Businesses reveal impact of public sector cuts

Networking and lobbying group Downtown Lancashire in Business hosted a discussion to promote the fourth Lancashire Business Survey which was attended by business leaders from across the county including John Barker from Forbes Solicitors, Mark Delaney from Leonard Curtis, Michael Conlon from Conlon Construction and Lancashire Business View publisher Richard Slater.

Many local authorities and public bodies have cut staff numbers which has led to an outsourcing of project management skills and a grouping of smaller projects. Suppliers to the public sector have also changed the way they work, taking on smaller contracts and finding increased demand for less budget.

The group expressed concerns that the private sector was also expected to create roles for former public sector employees, but the perception is that there is a skills gap and an unrealistic expectation of remuneration.

There is also a shift in attitudes from the banks, according to John Lowery from Askam Construction. He explained: “The Government has put pressure on the banks to take a longer-term view and they are now working with businesses to help them resolve their issues rather than just shutting them down.”

Mark Delaney added: “The two biggest banks, RBS and Lloyds, are now taxpayer funded and so are vulnerable to potential risk but are also subject to more public scrutiny.

”Insolvency practitioners are not seeing the volume of work expected as banks are sitting on losses and, therefore, state-owned losses are not being cleared out which affects confidence. The feeling is that we are bumping along the bottom and not tackling the problem effectively. “

The discussion also highlighted the perception that it will take another three years to return to growth and that many more businesses may struggle as recovery gathers pace.

Frank McKenna, chairman of Downtown in Business, said: “The discussion highlights a lack of confidence in the economy and continued mistrust between the public and private sectors in Lancashire. If we are to move forward we need strong leadership from our private sector and a strengthening of relationships to ensure we are all working towards the common goal of business growth in the region.”

The results of this year’s Lancashire Business Survey, sponsored by Forbes Solicitors and Moore and Smalley, will be announced at an event at Stanley House, Mellor on 13 October at 8.30am. To register log onto www.downtownpreston.com