Firms in St Helens remain upbeat despite worries over Brexit, inflation and import costs

Final economic survey of 2016 from St Helens Chamber paints a mixed picture for the manufacturing and service sectors in the town. Tony McDonough reports.

Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber
Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber

Businesses in St Helens expect “modest growth” in 2017 despite reporting a slowdown in domestic markets and job creation at the end of last year.

Uncertainty over Brexit, rising inflation, and rising import costs are the key concerns for the months ahead.

The final economic survey of 2016 from St Helens Chamber paints a mixed picture for the manufacturing and service sectors in the town.

The local service sector recorded tentative improvements in the six of the 10 key economic indicators in the fourth quarter of 2016, however both sectors indicated a slowdown in domestic markets and job creation.

Looking forward, both sectors expect domestic orders books to improve, turnover to increase and more job creation.

Modest growth

Overall the survey findings suggest growth will continue in 2017, albeit as a modest pace, as both manufacturing and service sectors feel pressure from rising costs, which are squeezing margins.

Tracy Mawson, deputy chief executive at St Helens Chamber, said: “In the absence of a clear road ahead, many companies have been adopting a ‘business as usual’ approach in the months since the referendum, which has kept conditions buoyant in 2016 and prevented a sharp slowdown in growth.

“While some firms see significant opportunities over the coming months, many others now see increasing uncertainty, which is weighing on their investment expectations and forward confidence.”

Sterling issues

She added: “Lower sterling and rising inflation are now starting to affect business and consumers across the UK.

“While a lower pound is a boon for some exporting businesses, many others see the latest devaluation of sterling less positively, as the price of imports rises.

“Businesses see rising inflation as one of their biggest concerns for the coming months and years, and with 2017 expected to be an uncertain period for the UK economy, it is vital that more is done to support business growth.

“Addressing the high input costs faced by businesses in the UK, including energy costs and business rates should be a government priority at the next Budget.”

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