East's mid-sized firms call for growth stimulus as budget looms

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaving 11 Downing Street in London

East of England mid-sized firms want chancellor Rishi Sunak to focus on growth measures in his budget, a survey suggests - Credit: PA

Growth measures rather than extending Covid-19 support top East of England mid-sized businesses' priorities ahead of the UK's crunch March budget, a survey shows.

Despite still being in lockdown, the region's medium-sized firms are focused on business growth - and are optimistic about their futures, according to a national study by accountancy giant Grant Thornton.

It found that 50% of east firms surveyed wanted chancellor Rishi Sunak to encourage growth - versus 24% which want to see additional Covid-19 support or recovery measures (26%).

Digital transformation support tops the regional firms' wishlist - and was cited as the first priority among 48% of them.

East Anglian mid-sized firms also wanted incentives to support low carbon business strategies (40%) and help with investment in skills attraction and development (38%) when the chancellor presents his budget on March 3.

Despite the continuing health and economic crisis, a robust 86% of businesses in the East of England are feeling optimistic about their revenue growth prospects over the next six months - an 8% rise on sentiment in December 2020.

James Brown, partner and practice leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the region, said: “Government support has been vital during the pandemic, yet we can see that the region’s businesses are starting to look longer term, prioritising incentives and investment that support growth, with less reliance on government handouts.

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“In particular, the clear call for backing digital transformation reflects the disruption to ways of working brought about by the pandemic. It’s encouraging that in planning for growth, business leaders are looking to continue to innovate rather than returning to business as usual post-Covid.

“Increased levels of optimism suggest business leaders are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, no doubt driven by the ongoing success of the UK vaccine programme and the Bank of England’s predictions of a strong economic recovery.

"It is important that the government capitalises on this optimism as a driver for growth and backs business in the right way.”

Censuswide surveyed 605 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses with annual turnovers of between £50m and £500m between January 28, 2021, and February 4, 50 of which are based in the East of England.