A SMALL firms’ lobby group says confidence in the sector among North West companies is creeping up ahead of 2013.
The Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) ‘Voice of Small Business’ index shows confidence approaching 2013 is higher than the national average.
Overall, the FSB’s small business index in the North West rose by two points, from -5 in 2011 to -3.
This compares favourably to small business confidence in London, which fell significantly from +2 to -12; in Scotland, which increased slightly from -11 to -10; and in the West Midlands, which remained stagnant at -6.
Firms in the East Midlands recorded a score of +1, but this was down from +5 in 2011.
Regions with the same level of small business confidence as the North West were the South West – rising from -9 to -3 – and Yorkshire (-4 to -3).
The North East recorded the strongest confidence levels, rising from +4 to +11 year-on-year.
Nationally, quarter four confidence fell by 1.1 points against quarter three to record a score of -5.6 – but was 18.8 points higher than the same period last year, when the economy entered into a double-dip recession.
John Allan, chairman of FSB Merseyside, West Cheshire and Wigan and national Vice Chairman said: “The FSB’s Voice of Small Business index has been a good indicator of GDP.
“With recent forecasts indicating that growth will continue to be slow in 2013, this slight optimism will provide some welcome news.
“However, weighing against it are the cost pressures which still face small businesses.
“Sectors that rely on discretionary spending are struggling as incomes remain squeezed.
“Almost two-thirds of respondents cite the weak domestic economy as a barrier to achieving their growth aspirations, showing that this optimism comes with a health warning.
“Whether sole traders or smaller employers, high street shops, firms in leisure and tourism, manufacturers, hi-tech businesses and all firms across the North West badly need a real plan of action for 2013 and beyond to capitalise on this fragile confidence.”