The economic recovery is on a “firm footing” and Swindon businesses are reaping the benefits, according to Business West, the organisation that runs the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative.
Its managing director Phil Smith said yesterday’s official figures showing the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the first three months of this year were reflected in the West of England, where many businesses were enjoying steady growth in sales and orders.
“These Government stats support the message we are picking up from our member companies across Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, many of whom are busier than they have been for five years and increasingly confident in their prospects,” said Mr Smith.
The latest quarterly survey from Business West, which also runs the chambers of commerce in Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire, indicated that the market remained upbeat at the start of this year after a positive 2013.
Respondents reported increases in both UK sales (54%) and orders (50%). Export sales (41%) and orders (40%) also increased on the quarter and the year, showing that while the UK economy recovers, international markets also offer expansion opportunities.
Yesterday’s figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) mark the fifth consecutive period of GDP (gross domestic product) growth – the longest positive run since the financial crisis.
The ONS said the economy is now 0.6% smaller than its 2008 peak.
Chancellor George Osborne said the figure showed that “Britain is coming back”, although the recovery could not be taken for granted, he added.
However, shadow chancellor Ed Balls said that despite the positive growth figure, “millions of hardworking people are still feeling no recovery at all”.
Yesterday’s figure is a slight increase on the 0.7% in the final quarter of 2013 and a rise of 3.1% on the same period a year ago.
But some commentators had been expecting it to be even higher, at 0.9%.
Jeremy Cook, chief economist at currency brokers World First, told the BBC: “While this figure has missed estimates, slightly, the overall feeling is still one of strength in the UK.”
The GDP figures came a day after the CBI’s Growth Indicator survey revealed that economic growth had continued to gather pace this month, with predictions of even stronger growth in the next quarter.
The survey of 675 respondents across manufacturing, retail and services showed that output rose from an eight-month low in the previous month, and remained well above average, indicating that the UK’s economic recovery is steadily advancing.
Growth strengthened across the retail and service sectors, while manufacturing output growth remained solid.
The outlook for the next three months is exceptionally strong and broad-based, with growth expectations the strongest since the data began in 2003.