Monday, 20 July 2009

The Economy - A Variable Picture

Regional business leaders are reporting that although the worst of the recession is over recovery is not guaranteed, after publication of the British Chambers of Commerce’s most recent Quarterly Economic Survey.

Key indicators in the service sector remained steady while manufacturing improved in the three months to the end of June.
Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group policy executive Claire Prosser explained that taxation and red tape are rising up the agenda, but the prospects of employment are improving.

This is borne out by figures from across the county: in Slough a significant rise in jobless totals (to 4.5%) was matched by falls in the Newbury area (to 2.5%), while in Reading the rebalancing economy was made plain by a drop of 4 claimants (to 4.3%) and Wokingham (from 2.1% to 2.0%). Nationally unemployment claimants stand at 4.1% of the workforce.

Interestingly Reading Post selectively reports only the first half of the story.

Meanwhile, the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) are optimistic that the recession is 'bottoming out' as confidence returns, despite more companies than not fearing further declines. The organisation also announced further support with a new £20m fund for innovative and high-growth businesses.

The recent 'Credit Crunch Summit' organised by the Federation of Small Businesses convened for the third time in Reading where a Small Business Engagement Accord was signed by leaders of all local political parties as part of a '12-point plan' to help ensure this important sector is given solid underpinning at a time of trouble. Measures included £85,000 provided to the Reading Credit Union to support business planning.

Regional Chairperson of FSB Thames Valley Robin Lawrence explained:
"the Accord also puts in place a structure to help ensure that councils and businesses work in partnership to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of the local economy."
A thriving sector of locally-owned businesses is key to the success of the economy and through their 'Keep Trade Local' campaign the FSB raised issues of consultation and planning, taxation and business rates, transport and parking and crime as central to their needs.

Mr Lawrence added that "by following the principles of the Accord, we can work together to ensure that the voice of small business is central to any future consultations."

Radical local blogger Gideon Mack described his epiphany when he grasped how local trade is a vital part of ensuring the conjoined interests of a sustainable economy and environment - you can't have one without the other!

Meanwhile Conservative group leader Cllr Andrew Cumpsty accused Labour of playing party politics over the serious state of the economy by scheduling the summit at short notice in an attempt to freeze them out of a cross-party event, while LibDem Cllr Daisy Benson was refreshingly surprised to find her earlier scepticism of the value of such events misplaced.

She also describes her worry over the employment chances of young people leaving education after explaining that
"In Reading, the number of teenagers not in education, employment or training is already too high. The impact of the recession will only make things ten times worse for these young people and their families."
Following up, Cllr Benson reports on figures showing how the economy is disproportionately affecting young people with college courses threatened and pointedly concludes that the Labour regime has failed a whole generation by introducing a culture of debt.

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