EAST OF ENGLAND CBI: Infrastructure must be a top priority

AMANDA NUNN, is the new assistant director for the CBI in the East of England. Business East Monthly

AMANDA NUNN, is the new assistant director for the CBI in the East of England. Business East Monthly feature. - Credit: Archant

The CBI in the East of England has appointed Amanda Nunn as its new assistant director. She tells Sheline Clarke that she is relishing her new role as the eyes and ears of the region’s businesses

The CBI is the UK’s top business lobbying organisation with unrivalled access to decision and policy makers at the heart of government.

Nationally it has 240,000 members with a head office of 120 policy specialists in the capital. It reaches members across the UK through 12 regional offices, among them the East of England office representing Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Headed by director Richard Tunnicliffe and based in Newmarket, the East of England branch welcomed new recruit Amanda Nunn in August this year to further its work in representing the opinions of its members at the highest levels.

“Everything I have done before feels like it has led to this point,” said Amanda reflecting on her career to date. “I have had such great exposure to a range of sectors and industries and understand the challenges businesses face. Hopefully that makes me a really good representative of the CBI. I hope people see that I have a good understanding of the issues they face and can be a good voice for the east of England, feeding their thoughts into our team in London and onto Whitehall and beyond.”

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Amanda comes to the CBI via the Royal Household and business development and consultancy roles in business and professional services, both in the east of England and in London.

Her new responsibilities include being a key relationship point with members throughout the region which together represent about a third of all people in private sector employment.

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“We represent businesses and industries of all sizes and sectors – anything from small two-man enterprises to FTSE 100 companies and there is a broad spread in the region.

“My role really is to get out and about and be with members and make sure they have someone they can represent their views to – it’s being the ears and eyes of the CBI. Our members across the UK are critical to what we do because we are formulating views on government policy and in order to do that we have to make sure we are reflecting the views of those businesses that make up the UK.

“So it’s really understanding issues and making sure we get under the skin of those companies so they feel we are accurately representing their views. On a day to day basis that might mean meeting with a member who is unhappy with the latest environmental regulations or someone having issues with access to finance and identifying ways we can support them, how they can engage with our network and what we can do to support them overcome those barriers.”

Amanda takes up her new job at an interesting time for the economy, as the government pushes to see an upturn and a return to growth.

“As a region, the East of England is really a great success story. There are so many really positive things going on here and the sense we get from members at the moment is that confidence is slowly increasing. There is more that can be done ultimately and companies still have their challenges, but I think the region as a whole is a great place to live and work.”

On key issues facing the region, Amanda feels they are many and varied but believes the delivery of infrastructure projects must be a priority.

“The big ticket issues range from skills to road and rail infrastructure, digital and access to finance.

“We need to see action when it comes to those infrastructure projects. We have seen great policy announcements over the last couple of years now we actually need to see them happen and that includes road networks but also digital networks – lack of high speed broadband is really affecting some business output. Added to that the skills agenda continues to be a hot topic for most of our members and bridging the gap between school and college leavers and making sure they have the skills to go into the work place ensuring a viable workforce of the future.”

Last month the CBI launched a report with KPMG following a survey of more than 500 businesses which suggested that business leaders feel policy announcement is not translating into project delivery and that is going to be a hindrance to economic recovery and growth.

“Businesses are worried. Now is the time things need to start happening so companies feel more confident and see government taking action rather than talking the talk.”

As a membership organisation, the CBI actively recruits businesses from all sectors. Its strength lies in its numbers and benefits to members stem from being part of a much larger organisation that has a bigger voice.

“The benefits of membership are around giving businesses a voice, regardless of the size or industry sector. We make sure every company can share its views and make a difference. On its own, a single business may feel it cannot change things or shape is own future but when you think nationally we represent almost a quarter of a million businesses, and that’s a third of the workforce of the private sector, you see that what we do has influence and we can make a difference, and we represent those views as forcefully as possible.”

Recent examples of the CBI’s influence include lobbying the government to extend research and development tax credits for larger companies and, of course, its contribution to the debate surrounding the upgrading of the A14.

“The A14 is a hot topic. The plans were shelved after the 2010 election and we lobbied to bring them back onto the agenda and presented a range of options for the government to consider. Tolling was one of those options, and we will be working with members over the coming weeks to make sure their views are represented.”

The CBI in the East of England represents around a third of private sector businesses with an ambition to increase that number, a mission that will also form part of Amanda’s new role.

“I am meeting members and potential members all the time. The broad issues that affect businesses are much the same but understanding what makes an individual company successful and getting under the skin of what they do is fascinating.”


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