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Shadow Minister praises North East business confidence rise

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 23 May 2023

Chi Onwurah MP visits EY Newcastle to discuss North East business confidence at ICAEW event – drawing on findings from the latest Business Confidence Monitor.

Business sentiment in the North East was the main focus of an event hosted by ICAEW last week and attended by Chi Onwurah, the MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central and Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Innovation.

In particular discussions at the event, hosted by EY at the firm’s Newcastle office, centred on skills, growth and the challenges faced by businesses, against a backdrop of ongoing economic uncertainty.

The purpose of the visit was to gain insights into the business sentiment prevailing in the North East region, which has seen a recent boost according to ICAEW's Business Confidence Monitor (BCM) report for the North East.

The most recent BCM for the North East region, released in April, showed the second-highest level of business confidence in the UK, surpassed only by Yorkshire and the Humber. This improved sentiment follows a slump in business confidence throughout 2022. However, ICAEW warns that the sentiment remains delicate due to ongoing economic uncertainty and skills shortages.

“It’s great to hear that business confidence in the North East is now the second highest in the UK. ICAEW’s BCM provides an important insight into the regional economy,” Onwurah said.

During her visit, Onwurah met with EY employees at the firm’s St James’ Boulevard offices and participated in a round-table discussion focused on local business issues chaired by ICAEW.

Onwurah added: “I was delighted to visit EY to see the contribution they are making to business in Newcastle, including the opportunities provided by their apprenticeship programme. I’ll continue to work with EY and other local employers to address the economic challenges that we are still facing.”

Michael Scoular, the Newcastle Office Managing Partner at EY, expressed the firm’s pleasure in hosting Chi Onwurah, ICAEW and various business leaders from across the North East for the event. “I was particularly proud that we could showcase the experiences and qualities of some of our diverse and talented people in Newcastle, too, who are a huge part of who we are and what we stand for,” he said.

EY's Newcastle office is the largest outside of London, employing almost 900 people. Last year the firm also recruited 55 students in the city. Scoular highlighted the accounting sector's substantial role as a major employer in the region, while also emphasising its support for the wider business community.

“The North is home to many of the UK’s most dynamic and innovative businesses, and while it is positive that the ICAEW’s BCM showed an uptick in sentiment, EY’s recent Regional Economic Forecast highlighted some of the North East’s challenges,” explained Scoular. “It is critical that the public and private sectors work together to combine their expertise and capabilities to build on the positive business sentiment in order to help maximise growth for the region.”

According to EY analysis, the North East is one region of the UK alongside Scotland, Yorkshire and the Humber, and Wales forecast to see the slowest growth in the country at 1.7%, compared to a UK average Gross Value Added (GVA) growth of 2.1%.

Dr James Callaghan, ICAEW’s Regional Director Northern, Yorkshire and Humber, also expressed his satisfaction with the region's progress.

“The North East economy is on the up and is coming back with a vengeance, benefitting everyone. We are proud to support chartered accountants and policymakers by providing detailed insights from the BCM, and we were delighted to discuss with Chi Onwurah MP the significant growth opportunities offered by start-ups and highlight ways businesses in the region work with universities to develop skills,” Callaghan said.

“There are still enormous challenges remaining in the North East, including problems with skills retention in the region and access to finance, and we look forward to working with Chi to address these issues,” Callaghan added.

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