British firms are looking to increase investment and boost recruitment according to figures published in the latest Lloyds Bank Business in Britain report.
The document gathers the views of over 1,500 small to medium sized UK companies, and tracks a range of performance and confidence measures, weighing up the percentage of firms that are positive in outlook against those that are negative.
Business confidence is now highest in the North East (38 per cent), followed by the North West (31 per cent) and the West Midlands (per cent) while London, the East Midlands and the South East are also above the national average. The lowest level of confidence is in Yorkshire and the Humber (15 per cent), followed by Scotland (17 per cent) and the East of England (per cent).
It’s not all positive though. Firms indicated anxiety about the risks ahead with weaker demand, both domestic and overseas remaining as the greatest risk to firms in the next six months. 25 per cent of firms highlighted this issue, although that was lower than the previous 29 per cent in July.
In addition, the proportion of firms reporting economic and political uncertainty as their greatest risk increased to 22 per cent from 15 per cent and 13 per cent from 11 per cent, respectively. The survey was conducted before Prime Minister Theresa May secured an agreement from Brussels to move Brexit talks to a second phase. From a regional perspective firms in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are the most concerned about a Brexit ‘no deal’.
Gareth Oakley, Managing Director, SME Banking, Lloyds Banking Group said:
“Despite market uncertainty and global political turbulence, businesses are still upbeat.
“Many are looking to boost their investment and staff numbers which is very encouraging, even though challenges remain in recruiting skilled labour.
“While the Brexit negotiations continue, businesses are focused on short term threats – including managing higher costs and maintaining positive cash flow – so that they can prepare for whatever 2018 brings.”