Cast your mind back to May and June of this year when businesses in the region were facing unprecedented challenges. At that time, the COVID-19 situation was moving quickly, and new restrictions and support schemes were being announced almost daily. To help us understand how our members were coping with the unprecedented circumstances, the Chamber made some regional specific COVID-19 updates to the Quarterly Economic Survey (QES). The QES is the largest independent business survey in the UK and is run in conjunction with the British Chambers of Commerce.
The core questions in the survey looked at general business confidence at the time. When asked about their business’s turnover in the next 12 months, over three quarters (77%) of respondents said that they believed it would get worse. A similar proportion (78%) said the same about their business’s profitability. When asked about the level their organisation was currently operating at, only a tiny minority (10%) reported that they were operating at full capacity.
Looking specifically at the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey demonstrated the effectiveness of some support measures in the short term while highlighting real concerns about redundancies in the medium and long term. In an endorsement of the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS), over half (57%) of those surveyed stated that the government schemes available would prevent their organisation from making redundancies in the short term (0 to 3 months). However, beyond the short term there was significantly less confidence that existing support measures could continue to avert layoffs. In the medium term (3 to 12 months) around half (52%) believe that the current schemes will not prevent redundancies. Looking further ahead, more than two fifths (42%) of respondents reported that government schemes would not prevent redundancies in the long term (more than 12 months).
Based on the picture pained above, it is no surprise that participating organisations highlighted continued flexibility around the jobs retention scheme as being among the highest priority for their organisation. When asked to name their top three priorities from a list of AGCC campaign objectives, close to half (49%) flagged continued flexibility around the jobs retention scheme and the same proportion (49%) stated that a clear pathway to economic recovery and consistency of policy between UK nations was among their priorities. Other top priorities of organisations in the region included support to reduce the business rates burden (47%) and specific oil and gas sector support (44%).
The results of the survey were shared with local MPs and MSPs at a COVID-19 specific briefing session and the key asks of the Chamber were backed up with clear and compelling data. Through participation in the QES, Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce members ensured that their voice was part of the conversation, both at Westminster and Holyrood. A lot has changed since May and June but the need for accurate data about our region’s economy remains vital. The next edition of the Quarterly Economic Survey is now live and, in this quarter, we are looking more closely at the impact working from home is having on your business, your workforce and our region. To share your views, click here.