Firms demand bold policy to lift 2013 growth

 
Ben Southwood
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GOVERNMENT needs to take “bold and imaginative” policy steps to guarantee 2013 will see the economic turnaround firms are hoping for, a prominent business lobby said this morning.

Firms are confident that the coming year will see an improvement in the UK’s economic outlook, according to the British Chamber of Commerce’s (BCC) quarterly report. But BCC boss John Longworth called on the government to deliver a package of growth-orientated policy measures to make sure a 2013 improvement turns into a lasting recovery.

Both manufacturers and service firms expressed growing optimism about their sales and profitability in the survey, which polled around 8,000 firms in the fourth quarter of 2012.

In the service sector, turnover confidence rose 10 percentage points to hit plus 38 per cent – the highest net balance since the beginning of 2008. While in the manufacturing sector, confidence in profitability – plus 30 per cent on balance – was above any point in five years.

As well as the positive forward-looking figures, the proportion of firms reporting improving order books, employment and investment increased, but stayed below long-term averages.

But Longworth said that despite the positive outlook, significant weakness remained, and the government must kick-start growth with measures to boost private funding for infrastructure spending, a UK business bank and reform of the country’s planning system.