By Francesca James

The latest Smith & Williamson Enterprise Index reveals that confidence in the economy is on the up with 73% of respondents expecting upturn in economy.

The inaugural Index, carried out in January of this year, recorded a positive outlook as far as the economy was concerned, while the second quarter saw a slight dip in respondents’ optimism. However, it appears that the confidence felt by the UK’s wealth creators at the start of the year has returned with a vengeance.

Since the last Index was recorded in April of this year, optimism concerning the economy has risen by 13%.

Reflective of this increase is the fact that an overwhelming 73% of respondents expect the UK economy to improve in the next 12 months, and the majority of the surveyed wealth creators are planning for either growth or acquisition within their businesses over the next year.

This increased confidence spans a comprehensive range of sectors including services, construction and manufacturing.

The overall positive sentiment of the latest Index comes hot on the heels of a raft of optimistic data for the UK economy. GDP is forecast to grow by 1.2% in 2013, the UK construction sector is showing further signs of recovery and housing activity, manufacturing and car registration figures are reportedly on the rise.

Most respondents welcomed the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) launch of an independent review of its lending to small businesses. RBS has hired former Bank of England deputy governor Sir Andrew Large and management consultancy Oliver Wyman to examine its lending practices.

The purpose of the review is to identify how the bank can improve its support for SMEs whilst also preserving thorough lending practices. The majority of those surveyed believed that this should be a practice that all banks take note of and replicate.

Staying on the topic of lending and lending practices, it is perhaps unsurprising that 90% of those questioned felt that payday lending firms should be subject to greater regulation, something that is expected to be decided on by the Competition Commission by the end of 2014.

“These results undoubtedly show that entrepreneurs are planning for growth and as we get further and further away from the recession it’s not just entrepreneurs showing this optimism; Britain's consumers have also become more optimistic than at any time since October 2009," Guy Rigby, head of entrepreneurial services at Smith & Williamson, the accountancy and investment management group, said.

Despite the obvious appetite for growth and the general belief that headcounts will increase within most of the respondents’ organisations over the coming year, very few of those asked feel that the employment pool is adequately educated or trained.

Shortage of skilled workers is a common tale, and one that the UK still needs to remedy. As CBI research recently highlighted, over 30% of businesses are frustrated by the low levels of basic literacy and numeracy amongst school and college leavers. In addition, 31% also reported that young people lack the technical skills they need.

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