Businesses across the region are facing ‘challenging times’ amidst growing concerns over Brexit which is impacting upon growth and confidence, according to the latest figures released by the Sheffield City Region’s Quarterly Economic Review (QER).
The results of the final quarter of the year (Q4) were unveiled by David Littlewood, professor of Strategic Management at the University of Sheffield’s Management School at a special event which was hosted by Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber at the AESSEAL New York Stadium.
According to the latest statistics, whilst Brexit and its impact upon exchange rates were cited by SMEs as being the biggest challenges they faced, over the past quarter, the region’s manufacturers have been particularly hard hit. Growing numbers of manufacturers cited increases in the cost of raw materials and a declining export market has resulted in a more difficult trading period.
However, during the same period, the region’s service industry performed better, with many SMEs recording improved levels of and plans to increase their workforce, however some also noted difficulties in recruiting suitable members of staff.
With Brexit firmly in the spotlight during the event, the QES asked business owners how informed they felt about the implications of the UK leaving the European Union, with the vast majority of those surveyed indicating they are unsure how Brexit will impaction upon their work. Just 22% of businesses operating in the service industry and 44% of manufacturers said they had made special provisions for dealing with Brexit.
Attended by more than 100 businesses operating throughout the region, the event also featured a special presentation by Jenny Lawson of Enterprise Europe Network who provided a briefing and update on Brexit, before joining a panel discussion featuring William Beckett, Chair of the International Trade Forum, Neil MacDonald, Chair of SCR Business Growth Board and Jayne Mezulis, Export & Import Consultancy Services by EICS.
Andrew Denniff, Chief Executive, Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce said:
“The latest survey results show that as we edge closer towards the planned leaving date, there are signs that areas of the local economy are already beginning to feel the impact of the continued political instability surrounding Brexit. The local manufacturing industry in particular has faced clear difficulties over the past twelve months, as they face the double whammy of reduced profitability in the export market and rising raw material costs.
“It is clear from this morning’s discussions that business owners are facing challenging times. They are concerned about the continued political instability being caused by Brexit and we urge parliament to act decisively to get a comprehensive deal done. We need clarity rather than political posturing if they are to get answers to the practical questions that still remain and given the present timeframe there remains a high degree of uncertainty for businesses.”
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said:
“Preparing the Sheffield City Region for Brexit is a priority for me. It’s key to everything that we do, from creating good jobs to attracting investment, growing an inclusive economy and building infrastructure for the 21st century.
“We are working hard to ensure that businesses across the region are prepared for the implications and informed about Brexit. At the end of this month (January) the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub is publishing their Brexit tool, that will enable businesses across the region to carry out a self-assessment which will advise them about their strengths and weaknesses in six areas, including innovation and skills. The tool will also direct then to resources and expert help so they can prepare.
“Whatever happens over the coming weeks, months and years, I’m determined to ensure our region’s economic growth continues and that we are both insulated against the challenges and best positioned to exploit the opportunities.”
The Quarterly Economic Review, is published by the Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber, Sheffield Chamber, Doncaster Chamber and the East Midlands Chamber in conjunction with the Sheffield City Region and the University of Sheffield Management School provides an opportunity for business owners to share how their business has performed over the past quarter.
The results of the survey are used to provide a snapshot of the local economy, highlight how current economic issues are impacting upon the local business community. The survey forms part of the British Chambers QES, the UK’s longest running private sector survey which acts as an economic indicator, often highlighting big changes in the economy long before other surveys or other official statistics. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee use the QER as a key benchmark when setting interest rates.
The next QER survey begins on the 18 February and runs until 11 March. It is open for all businesses across the Sheffield City Region to take part in. The survey can be accessed at www.screconomy.org.uk