• EICC increased revenue to £12.8m and profit to £2.6m during the year
  • Economic impact, which relates to the direct benefit of conferences and events taking place at the EICC to Edinburgh and the surrounding region, totalled £58m
  • The venue hosted over 132,000 delegates and visitors in 2023

Edinburgh, 20 February 2024 – the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) has reported record revenue of £12.8 million for the year to 31st December 2023 [2022: £11.8m], along with a record profit of £2.6 million [2022: £699,000].

EICC CEO Marshall Dallas said: “We kept our sales team intact throughout the pandemic, which in retrospect was integral to our revenue performance last year because we were able to hit the ground running post-pandemic.”

The economic impact figure, which relates to the direct benefit of conferences and events taking place at the EICC to Edinburgh and the surrounding region, totalled £58 million [2022: £51.9m].  Total economic impact since the EICC opened its doors in 1995 is now at approximately £850 million.

The venue hosted over 132,000 delegates and visitors during the year [2022: 72,000], with eighteen international associations holding major conferences at the EICC.  Global Equity Organisation’s 24th annual conference in April, the 15th World Congress on Endometriosis in May, and HYDRO 2023 in October were among international association conferences held at the venue last year.

Marshall Dallas added: “Holding large international association conferences is a significant part of our raison d’être, and in the current year we already have twenty-one international conferences confirmed to take place, so that’s a really encouraging number for us and for business tourism in general in Edinburgh and Scotland.”

Two of the major international association conferences taking place this year at the EICC are the World Congress on Controversies in Breast Cancer in September, and the 36th International Papillomavirus Conference in November.

Having been Edinburgh’s main vaccination centre throughout 2021, in partnership with NHS Lothian, the EICC recently hosted the 3-week Scottish COVID-19 Inquiry, which Marshall Dallas says is a sign of how the venue has come full circle since the onset of the pandemic:

“After closing our doors in March 2020, we pivoted to become the city’s main vaccination centre the following year, and it felt fitting to have the recent Covid inquiry here in the same building. In addition to being a commercial enterprise, hosting events of this nature fulfils our triple bottom line objectives of having a strong economic value, leading the way in sustainability, and positively impacting societal matters.”

In December, the EICC announced a string of major conference wins over the next three years that will equate to its strongest ever pipeline of events business.  The 40 conferences and events will bring around 20,000 delegates to Edinburgh and the EICC and translate to around £32 million of economic impact.

The EICC opened its doors to the Edinburgh Festival for the 20th time in 2023.

Global engineering and sustainable development consultancy recently appointed digital expert Jeremy Doherty as its new Edinburgh officer leader.

Jeremy has over 17 years’ experience managing and delivering a wide range of digital technology, engineering, energy, and environmental projects, specialising in those using innovative technologies and data, seeking out major challenges and hurdles and implementing technology to streamline processes and improve outcomes.

In addition to his role as officer leader, Jeremy also leads the firm’s Digital Services Business and Environmental Impact Assessment programme, in Scotland, Northern Ireland and North-East England and is passionate about the role digital technology and data can play generating tangible solutions particularly in helping to address climate and nature emergencies.

Utilising Arup’s expertise in engineering & design and market-leading skills in climate, energy, planning and digital, Jeremy is focused on increasing Arup’s impact on local communities and environments working closely alongside clients, partners, and collaborators.

“Scotland has such a rich culture of innovation, commerce and engineering, that forms a fantastic   foundation from which we can build. With our academic institutions continuing to supply industry with talent and knowhow, I believe we are in a unique position to increase our position on the world stage and take a front seat in delivering solutions to global challenges. At Arup, we have purposely put sustainability at the centre at everything we do, whether it be working to decarbonise energy systems, creating more resilient and greener transport networks, or realising the true value of our biodiversity and natural capital and how that can help us shape a more equitable and prosperous future, “said Jeremy.

By providing technical expertise and leadership helping to ensure digital technology and data is used appropriately, such as developing databases and interfaces to enable deeper understandings of how our systems connect and work together or identifying where meaningful interventions, can result in better outcomes for issues such as flood risk, energy consumption, and natural capital.

Two-thirds of parents in the UK are worried about their children’s mental health. And rightly so, as 1 in 6 children in the UK are experiencing mental health problems.

When children are anxious and stressed, parents are often anxious and stressed.

