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Peterborough’s business community believe they are entering one of the most difficult years in recent history despite a higher than average number of firms starting up in the city, according to a new report.
Around 39 per cent of Peterborough businesses expect to see an improvement in performance over the next year, significantly lower than the 64 per cent of businesses who made the same prediction a year ago. This finding was revealed through the 2019 Greater Peterborough Survey, organised by Baldwins in association with Opportunity Peterborough, which surveyed a wide cross section of businesses across the city.
A key driver of this drop in mood across Peterborough is Brexit, with 41 per cent saying the impending exit from the EU is having a negative impact on their expectations compared to 25 per cent two years ago.
Despite this, 42 per cent of firms are investing in increasing staffing levels, which is up from 40 per cent last year, while there are signs of costs stabilising with 55 per cent saying they expect costs to rise whereas two years ago 78 per cent of firms expected an increase.
Mark Jackson, Partner at Baldwins’ office on Lincoln Road, Peterborough, is urging firms to take note of the messages in the report.
He said: “Whilst a significant proportion of businesses reported a positive performance in 2018, that proportion is the lowest it has been over the six-year life of this survey. Indeed, expectations for 2019 are even more cautious.
“In times of uncertainty there is always the risk that we wait for someone else to change our circumstances or to move those obstacles, but as businesses we must find new and innovative ways of overcoming those challenges.
“The three key challenges that business are trying to tackle include recruiting skilled workers, and adapting to price pressure driven by competitors and customers themselves.
“Overcoming these obstacles is easier said than done, but if we allocate the right amount of time to thinking through these issues, if we implement new technologies and ways of thinking in our organisations, as well as working to ensure we are seeking to continually improve the skillset of our teams, businesses can and do thrive.
Tom Hennessy, Chief Executive at Opportunity Peterborough, added: “Regardless of Brexit, business continues and we’d encourage any companies looking for support to get in touch with us– whether they want to tackle efficiency and productivity, invest in skills development, increase exports, enhance their use of technology or explore how sustainable practices can enhance overall business performance through the adoption of circular economy principles.
“Although there has been a dip in expectations, it looks like businesses feel robust enough to manage any disruption over the coming 12 months. The survey results are vital intelligence for helping us tackle the most pressing challenges and opportunities within the local economy, but we can only do this in partnership with businesses and government bodies.
“In addition to broad business support, we run a number of projects that local organisations can benefit from that tackle efficiency, enhance the use of technology across the city, and create sustainable growth, like our Circular Peterborough and Future Peterborough initiatives, run in partnership with Peterborough City Council. We’re also enhancing the city’s future workforce through our Skills Service which is working with businesses, schools, and education providers across the region to enhance careers guidance for young people, support apprenticeship provision, and develop talent pipelines to help businesses remain competitive.”