UK economy: Companies call for 'bold action', says BCC

Welder The manufacturing sector expects to hire fewer staff over the next three months

The latest survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) suggests that while the UK economy remains weak, businesses are growing.

However, the quarterly survey of almost 8,000 small- and medium-sized firms says that the pace of activity is too slow for a sustainable recovery.

Director general John Longworth called for the creation of a national business bank and more infrastructure spending.

Bold action is necessary, he said, adding: "Growth cannot wait."

The survey found a further small rise in exporting activity among both the service sector and manufacturing firms in the three months to the end of June. Domestic activity, however, showed little net overall change.

There was a mixed picture on employment.


The British Chambers of Commerce is not trying to pretend there has been any significant improvement in the fortunes of the economy - the organisation says the pace of activity is still too sluggish for a sustainable recovery.

But it adds that data on domestic order books suggests expansion. And there has been what is described as a surprisingly good improvement amongst exporters.

The official GDP, or economic output, figures due out at the end of this month are predicted by many analysts to show the economy was declining in the second quarter of the year, partly because of the extra Bank Holiday.

But the BCC believes that there was growth over that three month period and it says there are questions over the accuracy of figures from statisticians at the ONS.

Asked whether they had taken on staff in the last few months, the balance of manufacturing firms hiring stayed at the same as the last quarter at 16%, but the balance of service sector firms that had taken on staff rose six points to 10%.

However, while manufacturers expected to take on fewer staff over the next three months, service sector firms expected to hire more employees.

Mr Longworth said: "While domestic growth continues to bump along the bottom, the silver lining is an increase in firms looking for export opportunities, and in many cases, with countries outside Europe."

But he added: "Growth cannot wait. The government must take an imaginative and brave approach to stimulating the economy and helping businesses thrive. Headline-grabbing U-turns on fuel duty are not enough to get the economy back on track.

"The creation of a business bank, for example, would ensure that new and growing companies can access the finance they need to invest in new products and services, export to new markets, and take on more staff."

He said that more public investment in rail, air, maritime, energy and digital networks would attract private finance into much needed projects.

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