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'Quiet confidence' among Birmingham firms - report

But Greater Birmingham's business leaders call for the Government to create better economic conditions following triggering of Article 50

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce
Paul Faulkner, chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham are calling on the Government to create favourable economic conditions during the next critical financial quarter.

This follows the latest Quarterly Business Report, published by the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, which shows "quiet confidence" among firms based in the region.

However, it indicates that assurances are needed from the Government around the Brexit negotiations following the triggering of Article 50 and the election of a mayor in the West Midlands will be key to businesses creating greater prosperity.

Chamber chief executive Paul Faulkner said: "Now that Article 50 has been triggered, we are calling on the Government to create favourable economic conditions to ensure our members are equipped with the means required to adapt to the upcoming changes and to embrace the new opportunities on offer with Europe and further afield."

A number of businesses surveyed were showing renewed confidence, with 72 per cent predicting increased turnover in the next 12 months and 67 per cent expecting profitability to improve.

Thirty-six per cent of service companies invested more in employee development, up from 27 per cent in Q4, whereas 14 per cent of manufacturing firms cut their training budgets, a rise from five per cent in the last quarter.

The report, the first of 2017, shows that sales in the UK continued their upward trend in Q1, with a two-point increase to 69.

Overall, 51 per cent of local businesses recorded growth in domestic sales with 13 per cent reporting a reduction, a marginal fall from the 15 per cent recorded at the end of last year.

The general rise was predominantly driven by a favourable upturn in manufacturing firms' domestic output, with 53 per cent citing an improvement in domestic revenue - the highest total reported since September 2015.

Domestic sales for service firms remained static but both sectors reported convincing projections in domestic orders for the next three months.

The export demand balance remained the same heading into the first quarter of 2017 with a 14 per cent increase in the number of firms reporting constant export sales.

With the depreciation of sterling continuing to create favourable export conditions for UK businesses, a strong balance score figure of 64 was maintained from the last quarter.

Thirty-two per cent of firms saw an increase in their export sales, a seven per cent drop from Q4 2016.

Both manufacturing and service sectors revealed a drop in recruitment plans over the quarter and the chamber said it was concerned to see local companies citing an eight per cent increase in recruitment difficulties, with a lack of skills again being the primary concern.

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