South Yorkshire Chambers Welcome Encouraging Signs That Some Financial Pressures Are Easing For Businesses, Although Challenges Do Remain
The Cost of Living Survey results have been published today by the three South Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce for Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley & Rotherham.
The questionnaire canvasses the views of business owners from across our region. Between May and June respondents were asked to share their thoughts on the ongoing Cost of Living crisis, the financial challenges that are affecting them most right now, and what steps they have taken (if any) to support their employees who might be feeling the pinch.
These results feed into the nationwide Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) and the poll also asked firms a number of standardised questions, pertaining to the state of the economy and overall business conditions. It included sections on labour force, cash flow, turnover and price pressures, all of which are repeated in every single iteration of the QES, so that trends and fluctuations can be observed.
The results of South Yorkshire’s Cost of Living Survey — powered by the Quarterly Economic Survey for Q2 2023 — were published earlier today. Reflecting on the findings here, the CEOs of Barnsley & Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield Chambers of Commerce issued the following joint statement:
“Our survey results show promising, albeit tentative, signs that financial pressures are beginning to ease for businesses, though this still remains a pressing issue across all sectors.
“It’s encouraging to see that, for the third consecutive quarter, expectations of both improved turnover and profitably have increased, suggesting that there is a broader feeling of optimism for the months ahead. Better still, we are pleased to report that 93% of firms that were polled agree that South Yorkshire is a fundamentally good place to do business. This suggests that businesses feel that there are opportunities available to them locally and that organisations are doing what they can to promote a positive business environment. There is, of course, always room for improvement.
“While some key areas are stronger than they have been in recent quarters — such as those relating to cash flow positions, price increases and capacity — it is worth stressing that indicators of financial pressure do remain.
“Concerns about inflation might be lower than they have been since the end of 2021, but that’s only a relative drop from a historic high. Meanwhile, subdued economic activity continues in South Yorkshire, with weak growth being reported in terms of both domestic sales and overseas orders.
“Not to mention, hiring conditions are still proving to be a massive challenge for businesses. A staggering 94% of firms told us that they have experienced recruitment difficulties this quarter, which is a worrying jump from the 87% that was recorded this same time last year. In particular, businesses are struggling to attract skilled manual & technical workers, as well as professional & managerial talent. Of course, the tight market is, in and of itself, a significant contributor to the runaway inflation that is presently bedeviling the economy.
“As for how South Yorkshire employers are being affected by The Cost of Living Crisis, we learned that the vast majority have discussed the prices of either utilities (85%), food (76%) or petrol (61%) with their staff in the last six months. In an effort to try and support employees with these strains, 70% of businesses said that they have increased wages, and nearly half are now offering mental health support. This acts as yet another reminder of the civic and social commitments exhibited by our employer communities.
“All in all, this latest QES highlights positivity in some areas, and persisting concerns in others. As Chambers, we will of course be advocating for any measures that might help to restore business confidence — whether that’s a rethinking of business rates or the campaign to save Doncaster Sheffield Airport. We have also been working closely with employers, training providers and other key stakeholders on a Local Skills Improvement Plan for the region, which will help address those recruitment difficulties that so many firms are encountering right now.”
Run by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), the Quarterly Economic Survey is the largest independent business survey in the UK and its findings are used to influence policy and decision-making at a national level. The Q2 2023 results for South Yorkshire can be found below.