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Chamber QES highlights the economic challenges facing Bedfordshire employers

The Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce’s Quarterly Economic Survey, a vital barometer for business conditions in the region, has unveiled a challenging economic landscape for the third quarter of 2023 writes Chamber chief executive Justin Richardson (pictured).

The QES, which contributes to the broader British Chamber of Commerce’s national survey, provides critical insights that influence decisions by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee and the Treasury.

Contraction Across Key Indicators

The latest results from the QES paint a picture of a contracting economy in Bedfordshire and beyond. Several key indicators showed declines:

  • Domestic Sales and Forward Orders: Only 29% of respondents reported an increase in overall sales for the quarter, and just 20% saw improvements in advanced orders for the following quarter.
  • Export Sales: Export sales also suffered, with a mere 27% of local companies experiencing growth in this area.
  • Recruitment Challenges: A staggering 84% of firms seeking to recruit during the third quarter encountered difficulties in finding suitable candidates, reflecting ongoing labour market woes.
  • Cashflow Concerns: Cashflow for local businesses showed a decline, with just 26% of respondents reporting improvements during the period.
  • Rising Costs: Companies faced mounting pressures to raise prices, primarily due to increased labour costs, soaring energy prices, and the elevated cost of raw materials.

Inflation and Interest Rates Weigh on Business

It comes as no surprise that the two most significant concerns for businesses in Bedfordshire are inflation and interest rates. These economic factors have weighed heavily on their ability to invest and an indicator that the UK economy will remain ‘slower for longer’.

Sticky core inflation and the need for potential interest rate hikes have created an environment of caution among local companies.

These findings underscore the complex challenges facing businesses in Bedfordshire and the broader UK. As they navigate labour shortages, supply chain disruptions, and inflationary pressures, adaptability and resilience become paramount.

In these trying times, the resilience of Bedfordshire’s business community remains a testament to the region’s strength and determination. The Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce continues to closely monitor economic trends, offering support and insights to help businesses thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.


Chief Executive, Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce


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