CONFIDENCE has stagnated among many local firms – as the economic outlook fails to pick up, according to a survey today.
The latest quarterly survey from the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce showed no improvement in confidence among member firms during the final three months of 2012 – as UK and overseas markets remained “volatile”.
UK sales and orders were static – although the findings do not cover the Christmas period when sales normally show an increase – while companies’ took a backward step when it came to recruitment and investment intentions.
Steven Leigh, head of policy at the chamber – which draws its members from Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield – said: “It is to be hoped that latent demand, lost during the recession, will continue to unblock during the year ahead.
“However, domestic and overseas markets remain volatile and it is becoming increasingly disappointing that we have still not yet seen any consistent upwards trends.”
He said any increase in investment this year would depend on the right conditions. Access to finance remained an obstacle to investment and growth – underlining the need for the Government to set up its British Business Bank at the earliest opportunity to help viable and fast-growing companies to gain access to affordable capital.
Manufacturers cited exchange rates and inflation as the major worries facing them while inflation, competition and taxation were the main concerns for service sector firms.
Expectations for profits and turnover improved marginally during the quarter, but not enough to increase confidence.
Mr Leigh said: “We are yet to see from the coalition any convincing and persuasive vision for growth in the UK – as government policies continue to tinker around the edges with an unsettling degree of inconsistency.
“Successfully realised policies are frequently tied up in bureaucracy and take an age to come into force.
“This is frustrating for business and it is not good enough if we are to be successful in promoting our economic recovery.”
He added: “As we begin the New Year there is some evidence of cautious optimism about our economic future.
“However, business success will hinge on many external factors, including more favourable policy conditions, a reduction in inflationary pressures, increased consumer demand and greater support for exporting companies.
“Our chamber will continue to lobby Government on behalf of the business community in our region, seeking sound policy decisions to support growth.
“In particular, we will continue to call for more investment in skills and infrastructure, a solution to the problems with access to finance, a renewed effort to tackle red tape and further support for exporters.”