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Owner-drivers say sell-and-retire prospects are improving

Business owners in the automotive sector say their retirement prospects are finally beginning to improve as the UK begins to emerge from recession.

But the latest quarterly survey of more than 1,000 UK businesses, carried out by Clifton Asset Management (CAM), also reveals that attitudes vary considerably in different parts of the country.

Some 77% of business owners say their retirement is further away now than it was a year ago – slightly down on the 80% recorded three months ago.

But the differing speed at which recovery is under way in different regions is reflected in the fact that in the East Midlands, 90% say their retirement hopes have receded, up from 83%, with the figure in the North East holding steady at 86%.

By contrast, in the South West only 68% of business owners now view their retirement as having moved further away, down 13%.

The main reasons given for delaying retirement are tougher trading and market conditions (55%) and declining property and pension values (23%).

In terms of retirement age, 60-65 remains the most popular option in the survey, with 18 per cent saying they have no plans to retire, down from 22 per cent.

Neil Greenaway, managing director at Clifton Asset Management, said: “How people view their retirement prospects is a crucial part of our survey, so a fall – albeit small – in the number of business owners who see retirement moving further away has to be good news.

“We are now officially out of recession and no doubt this affects how people see their retirement prospects, although the wide variations between different parts of the country highlight how some regions are performing better than others.”

London (70%) and the South East (65%) remain the most optimistic regions in terms of business owners’ views of their area being better placed for economic recovery than the UK as a whole, with Wales and the North East the least optimistic (25% and 29% respectively).

Regional differences are also stark when it comes to job cuts among SMEs. The overall rate has slowed slightly over the past six months, according to the CAM research, but the trend is upward once again for the next two quarters.

Only in London and the West Midlands has the percentage of business owners expecting to make job cuts fallen, with the figure for the North East rising to 27% – more than double the figure for last time.

“Our latest survey is confirmation, if it were needed, that the recovery will be a long, drawn-out and patchy process,” said Greenaway.

“This is illustrated by the fact that at the end of last year, just over half of our respondents said they believed a proper recovery was 12 months or more away, a figure which has risen to two-thirds this time.

“The findings on planned job cuts also reveal a two-speed recovery with certain regions set to suffer far more than others. While London appears to be through the worst for example, clearly there is a lot more pain to come in regions such as the North East.”

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