Confidence among small businesses in the East of England has plummeted dramatically amid "gale-force" headwinds, according to a study.

The latest Small Business Index by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) shows a net confidence score plunging from -10 to -33 in the last quarter.

The FSB blamed factors such as inflation and the cost of doing business crisis for a growing mood of pessimism among small business owners in the East - reflecting the national picture.

FSB development manager for East Anglia Candy Richards said the region's small businesses were upbeat by nature - but really struggling to get through the next few months.

The headwinds against them were gale-force and many will struggle to survive past Christmas, she predicted.

"With inflation at a record high and consumer confidence having nose-dived as the cost-of-living crisis bites, small business owners are increasingly concerned about the months ahead.”

East Anglian Daily Times:

But despite economic uncertainty and lack of business confidence, the region is showing some resilience, said the FSB.

Its index showed revenue performance over the last quarter holding up better compared to other areas of England with  39% of small businesses across the East of England reporting an increase in revenue, while 37% saw a decrease.

The net balance figure of 2% was in stark contrast to other parts of the UK where net revenues have fallen sharply - including the East Midlands which saw a net -32% drop.

But 42% of East businesses were braced for a fall in revenue, mirroring the nationwide figure of 41%.

The greatest perceived barriers to growth for small businesses in the East over the next year was the domestic economic conditions - and labour costs, the index found.

Ms Richards called on government to bring forward pro-growth measures, suggesting it must not just balance the books – but should have a clear set of measures to help boost prosperity, growth, and jobs.

"The government should be urgently looking at reforming and reducing pre-profit taxes such as business rates, as promised in the 2019 manifesto, but not delivered, and keeping National Insurance down," she said.

"Another key area of focus must be tackling late payments, which are an ever- increasing issue for small businesses and are a serious threat to their cash-flow.

"Lastly, the Government must avoid measures that will constrain entrepreneurial activity and growth, such as hikes on dividends, entrepreneurs’ relief, pensions, capital gains, or creating a new online sales tax."