That’s why at Edinburgh Leisure, we’re taking a whole family approach to wellbeing and empowering our employees to support their children’s mental health.

Our employees now have access to the Wee Seeds Mini-Minds Wellbeing Toolbox. It’s a programme of fun and easy mindfulness exercises for children. It’s all about bringing calm and connection to families.

Helen Macfarlane, Director of Wellbeing at Edinburgh Leisure said: “Encouraging and supporting people’s health and wellbeing is at the heart of what we do at Edinburgh Leisure.  We deliver a range of wellbeing initiatives to support our customers’ and employees’ health and wellbeing.  We’re investing in our employees’ mental health.  So, we’re taking a whole family approach to mental health and empowering our employees to support their children by giving them access to the @WeeSeeds Mini-Minds Wellbeing Toolbox. Our staff deserve good mental health and so do their children.”

Wee Seeds Founder, Christina Cran, said: “We believe it’s time for employers to take a whole family approach to mental health. All the areas of our life, work, home, and social life, intersect with each other. By working on having a calm family environment at home, we can improve all areas of our lives. Calm families, equal calm staff. That’s why we’re delighted to support Edinburgh Leisure with their staff and their families’ wellbeing.

“Our Mini-Minds Toolbox is designed to help shape the next generation’s mental health. The mental health crisis starts with our children, it’s time we tackle that early.”

 

Mindfulness can help children:
– Focus more easily and be ready to learn
– Sleep better
– Feel less anxious
– Feel more connected to their family
– Build resilience
– Understand their emotions
– Deal with frustration better
– Become kinder to others and themselves

These are skills children can use today and for the rest of their lives so we are also investing in the future of the workforce.

As a social enterprise, all profits Wee Seeds makes go back into its social impact programme.

So, by partnering with Wee Seeds, Edinburgh Leisure will also contribute to Wee Seeds’ social impact programme Growing Good, which will support families in poverty or struggling with their mental health to nurture their mental well-being.

To find out more about how Wee Seeds is improving mental health,  visit weeseeds.co.uk

To speak to Wee Seeds, email christina@weeseeds.co.uk, or telephone 07725 316513

The British Chambers of Commerce new Local Economy Of The Future report sets out 16 policies that could transform the UK’s growth potential by empowering businesses, communities and local government.

Among the crucial changes it recommends are:

  • Devolving more powers to regional and local government so decision-making is closer to the issues. 
  • Giving the National Infrastructure Commission real teeth to influence long-term strategy.
  • Accelerating the role out of electric vehicle charging and digital infrastructure to support sustainable connectivity.
  • Boosting resources for Local Planning Authorities to unblock the logjam on permissions.
  • Expanding the Banking Hub model across the UK to give businesses and communities easier access to finance.
  • Ensuring the voice of business is heard in strategy development and decision making at both a local and national level.

The ‘Local Economy Of The Future’ report is being published at an event hosted by North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, on Tuesday 20 February, at Daniel Thwaites HQ, in Mellor Brook, near Blackburn.

It is the third of five policy documents being published by the BCC’s new Business Council as part of the ‘Future of Economy’ project. The report draws on expertise from businesses of all sizes and sectors, academia and think-tanks.

Its proposals aim to increase the productivity of the local economy by letting businesses capitalise on the opportunities provided if their areas are more sustainably focused and digitally enabled.

And it recognises that for places to thrive then three forces need to come together – the community, business and local government.

Among the themes to emerge in the work of the report are the need to provide local government with more resource to speed up its capabilities and capacity around infrastructure planning and transport.

It also identified that the tax system must do more to incentivise the growth of small and medium sized firms by reforming business rates, VAT and tourism charges.

Martha Lane Fox, President of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the Business Council, said:

“When the first Chambers of Commerce were established more than 200 years ago, they set out to fight the corner of businesses in their communities. Our network has always been inextricably linked to the places and people where they are based.

“While much else has changed in that time, the devolution of power and authority to those best placed to decide what works for their local economies has been too slow.

“In this digital age, and on the cusp of a new green industrial revolution, we must finally shift the balance. If we get this right, it will give our local economies, their businesses and communities the best possible chance to thrive in the 21st Century.”

Sebastian Munden, Chair of the Local Economy Of The Future Challenge Group, said:

“If we make a concerted effort to seize the future quickly, the UK has an opportunity to be at the forefront in shaping a more purposeful world economy.

