By Daniel Hunter

Manufacturing and services firms reported strong growth to end 2014, according to the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

Shrugging off recent signs of a slowdown, the manufacturing sector recorded increases in the balances for domestic sales (+36%, up from +23% in Q3), export sales (+26%, up from +16% in Q3), recruitment intentions (+85%, up from +73% in Q3) and turnover confidence (+62%, up from +60% in Q3).

The survey, made up of responses from almost 7,000 businesses, also shows that firms set out to recruit staff at an all-time high rate in the last three months of 2014.

BCC’s Director General, John Longworth, said that firms’ strong performance at the end of 2014 could translate to a strong year of growth in 2015 — but this will depend on unwavering support for business throughout the general election and beyond.

“British businesses are well placed to grow in 2015 — a testament to their hard-work and resilience. It is particularly pleasing to see the manufacturing sector bounce back, despite signs of a slowdown in recent months. However we must aim for growth that is sustainable for the long-term, rather than settle for second best," Mr Longworth said.

He added: “With employment and investment intentions at historically high levels, businesses are gearing up for a big year in 2015. It is now vitally important that firms are able to convert their growth ambitions into reality. Strengthening our business finance system, which constrains the growth aspirations of too many firms, will remain a decisive factor in securing a sustainable recovery. Low interest rates and reduced regulation will also go a long way to creating an environment that encourages enterprise and wealth creation.

“In spite of our survey showing an improvement in export balances, the UK’s lacklustre export performance and severely adverse current account balance, continue to act as drag anchors on GDP growth. This need not remain the case - lack of growth finance, patchy help on the ground in overseas markets, and a never-ending churn of short-term support schemes must be addressed without delay."

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