Norfolk economy shows signs of stagnation in latest Chamber survey

Nova Fairbank, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce public affairs manager. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Nova Fairbank, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce public affairs manager. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The Norfolk economy is treading water with manufacturing sales and recruitment remaining static in the first quarter of the year, according to research by a business body.

Norfolk Chamber of Commerce's quarterly economic survey found while the services sector had seen a slight rise in domestic sales, with a net balance of +19% of businesses saying they had seen an increase, manufacturers had stalled, returning the lowest balance since Q1 2017.

Export sales and orders also stagnated, remaining at balances of +31 and +26 respectively for manufacturers.

Recruitment in both services and manufacturing remained positive but in line with the previous quarter and firms continued to experience difficulties in hiring.

Companies reporting improvements in cashflow also remained low with manufacturers at +4 and services at +11.

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Nova Fairbank, public affairs manager for Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, said the government needed to put business issues at the top of the agenda quickly.

She said: 'Uncertainty, recruitment difficulties and price pressures remain persistent concerns for businesses of every shape and size, even if short-term confidence levels remain resilient.

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'The national economy saw a good performance from exporting manufacturers – which brought their results in line with those in Norfolk this quarter - [but] Norfolk manufacturers did not find further opportunities and their results remained the same as the previous quarter.

'Therefore while more exporters were able to reap the benefits of lower sterling, the UK economy as a whole is treading water, rather than powering ahead.

'It's time for the UK government to multitask and demonstrate that it can do more than negotiate Brexit.

'A far stronger domestic economic agenda is needed to fix the fundamentals needed for business to thrive here at home.

'At a time when Norfolk firms face steep up-front costs, the apprenticeship system is in crisis, roads are being allowed to crumble, mobile phone and broadband 'not-spots' are multiplying, it's obvious that the key to improved productivity and competitiveness lies in getting the basics right.'

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