Cumbria Crack

Cumbria Chamber urges action to boost flagging growth

Rob Johnston

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is warning that urgent action is needed to stop the economy from flatlining.

The latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) from the British Chambers of Commerce suggests that growth and business confidence are weakening.

The percentage of service businesses attempting to recruit staff is at its lowest for 25 years.

For those that are recruiting, finding the right staff has never been more problematic. The percentage reporting difficulties is the highest since the survey began in 1989.

Similarly, manufacturers’ export sales and orders are at their lowest level since the EU referendum in June 2016.

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “The trends are worrying. There has been a slowdown in manufacturing exports while the difficulties businesses are having recruiting staff are a cause for concern.

“Added to that, we expect economic growth this year to be the lowest since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

“The Chancellor should heed the direction of travel and use his Budget on October 29 to deliver bold action to boost investment and confidence.

“As a priority we’d like to see him increase the annual investment allowance to £1m to encourage investment.”

The QES is the most comprehensive survey of business sentiment in the UK. The latest findings are based on intelligence from 5,600 businesses gathered since August.

They suggest that inflationary pressures, which prompted the Bank of England to raise interest rates this summer, remain with many businesses expecting to raise prices.

Uncertainty over future trading conditions after Brexit is continuing to act as a brake on business investment.

Rob said: “Weak sterling is no longer such a boon to exporters while consumer spending is failing to boost domestic sales.

“While fewer companies are trying to recruit, those that are hiring are finding it increasingly challenging to fill vacancies.

“That underlines our case for the Government to drop arbitrary migration caps and targets and work with business to develop an immigration policy that supports a growing economy.”

He added: “The Budget must deliver radical, decisive action to boost growth and productivity at precisely the moment that the economy needs it most.

“There has never been a more important time for the Government to bolster business investment, competitiveness and productivity, in the face of significant Brexit headwinds.”

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