“But too often the country’s ambitions for a brighter future end up fractured and disjointed, as the enablers, and therefore the opportunities, are unevenly distributed across geography and communities.

“If we want a better quality of life and a more circular economy that is better for our planet, then we must bring everyone on the journey, removing the impediments to scale for thriving sustainable businesses, and empowering local strategies for skills and infrastructure.

“Communities tend to prosper where there is strong local leadership, a powerful sense of place, and business is responsibly integrated into decision-making. Creating the framework to sustain this trinity will guarantee our local economies thrive in the future.”

James Timpson, Chief Executive of the Timpson Group and Chancellor of Keele University, said:

Local communities are the building blocks upon which our economy sits. They are where the people who come together to drive our businesses live, and one cannot survive and prosper without the other.

“These are testing times, and we face major economic challenges but there are also exciting opportunities ahead.

“This report is a strategic roadmap for how we navigate the path before us. It will make sure the big ideas of tomorrow, that are being developed by our business communities, get the best possible chance of success.”

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“Local economies play an indispensable role in fostering prosperity and sustainable growth within our communities. Emphasising their significance is crucial in promoting self-sufficiency, boosting job creation, and preserving the unique character of our regions.

“By nurturing our local businesses and industries, we reinforce socio-economic resilience, empowering both individuals and communities.”

  • The British Chambers of Commerce, in partnership with Aviva, is launching a new five-year industry programme to increase skills and capacity in Local Planning Authorities across the country.
  • The programme will seek to raise £3m to pay for at least 100 people to enter the planning industry to increase planning capacity, making investing in the UK quicker and easier.
  • Businesses of all sizes and across all sectors are being encouraged to come forward to back the programme.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), with founding partner Aviva, is establishing a new five-year industry-led programme to increase skills and capacity in Local Planning Authorities (LPAs).

The programme will pay for at least 100 undergraduate and masters’ level qualifications for people entering the planning industry, and for people already working in LPAs who need to develop skills for more senior planning roles. It will pay for the learner’s training and will aim to facilitate work experience and jobs within LPAs. In return, at the end of their course of study, the learner must commit to work in a council planning role for at least two years.

The BCC is asking businesses from all sectors to contribute to the programme’s fund with the aim of raising at least £3 million. Aviva is contributing £500,000 as the first UK firm to support the scheme.

BCC members, of all sizes, are clear that limited resources and specialist skills within the planning system are delaying important investment that would promote growth across the UK. The programme aims to address this by increasing the pipeline of talent into the sector and expertise among existing planners.

Whilst the programme is industry-led, ahead of the Spring Budget, the BCC is calling on the Government to commit to matching the £3 million contribution to ensure that LPAs can employ newly qualified graduates for at least two years . The Government is being urged to introduce a mechanism for those LPAs in greatest need of additional planning skills and resources to access dedicated funding.

Baroness Martha Lane Fox, President of the British Chambers of Commerce said: 

“The UK’s economy is being held back by a slow planning system, and we must address the lack of resource by giving local planning authorities some hope of support.

“The Chambers membership is consistently telling us a slow planning system due to limited resource is blocking much-needed investment and halting growth. We want to work in in partnership with government to take concrete steps to support them to help unlock our planning system.

“Investing in Talent, Building Communities is a five-year programme led by the BCC, with founding partner Aviva, to help local councils with endless delays in the planning system,get on with driving the British economy forward. It is vital that businesses of all shapes and sizes across the country contribute to this initiative. The Spring Budget offers the Chancellor an opportunity to match the industry’s commitment to unblocking Britain’s planning problem, he must seize it.”

Amanda Blanc, Group Chief Executive of Aviva said:

“Greater planning capacity is key to supporting more investment in UK housing, regeneration and infrastructure.

“More planners and more specialist planning skills will allow businesses to invest with more certainty and greater speed, boosting economic growth and make a meaningful difference to communities across the UK.”

Among the recommendations in the BCC’s Budget submission are:

  • Government to match industry-led funding of £3m for planning qualifications to help plug the lack of local resource.
  • Ministers should commit to fund business led Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) beyond the current 2025 cut off point to at least 2028.
  • The VAT registration review should be restarted with a view to removing the existing cliff edge. 
  • Government should reform business rates to make it a tax that incentives growth.
  • The Chancellor should introduce a new internationally competitive tax-free shopping scheme. 

Findings from the BCC Insights Unit’s ‘first major business survey of 2024 highlights the urgency for action at the Budget.

