Despite there being some good economic news in the last three months, where manufacturing output has increased and, in some places in the country, unemployment seems to be reducing. It is our experience that this is not the case in the Wyre Forest Area. It was recently reported that the unemployment in this area is one of the highest in the West Midlands, yet we have found levels of enquiry for manufacturing or warehouse units and small retail shops to be better than the corresponding period last year.

Commercial property sales and lettings are often a good indication as to what is to come in the next few months and if our sales and lettings are anything to go by, then regeneration is definitely starting to happen around here, although this is not reflected in the unemployment figures.

The negative outlooks which keep appearing in the media are often just headline grabbers and when one looks at the situation in depth, there are good signs. It is hoped that the Budget will give further encouragement to business, which will again improve the commercial property sector. Business rates are undoubtedly a big consideration for businesses nowadays, in that rateable values were set when rents were higher and the fact that rents have reduced is not reflected in the business rates which are calculated. The void rates on empty properties are also unfair, in that landlords who, through no fault of their own, cannot let property and are left with not only no rent but a rates liability as well. This needs to be addressed as it is not helping the economic situation. The Government may think that charging void rates helps reduce the deficit but it is stunting growth, particularly in the retail sector where new tenants, once a property has been empty for several months are having to pay Non-Domestic Rates whilst refurbishing or refitting a shop ready to open.

With Spring approaching and high fuel prices, it is hoped that again, this year, people will holiday closer to home and with the Wyre Forest area being a tourist attraction, that this will help stimulate the tourist industry.

Next month should show a clearer picture as to how the local economy is recovering and with the volume of property we deal with in the Wyre Forest Area, are perhaps best placed to judge through the whole of the commercial property sector, how economic growth is progressing or being affected.