two years, the ongoing preoccupation with Brexit has also meant that the Government has been neglectful of the domestic business agenda and failed to facilitate the economic environment in which northern businesses can thrive.  The Government has let northern businesses down on infrastructure investment and not listened to calls for a One Yorkshire devolution settlement; the Northern Powerhouse has a lovely ring to it but, in the present climate, businesses need action not buzz words.  Similarly, there is an ever-widening gap between the rhetoric and activity on the ground when it comes to education and skills policy; indeed, businesses and educationalists alike feedback that they are mortified by an ever narrowing curriculum and the impact that this will have on young people and their employability prospects.

Meanwhile, we have an opposition that equally does not have a substantive plan on Brexit, is currently prioritising political advantage over the national interest, wants to deliver an unprecedented overreach into the private sector, and has a worrying number of people on the front bench that do not recognise the importance of industry and wealth creation.

Against this uncomfortable national backdrop, it is even more remarkable that Doncaster is punching so far above its weight.  As such, I salute the everyday business heroes in the room tonight that are driving growth, creating jobs and helping to create the Doncaster story.  Indeed, the fortitude, resilience and entrepreneurship of the business community in continuing to go for growth in such turbulent economic times is truly remarkable.  I also want to congratulate our Team Doncaster partners for not buckling under the pressure of austerity but, instead, digging deep and being relentless in their desire to create a place that is open for business and that celebrates enterprise and commerciality.

Of course, it would be nice to have a national policy framework that supported us in these endeavours and that gave places like Doncaster every opportunity to continue thriving.  However, with the Westminster omnishambles playing out in front of us, I won’t hold my breath and have more than a degree of apprehension about the future.  However, in true Doncaster spirit, we will – to use Jo Miller’s phrase – ‘crack on’ in 2019 and continue to deliver inclusive economic growth for our businesses and people alike, despite the national and international weather.

Your Chamber will play a key role in that.  Led by our values of: helpfulness, credibility, meaningful collaboration, empowerment and belief, we will continue working to get things done for the business community we are privileged to serve.

Our vision is to be the best Chamber of the Commerce in the UK.  To deliver that vision we will need to keep reinforcing the spirit of mutuality that exists between the Chamber, its partners and members.  If you invest in us, we can provide the services, skills and events that you need to grow your organisation whilst also working towards a more prosperous Doncaster.  If you keep believing in your Chamber and your borough, we’ll keep delivering for you.

Thank you to our sponsors.  Thank you to the judges that give up hours of their time to ensure that we have the most robust assessment process of any Chamber awards in the UK.  Thank you to my awesome colleagues for delivering another outstanding event – I am immensely proud of all of you and the amazing work you do day in and day out to support Doncaster’s businesses, residents and young people.

Congratulations and good luck to the finalists; and, finally, thank you to every single person in the room that helps to make Doncaster such a great place to do business.  Have a fantastic evening.


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