Small business confidence 'in negative territory for first time in four years'
Smaller firms are increasingly worried about prospects for the UK economy even though they continue to recruit staff and enjoy greater access to finance, a new report shows.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said confidence had continued to fall, with business owners feeling optimistic about the future being outnumbered by those who felt the opposite.
A survey of over 1,000 FSB members revealed that just over half were aiming to grow in the next year and many were recruiting.
But the poll, the first by the FSB since the EU referendum, reflected a "fragile" outlook for the economy.
Mike Cherry, FSB chairman, said: "There is no doubt that the political shock of the Brexit result has taken place at a time of weakening business confidence. For the first time in four years, confidence is in negative territory.
"This persistent downward trend in UK business confidence reflects underlying issues that predate the Brexit decision."
Jon Trickett, shadow business secretary, said: "The fall in business confidence for the third quarter in a row is another sign that uncertainty surrounding Brexit is harming Britain's business environment.
"Britain's businesses have proved remarkably resilient given the Government's complete lack of contingency planning for Brexit - unlike the Government, Britain's small business owners should be applauded for getting their heads down and getting on with it."
Small Business Minister Margot James said: "The UK's record number of small businesses create millions of jobs and contribute over £1 trillion to our economy.
"It's encouraging to see growth, exports and access to finance continue to increase as small businesses seize the opportunities available to them.
"This Government wants small businesses to thrive and we will be appointing a Small Business Commissioner to be a powerful representative of small firms across the country."