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Credit crisis ‘must not damage business’

That was the response from a leading business figure in Bedfordshire to the latest quarterly economic survey by the British Chambers of Commerce.

It revealed intensifying gloom as confidence continuned to decline.

Richard Lacy (pictured), chief executive of business support organisation the Chamber, said: “We would be burying our heads in the sand if we did not recognise that we are potentially entering some sort of economic slowdown.

“But we strongly believe that this is an opportunity for some focused, pared down thinking. It is imperative that all parties involved in the development of our area put divisions aside and work together to ensure Bedfordshire and Luton rides out any approaching economic storm.”

The BCC’s report showed that in both manufacturing and services sectors virtually all the critical balances had worsened. The BCC believes that interest rates cuts will be needed in the next few months.

The Service Sector’s Q1 confidence balances recorded big falls with turnover confidence falling 10 points, the lowest since Q1 2003 and profitability confidence plummeting to its lowest since Q4 1998.

Net balances for home sales have fallen to their lowest point since Q3 2005 whilst the net balance for home orders fell to the lowest since Q4 2005.

The Manufacturing Sector also saw turnover confidence falling by 3 points, lowest since Q3 2005 while profitability confidence dropped 12 points, the weakest since Q1 2006.

Balances for home sales and home orders for manufacturing both dropped to disturbingly low levels by historical standards whilst export performance weakened further in Q1.

Worryingly, the balance of manufacturing firms reporting pressure to raise prices rose to an all-time high +42% while the service sector balance of firms expecting to increase prices also rose to a record +43%

David Kern, economic advisor to the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The latest Quarterly Economic Survey results are worrying. Virtually all the critical balances have worsened for both manufacturing and services while at the same time the pressure to raise prices has reached an all time high.”

The global credit crisis was likely to damage growth for some time, he warned, adding that the UK economy was likely to slow markedly this year, whether or not the MPC decided to cut interest rates.

Mr Kern said: “Chambers of commerce members across the UK remain fundamentally resilient. If the right policies are adopted, a recession can be avoided and the damage associated with the slowdown can be limited. However, the threats to growth are mounting and there is no room for complacency.

“”It is vital to ensure that the crisis in the financial sector and in the housing market does not damage the productive business sector.”

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