1. ITV Report

Boost for region's businesses?

Sir John Madejski Photo: Meridian

On Wednesday the Chancellor George Osbourne will deliver his Autumn Statement and lay out his plans for the economy in 2013. His priority needs to be the same as its been for some time - kick-starting the economy.

The deficit is not coming down, and the economy is not growing at the rate hepredicted or wanted.

For many businesses, 2012 is still all about gloomy sales and results rather than the green shoots of recovery. As we start our recovery from one of the worstrecessions in generations.

Disappointing news is becoming a regular feature of recent statements and it's likely to be more of the same. But with precious few options left for theChancellor what can he do?

It's been a busy 12 months: a double dip recession, the Eurozone crisis, a weakglobal economy and not to mention an austerity plan that ISN'T going to plan.Our Business Club members knew they were in for a tough year.

It has been a healthy year for Day Lewis pharmacies. They have a [turnover of £180m and 200 shops across the region.But that's not enough to persuade the bank to lend.

Jay Patel, Director Day Lewis Pharmacy: "It's taken us five years to secure the funding we need. We are a healthy company with record growth figures but we're still being restricted with our funding. It is stopping us from growing and the Government needs to make lending more competitive andaccessible.

"I would also like the Chancellor to make taxation simpler and more fair.Amazon made around £400m in the UK last year and paid no Corporation tax. My tax bill was more than £1.5 m and I can assure you my company did not makeanywhere near the amount Starbucks did. How is that fair?"


It's a similar story for Peach Pubs. A stop start year has meant no additions to their 15 pubs and restaurants across our region. The company had a £20m turnover last year and wants to expand but without the banks lending it is very difficult. The Chancellor does have the Business Bank idea in his pocket but that will take more than a year to get going.

Frazer Sutherland who runs The Thatch, one of Peach Pubs 15 pubs and restaurants in Thame, Oxfordshire says: It's been our toughest year yet. We need the cashflow to grow our business and our biggest challenge has been persuading the banks to lend. We need more incentives and the banks to relelase that cash.

Recruitment boss Lee McQueen agrees. He started Raw Talent Academy two years ago and employs eight people. He's just moved into new offices in Watlington in Oxfordshire. His biggest headache is national insurance.

**Lee McQueen says: NI is my biggest killer. We are growing as a business butthe amount I pay in NI is crippling. I would like George Osborne to offer moreincentives and extend the holiday on NI for companies who employ eight peopleor less. We need to hear that business matters and he should offer incentivesto encourage businesses to grow and invest in people.

It's also been a tough year for Britain's largest online recruit firm Jobsitebased in Hampshire.

Mike Wall, MD Jobsite says: It is difficult and I think in a couple of yearswe'll all feel the pain.

Sarah Barrett took a risk expanding her salon in Romsey in Hampshireduring a recession but she feels it was a risk she had to take to grow herbusiness. She has had to use her own resources to fund her business and saysshe can't get any money from the banks.**

Sarah Barrett says: It has been tough but I've managed to develop my businessand I guess it has been a good year considering but it has been hard.

Hiring local halls to keep overheads low has paid off for Fitness instructorSandra Brooks from Buckinghamshire. Her business has grown as she's found anopportunity in the economic downturn but putting her prices is just not anoption.

**Sandra Brooks says: I need interest rates to be low. I don't want theChancellor to increase fuel duty, I need joe public to have money in theirpockets to spend money on things like my classes.

Consumer confidence is vital for Steve Stretton. His shop, From in Oxfordshiresells exclusively local products and has just celebrated its first birthday. Heand his partners are planning to open their second shop in Oxfordshire but it's been an up and down 12 months since it opened a year ago.

Steve Stretton, co owner of From, says: It is has been quite tough. Jan and Febwere terrifying but things have picked up. I admit we kept our expectation lowbut we're where we want to be and we're really pleased with that. We believe inour brand and concept and just went for it. The Chancellor offering variousincentives and making a nod to business is all very well but I need there to beconsumer confidence that is the thing that will really help my business -people not being afraid to spend.

Britain's oldest brewery in Kent, Shepherd Neame ]( survivedtougher times but its chief executive is clear about what he wants from theChancellor

**Jonathan Neame, CEO Shepherd Neame says: I think the Chancellor should reducevat back to 17.5%. The higher rate is making it very difficult for businessesand I think reducing the VAT rate will help everybody.

Businessman Sir John Madejski has known his share of ups and down.

Sir John Madejski says: "It is tough but the Government is between a rockand a hard place. We have to batton down the hatches and get on with it. Timesare tough but we'll get through it. We have to look for other opportunities.Europe is our biggest trading partner but we have to look beyond Europe and gofurther afield to the rest of the world. We are a nation of shopkeepers andthat is what we do best - trade

The bounce back may have begun and the economy is growing slowly, but it's along and slow road to recovery.



VIDEO: Our item on the prospects for the region's companies.