National survey results do not tell the whole story on the state of regional business
The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) gloomy assessment of an economy moving into recession is not quite borne out by the Cornwall figures that contribute to their national survey.
Cornwall Chamber of Commerce contributes valuable data to the BCC quarterly economic survey, which attempts to understand the ongoing position of businesses across the UK. Information is gathered from Chamber members and other key employers in the county. Researcher Charlotte Hutchings points out that Cornwall does a good job of providing information: “Compared with other chambers Cornwall is achieving a very high level of response, particularly from members, with the second highest response rate in the UK last quarter”. The subsequent data is seen as providing a very clear picture of the situation for Cornwall’s business community.
It is clear that business confidence is weakening with concerns about food and energy price inflation having the greatest impact. However, that impact is far less than elsewhere in the UK. Figures for Cornwall include:
- 79% of businesses expect their workforce to remain the same or increase in the next quarter, a slight decline from the first quarter of the year. Only 7% expect it to decrease, the same as the first quarter.
- 44% expect turnover to increase, but only 35% expect profitability to increase.
- In recruitment, 23% increased their workforce this quarter with another 23% expecting to increase in the next quarter.
- 53% have increased or maintained their order book in the last quarter, a slight decrease on the first quarter.
- The last quarter showed an improvement in activity, with 55% suggesting that they were operating below full capacity, compared with 58% in the last quarter.
Martin Follett, Chairman of the Cornwall Chamber, says that it is too early to draw any clear conclusions but the Cornwall data does not suggest that recession is imminent “It is clear from the figures that business confidence has weakened slightly and growth is much slower than we have seen in the recent past. You don’t need to do much research to see that times are getting harder for us all. It is also true that some sectors of the business community are being hit harder than others. But for all that, this survey suggests that at this early stage the Cornwall economy overall is weathering the storm. Of course, it remains to be seen whether we really are doing better than elsewhere, or whether the impact of all of the gloom has yet to catch up with us”.
He admits that the economic picture is mixed, with some figures looking better than expected and others much worse, but is concerned that we should not talk ourselves into further difficulty. “So much of this is dependent on confidence. When a set of figures is published it is easy to focus on the negative, especially if your aim is to make the Six O’ Clock News. At the Chamber our job is to reflect what is happening to our members. In the main whilst few are celebrating record profits, apart from property-related businesses most of our members are surviving the current crises in world markets”.
Note to Editors:
The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and Industry was established in 1988 and is accredited by the British Chambers of Commerce. It is an independent, local organisation, whose main aim is to improve the prosperity and competitiveness of Cornish businesses.