FIRMS in Cheshire and the surrounding area can look ahead to 2011 with ‘cautious optimism’ despite ongoing economic uncertainty, according to a regional private sector business organisation.
West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce says the region’s businesses are well placed to drive growth next year in the face of public sector cutbacks.
General manager, Colin Brew, said: “The past year has continued to be difficult, although we are seeing more overall signs of a slow economic recovery.”
Mr Brew admitted 2011 ‘will not be a smooth ride’ and said retailers in particular will be concerned about the VAT increase to 20% from January 4.
But he claimed the number of innovative and well-run firms in the region contribute to ‘an extremely resilient private sector’.
Mr Brew added: “David Cameron says the Coalition’s agenda will be the most ‘pro-business, pro-growth and pro-jobs’ of any government in history.
“It remains to be seen whether the Coalition can live up to that promise, but what is clear is that West Cheshire and North Wales businesses have every chance of succeeding, despite the new age of austerity.
“There will obviously be bumps along the way, but we believe private sector firms can look forward to 2011 with a reasonable degree of confidence, not least because – unlike the public sector – they have already been through the worst of the economic pain.”
West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce members range from large corporate firms to owner-managed businesses in all sectors. Its aim is to help the region’s businesses grow.
While delivering a generally upbeat forecast for 2011, Mr Brew warned that a lack of access to affordable finance remained a major issue for small businesses in particular across the region.
The warning comes just days after a Bank of England report found that ‘constrained credit supply’ was one of the factors holding back economic recovery.
Mr Brew said: “Despite the banks’ promises, the fact is that affordable credit remains out of reach for many companies in our region.
“This must change if we are to see the full potential of our small and medium-sized businesses realised.”