The economy has been named as the largest challenge facing UK companies this year, according to a new Business Census report of business leaders’ expectations for the year ahead.

The survey of 1,000 businesses, carried out by the financial data website Company Check (https://companycheck.co.uk/), revealed that almost a third (32%) expect the economy to pose the biggest risk to their company during 2016.

While the issues of recruitment and finance, 2015’s biggest headaches according to those questioned, are expected to ease this year, the number identifying the economy as their main challenge for 2016 has grown by a third compared to last year.

Concerns over political uncertainty have also taken priority for many, with a 40% rise in the number declaring this as their main concern; up from 11 to 16%.

For Scottish firms, 45% said they were satisfied with the level of local government support for businesses, higher than anywhere else in the UK.

Alastair Campbell, founder of Company Check and author of the report, said: “The Business Census is intended to provide a snapshot of the state of UK businesses at the start of the year. The usual growth figures we read about can only tell us so much, so we asked business leaders to give us their insight into how their business fared last year and offer their forecasts for the year ahead, good or bad.”

“It’s unsurprising that economic and political uncertainties are on the rise, with the impending EU referendum, growing security concerns and possible interest rate rises all playing a part. Results like this highlight the strength of feeling among business owners looking for decisive leadership from our politicians to improve business confidence.”

Commenting on the report, Neil Austin, former Global Head of Markets at KPMG, said: “Economic statistics and forecasts are valuable but it is always important to supplement them with the views of businesses, particularly when looking to establish what the future holds for the economy. The latest survey by Company Check highlights some very interesting changes in what businesses see as the major challenges for 2016 compared with 2015.”

The Business Census questioned people working across the UK economy, with participants taken from professional services (24%), manufacturing (15%), construction (14%), retail (13%), finance (10%), food and drink (5%) and healthcare (2%).

Almost three quarters (73%) expect their business to grow this year, with that growth expected to most likely come from marketing (38%), followed by production (34%), finance (19%) and HR (7%).

Despite their fears, two thirds (67%) said they were either quite or very optimistic about the outlook for the UK economy in 2016, compared to 21% who were not.

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