Happy New Year!
I hope you all had a chance to relax with those people most important to you and to recharge ready for the fresh challenges and opportunities in the coming year. 2022 begins with uncertainty as we struggle with increasing rates of Omicron virus infection and Government guidance is urging us to work from home as we deal with schools reopening and the aftereffects on infection of socialising and gatherings over the festive period.
At least we are all used to it now and although many want to return to the workplace as soon as possible, the PM’s stance seems to be that we will carry on with Plan B and ride out the current wave of infection with no further curbs.
I am pleased to say that its business as usual from the Chambers with our usual level of support and services. We will obviously adapt our events programme to reflect the risk of infection and maintain a full programme of networking, seminars, meetings either online or face-to-face when and where possible.
There is something on offer for everyone, including business support, networking, forums, exclusive experience days and more. Whether you want to make new contacts via networking or sharpen your business acumen, take a look at the events calendar for the next three months, here.
Sobering news this week as the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) – the UK’s largest independent survey of business sentiment and a leading indicator of UK GDP growth – has shown the recovery stalled in the fourth quarter, with firms facing unprecedented inflationary pressures.
The survey of almost 5,500 firms showed that some indicators also revealed a continued stagnation in the proportion of firms reporting improved cashflow and increased investment. Inflation is the top issue for firms, while a rise in the interest rate was also a cause for concern for many.
The number of respondents reporting increased domestic sales was down slightly from 47 percent in Q3 to 45 percent. 16 percent reported a decrease, unchanged from Q3.
58 percent of firms expect their prices to increase in the next three months, due to inflationary pressures, the highest on record. Firms cited rises in the price of raw materials, pay settlements, finance costs and other overheads as factors leading to increased prices.
When asked what was more of a concern to their business than three months ago, 66 percent of firms cited inflation (compared to 52 percent in Q3 and 25 percent in Q4 2020), again the highest on record. For production and manufacturing firms, this rises to 75 percent. There are also growing concerns about cashflow, indebtedness and how all of these pressures can be passed onto customers and consumers, whilst energy and cost of living rises hit us all.
The survey goes on to cite concerns over interest rates rising, no recovery in cash flow and lack of investment. A challenging picture for the UK economy as we start 2022. Many businesses were facing a struggle to improve their cashflow and raise investment even before the Omicron variant surged and Plan B was imposed.
Supply chain disruption is continuing to persist, inflation is soaring, and rising energy costs are presenting firms with a huge headache. With companies now having to grapple with the impact of Omicron and further changes to the rules on imports and exports of goods to the EU, there are significant hurdles for businesses in the months ahead.
The Government has listened to our previous calls for support and it must do all it can to steady the ship and steer the economy through these uncertain times. If the current restrictions persist or are tightened further then a more comprehensive support package that matches the scale of any new measures, will need to be put in place.
The focus must be on creating the best possible environment for businesses to grow and thrive. By supporting firms, they can begin to generate wealth, create jobs, and support communities. That is by far the best way to sustainably deliver the tax revenue that the government needs to support public services and the wider economy. You can view the full article here.
If you want to talk to us about any business issues, including funding, you can call our switchboard on 01782 202222 or call the Stoke and Staffs Growth Hub Helpline on 0300 111 8002 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org