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Date: 27/10/2017

Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce has announced the results of the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) for quarter 3 of the year. The QES is the private sector's leading indicator of the UK economy, and the Chamber uses feedback from the survey to help shape its business policy priorities.

This quarter, the Chamber received an outstanding 544 responses from the local business community, earning second place in the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) league table for number of responses.

Sophia Haywood, Policy Manager at the Chamber of Commerce provides an analysis of what the results mean.

Despite 67% of firms stating that Brexit has had a neutral impact on their business since the referendum, it will be interesting to see whether this will be affected by the exchange rates or price rises in their supply chain this year. 

While Brexit is still some time away, it's already made a footprint on a number of sectors, and is beginning to impact firms of all shapes and sizes.

In October 2017, the Chamber took the Migration Advisory Committee, who are carrying out a post-Brexit migration review around local agriculture, food and drink producers and manufacturing firms, to discuss access to an EU workforce. These firms are already struggling to attract labour and we haven't officially left the EU yet.

Exchange rates have also remained, and will remain, a challenge for firms who will experience the direct squeeze from importing themselves, or by rising costs here at home, influenced by Brexit. This may be why 28% of firms are concerned about the strength of the pound, and 35% are worried about the exchange rates.

With a great deal of exporters in the region making up half of or respondents, future trade deals with the EU are a principal concern, more so than trade deals with non-EU countries. Tarrifs and non-tarrif barriers are at the forefront of firms' minds in regards to how this may affect their competitivity.

Sharon Smith, Chief Executive at the Chamber, said: "The latest survey results highlight the pressurised scenario businesses find themselves in during this uncertain time.

"Remaining competitive in the UK and international markets has become a key concern for local firms, the need to increase prices, rocketing import costs, labour shortages and a significant bout of political uncertainty is having an impact.

"The skills shortage continues to remain a key issue, with two-thirds of firms that attempted to recruit experiencing difficulty. We're currently championing activity around skills through activity from the Chamber Manifesto and recently, sponsored by Worcester, Bosch took senior business leaders down to Westminster to discuss solutions and actions we can take forward in 2018."