Responding to the news that the latest Quarterly International Trade Outlook (QITO) shows that the number of UK firms reporting an increase in export orders and confidence rose at the start of 2016, following a drop in growth at the end of 2015. Black Country Chamber President, Adrian Wright, said: “The report’s Trade Confidence Index, measuring the volume of trade documentation issued by accredited Chambers of Commerce, rose by 1.4% in Q1 2016, compared with the previous quarter, to stand at an index of 116.04 in Q1 2016. However, in annual terms there was a decline of 4.4% on Q1 2015.

“Comparing the value of trade documentation for the Black Country Chamber Q1 2016 to Q1 2015, we see a 17% increase – from £40.6 million to £47.5 million. 12% of Black Country businesses completing our Business Indicator reported an increase in export sales (4% higher than in Q4 2015). 75% said that their export sales had remained the same since the previous quarter.

“Nationally there were clear sectoral differences in Q1 2016. Among manufacturing exporters, the balance of firms reporting improvements in export sales over the first three months of the year rose from +1% in Q4 to +8%. This increase came after a six-year low in Q4 2015. The balance of manufacturers reporting improved export orders also rose from +1% to +8%. In the Black Country the balance jumped 22%. For the UK national export sales growth dipped in the services sector, where the balance of service firms reporting improved export sales fell two points to +13%. In the Black Country the balance improved by one point.”

Turning his attention to the Queen’s speech last week, Adrian said: “We agree with the Institute of Directors that the government lacks ambition on broadband. We understand that industrial estates are being deprioritised in favour of residential estates. This shows a disappointing lack of understanding as regards the ingredients of wealth creation. Once again we see political considerations trumping economic ones.

“It is infuriating for the government to be talking about driverless cars and spaceports at a time when our current transport infrastructure is crumbling. There is an economic return of £4 for every £1 spent on roads. Switching the £5.5 billion being planned to divert the M25, during the building of a third runway at Heathrow, to resolve the East West and North South freight transport across the Midlands seems a much better use of scarce investment funding. We sincerely hope that the independent National Infrastructure Commission will look at the real interests of the country, not just the political ones.

“Giving regulators more power is useful only if it helps UK manufacturing reduce its energy costs. Thus far we must express disappointment with the performance of regulators. None of them appear to have kept business costs in check.

“As a region with almost 40% of its business base devoted to making things, we are impatient for action, what’s needed are big decisions – not new legislation. Businesses want decisive action to boost aviation capacity, help companies plug skills gaps, and to stop the steady drip of new taxes and costs piled on their bottom lines at a time of significant uncertainty. Firms want to see bold and decisive steps from government. I guess we will have to wait until after the EU referendum – whatever the outcome – to help Britain get back to business.”