Suffolk business leaders call for government help as firms’ confidence crumbles
- Credit: Andrew Partridge
Suffolk business leaders are calling for a post-Brexit boost to help firms as regional confidence starts to crumble amid continuing uncertainty.
Suffolk Chamber of Commerce's latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) covering the third quarter of 2019 shows an overall decline once again in reported business activity and sentiment.
Communications head Paul Simon warned service companies' declines appeared to be gathering steam, following on from previous quarter-on-quarter reductions in activity and sentiment.
MORE - Suffolk businesses face 'pivotal' period as manufacturers battle falling salesWhile the QES data suggested manufacturers were doing well overall, especially for exports, even these showed declines in longer-term measures of activity and sentiment which needed to be watched carefully, he said.
But it was "too simplistic" to blame uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the UK's longer-term relationship with the European Union as the sole cause for the declines, he said.
But he added: "However, it is clear that appropriate assistance from government as we leave whether that be overnight or during a transitional period would be helpful in smoothing out any further turbulence."
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A total of 138 Suffolk firms completed the latest survey - 37 from the manufacturing sector and 101 in services.
It showed declines on the previous quarter in 19 of the 30 main QES criteria, with 11 notching up improvements.
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However, the figures were better than for the East of England overall average, which saw a more worrying 26 of the 30 benchmarks recording declines compared with the second quarter of the year.
The biggest falls among Suffolk businesses were in some of the key longer-term criteria recorded by the survey including in training investment, confidence in improving profitability, confidence in improving turnover and with one exception in each, future cashflow projections and employment expectations.
In spite of the declines, a majority of the criteria were still in positive territory, meaning more businesses were reporting increases than those recording decreases - although by smaller margins.
A bounceback in current activity among manufacturers - first noticed in the last quarter - continued into the third, with small improvements in domestic sales, domestic orders, export sales and export orders.
But service companies reported declines across all criteria, with the exception of export sales and the impact of rising prices, including domestic sales (-2%), domestic orders (-20%), overseas orders (-13%), cashflow (-14%) and future profitability (-10%).