COMPANIES in Huddersfield are growing increasingly worried about the economic climate, a survey has revealed.
Figures from the Aspley-based Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce showed that while export performance remained resilient, domestic sales were slowing and business confidence was now “fragile”.
The poll of chamber members across Kirklees, Calderdale and Wakefield showed UK sales fell for the third quarter running in the three months to March – with manufacturers suffering worst.
Meanwhile, exports recovered, partly due to more favourable exchange rates.
There was a small increase in the number of firms expecting to reduce employment levels in the coming months – despite some 60% of companies reporting difficulties finding suitable staff.
Companies had maintained or increased investment in equipment and training, the survey said. But more firms reported cashflow problems and an increasing number faced rising prices for raw materials.
The chamber poll said business confidence had dipped and was now “fragile” as more companies said they were working below capacity.
Company taxation and inflation were the main concerns for companies, followed by competition, business rates, exchange rates and interest rates.
Chamber senior policy adviser Steven Leigh said: “Members are becoming increasingly concerned about the UK economy and the prospects for the months ahead.
“While turnover levels may well be maintained, there is no longer an expectation that firms will fully recover their operating expenses – and hence profit expectations continue to be downgraded.”
Mr Leigh repeated calls for another cut in lending rates when the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee meets in May.
The committee trimmed the cost of borrowing by 0.25% to 5% last week.
He said: “Our members remain fundamentally resilient and if the right policies are adopted the damage associated with this economic slowdown can be limited.”