The long road to recovery

First published in Talking Business The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

THE improved GDP figures may have sparked celebrations in the Government but
business owners in the North-East are finding conditions incredibly tough and don’t feel the economic outlook has improved significantly.
All signs of a recovery are to be welcomed but let’s not get carried away by quarterly figures that enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime spending boost from the Olympic Games. 
According to the latest economic study by Bibby Financial Services, for the second consecutive quarter a significant proportion of firms in our region are continuing their struggle for survival.
A quarter of the region’s businesses are reporting that the climate is incredibly tough, the same number as in Q2.
Worryingly for David Cameron and George Osborne, half of business owners in this region say they saw no signs of an economic recovery in Q3, a 32 per cent rise on Q2, and about a third are not expecting the UK economy to recover for at least another five years, and as a result of this lack of confidence, 99 per cent of the firms which took part in the survey admit to cutting costs and overheads to deal with future economic challenges.
Pulin Trivedi, spokesperson for Bibby, said: “The effects of the double dip recession seem to be hitting businesses here harder than across the rest of the UK and they will therefore require greater support from the government and the finance industry to get back on track.”
He hoped that with the right commercial strategy and better access to funding, there are signs that businesses in the North-East will be able to return to growth next year.

Many thanks to everyone who contributed the live blog last Thursday. We’ll be doing another one when The Chancellor announces his interim Budget on December 5. Our request for local businesses to share their insights into signs of economic recovery brought a deluge of comments. Most of you expressed cautious optimism. Dominic Gardner, a director of Sunderland-based road repair and maintenance specialists Velocity spoke for many when he said: "There can be little doubt it will be a long road to recovery for the UK economy."

It was pleasing to see van hire company Northgate re-affirm its commitment to Darlington. The company, which began when Alan Noble set up Noble Self Drive from his home, now employs about 2,000 people and has a fleet of 55,000 vehicles. Their presence on the road are a reminder of a great Tees Valley success story. This week Northgate staff relocated to a new customer service centre, based in the former HQ of Darlington Building Society. It brings Northgate’s total number of workers in the region to about 400. 
A Tweet from Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson caught my eye last week. “Helping to present veterans badgers at Neville Parade Community Centre,” he announced. I suppose anything is preferable to being culled in their thousands. 

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