Alarm bells getting louder

Javid urged to offer help as private sector activity falls again

Retail has taken a battering and needs help, says the CBI (pic: Terry Murden)

Private sector activity across the UK fell or remained flat for the tenth consecutive quarter, according to the CBI which is urging the Chancellor Sajid Javid to use this week’s spending review to help shore up the economy.

Activity fell in the three months to August, though the 6% decline was at a slightly slower pace than in the previous rolling quarter, according to the CBI’s latest monthly Growth Indicator.

This month’s result reflected a continued decline in services and distribution volumes, including the fastest decline in retail sales since February 2009, amid flat manufacturing output.

Private sector activity is expected to drop at a faster pace in the quarter to November (-13%) – the weakest expectations since December 2011. The decline is driven by expectations of a faster decline in services volumes alongside a continued fall in distribution volumes, with output expected to remain flat in manufacturing.

Across the economy more broadly, growth has been volatile in the first half of 2019, driven by companies stockpiling ahead of previous Brexit deadlines and a change in the timing of car plant annual shutdowns.

The CBI expects the economy to grow modestly further ahead. However, a no-deal Brexit would likely hit activity and financial markets significantly.

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI Chief Economist, said: “The economic alarm bells are ringing louder and louder. It is worrying that the dominant services and the retail sectors are struggling to cope with Brexit uncertainty and falling investment, while also having to shoulder the burden of an outmoded business rates system. And with activity expected to drop further next month, there is no let-up in sight

“The best remedy for this malaise remains getting a deal with the European Union that secures jobs and shores up the strengths of our economy. The Government has to strain every sinew to make this a reality.

“It should also use this week’s Spending Review to invest in education, infrastructure and low carbon technologies to boost the UK’s competitiveness over the long-run.”

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