THE latest quarterly economic economic survey from the region's business leaders indicates confidence is starting to return.

It follows what is described by the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce report as "the most challenging year for the economy in peacetime".

It says that regional businesses are starting to see a way out of the current crisis as confidence returns. Firms have also reported a significant uplift in outlook for the next twelve months with many expecting to increase turnover and profitability.

The regional business survey was conducted by the West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce in March.

While the longer term outlook shows positivity returning, there remains some shorter term challenges with sales activity impacted by restrictions and the fallout from Brexit. The survey also showed a great deal of imbalances across different sectors, with professional services and those in digital reporting stronger sales activities whilst those in accommodation, catering and hospitality still struggling with the impact of the third lockdown.

Speaking on the results, Suzanne Watson, president of Bradford Chamber, said: “Results this quarter suggest that companies are preparing for the future and confidence is beginning to grow. Our latest leadership group meeting with local business leaders concurred that recruitment activities are increasing and investment plans starting to be reviewed.

"There are still challenges ahead however and we need to see infection rates continuing to fall and vaccine roll out getting to all parts of our communities.

"Help is also needed to get firms ready for new trade procedures with the EU; the first quarter is proving to be very difficult for businesses as they adjust to new paperwork and customs checks. Costs of doing business continue to rise for our manufacturers and companies are struggling not to pass these on to their customers; expect some inflationary pressures during 2021.”

Roger Marsh, chairman of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership said, “Despite the lockdown at the start of 2021 there are signs of optimism among the region’s businesses in the first quarter of the year. Domestic sales have increased compared to Q4, and business confidence for the year ahead is rising.

“It’s positive to see businesses looking to recruit and expand their workforce at a faster pace than we have seen in recent months, investment in capital equipment is also increasing."

West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce represents businesses of all sizes and sectors based in Bradford, Leeds, York and North Yorkshire.