BCC: Autumn Statement must boost confidence

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) is calling on the chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond to use next month's Autumn Statement to ease business concerns and boost investment.

The call comes as the BCC publishes its latest Quarterly Economic Survey, Britain's largest poll of private sector businesses. It shows a "mixed picture and flags up falling confidence levels - compared to the previous survey, fewer firms plan to recruit in the next year and fewer expect to see improvements in their turnover and profitability.

On a positive note, the findings reveal that manufacturers have enjoyed improved domestic and export sales compared with the previous quarter, with some benefitting from sterling's recent fall. However, the balance of service sector firms reporting improved domestic and export sales was at the lowest level seen since 2012.

Overall, the survey finds that the UK economy is still growing - albeit more slowly than before the referendum - and it supports the BCC's forecast for growth of 1% in 2017. However, it also warns that uncertainty over Brexit has led businesses to lower their expectations for hiring, turnover and investment.

"While many manufacturers have seen something of a bounce this summer, the UK's services sector has slowed significantly, and our data suggests that slower growth is likely in the months ahead," said Adam Marshall, BCC acting director general.

"Boosting business must be a key task for Government in the months ahead," he said. "Firms are concerned over investment, hiring, and profitability. The chancellor's Autumn Statement is a crucial opportunity to incentivise business investment and overseas trade. Given this mixed picture, and muted business investment intentions, the BCC is urging the Government to use next month's Autumn Statement to boost business confidence - by giving the green light to key infrastructure projects, and by introducing measures that 'crowd in' business investment and job creation."

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