East Anglian firms defy gloom to pledge more jobs


Companies in Cambridge and East Anglia are defying the global trading gloom to pledge a strong new wave of jobs and investment in the first half of this year.

That is the upbeat message from the latest Business in Britain survey from Lloyds TSB Commercial, which shows a buoyant last six months' trading and good prospects for the next six.

  • 46 per cent of companies locally increased sales in the second half of 2000

  • Two-thirds will be maintaining prices in the next six months

  • 23 per cent plan to increase investment in the first half of 2001

  • 25 per cent plan to hire more staff in the next six months

    The report sends out a defiant message from Cambridge and East Anglia to the rest of Britain which has been engulfed by premature talk of an economic downturn.

    Nothing has been able to dampen the confidence of East Anglian companies -- not even the fuel crisis in the autumn when local companies managed to keep sales and prices consistent.

    Rob Blanchard, area director for Lloyds TSB Commercial in Cambridge, said: 'Taking into account the fuel crisis and the rail problems over the last six months, these figures are impressive.

    'Forty-six per cent of firms reported an increase in turnover in the last six months -- better than the national average. Prices remained steady for more than half the businesses questioned and nearly two-thirds are confident of maintaining their prices over the next six months.

    'More than half the firms in the region are predicting that their investment and employment levels will remain steady over the next six months.

    'Twenty-three per cent plan to increase investment and 26 per cent plan to hire more staff.

    'Confidence in East Anglia remains high with over a quarter of firms feeling positive about the future. In fact firms in the region are more confident about future prosperity than much of the rest of the UK.

    'It is encouraging to see the numbers of local companies experiencing an increase in their turnover and in their order books. This solid performance bodes well for local firms in the future.'

    Cashflow problems are a headache for only one in five East Anglian firms, with late payment cited as the main source.

    However, this is below the national average and shows a massive improvement in cash flow management since the early 1990s when companies reporting cash flow problems hit a national peak of 56 per cent.