Concern as survey uncovers record low for business performance in Peterborough
The number of businesses in Peterborough reporting a positive performance over the course of 12 months has reached a record low, according to an influential new survey.
The annual Great Peterborough Business Survey 2019 reveals that 47 per cent of companies that took part saw their performance last year outpace the previous 12 months.
Yet it is the first time this figure has fallen below 50 per cent in the six years the survey has been carried out.
Last year, 51 per cent of company bosses said they had enjoyed a year of growth.
The findings of the survey, carried out by accountants Baldwins and economic development company Opportunity Peterborough, were presented to a gathering of city business leaders.
Mark Jackson, partner at Baldwins, said: “This survey demonstrates that, for many, 2018 proved to be a much tougher year than expected.
“Whilst a significant proportion of businesses report a positive performance in 2018, that proportion is the lowest it has been over the life of this survey.
“Indeed, expectations for 2019 are even more cautious.”
The survey outlines a number of headaches for business. The uncertainty of Brexit is frequently mentioned but the lack of skilled staff is seen as the number one obstacle for 29 per cent of respondents. Declining demand from customers has become more prominent for businesses this year (19 per cent).
The survey shows that for the year ahead the proportion of firms expecting profits to rise has dropped from about 64 per cent last year to 46 per cent this year.
However, the proportion of companies expecting to increase staff numbers is up from 39 per cent last year to 42 per cent now while those looking to increase investment stands at 31 per cent = the lowest figure for three years.
The report states that Brexit is a worry for some but not all companies.
It reads: “The comments from respondents continue to demonstrate that significantly different views of the impact of Brexit remain.
“Some sectors and businesses will clearly be impacted more than others. But for many businesses nothing has changed and they do not expect that anything will change.”
Aamir Khalid, chair of the business board for the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, said: “There is a clear message coming through this year’s survey about the importance of skills provision.
“The availability of a skilled workforce was the number one obstacle to growth identified by nearly 100 businesses.”
Tom Hennessy, chief executive of OP, said: “In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s international relations, Peterborough is still attracting international investment and has plenty to celebrate.
“This year’s results show interest technology has spiked, a prominent sign of innovation to come.
“If we want to do this right, then it is imperative that our local workforce has the appropriate skills - a long term challenge for the city and once again,a prominent theme in the survey results.”