Small businesses in Birmingham are looking on the bright side, it was claimed today.

Despite uncertainty about interest rates, business taxes and the effects of the global credit crunch, a survey commissioned by Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank found that nearly a quarter of SMEs in Birmingham feel more positive about the year ahead and two thirds feel the outlook for their business is the same as in 2007.

Less than one in 10 (nine per cent) are viewing things negatively.

The main areas of focus for businesses will be developing new product ranges and selling into new sectors.

One in ten said they plan to expand internationally.

Of areas that do concern SMEs in Birmingham, over half (53 per cent) said the economy was a real worry. Over a quarter are anxious about increased red tape, over two fifths about taxes, a third about late payments, nearly a fifth about road pricing and nearly a quarter over interest rates.

Stuart Wilson, head of Alliance & Leicester Commercial Bank's West Midlands Business Centre, said: "Our research shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is vibrant in Birmingham.

"Entrepreneurs are key to the continued strength of the UK economy, with small firms accounting for more than 99 per cent of the country's business population so it's positive news that the economic unrest of the last few months hasn't put them off looking to the future in a positive frame of mind."

And, more than eight in ten small business owners in the West Midlands expect the overall costs of running their operation to increase in 2008, according to new research by Bank of Scotland Business Banking.

Of these, one in ten predicts costs to jump by over 10 per cent, a third between five and 10 per cent, with four in ten forecasting less than five per cent.

The majority of entrepreneurs expect all forms of costs to rise over the coming year including interest rates and rents.

More than six in ten small business owners in the West Midlands say their salary bill will increase over the coming year and three-quarters see a rise in the cost of supplies and raw materials.

Ivan Matviak, head of Bank of Scotland Business Banking, said: "Small business owners are acutely aware of the impact that additional fixed costs can have on the bottom line, and the majority will have seen many of these costs increase exponentially over the past few years.

"Against a background of continued market uncertainty, the majority of these entrepreneurs remain unconvinced by the scare stories and foresee further increases in prices and rates."

Meanwhile, Britain's bosses would not change being self-employed despite many challenges, according to research from Abbey Business Banking.

The study found that 91 per cent of entrepreneurs would take the decision to become self-employed again. This is in spite of the real pressures that running your own business can have on lifestyle.

Some 48 per cent of SME bosses say that since they have become self-employed they have less time to do the things they like. And 63 per cent believe that it is more stressful being self-employed than working for someone else.

However, 62 per cent would recom-mend being self-employed to anyone who was considering it.

Most entrepreneurs are not in it just for the money - 87 per cent state they have become self-employed to improve their quality of life, not just financial rewards. Moreover, 88 per cent believe that it is more enjoyable working for themselves than for someone else.

Ian Wilson, managing director of Abbey Business Banking, commented: "Despite the obvious stresses and strains of running your own business, this research shows that Britain's bosses really enjoy being self-employed, and would do it all again given the chance."