Businesses in the North of Britain are more optimistic about the economic future than they have been since before the global financial crash in 2007, according to a report published this month.
According to the twice yearly Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Business in Britain survey, businesses across the country are collectively more confident about the future, but there is particular confidence in the West Midlands and the North. The confidence index of the latter has risen 22%, to 44%, whereas the national average only rose half that to reach 30%.
The report showed businesses in the North to have increased expectations for sales, orders and profits in the New Year. The results were particularly strong regarding the latter, with 50% of businesses anticipating a rise in their profits.
Leigh Taylor, regional director of SME Banking in the Midlands and North for Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: This is an encouraging improvement in confidence as we start 2014 and we hope that it will lead to a sustainable UK recovery allowing Northern businesses to grow and prosper.
The report did however show that there was still doubt over UK consumers, with 45% of business nationwide fearing weak domestic demand.
The assertion from George Osborne that the British economy is set to increase growth at a faster rate in 2014, and the prediction that the London Stock Market will reach record highs this year, are not enough to assail the doubts of the British consumer.
In response to this, the last couple of years have seen a rise in companies built to aid businesses reach international markets.
Both the chancellor and the developments on the Stock Market are still too heavily associated with City bonuses and casino banking to command trust, and too few of the population are seeing any improvements in their personal financial situation.
Contributing to these concerns, unemployment is still stubbornly high in the UK, despite decreasing since the coalition came into power. The Lloyds report shows that almost half of the British businesses are hoping to expand in 2014, giving hope that this will accelerate the fall in unemployment.
Over the water
On the continent, the level of unemployment has remained at a record high for over seven months.
There are however persistent signs of recovery, as last month Germany and France, the two largest economies in the euro-zone, reported growth of 1.5% and 2.1% respectively. Growth in the retail sector for the region as a whole was also reported.