KIRKLEES firms remain cautious about prospects for their businesses and the economy, it was claimed today.

Now business leaders want business-friendly policies after the general election to hasten the recovery.

The latest quarterly survey of member firms by the Lockwood-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce presented a mixed picture – with a sustained rise in domestic sales and orders and improvement for exporters and manufacturers.

But firms across Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield remained doubtful about employment growth and had downgraded their expectations for turnover and profits.

Steven Leigh, chamber head of policy and representation, said: “A number of key balances have continued to improve since our last survey for the third quarter. “These improvements – particularly in home and export sales and order intake – are most welcome.

“However, the fourth quarter survey has also given rise to some unexpected results which may be regarded as timely reminders of the fragility of the business sector and recovery out of recession.”

Mr Leigh said manufacturers and exporters saw “some light at the end of the tunnel” after more than a year of extremely difficult trading conditions.

But he said: “Uncertainties about prospects for the year ahead together with downgraded estimates of turnover and profit expectations are matters of serious concern. Raw material and other overhead costs remain a worry to our members and serious misgivings are now being expressed about inflation and exchange rates.

“This dip in confidence backs up anecdotal evidence from our members suggesting that the recovery is likely to be slow and far from smooth.”

Mr Leigh said uncertainty was likely to remain until after the general election, adding: “Despite the poor state of our public finances, we consider it essential that in the year ahead the Government should prioritise business at the heart of the economic recovery.

“We need to ensure that this priority is supported by policies that stimulate enterprise. Any additional taxes on business will be bound to prolong the period of recovery.”

Mr Leigh said the chamber would continue to lobby “vigorously” for a “genuinely business-friendly agenda” which would encourage investment, create employment and reward enterprise.