FIRMS in Swindon say the end of the recession is in sight.

The survey of 78 companies conducted by the Swindon Strategic Economic Partnership (SSEP) shows that nearly half of them (45 per cent) expect sales to pick up in the next three months.

Meanwhile 58 per cent of the companies saw their sales in this country fall in the last three months, while more than one third are worried about cashflow.

Bill Cotton, director of economic development for Swindon Council, said: “It looks like things are not going to get worse and this is obviously very positive. On the back of that we have Honda reopening.”

The recession has hit Swindon hard, with 6,000 people out of work.

The town has seen 197 per cent more people claiming benefits in the last year.

“It has been very difficult and unemployment has been rising steeply, but now it is starting to plateau,“ said Mr Cotton.

The survey showed that nearly half of firms interviewed (45 per cent) don’t expect a change in business in the next quarter. The greatest concern is cashflow followed by the number of sales, keeping customers and staffing levels.

Financial adviser Gerry Reilly, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We are seeing things beginning to improve with big companies and the banks are in recovery.

But banks are still asking companies to cut costs. The big companies are turning the corner and it is more positive in Swindon with big companies like Honda, Intel and Nationwide.

“But everybody is still very nervous. We feel the worst is over but we don’t want to shout, as conditions are still delicate.”

SSEP chairman Rikki Hunt said: “A good percentage of businesses are more positive and that bears out the conversation I am having with a lot of different business people.

“Business has stopped going back, which gives us encouragement that it may be bottoming out.

“We should not kid ourselves that the recession is over. We are still in a tough time.

“We took a big dive with employment in the town but I think we can come out of the recession quicker than others.

“That is what our feeling is and the survey supports that.”

The survey was carried out in conjunction with Swindon Chamber of Commerce, GWE Business West and the Federation of Small Businesses.