By Daniel Hunter

Results from the most recent wave of BDRC Continental’s Business Horizons study reveal an east-west divide in the UK’s continuing recovery.

Businesses in the east of the UK are much more upbeat about their prospects in comparison to earlier this year, while the western side of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland have experienced only a limited improvement or none at all.

On a ‘top two box’ basis (combining those businesses that are “forging ahead” and “progressing steadily”), 66% of businesses in the east were “forging ahead” or “progressing steadily” in Q3, up from 50% in Q2. For businesses in the west, the figure is 58% in Q3, unchanged from Q2.

This 66% figure for businesses in the east sits within the context of the national average, which sees 63% of businesses either “forging ahead” or “progressing steadily”, up from just over half (54%) of businesses in Q2.

The proportion of businesses nationally that described themselves as only “coping cautiously” dropped by nine percentage points from 36% to 27% (Q2 vs Q3). Over the same period, there was a small dip nationally of two percentage points (11% down to 9%) for businesses in the fourth category, those that said they were ‘hard hit’.

Commenting on the Business Horizons findings, Shiona Davies, Director at BDRC Continental, says: “With the survey now drawing on results covering Q2 and Q3 2013, the most interesting findings are the regional variations that reveal a distinct east-west divide rather than the north-south split that is often talked about when the UK recovers from a downturn.”

Looking at the data across seven regions, the best-performers were: East Midlands & East Anglia, recording a Q3 ‘top two box’ score of 69%, up from 51% in Q2; and London, where businesses surveyed recorded a Q3 ‘top two box’ score of 71%, up from 53% in Q2. The North East, Yorks & Humber scored 60% in Q3, up from 45% in Q2, while the South East registered a ‘top two box’ score of 62%, up from 51% in Q2.

This strong performance contrasts with Scotland and Northern Ireland, where the ‘top two box’ improvement Q3 to Q2 was only six percentage points (50% Q2 up to 56% Q3), and with South Wales and the South West, where the Q3 ‘top two box’ value is high at 67% but where the improvement Q3 to Q2 was just four percentage points. For the North West, West Midlands and North Wales, the Q3 ‘top two box’ value is 55% in Q3, a four percentage point drop against Q2’s 59%.

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