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London sees record rise in business confidence but lags rest of the UK

CONFIDENCE among business professionals in London has risen by a record 35 points since last quarter &ndash; though the capital remains the least confident in the region, according to a new survey.<br /><br />The latest research from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) showed that confidence rose from -36.2 to -1.1, the largest improvement since the UK Business Confidence Monitor started in 2003. However, the capital remains 5.9 points below the UK average.<br /><br />&ldquo;While there is no doubt that the economy is on its way to recovery, we shouldn&rsquo;t underestimate the challenges ahead for London companies,&rdquo; said ICAEW regional director of London Ian Strange.<br /><br />Turnover, sales volumes and profit are all anticipated to rise over the next twelve months, according to the study, while a reluctance to recruit, stagnant salaries and late payment were seen as barriers to future growth by 33 per cent of companies.<br /><br />London has seen sharper falls in turnover and profit that any other part of the UK over the past year, though gross profits are expected to grow by 2.4 per cent and turnover by 1.9 per cent over the next 12 months.<br /><br />London firms also forecast the steepest fall in staff headcount for the period, saying they expected to cut payroll by a further 0.7 per cent.<br />Overall, Wales was the most confident region with an index of 16.9.