BUSINESS confidence is at rock bottom and the Government must act now to kick-start the economy, a business group in Huddersfield said today.
The latest quarterly survey by the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce revealed employment expectations, cash flow, investment and business confidence are at their lowest level for many years.
Home and export order books have been declining and manufacturers have been reporting tougher market conditions.
However, firms remained under pressure from rising raw material costs and were increasingly worried about taxation, exchange rates and interest rates.
Steven Leigh, senior policy adviser at the chamber, said: “This survey makes it very clear that business confidence is at rock bottom and members have expressed their apprehension about the prospects for the months ahead.
“While all sectors are suffering – with home and export sales and order books all continuing in decline – the manufacturing sector is reporting particular difficulties in this third quarter survey.”
“It is absolutely essential for our nation that immediate action is taken to kick-start the economy.
“There are numerous measures that can and should be taken now to make the business sector believe that we can get ourselves out of this mess. Only when this belief has been restored will the economy begin to recover.”
Mr Leigh outlined five measures which he said would help convince business that the Government was serious about tackling the economy:
A 0.5% cut in the lending rate;
A reduction in corporation tax;
Suspension of the fuel price escalator;
A cut in duty for UK hauliers;
Restoration of rates relief on empty commercial properties.
Mr Leigh said: “Any of these actions would be a sign that government is listening to business.”
The chamber survey of member firms in Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield showed home sales and orders fell for the fifth quarter running between July and September to stand at the lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2005.
Fewer firms reported an increase in staffing while investment in plant, equipment and training remained static.
Business confidence – measuring prospects for increased turnover and profitability – plunged to a new low, while 64% of firms said they were operating below capacity.
Mr Leigh said: “Rhetoric will not fix anything – it is action that is needed.”