Cambridgeshire Chamber Boss Slams Negative Media “Pestonitis”

robert_peston10:23 Thursday 25th April 2013
Andie Harper Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

[A]NDIE HARPER: The UK has avoided a triple dip recession. The economy grew by 0.3% in the first three months of the year. Let’s talk to the Chief Executive of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, John Bridge. John good morning to you.
JOHN BRIDGE: Yes, good morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: So first things first John, have you broken out the champagne? Are you celebrating?
JOHN BRIDGE: Well I’m not sure that it’s the time yet to break the champagne open. But the key thing is it is positive news, and certainly we’re very pleased that we have got this 0.3% growth, because clearly what it does is help to drive business confidence forward, which is what we desperately need in order to get businesses to start to invest and understand that the economy is beginning to improve.
ANDIE HARPER: Now it’s a very small percentage John, 0.3%. Say it had been under zero, I don’t know, by point one per cent, would that have really made any difference, positive difference?
JOHN BRIDGE: I think the key thing is, and we have to separate what I call the national statistics and our local statistics. And from a national perspective, things are challenging. But when you look at the mathematical calculation, we all know the economy is challenging. It is moving, but moving slowly. And I think the calculation, whether it had been just under or just over, doesn’t really affect the fact that people are finding life challenging in particular situations (UNCLEAR) the growth is going. But neveretheless, if we look at our own local economy, as opposed to the national economy, we are performing really well, and the businesses in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are very positive and upbeat, and are doing a lot better than those kind of national statistics. And in many ways, from the figures we see, businesses in our location have never been in negative territory at all. And so their confidence is coming back, but it does get impacted and affected by the negative national press that we so often see. And no slight on the BBC, but it’s what we are calling .. called now, Robert Pestonitis, which is something which we are trying to eliminate, because we actually want to get the positive stories across, rather than negativity, and of course all this talk about possibility of triple dip recession doesn’t help when we ourselves have been quite clear and have said publicly that we definitely didn’t think it would happen, and we didn’t think it was the right thing to do to keep speculating around it.
ANDIE HARPER: Now I can understand politiciasn being unhappy with this, particularly those in Government, and I can understand business people, but what about our listeners, the people who are struggling all the time? Fuel prices may have plateaued out but they’re still ridiculously high. They go to the supermarket or to any shop and the prices have gone up. Does this really mean anything to them?
JOHN BRIDGE: I think that from the overall perspective of people generally, it’s just a mathematical calculation that doesn’t make much difference to them, and the challenges that many people face in the current situation, and the fact that obviously the economy is not going to grow as quickly as once was hoped, and it is going to be a number of years before we start to get back to the levels of growth which we previously enjoyed, and which people clearly have the benefit from and obviously gives the real good feel factor to the majority of people. Nevertheless, from a business perspective, what we need is the confidence to be given back to business, so they start to invest, start to create the wealth again, because it is through that wealth creation by business that we will ultimately be able to grow the economy which will give back to everybody else the ability to be able to have a better quality of life. And it starts with that confidence in business which I hope will come from the statistics we’ve now got to hopefully begin to drive forward in a positive way and give everybody back what I know they’re seeking and longing for. But we mustn’t misjudge the fact that it is going to be quite a few years before we get back to that level.
ANDIE HARPER: John, I’m no Robert Peston, so I will keep remaining positive. Good to talk to you.
JOHN BRIDGE: Yes, well we’re really pleased Andie that we speak with you, because we like the positive nature of the way that you tackle this, and perhaps you can pass that message on to Robert.
ANDIE HARPER: I’m sure he’ll take a lot of notice of me. John, thank you very much. That’s John Bridge, Chief Executive of the Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce.