Matthew Lee Bishop Fleming

Matthew Lee

A recent study of businesses across all sectors and regions by top 40 accountants Bishop Fleming shows a bounce back in confidence after Brexit.

The firm’s latest Business Barometer reveals that whilst three out of five (56%) business owners remain doubtful about the year ahead, this was an improvement on three months ago when over two thirds (68%) expressed doubts, and is almost back to where we were pre-Brexit where just over half (54%) were having doubts.

This small bounce back in confidence was welcomed by the firm, though it was noted the turn-around did not translate into improved recruitment plans – with half of those surveyed planning no new recruitment in the next year.

According to Matthew Lee, Bishop Fleming’s Managing Partner: “The vote for Brexit hit business confidence. And although it has bounced back, uncertainty continues to affect recruitment decisions.

“Such decisions are made even more difficult by Brexit potentially deterring skilled overseas workers from coming to the UK, as well as this country’s general lack of investment in training and development to reduce the skills gap. Firms also remain worried about the Living Wage and forthcoming apprenticeship and migrant skills levies.”

A third of businesses surveyed continue to expect no rise in sales in the next twelve months, reflecting growth inertia in some parts of the economy.

However, mirroring the recovery of business confidence, two thirds (65%) of those responding to the survey confirmed they were now planning an increase in investment in their business in the next 12 months. This is a small rise from the pre-Brexit survey which showed three fifths (57%) were planning to invest.

Mr Lee said: “This small rise in investment intention is encouraging, though we have seen some scaling back of capital spending. I remain concerned that firms are not investing enough for the future, particularly when borrowing costs remain at record lows.”