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Essex Limited: a changing agenda for local businesses

Two-thirds of Essex businesses say they are feeling more positive than six months ago. What else is on their agenda? Trevor Ling reveals the poll results from our Essex business network event.

Of the 100 local businesses who attended our recent Essex Limited panel and audience discussion, organised in partnership with Birketts LLP, 64% of business leaders said they were feeling more positive about the future now than they did in April, with only 13% feeling less positive.


Changing customer demands now a top priority

The new poll follows on from Grant Thornton's International Business Report (IBR), conducted in April during the country’s first COVID-19 nationwide lockdown. In the IBR survey, business leaders ranked keeping people safe, motivated and able to do their jobs as their biggest challenge.

But priorities may be changing. The vote was more evenly split in our Essex business poll with 43% saying their biggest challenge is changing customer demands. Keeping staff motivated was still a close second (39%) while 18% said managing cash flow was their biggest challenge.


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Where Essex businesses need the most support

When asked in what area the government could provide more help for businesses over the next 12-24 months, 35% said maintaining the low tax regime would be helpful. Another 27% cited regional investment in infrastructure, 19% said additional grant support for businesses and 11% said additional support for funding. Only 8% of the region’s leaders said an extension to the March 2021 deadline for the furlough scheme would be helpful.

Avnish Goyal, Chair of Hallmark Care Homes and panellist, said: “Although the furlough scheme has really helped many businesses over the last few months, there is now a concern that mass unemployment will happen as soon as the scheme comes to an end. There is no doubt that some businesses are still operating because of the furlough scheme but leaders need to be planning ahead now to ensure that they can retain their staff and keep afloat once the scheme comes to an end in March.”

Investing in Essex's future

Adam Jones, Partner at Birketts, said: “The future of the business industry in Essex is in good hands and I’m encouraged that business leaders are feeling more positive than they were earlier in the year.

"Being so close to London has always made the region competitive in terms of growing, attaining and retaining talent but that has never been more important than it will be over the next few months. It is vital that we continue to see investment in the region to safeguard the future and, with this in mind, it is positive to hear that business leaders are still acquiring and making investments despite the pandemic.”

Planning for changes ahead

It is encouraging to hear that Essex business leaders are feeling more positive than they were six months ago. But with the immediate future becoming less predictable, now is the time to put a robust plan in place for the next few months.

It has been a turbulent year but with vaccines on the horizon, I’m optimistic that the region is going to be back on its feet soon.


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