Suffolk businesses urge government to support county’s struggling economy
PUBLISHED: 11:50 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:11 06 October 2020
Suffolk business leaders have renewed calls for government support as the coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the local economy.
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce said the crisis was continuing to drag down business activity – in spite of a big uplift in the three months from July to September compared to the dire historic lows of the previous quarter.
Both manufacturers and service businesses enjoyed a “strong rebound” according to the chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) – but most measures were “well below” where they were a year ago and remained in negative territory. The survey records the balance between positive and negative feedback.
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The balance of manufacturing firms reporting an increase in domestic sales rose by a massive 59 percentage points to -4% compared with the second quarter, with overseas sales bouncing back to -7% – a rise of 32%.
Encouragingly the number of manufacturers reporting an increase in current employment rose from -26% to +4%, with those looking to boost their workforce numbers rising from -14% to +5%.
Those reporting positive cashflow stood at +8% – up by 62% – with confidence in improving turnover at -4% (up 33 percentage points) and improving profits at -29% (up by 15 percentage points).
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But the balance of service firms reporting an increase in domestic sales was still in negative territory at -8% (a rise 67% compared with Q2), with overseas sales at -21% (up 49%).
The number of service firms reporting an increase in employment increased from -25% to -10%, with those anticipating a future rise moving up from -30% to -18%.
Those reporting positive cashflow stood at -9% (up 58%), with confidence in improving turnover at -13% (up 37%) and improving profits up to -24% (up 38%).
Chamber communications head Paul Simon said the figures showed “a noticeable improvement on the disastrous previous quarter”.
“They reflect the ingenuity and sheer adaptability of the county’s business owners and their employees,” he added. “However, if business activity and sentiment is to continue to rebuild, it is vital that the government and local councils continue to move mountains in supporting these same businesses to boost investment and avoid further significant job losses.”
The chamber was impressed with most of the schemes currently up and running, especially the Kickstart Scheme, which was helping 16-24-year-olds secure placements with local businesses, he said.
“But such levels of intervention are likely to be required over the longer rather than the shorter term to allow the recovery to be secured.”
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