Businesses will have to accept uncertainty as the new norm

Caroline Williams, Chief Executive, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Over the past year, at Norfolk Chamber we have been encouraged by the Government's rhetoric on growth and frequent speeches about helping businesses expand. But ministers are in danger of breaking these promises. There is still a lack of measures out there to help companies emerge from recession. Repeated commitments to deregulation, more financial support, and help for firms looking to hire, have failed to translate into real change for businesses.

Getting the economy back on track should be the number one priority and ministers should be doing everything possible to squeeze every drop of potential growth from companies across the country including here in Norfolk. Over the past quarter, business surveys including those which include feedback from Norfolk companies within the British chamber of Commerce QES, have shown a more positive picture than many of the economic indicators suggest. Our members tell us they don't identify with such pessimistic statistics and are cautiously optimistic. These are the people who are out in the real world, working hard every day to run their businesses and, in turn, drive the recovery. Whether this remains the case, though, relies on two things.

Firstly a government that is willing to meaningfully engage with business, become truly enterprise-friendly and set forward a bold plan for growth. Secondly, we need businesses that are willing to take advantage of opportunties in a period of uncertainty.

The first depends on the Government delivering on those measures it has repeated again and again: improving access to finance, creating robust infrastructure such as energy and transport networks, cutting red tape, and making it easier for firms to take on staff.

Reforms to planning rules promised in Westminster must make it out to the real world so businesses can expand their premises. We know that reducing the deficit is crucial to sustaining a recovery, but prioritising some of these measures will free up business to grow.

If the Government makes good on these promises and improves the environment in which companies operate, it can create confidence among our businesses and growth will follow. If it chooses not to listen, the economy will continue to bump along the bottom rather than return to growth.

In the meantime, businesses are busting a gut in an uncertain environment. And they will have to continue to do so. The economy has been on a roller-coaster ride over the past few years. But that hasn't deterred many firms from finding new markets to export to, hiring a new member of staff, or taking a new product to market.

Businesses now have to accept uncertainty will remain for some time. By acknowledging that, the economy is likely to continue to fluctuate over the coming year and by understanding the implications of this, businesses can be confident and thrive regardless.

Instead of worrying about changeable economic conditions, as businesses we need to accept uncertainty as the new norm, and with this knowledge, be confident to invest, grow and create more jobs.

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