business support, small business

Business groups join forces

TWO business organisations – representing thousands of firms across the Lothians – have joined forces.

West Lothian Chamber of Commerce is affiliating with the larger Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise. The link-up will come into force in January.

Under the deal, benefits offered by both organisations will be shared between their respective members. This will allow, for instance, West Lothian businessmen and women to access Edinburgh Chamber discounts and services – and vice-versa.

Chamber bosses believe the link-up will make their groups more attractive to local businesses. But they have stressed that the move is NOT a merger, and that both bodies will continue to have local leaderships, operating local events in their areas.

Driving the alliance for the West Lothian group has been the new Protection of Title Bill, which comes into force next year.

Bill Grant, the chairman of the West Lothian Chamber, said: “The new law means that to market and manage ourselves as a chamber of commerce we must meet certain criteria. If we continued to stay as we were, and offered the same range of services, we wouldn’t meet that criteria.

“The only way forward – and to satisfy the rules stipulated by British Chambers of Commerce – was to affiliate with another chamber. Edinburgh, being part of the Lothians, was the obvious choice.”

As part of its affiliation, the West Lothian group – with around 200 members – has agreed to harmonise its membership rates to the same level as the larger, Edinburgh Chamber, which currently has 2000 firms on its books.

This will lead to an increase in fees for subscribers to the Livingston-based body. However, rises will be phased in between 2001 and 2003.

Mr Grant said: “For many years, West Lothian Chamber has charged some of the lowest membership fees in Scotland. This was because we were still developing many of our services.

“The new affiliation between Edinburgh and West Lothian Chambers will allow business people to access a much wider range of services and discounts, delivered by both groups. Since the arrangement is reciprocal, we felt it was only fair to harmonise membership rates between both organisations.

“People in West Lothian will therefore be asked to pay more – but will also get substantially more services to help their business grow and develop. They will also get the opportunity to network with a wide range of people across the Lothians.

Chamber subscription rates are set according to the number of employees a business has.

The lowest West Lothian Chamber rate in 2000 was £55 a year; compared to £125 charged in Edinburgh. West Lothian’s base membership rate in 2001 for will be £71.50 – still substantially lower the Edinburgh membership fee. However, by 2003, this fee will be aligned with the rate charged by the Edinburgh Chamber.

Most businesses can recoup any costs through the attractive discounts offered to Chamber members. The cost of membership can also be written off as a business expense.

Mr Grant added: “It’s worth pointing out that before we agreed to this affiliation, firms could join both Chambers – but they would have to pay two sets of fees.

“Now businesses in Edinburgh and West Lothian will have access to the member benefits of two Chambers of Commerce – but for just one fee.

“We feel confident that local business people will see continuing Chamber membership as money well spent, given all the new services and discounts they will have access to as a result of our affiliation with Edinburgh.”

Some West Lothian firms have already welcomed the link-up.

Gordon Stuart of Spektra Systems in Livingston said: “The affiliation between the two Chambers will result in increased networking opportunities for business people in both West Lothian and Edinburgh.”

Derek Milne from Motorola in South Queensferry added: “The Edinburgh Chamber has been successful in setting up a range of workshops for their members. Businesses in West Lothian can benefit from Edinburgh’s expertise.”

Bill Furness, the chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: “In 1998, Edinburgh Chamber entered into a similar arrangement with Mid Lothian Chamber of Commerce. This proved to be very successful and has opened up many opportunities for networking and working together to enhance the reputation of the Lothians as a centre of business excellence.

“I am delighted a similar affiliation with the West Lothian Chamber will come into force from January 2001.

“From this date, West Lothian members will receive all the member benefits of the Edinburgh Chamber, receive our monthly magazine/events diary and be entitled to share in Edinburgh discounts and other services.

“However, individual Chambers will continue to have their own identities, and will continue to provide a tailored service for their area, providing networking, support and lobbying opportunities for businesses in their area.”

The origins of West Lothian Chamber of Commerce date back 30 years to the Livingston Industrial and Commercial Association. LICA went on to become the West Lothian Business Alliance, and, latterly, the Chamber of Commerce in its current form.

The West Lothian and Edinburgh Chambers both provide a wide range of member benefits and discounts – as well as all-important networking and training opportunities to help local companies maintain their competitive edge.

You can find out more about either organisation online, at http://www.ecce.org or http://www.wlcoc.org.uk

Issued by THE PR STORE
On behalf of the West Lothian and Edinburgh Chambers of Commerce

For more information please contact:

Adrian Mahoney at The PR Store
Tel: 01506 823714 / 07967 150560

Maureen Welsh
Acting chief executive, West Lothian Chamber of Commerce
Tel: 01506 777937

Bill Furness
Chief executive
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise
Tel: 0131 477 7000

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