Business confidence booming, says survey

The survey was completed by more than 100 firms across the county to present a snapshot of issues such as finance, staffing, politics and confidence.

Significantly, the results reveal that five out of six local firms have achieved parity or improved sales in the previous 12 months, and four out of five had level or better pre-tax profits. Although these figures are lower than in last year’s survey results, this shows growth in the region in a time of economic uncertainty.

Almost 90% of respondents had the same or increased staff levels from 2011, and almost 94% predicted they would have the same or more staff next year. On another positive note, employers are providing training across the board and almost 90% are holding or increasing their training spend.

Respondents criticised a lack of skills and too much red tape as obstacles to recruitment, and particularly expressed disapproval at the education system and standards of literacy.

On a similar note, the survey revealed that 72.7% of respondents had generally suffered from increased red tape and regulatory changes and 63.6% were hit by fees for professional services and compliance advice.

Regarding access to finance, the results showed that businesses are looking to a variety of sources. More than three quarters (76.7%) were investing their own profits (up from 50% last year); 41.9% borrowing from banks (up from 22%); 18.6% accessing grant funding (up from 14%); and 4.6% using venture capital or share issues (up from 2%).

“These results show that Lancashire businesses are remaining upbeat in what is obviously a difficult time and shows the ‘can-do’ attitude of the county shining through,” said chairman of Downtown Lancashire in Business, Frank McKenna.

“This is really encouraging news and shows that Lancashire really can hold its own against the likes of Manchester and Liverpool.”

The survey was sponsored by Moore & Smalley and Forbes. John Barker of Forbes said: “The Lancashire Business Survey is an important tool for the county and shows that we are committed to making the area a force to be reckoned with. We are very pleased that the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership board has agreed to hear a presentation on the survey results at its December meeting.”

The survey results were presented at a breakfast event at Preston’s Marriott hotel, where the guest speaker was Adam Posen, member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England.