43% of responding firms with a turnover of less than £85,000 say they are concerned about growing revenue beyond this specifically because of the requirement to pay VAT.

Meanwhile, over a quarter of companies (26%) say they have changed plans to upgrade or open premises as a direct result of business rates.

38% of responding businesses say they are now paying more following the 2023 rates revaluation.

Current business conditions are among the hardest seen in generations as multiple economic crises converge. The BCC’s Quarterly Economic Survey for Q4 2023 showed that while business confidence has improved slightly, most firms continue to report no improvement to sales, cash flow or investment.

Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said:

“As businesses continue to chart a course through choppy economic waters, they want to work in partnership with Government to get the UK economy growing again.

“The Chancellor has shown he is in listening mode. At the Autumn Statement we were pleased to see full expensing made permanent and business rate relief. The Budget is an opportunity to build on that good work and further accelerate help for business.

“Our recommendations are solution focused. We’re actively working with industry to develop a UK-wide, private sector funded programme to train more planners to work in local planning authorities, to boost their planning skills and capacity. Alongside our fund, we’re calling for the Chancellor to provide more funding to LPA’s in greatest need of skills. That will support the authorities, to employ the additional graduates and upskilled professionals we are training. Unlocking our planning system is crucial to economic growth.

“Our latest research shows that many SMEs are struggling because of business rates, and are limiting their expansion plans because of the VAT threshold.  The Chancellor should use his statement next month to announce plans to make rates fairer and restart the VAT registration review.

“Attracting, retaining, and developing people with the right skills is crucial for business. But far too many employers are struggling to do that. Business-led Local Skills Improvement  Plans (LSIPs) are key to resolving skills shortages. They are  already making a huge difference in communities across England. LSIPs need long-term commitment and funding, to ensure people can access the training they need for great jobs.

“A new internationally competitive tax-free shopping scheme would help turbocharge the UK’s retail and hospitality sectors, bringing benefit to all corners of the UK through economic growth and tax revenue.  The Government must signal that the UK is open for business.

“With the clock ticking before the General Election, next month’s Budget must outline the sustainable growth plan businesses are crying out for.”

Blind broadcaster, content creator and disability activist Lucy Edwards, is urging people who need additional support in the unlikely event of a power cut to sign up to the free Priority Services Register (PSR).

Lucy has partnered with SP Energy Networks to outline the benefits of the PSR, showing how the leading network provider offers extra support to customers who feel they need its help.

Taking the starring role in a video series, Lucy outlines the support available via the PSR, which includes tailored services for customers who have special communication needs, are over the age of 60, have children under the age of 5, have a chronic illness or mobility issues.

Being part of the PSR means customers receive proactive and ongoing contact during a known power outage and a dedicated welfare line during periods of storms. Information is also provided in various formats upon request including braille and large print and text relay services are available in partnership with SignLive, ensuring accessibility for those who are hard of hearing or have speech impairments.

Lucy said: “Being blind or living with a disability can make so many things more daunting which is why the support SP Energy Networks offers through its PSR – which is free to join – is so important.

“Power cuts can be stressful for anyone, so knowing that SP Energy Networks is there to help and will reach out proactively and keep customers informed and supported throughout can make a real difference. Being on the PSR doesn‘t mean they can restore your power more quickly, but it does mean they will let you know what’s happening if they know of a problem in your area and can help you get through it.

“If support like this could make a difference for you, visit the SP Energy Networks website and find out if you’re eligible, so you can be a priority if the lights go out.”

Kendal Morris, Customer Service Director at SP Energy Networks said: “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we know how important it is to support those who might need a bit more help in the unlikely event of a power cut.

“While our engineering teams work around the clock to restore electricity as quickly as possible when there are any issues, they are supported by an unseen army of customer service colleagues who make sure our customers know they are our priority.

“Whether it’s people with medical dependencies on electrical equipment or households with young children, we’re there to offer a helping hand when it’s needed most.

“It’s brilliant to have Lucy on board to help promote our Priority Services Register and ensure that people know exactly how they can benefit and how they can sign up. She’s the perfect person to showcase all the PSR has to offer and I have no doubt she will get the message across loud and clear.”

To find out if you’re eligible to join the PSR or to sign, visit spenergynetworks.co.uk/psr, call 0330 10 10 167, or text PSR to 61999.

Lucy’s video series is available to watch videos here.

