BCC lifts GDP forecast for 2017 but slams the Budget

The BCC said Philip Hammond's Budget was a 'missed opportunity' as it upgraded its forecasts for UK growth. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The BCC said Philip Hammond's Budget was a 'missed opportunity' as it upgraded its forecasts for UK growth. Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has upgraded its UK GDP growth forecast for 2017 to 1.4 per cent from a ­previous 1.1 per cent, supporting a phalanx of growing ­economic optimism.

However, taking some of the gloss off, the organisation has downgraded its 2018 expectations slightly to 1.3 per cent from 1.4 per cent, and published its first forecast for 2019 of 1.5 per cent growth.

Last week’s Budget was a missed opportunity

Adam Marshall

The BCC, whose global business network ­connects exporters with nearly 40 ­markets worldwide, also dismissed Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget last week as a “missed opportunity”.

• READ MORE: Budget 2017: What do the plans mean for Scotland?

Director general Adam Marshall said in today’s update: “Thanks to the hard work of businesses and the continued resilience of the redoubtable British consumer, the UK economy is likely to grow somewhat more strongly than we’d previously expected during 2017.”

Britain’s services and manufacturing industries have both shown resilience since the UK’s surprise Brexit vote last summer.

The BCC’s economic upgrade for this year follows the Bank of England raising its forecast last month to 2 per cent from 1.4 per cent in November, which itself was a rise from just 0.8 per cent last August in the aftermath of the vote for the UK to quit the EU.

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The BCC said that it had boosted this year’s growth forecast because of an upward revision to UK GDP growth data in the final quarter of 2016, and stronger than expected levels of consumer spending. There had also been a slight improvement in the outlook for investment and trade, compared to its previous forecast, the group added.

But Marshall said: “Last week’s Budget was a missed opportunity for the government to double down on infrastructure improvements and support for international trade, and to lower the heavy up-front taxes and costs that undermine business investment.

“More thoughtful and ­radical moves to improve the business environment would give ­businesses – and GDP forecasts – a boost ­during a critical and complex time.”

Hammond has been widely criticised for raising national insurance contributions for many self-employed people.

Marshall said that there were several years of unspectacular growth ahead, and that “coupled with inflationary pressures… it has never been more important to tackle the long-standing constraints that limit business confidence and growth”.

• The Banking Standards Board (BSB) today publishes its annual review of the sector, highlighting areas of good practice but also “attitudes and behaviour that still need to change”.

Dame Colette Bowe, chairman of the BSB, welcomed the engagement of a diverse range of firms, all keen to learn more about managing their own organisational culture.

She highlighted examples of good practice seen across firms, which showed commitment to serving customers well and raising standards of behaviour and competence, but she also drew attention to “deep-rooted attitudes and behaviour” that still needed to change.

Bowe said: “Responsiveness, accountability, personal resilience and openness are all areas requiring progress. Firms need to speak honestly and bravely about what needs to be done, what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they will know that they are succeeding.

“Everyone in a firm needs to see that executives and board members live up to what they say they are trying to do. Actions speak louder than words. And they all need to be saying the same thing.”

The BSB report is the first of its kind since it opened for membership in its “landmark year” of 2016, painting a view of the banking sector based on the views of 28,000 people working in banks and building societies across the UK, who responded to the BSB Employee Survey.

Hundreds more took part in focus groups and executive and non-executive interviews. Bowe said that the results of the 2016 ground-breaking survey provide a “base-line against which change can now be measured” in 2017 and ­subsequent years.

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