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19 January 2009

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Local Chamber counters BCC with positive picture

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Peterborough Chamber of Commerce is urging local businesses not to be alarmed by warnings from its national counterpart that the economic downturn is ‘deteriorating at a frightening rate’.

Peterborough Chamber of Commerce

Despite a national survey of businesses conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) showing a worsening economic situation across the UK, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce claims that the outlook across this county is much brighter.

John Bridge OBE, Chief Executive of Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, said: “The BCC has painted an exceptionally bleak picture from the results of the fourth quarter survey, but it is not a picture that is recognised by a significant majority of businesses in Peterborough and indeed across Cambridgeshire. The localised results of the survey show that 68% of companies surveyed found that their cashflow either improved or remained constant during quarter four.

“And despite reports that redundancies are on the rise nationally, across Cambridgeshire 86% of respondents stated that Q4 employment levels within their organisations had remained constant or increased, with almost 60% having tried to recruit staff during quarter four, and 79% stating that their plans to invest in staff training had either improved or remained the same.

“On an almost daily basis the Chamber is coming across members who are experiencing record sales and growth figures, many of whom are totally unable to relate to the concerns being raised in the national press. The survey results relating to employment are particularly encouraging, as this is clearly a key area in which businesses make cut-backs when confidence in the market is low.”

Cash is crucial if businesses are to overcome the challenges that lie ahead, and at the top of the list remains the Chambers’ pledge to continue to challenge the Government and the financial institutions over the need for appropriate availability of credit – and at an appropriate cost of borrowing. Without this businesses are unable to tackle the declining markets head on, and will be forced into cutbacks which may severely hamper their ability to flourish once the current trends are reversed.

The question of confidence is also at the top of the Chambers’ priorities, and the organisation is actively encouraging businesses to think positively, identify and focus on the opportunities available and take advantage of these opportunities.

John Bridge continued: “We are disappointed that the BCC has painted such a bleak picture that does not necessarily reflect the true situation in every part of the country, and the Chamber would like to see more emphasis placed on the proactive steps that companies can take to bolster their position.

“The new business payment support service from HM Revenue and Customs is a key tool for SMEs that are finding it difficult to pay income tax, VAT, corporation tax and National Insurance contributions, as it allows businesses to make payments over a longer period. Even though interest will still be charged on outstanding amounts, the rates payable are generally lower than rates offered by many high-street banks and payment deferral will not only help to alleviate cashflow issues in the short-term but will give business owners the breathing space they need to reassess their market.

“Similarly tomorrow’s long-overdue announcement of a business aid package will, we hope, go some way to ensuring that viable businesses are given the access to cash which they have been denied since the banks curbed their lending.”

January 2009 - Peterborough UK Community Website




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