IT is always good to start a new year with a positive outlook and it seems the economic tide may slowly be turning for the better as business confidence continues to improve as we move into 2024.

According to the latest data from the Chamber network’s Quarterly Economic Survey, there was another small increase in business confidence in the final quarter of last year.

The percentage of firms expecting an increase in turnover over the next year (56 per cent) rose to the highest level since Q1 2022 when Covid restrictions were lifted.

The data also revealed the disproportionate impacts of economic shocks on different types of businesses.

Manufacturers, for example, were more likely to be exposed to the trade barriers established with Europe, while many firms in the retail and hospitality sector reported recessionary conditions.

However, while it is likely the UK will avoid a technical recession, the survey results provide more evidence of a very low growth climate as most SMEs continue to report no improvement to sales, cash flow, or investment.

Businesses have been desperate for a clear long-term plan for growth from Government that addresses infrastructure, access to skills and global trade.

Our data shows business confidence is growing, but real challenges remain in the coming year.

Worries about interest rates and inflation remain at historically high levels, despite a slight easing of concern.

The recruitment challenges many firms are facing underlines our calls for a skills plan from Government alongside an affordable immigration system.

Investment continues to be the Achilles’ heel for business. The Chancellor’s decision in his Autumn Statement to make full expensing permanent was very welcome. 2024 needs to be the year when companies are given further assistance to invest.

In the noisy election year ahead, it is crucial politicians remain focused on growing the economy and helping businesses thrive.