Business leaders urge Osborne to target growth

A new survey published today from Britain’s manufacturing organisation, the EEF, sends a clear message to the Chancellor that he should prioritise kickstarting the recovery, reports The Telegraph.

Of more than 350 companies surveyed, just under 80pc said they want to see new measures to promote growth, while just over 25pc saw the reduction of the UK’s structural deficit as the main priority.

Terry Scuoler, EEF chief executive, said: “Manufacturers have always supported the need to reduce the deficit and get the public finances back in order. However, this was conditional on government also committing to delivering on the plan for growth.”

Urging the Chancellor to use his conference speech to convince business that boosting the economy was his main goal, Mr Scuoler added: “We have seen promising announcements on infrastructure, access to finance and regulation. But, Government has yet to demonstrate to business that it has the same laser-like focus on growth across departments that it has on reducing the deficit.”

The EEF has called on the Government to focus policy on four key areas – making it easing for companies to bring products and services to market, cutting the costs of doing business in the UK, expanding firms focused on exports and creating a more flexible labour market.

Some 40pc of companies also called for the Government to press eurozone leaders to “make greater efforts” to resolve a debt crisis that is hurting British manufacturers.

Mr Scuoler’s rallying cry comes as the latest Business Confidence Index published by workplace provider Regus found that only a third of UK business leaders are satisfied with Mr Osborne’s attempts to stimulate the economy.

A survey of 3,000 senior managers and business also found that business confidence among small and start-up businesses had “flatlined over the last year”.

Steve Purdey, Regus’s UK managing director, said: “We were particularly struck by the lack of improvement in confidence among entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

Meanwhile, despite Government efforts to reform UK banks, the British Chambers of Commerce today reveals “falling levels of trust in financial institutions among businesses”.

A survey of 1,560 businesses shows that, while banks and building societies are the main source of finance for firms, half of businesses do not trust them. Some 38pc of those surveyed trust them less than a year ago.

John Longworth, BCC director-general, said “the recent LIBOR and mis-selling scandals” were “damaging confidence among businesses”.

The latest jobs survey from accountants BDO provided further gloom. Businesses’ hiring intentions over the next two quarters fell to a 28-month low in September, highlighting that “the overall outlook for the UK economy continues to be challenging”.

In what BDO said highlighted the continuing “zigzag pattern of ups and downs” as businesses “grapple with a flat economy”, there was, however, also a rebound in business confidence.

There was better news too from the high-street where BDO’s sales tracker showed the best growth all year last month as like-for-like sales rose 3.5pc.