Responding to the latest trade data from the ONS, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“The UK had another good year for services exports in 2023, showing the strength of that side of our economy. But there will be concern about the drop in goods exports.

“Further measures are needed to address this; more must be done to connect exporters and would-be exporters with customers in markets across Europe and the rest of the world.

“The Government should set up an Exports Council to achieve this. It could work with business to build upon our relative strength in services exports across even more sectors, while providing fresh impetus to improve overseas sales of goods.

“This would be a very welcome step as 2024 is already looking like will a challenging year for international trade. We are yet to see the full effects of Red Sea disruption and patchy global growth is only adding to the uncertainty.”

The UK trade picture in detail

The data for the whole of 2023 shows that the UK’s services trade continues to lead the way. Removing the effects of inflation, total annual UK exports in combined goods and services rose by 0.6% (£3.9bn) to £690.8bn in 2023.

This was down to the UK’s robust trade in services which rose by 5.3% with strong performances in financial, business, professional, cultural and travel services exports across the world.

But the flipside was a disappointing performance in goods exports, which fell by 4.6%.

Imports

UK goods imports in 2023 fell by 7.4% while services imports rose by 13.3% (excluding inflation). The picture for imports of services in the final quarter of the year was not as strong, however, as they fell by 0.5% (£0.4bn). Although for the final month of the year, services imports increased by £0.1bn.

On goods imports in December, the ONS found no effects in the data of the Red Sea disruption. Goods imports volumes fell by 3.6% for the month, with rest of the world imports falling by 4.5% and EU imports down by 3% on November.  Again, the leading cause was fluctuations in oils and fuel trade but also with falls in machinery and transport goods (principally from China).

Exports

Services export volumes exceeded goods exports volumes by £62bn in 2023. After taking inflation into account, UK services exports are 4.7% higher than pre-2020 lockdown levels.

Although the annual performance for UK services exports rose, the last quarter was negative, with an estimated drop in exports of 4.4% (£5.2bn).

For the month of December, UK services exports were static after inflationary effects were removed.  Goods exports fell by 0.5% in December with a 3.2% fall in exports to the EU being partially offset by a rise in rest of the world exports by 2.1%. Fluctuations in trade in fuels were a leading cause, but there were also falls in machinery, chemicals and transport equipment.

Responding to the ONS’ first GDP estimate for the fourth quarter of 2023, Alex Veitch, Director of Policy and Insight at the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

“A contraction in GDP for the final quarter of 2023 means the UK economy is in technical recession. Businesses were already under no illusion about the difficulties they face, and this news will no doubt ring alarm bells for Government.

“The BCC’s last Quarterly Economic Forecast suggests annual growth below 1.0% for the next two years as firms remained gripped by uncertainty and the twin perils of high inflation and interest rates remain.

“The Chancellor must use his Budget in just under three weeks’ time to set out a clear pathway for firms and the economy to grow.

“Businesses are crying out for a long-term economic plan that reduces the cost pressures they are facing and unlocks the investment they so sorely need.”

St Columba’s Hospice Care is offering whisky enthusiasts the unique opportunity to own a piece of Leith history. The Edinburgh charity is set to auction an exclusive cask of Single Malt whisky from The Bonnington Distillery, the first Single Malt distillery in Leith for nearly 100 years.

Generously donated by local whisky experts, Cask88, the cask and accompanying ‘Rare and Old Whisky’ tasting experience will be sold during a live auction at the Hospice’s flagship fundraising dinner, Carnival: Dinner to Make a Difference, hosted by Grant Stott and being held in the city’s Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa on Friday 1 March.

Commissioned in 2019, production began at the Leith distillery in March 2020. Their first expression, released in January 2024 sold out within hours and demand for the cask has grown since the release. Water used in the distillation process is locally sourced from an ancient aquifer located 147 metres below the distillery.

The auction prize is also paired with a Rare and Old Whisky tasting for six people. The invitation-only Whisky Library experience offers guests with an intimate, candle-lit setting in which to sample some of Scotland’s best single cask drams.

Opening bids are invited from £2,500. Notes of interest should be directed to St Columba’s fundraising team before noon on Friday 1 March.

Jon Heggie, Director of Income Generation said: “We’re thrilled to offer our community this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own their own cask of Whisky. With the distillery located just a few miles from the Hospice we knew it was the perfect pairing and thank Cask88 for their generosity and support.”