Major economic survey lays bare impact of coronavirus on Calderdale firms

Businesses across Calderdale are suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic – but there is more confidence here for the future than the rest of the country.

Wednesday, 15th July 2020, 7:00 am
Managing Director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Martin Hathaway

The latest results of the British Chambers of Commerce Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) are published today and present a dramatic picture of the impact of the last few months’ events on companies, jobs and the economy as a whole.

The QES business barometer takes the temperature of the UK’s economy and allows us to compare the views of firms here in the Mid Yorkshire Chamber region and those elsewhere. Carried out for the past 30 years, it is studied closely by policy makers and politicians.

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The quarter two results (April to June 2020) make for stark reading. Every single manufacturer in our three districts (Halifax, Huddersfield and Wakefield) who took part in the survey said that their UK sales had decreased over the past quarter with two-thirds of service sector businesses saying they had suffered the same fate.

Despite this, firms have so far chosen to furlough workers rather than reduce the number they employ. Eight in ten said the number of jobs within their business had remained constant over the previous three months.

Our analysis shows that, as of 31 May, 114,000 people have been furloughed across the Mid Yorkshire region - 23,000 in Calderdale, 50,000 in Kirklees and 40,000 in Wakefield.

There is also some room for optimism.

Despite Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield companies reporting catastrophic sales figures, the Mid Yorkshire region’s data for investment, cashflow and expectations of increasing profits look less gloomy than elsewhere.

Only one in ten who took part here said they expected their workforce to decrease in the quarter to come, the same number who said they expected to increase the number they employ.

42% of firms have seen their cashflow decrease over the past three months – lower than the national figure

More businesses here have confidence that their profitability will increase over the next 12 months than in many other parts of the UK. 49% say they expect to improve their profits in the year ahead, with 28% saying they think they will get worse.

Managing Director of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Martin Hathaway, said: “Despite the fact there is more positivity here than in other parts of the country, no-one can disguise the fact that these results paint a devastating picture of the impact of coronavirus on our economy.

“We must never forget that behind every statistic is a story. Businesses are run by people who create jobs, generate wealth and support our communities. When firms suffer, as they currently are, the ripples extend far beyond the walls of the office, factory or workshop. That’s why these numbers matter and should serve as a wake-up call for those making decisions on what happens next.”

Over £211 million has so far been paid to businesses eligible for the local authority grant payments across the Mid Yorkshire region.

Nine in ten of the firms identified by councils in Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield have taken up the grants, meaning 18,669 businesses have received either £10,000 or £25,000 to support them.

Martin Hathaway added: “There has been a huge amount of welcome government support – but as the payouts from these schemes become more distant and as the contribution to workers who have been furloughed reduces, we are facing an unprecedented situation with challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen.

“While businesses here are more optimistic than some, they are under no illusions about what’s to come. They need help and support – from government, from councils and from us all – to survive and, in time, thrive. Here at the Chamber of Commerce, we pledge to do everything we can to support the recovery and I look forward to leading that charge in the weeks and months ahead.”

Commenting on how businesses in Calderdale have been affected, Robin Tuddenham, Chief Executive Officer of Calderdale Council, said: “Supporting our local businesses has always been a priority for the Council, but now, more than ever, we know how important it is to work with them to ensure a safe and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a welcome step that more and more businesses can now cautiously reopen, but we understand the significant challenges they are facing. We are doing everything we can to help them get back on their feet.

“Together, we will learn from this crisis and build a safe and strong future for Calderdale. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to reimagine our town centres, and we are determined to make this happen to help them to stay vibrant and sustainable.”