Confidence falls on fears of 'double-dip' recession

ComRes survey shows a majority of businessmen detect no signs of recovery

Businessmen have become more gloomy about the economy in the past month, raising fears that Britain may slip into a "double-dip" recession next year.

A ComRes survey of 257 business leaders for The Independent found that the proportion detecting "green shoots" in their sector had dropped from 49 per cent in November to 36 per cent this month. For the first time since July, a majority (53 per cent) of businessmen now detect no signs of economic recovery, while 11 per cent are "don't knows".

The findings are a setback for ministers, who are keen to ensure that the return to growth they predicted for the final three months of this year is maintained next year. They are anxious to avoid slipping back into negative growth in the first quarter of 2010 because a general election must be held by June.

The number of business leaders who saw signs of recovery in their sectors rose from 38 per cent in August to 49 per cent in September but then remained flat before this month's unexpected dip.

The latest figure will confirm fears that the economy is fragile. Ministers will claim that the caution among business leaders vindicates their decision to continue government support for the economy next year rather than cut public spending as the Conservatives would do.

But the Tories expressed concern about the ComRes figures. Philip Hammond, the shadow Chief Treasury Secretary, said: "These findings send a worrying signal about the depth of Gordon Brown's recession and the fragility of business confidence. It's now more important than ever that we take action to restore confidence in our economy, with a credible plan to reduce the deficit faster, keep interest rates low and protect British jobs. The pre-Budget report (PBR) last week blatantly failed to address these issues and did nothing to reassure business or investor confidence in Britain."

Some senior Tories believe Mr Brown may be tempted to call a 25 March election to head off the prospect a "double dip" recession being announced before a poll on 6 May, the most likely date. With VAT rising from its temporary 15 per cent rate to 17.5 per cent on 1 January, there are fears that the first three months of next year will be sluggish.

The ComRes survey, taken in the five days after the Chancellor's PBR last week, found that it did nothing to enhance Mr Darling's reputation with business leaders. The number who have confidence in him has fallen from 25 per cent to 20 per cent since his statement. It was criticised by business organisations for not spelling out how the Government would meet its pledge to halve the £178bn public deficit over four years.

Confidence in Mr Brown has fallen from 20 per cent before the PBR to 17 per cent. George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, enjoys a 45 per cent "confidence rating" and David Cameron is on 61 per cent. Mr Osborne outguns Mr Darling on a range of issues. Some 74 per cent of businessmen think that the Chancellor is "out of his depth", while 38 per cent say the same about the shadow Chancellor. Only 24 per cent believe Mr Darling "understands business", while 62 per cent say that Mr Osborne does.

More than half (56 per cent) of business leaders believe that Mr Osborne has the right ideas about how to manage the British economy and 65 per cent think he would make a better chancellor than Mr Darling. But 74 per cent believe that Mr Osborne "lacks experience".

The politician who enjoys the confidence of most businessmen, with 62 per cent, is the former chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who is now shadow Business Secretary. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, enjoys a 58 per cent "confidence rating", with the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson on 34 per cent and the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg on 26 per cent.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam