ITV News Business Club: Govt cannot blame UK recession on eurozone

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The last time we gathered together the members of the ITV Business Club we didn't know if we would slide back into recession - then we did. And, the travails of the eurozone felt relatively under control. Not any more.

Meeting this week, six months into our project to track the hopes and fears of UK business in this critical year, the backdrop felt very different indeed.

For two of our group, the potential collapse of the single currency is not just something they worry about, it is something they are having to spend time, effort and energy actually planning for.

Richard Ward, the chief executive of Lloyd's of London, and Chris Sullivan, the man who lends more money to UK business than anyone else as the head of corporate banking at RBS, both talked of their firms' plans for potential eurozone collapse.

But despite eurozone fears being a drag on the economy our group was adamant that the UK government cannot blame our recession on what is happening across the channel. And they all believed there are things ministers can do to make it easier, much easier, for them to do business, and employ people.

Andy Clark of Asda called on the government to scrap the planned 3p rise in fuel duty planned for later this summer to ease the burden on families, and therefore make it easier for them to spend. He told us 25 percent of customers are worried that they wouldn't be able to pay for their goods at the checkout.

Ian Taylor, from one of our biggest building firms Balfour Beatty, called on ministers to act on decisions over infrastructure and long term projects.

Keith Anderson of Scottish Power said that political indecision over the energy industry is responsible for slowing down investment in construction and jobs, and making it harder for firms like his to spend the cash they want to.

And Sullivan of RBS suggested, despite the government and the Bank of England promising up to 100 billion in cheap loans to the market, the government has come up with a piecemeal list of measures rather than one big coherent approach, saying "we see a lot of small interventions, I'd like to see less of them, but bigger ones.'

Contrary to the common complaint that businesses are having trouble getting the banks to lend to them, Sullivan insists he can't find enough people who want to borrow. He says:

I'm looking for clients to borrow money from me, I've got plenty around and I cannot find enough people to borrow because of the risk. People are afraid.

And the ongoing difficulties in the UK and Europe are pushing the group to look at other countries and other markets. Margaret Wood, from ICW manufacturing in Wakefield is just back from a trade mission to the US, Clippy McKenna, of food business Clippy's Apples, has just had her products featured in China where she said, 'they went mental for Clippy'.

With recession biting, our Business Club believes there is plenty of opportunity out there to be grabbed by UK business, but they are having to look harder and further afield for it, and there is much more the government could do to help.

Watch my full report on ITV News at 10.