Business confidence high despite EU referendum vote

Almost half of businesses in Worcestershire are confident that their turnover will improve in 2017 – despite the result of the EU referendum last summer, according to the findings of the largest survey of Worcestershire’s businesses since Brexit.

A total of 1,250 surveys were completed by the business sector from mid-October to the end of November last year.

The new plan for the county, ‘Shaping Worcestershire’s Future’, identifies economic growth as one of four keys areas to support delivery of ‘A prosperous Worcestershire’. To achieve this objective it is essential that the Council and Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) understand what the business community thinks should be prioritised so that resources can be targeted most effectively.

The results of the survey show that 40% of businesses expect their turnover to improve in 2017 and one third (34%) expect profitability to improve over the next 12 months. This is down slightly from 2015, when the last Business Viewpoint Survey was carried out.

Feedback from participants shows that there is considerable uncertainty amongst businesses as to the impacts of the EU vote. As a result of Britain voting to leave the EU, a third (31%) of businesses cited increased costs as a risk; this was followed by exchange rate volatility (24%) and political uncertainty (21%). A further third (31%) said it was too early to say.

A total of 41% of businesses said they do not expect the EU vote to have an impact on their business in the next 12 months.

Whilst the majority (75%) of businesses expect their workforce size to remain the same over the next 12 months, just under a fifth (17%) anticipate that additional staff will be recruited.

Simon Geraghty, Leader of Worcestershire County Council, said: “We have one of the fastest growing local economies in the country and being Open for Business is one of our key priorities.

“A successful and growing local economy that will generate wealth for residents and businesses, and this growth will increase Council income, enabling us to invest more in those areas that our residents and businesses tell us are most important to them.”

“It is vitally important that we continue to listen to the views of businesses within the county so we know what support is needed to achieve our ambition.”

Gary Woodman, Chief Executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The findings of the latest Business Viewpoint 2016 survey show that companies remain optimistic in growing, with two fifths of businesses expecting an increase in turnover against a backdrop of uncertainty of Brexit. Many respondents consider it too early to understand the full impact of Brexit.

“A majority of businesses recognise the importance of improving the connectivity of the county and availability of skilled employees. The LEP and partners have invested Growth Deal funds into schemes that will improve these areas, including the extension of Superfast Broadband availability to 95% of the county’s premises, and the recently completed Hoobrook Link Road in Kidderminster, plus the Worcestershire apprenticeships initiative means that Worcestershire is delivering improvement to the businesses needs and concerns.”