A BUSINESS group based in Huddersfield today voiced “very cautious optimism” for the economy following a new survey.
The Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said a decline in sales and orders among members firms had slowed during the first quarter of the year.
While manufacturers continued to suffer in export markets, confidence in creating jobs was starting to return and a decline in investment had been halted.
The survey of chamber member firms stressed that business confidence remained at a low ebb and that expectations for profits and turnover were depressed.
But it said price pressure had eased while competition and exchange rates remained the major outside issues affecting local firms.
Steven Leigh, policy adviser for the Lockwood-based chamber, said: “While the first quarter 2009 survey confirms that business conditions remain very difficult, there are one or two of our reported results which might be considered to give rise to some very cautious optimism.”
He said: “The forthcoming Budget provides an ideal opportunity for the Chancellor to announce measures which will help to restore confidence.
“For example, major infrastructure projects should be brought forward, such as work for the 2012 Olympics, the construction of new nuclear power stations as well as the building of renewable energy installations and much-needed improvements to the road and rail network.
“We have recently suggested that the Government should consider a variety of other measures. These include scrapping proposed increases in the National Insurance, increasing personal income tax allowances, bringing forward housing and other infrastructure projects, reducing present levels of NI contributions for employers and employees, restoring empty property tax relief and calling for more assistance with business rates.”
The Mid Yorkshire survey painted a similar picture to a separate poll by the British Chambers of Commerce. It said the pace of the decline in the services sector has slowed.
A spokesman for the BCC said: “The authorities must act forcefully on a broad front to alleviate the recession and help rebalance the economy towards exports and investment.”