By Francesca James

International research released today by Sage Group PLC has revealed that whilst 80% of UK businesses have increased or maintained employment levels over the past six months, revenues are under pressure and they do not believe they are getting sufficient government support.

Of more than 10,000 businesses surveyed across Europe, North America, Africa, and Asia in the second edition of The Sage Business Index — International Small Business Insights, UK business owners were among the least confident about the national and global economies, but remained cautiously optimistic about the outlook for their own businesses over the coming six months. Mid-sized organisations were the most upbeat about the prospects for their business, but small business owners and sole-traders saw the outlook for their business and the wider economy as more challenging. Across the UK, businesses in Wales and the Yorkshire / Humber region were the most optimistic, while businesses in Scotland were the least optimistic about the prospects for their business over the next six months.

Respondents to the survey, conducted by Populus on behalf of Sage, were confident Britain’s strong domestic market, a healthy business culture, and ready access to skilled workers would help them weather the current economic conditions. But barely a quarter (25%)of business owners believed the government is doing enough to provide the necessary support and advice required to nurture growth and stimulate economic recovery. In the North East of England, just 11% of businesses believed they are getting enough government support and advice, with organisations in the region, citing this lack of support as the primary barrier to their competitiveness at a national and international level.

UK businesses also took aim at red-tape, with 62% citing government bureaucracy and legislation as the least favourable aspect of doing business in Britain. Respondents were particularly critical of current health & safety regulations, identifying this as the most burdensome area of red tape they had to contend with.

Despite gloomy forecasts for the global economy, the report found pockets of genuine optimism across the UK, with businesses in the East of England particularly upbeat about the long-term prospects for businesses in the region. 77% of businesses in the East believed they are equipped to compete at a national level, while nearly half (48%) believed organisations in the region are capable of competing at a global level. London business owners are similarly confident in their region’s position as a global powerhouse, with 53% saying they are confident that businesses in the region can continue to compete internationally in the long-term.

Brendan Flattery, CEO of Sage UK and Ireland, commented: “As in most countries across the world, British businesses have suffered a difficult few years, and are now facing continued economic uncertainty. Speaking to many of our 800,000 UK customers however, I am consistently encouraged by the depth of talent, the capacity to innovate, and the resilience they are able to demonstrate, not just in pockets, but in every region throughout the country. While many organisations are preparing for a challenging six months ahead, there’s good reason to be confident in the long-term prospects for the UK business landscape.”

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