The excellent Bank of England agent for the North West, John Young, appeared in the second leg of his ‘Downtown tour’ at a private dinner in Manchester this week, having spent a few hours in the company of our Lancashire members last week.
His job on these occasions is to give a brief overview of where the Bank believes the economy to be, but more importantly to take the temperature of the regions business community.
So what are Downtown members telling John Young at the moment?
Confidence is improving, but there is still reluctance for companies to grow and invest in their business as much as they could because that confidence is fragile.
Banks are still not felt to be genuinely ‘open for business’ with over the top guarantees and assurances being demanded for relatively modest applications for lending.
The construction and property market is showing real signs of improvement, in both the housing and commercial sectors.
Red tape, bureaucracy and the tax system are still huge barriers to growth and if anything are getting worse rather than better.
Austerity has been painful, particularly in this part of the world, but it has been a necessary evil.
These were among the highlights from the conversations we have hosted so far, and the key messages that John will be taking back to his London colleagues and the Monetary Policy Committee. A mixed bag of positives and negatives, but nonetheless useful for that.
The Bank’s Governor now is a rather different character than predecessor Mervyn King. Mark Carney, a brash, confident Canadian – and an Evertonian – has already demonstrated a more astute use of media, and seems to be more politically savvy than King. His announcement on interest rates is one of the reasons that confidence is on the up, whilst his manner suggests a robustness that will enable the Bank to retain its independence from government.
John’s final tour date will happen in Liverpool soon. Perhaps he can bring his new boss with him, and we’ll take him to Goodison Park afterwards!