WAGE and price pressures dominated the latest discussion of the Shadow Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) as members voted unanimously to hold interest rates.

However, a couple of members believed a rise should come over the next few months.

The MPC is a partnership between The Northern Echo, the North East England Chamber of Commerce and Darlington Building Society, which considers the state of the region’s economy and gives experts from a variety of sectors the opportunity to argue their case for a shift, or hold, in the rate.

Committee chairman and finance director at Darlington Building Society, Christopher White, said: “There’s been an expectation, even from the Bank of England, about the forecast for wage inflation in 2018.

"It’s interesting to hear people talk about the difficulties with recruitment but we’ve heard some positive moves in the North-East with employment in general and I’m wondering if the recruitment issues are part of that.

“It’s been a torrid time for savers and I wavered on a rise but I agree that it’s something for later on in 2018.”

Rachel Anderson, head of policy and representation at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “From some of the feedback from our retailers, they reported seeing a good Christmas, but a lot of returns in January, which makes you wonder if people were getting their credit card bills and saying – this has to go back.

“We’re also seeing some pressure on wages, not a high over the top pressure, but certainly for tracking inflation.”

Paul Gibson, of Active Chartered Financial Planners, said: “Inflation, GDP figures and exports were all very good news.

"I think we need to be a little bit cautious with what happens with interest rates over the coming months until we see the GDP and inflation figures coming through in the coming months.”

Gary Ellis, partner at Clive Owen & Co, said: “There are less chartered accountants around and therefore we’re all feeling the pinch a little bit no matter what size of practice.

"It’s good news regarding less unemployment, but it is putting a little bit of pressure on.

“There’s possibly the Carillion impact, the overall impact of Carillion hasn’t yet been felt yet over the country.

"There is a wide impact if you look at the UK supply chain.”

Emma Simpkins, director of Stockton-based Henderson Insurance Brokers, said: “As with everyone, we’re struggling to get people who want to come into insurance and have got the skills to grow our own and retrain.

"There are no insurance companies in general in Teesside at all, but the majority are in Leeds.

“We’ve had a ten per cent growth though over the last year from the different sectors we look after.

"The general vibe is the profits are starting to come back for them and the investment will is out there.

“Brexit makes people a little bit nervous but we’re pretty positive at the moment.”

Graham Robb, senior partner at Recognition PR, said: “We’ve been very busy since January, with lots of phone calls and new assignments, including in the food and property sector.

“There’s a bit of wage pressure, but smaller businesses will do what larger businesses try to do and make sure that wage pressure relates to performance.

“Generally, I think business is pretty good and the vibes I’m getting in the market place are positive and encouraging.

“I was tempted to vote for a rate rise, but I don’t think it should happen before Easter.

"There are still very positive things in the economy but there’s still a lot of people on fixed incomes and it’s not delivering a balanced economy for people like that.

"For this month, stability is in order.”

Nicola Neilson of Darlington-based Latimer Hinks Solicitors, said: “I echo what has been said about the skills shortage.

"We certainly want to recruit, but finding people with the right skills is difficult.

“We’ve been crunching the numbers and when we’ve compared figures for 2017 to the previous year, the value of transactions was about the same, but we noticed a significant increase in mortgages and re-mortgages.

"There seems to be a lot more financing or re-financing taking place, which is a positive.

"Certainly we’ve heard for many years the banks telling us the money is there and we’re happy to lend, but that’s never been converted when we’ve looked at the work we’ve been doing, so it’s been quite interesting to see that over the last 12 months the number of mortgages and re-mortgages has increased quite significantly.”

Nick Pope, financial director at furniture maker Godfrey Syrett, which has sites in Belmont and Langley Moor, said: “Certainly there is price pressure and I would echo the wage pressure.

"We’re finding it challenging to recruit at the right level, which is to be expected with the lack of wage inflation over the last few years.

"I would be slightly cautious at least until we’ve seen the impact of import inflation particularly.”

Chris Droogan, managing director of Darlington's Cleveland Bridge, said: “We’ve had another good year.

"In the UK, we’ve seen a lot of infrastructure opportunities going forward for a number of years, so that’s positive.

"We are seeing a lot of cost pressure, we’ve seen our costs increase and we are seeing a push back on wage rates.

“Some skills shortages I would say, that’s being reflected in being a little bit more difficult to attract good people.

"We are seeing companies bid to retain good skills at the higher end of the management sector.

“I remain optimistic, there are a few worries on the horizon in terms of the Brexit effect, but so far the experience has been positive.”