Almost 80% of Kent businesses questioned in a survey said they were positive about the prospects for growth.
The survey was held at the Business Vision Live show at Detling Showground on 15 May, which brought together representatives of businesses across the county, about 100 of whom took part in a lunchtime debate on the opportunities and challenges facing Kent.
The debate, sponsored by law firm Brachers and chartered accountants Kreston Reeves, opened with the survey asking respondents’ views on the prospect of business growth in the next 12 to 18 months. Of those who responded, 64% said they were quite positive and a further 13% said they were very positive.
Following the survey, a panel of Erol Huseyin from Brachers, Clive Stevens from Kreston Reeves, Barbara Cooper, representing Kent County Council and Paul Winter from Kent manufacturing business Wire Belt answered questions gathered from the audience, put to them by Jo James from Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, who chaired the debate.
The first question, asking about the need for businesses to update accountancy software in the event of the UK leaving the EU, was answered by Clive saying Brexit would change the accounting landscape for businesses, particularly those that import and export. However, he added reassuringly: “Technology and online accounting software is increasingly capable of managing this, as the recent Making Tax Digital changes have demonstrated.”
Erol was then asked if there were any significant changes to UK commercial law in the pipeline over the next couple of years. His response was: “There are some changes already in progress. For example, the privacy regulation is expected to come into force soon, building upon GDPR.”
Erol added: “Regardless of whether we have a deal or no-deal Brexit, we will see an enormous amount of change within the legal system over the coming years. We have a huge amount of EU law on our statute books, and a lot of it has to be reworked to fit on a domestic basis.”
Paul was asked if the UK’s relatively low productivity level was the problem it was made out to be, and if so, what would make the country more competitive? He replied: “I find it difficult to understand why there is a gap between the UK’s productivity and that of similar economies. But it is a major challenge. I have found benchmarking, against global and UK standards, as a useful tool for measuring productivity in a business, and the impact of activities designed to improve it. The Office of National Statistics offers a handy tool, and guidance for using it, through their productivity benchmarking service.”
Other questions included what the legal position was if a contract which was made before Brexit and what the panel felt the future held for Kent.
In response to this, Clive drew the audience’s attention to a Kreston Reeves report which showed that Kent was bucking the UK trend, in terms of business positivity. “Despite the current uncertainty, this outlook helps to realise the opportunities we are presented with and will contribute to the potential for future growth,” he said.
Business Vision Live, formerly Kent 2020 Vision, is the largest business-focused exhibition and conference in the South East and attracts more than 3,000 visitors who toured more than 250 stands – including one by South East Business magazine.