Small firms business confidence in East of England hits five year high

Shoppers on London Road North in Lowestoft ahead of the second lockdown

Business confidence among small firms in East of England hits five year high - Credit: Mick Howes

Small firms in the East of England are more confident now than they have been at any point over the past five years, according to a new survey.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) quarterly Small Business Index for the region showed business confidence reaching 33% overall, rocketing up from -41% in the final quarter of 2020.

With the furlough scheme shutting down over the coming months, 5% of small businesses in the East said they expected to have to let people go over the next quarter — but 20% said they were expecting to increase staff numbers.

More than half of the businesses surveyed (54%) said they expected salaries to rise during the coming year, and a third said the increase was likely to be above 2%.

Just under half (46%) of small firms in the East of England said they planned to grow rapidly or moderately during the next 12 months, compared to 8% who were planning to downsize.

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Richard Gapper, FSB policy lead for the East of England, said: “The certainty provided by the government’s road-map is filling many of our region’s small business owners with renewed confidence.

"We live in hope that the virus stays in retreat so the remaining indicative dates for unlocking can be met, enabling our vital night time economies, offices and travel and tourism businesses to get back to it as well.  

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“Initiatives like Kickstart, as well as incentives to take on apprentices and trainees, need to be delivered efficiently over the coming months to protect against a job market shock and support the young people that have disproportionately borne the brunt of rising unemployment.  

“Policymakers also need to look at measures to encourage hiring activity. Bringing down the non-wage costs of employment, starting with employer national insurance contributions, which essentially serve as a jobs tax, would certainly help.

“With emergency loan repayments now starting to bite, the government should carefully consider routes to realising economic value from the facilities it has underwritten: an approach to repayment based on the student loan model and greater adoption of employee ownership trusts could both mark constructive ways forward.”

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