A recent economic survey showed no overall improvement in business conditions, with the hospitality sector continuing to struggle disproportionately.

The British Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly economic survey reported 39 per cent of hospitality businesses had a decreased cash flow, compared with 28 per cent of respondents overall.

A further 56 per cent of British businesses expect an increase in turnover expecting an increase in turnover in the next 12 months, and almost half are expecting the price of their goods to rise.

The survey, conducted between 12 February and 12 March, of over 4,800 businesses across the UK – 92% of whom are SMEs (fewer than 250 employees) - also showed business performance across different sectors varied considerably.

The percentage of respondents reporting increased domestic sales stayed at 36%, the same level as Q4 2023.

Likewise, for the second quarter in a row, 22 per cent reported a decrease and 42 per cent said sales had remained constant.

But there were significant sectoral differences – 44 per cent of professional service businesses said they had seen a boost in sales, whereas only 27 per cent of logistic companies and 29 per cent of retailers saw an increase.

Profitability confidence has remained static, with nearly half of companies saying they expect profits to increase in the next year.

While inflation remains businesses’ biggest concern, business worries about interest rates continue to gradually fall.

Over a third of businesses say they are concerned about the cost of borrowing.

Suzanne Caldwell, managing director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said the results show inflation, skills shortages, trade barriers, and a lack of clear governmental direction on investment continue to negatively impact Cumbrian businesses.

“The lack of investment among most SMEs is of great concern.

"Government moves on rate relief, planning reform and full expensing are welcome - but they haven’t yet shifted the dial.

“While the recent rise in the national living wage will be welcomed by millions of employees, it comes at a time when businesses are already struggling with rising wage bills.”

She further urged prospective parliamentarians to remain focussed on supporting business growth, and look closely at the survey’s result to ‘gain an understanding of the reality for SMEs’ in Cumbria.