Cornwall business sentiment catches up with UK

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For the first time this year a major quarterly survey of Cornwall’s business community shows a decrease in optimism. None of the key indicators were more positive than the previous quarter.

Cornwall Chamber of Commerce contributes valuable data to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) quarterly economic survey, which attempts to understand the ongoing position of businesses across the UK. In Cornwall this is a survey of 500 businesses across all sectors of industry, both members and non-members of the Chamber of Commerce. For the first time this year, the survey paints a picture as uncertain as elsewhere in the UK.

“Responses in the previous nine months showed resilience in the face of national and global turbulence” said Chamber Chairman Martin Follett. “This latest survey offers the first real negative data and points to a tough time to come”.

According to the latest figures:

• 43% of companies expect turnover to decrease at the start of 2009
• In the previous survey 11% of companies expected to decrease their workforce in the three months to December. In the event, 29% did.
• More companies saw a decrease in UK sales compared to the previous quarter
• Fewer companies exported compared with the previous quarter – the first decrease all year

Nationally the BCC is concerned about the banks’ attitude to lending and a spiral of negative reports leading to declining consumer confidence. For the first time, there are signs that Cornwall is feeling those combined pressures.

There is some comfort however: “Compared with data from other Chambers around the country, Cornwall is not yet in the depths of despair” said Martin. Measures to support business are also having some positive impact. “We hear from many members that support from government agencies, particularly Revenue & Customs, is proving useful. One would hope that the significant investment coming from Convergence in Cornwall will mean that we can limit the damage of the recession and come out the other side more quickly”.