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Suffolk firms ‘optimistic’, but Brexit fears loom large, Grant Thornton/Birketts Suffolk Ltd survey reveals

PUBLISHED: 06:00 25 October 2017

From left, Rob Thomson of Grant Thornton and Jonathan Agar of Birketts at the launch of Suffolk Limited 2017. Picture: CARL MIDDLEDITCH/BUSHFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

From left, Rob Thomson of Grant Thornton and Jonathan Agar of Birketts at the launch of Suffolk Limited 2017. Picture: CARL MIDDLEDITCH/BUSHFIRE PHOTOGRAPHY

Carl Middleditch/Bushfire Photography

More than half of Suffolk’s top firms are optimistic about their futures - but most believe Brexit will have a negative impact on them, according to a survey.

The poll, from financial and business advisers Grant Thornton and regional law firm Birketts, coincides with the launch of Suffolk Limited 2017, their annual study of the county’s top 100 businesses.

Over the last 15 years, the snapshot of business performance has become a recognised barometer of the local economy.

The survey shows 55% of Suffolk firms questioned feel confident about trading conditions over the coming year, while 61% expect to invest substantially in new equipment, property or acquisitions and a further 54% plan to increase their workforce over the same period.

But there are concerns for the longer term, with almost three quarters (71%) of companies stating that Brexit will have a negative impact on their business.

Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton’s Ipswich office who is leading this year’s Suffolk Limited study, said the findings build a detailed picture of the health of the county’s economy, and further inform ongoing work to make it more progressive and productive.

“Last year’s Suffolk Limited showed the county’s 100 largest firms delivered significant growth, primarily due to businesses continuing to improve their operational efficiency and taking a cautious attitude to investment,” he said.

“Our launch poll suggests Suffolk businesses are planning to continue this approach over the next 12 months, possibly as part of a strategy to ensure they are in the strongest position to face the challenges – and also capitalise on the opportunities – Brexit will undoubtedly present.”

The poll findings also identified skills shortages as one of the main barriers to growth for Suffolk companies with over half (52%) of firms stating there is insufficient talent available when recruiting to help move their business forward.

Birketts chief executive Jonathan Agar warned skills availability continued to be a key challenge for businesses - but said upskilling and apprenticeships were fast gaining recognition.

The 2017 Suffolk Limited results will be unveiled on November 29 at Wherstead Park, Ipswich. For more information or to register your interest in the event, email carole.a.parrott@uk.gt.com

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