Business leaders hail GDP improvement - but call on ministers to support companies

The Advertiser Series: Chancellor George Osborne has hailed the latest GDP figures, though business leaders have called on ministers to do more to help firms Chancellor George Osborne has hailed the latest GDP figures, though business leaders have called on ministers to do more to help firms

NORTH-EAST business leaders have warned the Government must do more to support regional companies and build on the fastest UK economic output growth for three years.

The Office for National Statistics says GDP figures show economic output increased by 0.8 per cent between July and September, which was the best quarterly performance since 2010.

It revealed strong performances across all sectors, with construction up 2.5 per cent in the quarter, production rising by 0.5 per cent, manufacturing up by 0.9 per cent, and the services sector increasing by 0.7 per cent.

Chancellor George Osborne hailed the increase as proof the UK is on the path to recovery.

However, regional business experts say ministers must help North-East companies by helping firms expand and create new jobs, and reciprocating any drives to cut household energy bills.

Ross Smith, North-East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy, said: “These preliminary estimates echo the findings of our own quarterly economic survey, indicating growth across the service sector, production industries and the construction sector, which is good news for the North-East economy given our strengths in these industries.

“However, with the economy having lost so much ground since 2008, and unemployment still far too high in the North-East, we need to see a very strong focus from Government on creating the conditions for sustained growth.”

Phil Orford MBE, chief executive of The Forum of Private Business, said he was hopeful the figures would continue to rise across the next four quarters, but warned the Government to look at remedying costs affecting businesses.

He said: “Just like consumers, businesses are facing a lot of cost pressures and when looking at how to dampen energy price rises, the Government shouldn’t ignore that businesses are facing similar challenges.

“Political efforts to improve the cost of living shouldn't be funded by increasing the costs of doing business.”

The GDP figures came as the Cabinet Office revealed its regional growth for the North-East, showing the region's companies got more than 107,000 apprentices into work in the last three years.

The region also created more than 6,000 new jobs through the Government's flagship growth fund, which was the highest number in the UK, and is now home to 135,455 private sector businesses, an increase of 13,320 since 2010.

Bosses also pointed to regional success stories, including energy and utilities consultancy firm Utilitywise, in South Shields, South Tyneside, which wants to create 120 North-East jobs and plastics firm Sone, based in Stanley, County Durham, which will make more than 66 million toothpicks for sale in Scandinavia in a deal worth £200,000 every year.

Paul Woolston, chairman of the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership, praised the region's firm for their success.

He also celebrated the work of pioneering airport scanner company Kromek, based near Sedgefield, County Durham, which is now floating on the stock market, Applied Graphene Materials (AGM), which wants to raise about £10m in a flotation to fund development of its work, and Sunderland-based car maker Nissan.

He said: “As well as the examples of very strong profit growth across all sectors, there are clear signs of investor confidence improving in the North-East.

“Nissan has broken ground on the expansion of its plant for the new Infiniti, and Durham University technology spin outs Kromek and AGM have reached key milestones.

“Kromek has achieved its stock market listing to secure its next stage of investment capital and AGM has announced its intention to float on the same exchange, which are great North-East success stories.”

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