MORE than one in eight small businesses across Hounslow are considering cutting staff, according to a survey which paints a gloomy picture of trade in the borough.

Almost twice as many (13%) small-to-medium sized enterprises (SME) are thinking of making redundancies now compared with October last year (7%).

Profits have fallen at nearly two thirds (61%) of such companies, compared with 46 per cent in October, according to Business Link in London's Business Confidence Index (BCI).

The number of businesses admitting they 'feel affected' by the downturn is also up, from 63% before Christmas to 76% now. However, despite the alarming figures, a remarkable 98% of firms questioned have 'high hopes' for the year ahead, with more than a third (36%) declaring themselves 'significantly or extremely optimistic'.

Business Link in London quizzed 90 companies in Hounslow and over 3,000 across London as part of its quarterly BCI.

Denis Palmer, regional manager for the publicly-funded business advisory service, said the results showed the effects of the economic crisis were far from over.

"A recovering economy does not mean Hounslow's small businesses are out of the woods – recovery on the business front generally takes longer to manifest itself and the borough's entrepreneurs need to remain on their toes in the months ahead to ensure they're on track," he added.

Anila Vaghela's company Anila's Authentic Sauces, based in Wellington Road South, Hounslow, is among those bucking the trend. The 53-year-old started the business, producing premium hand-made curry sauces, from her kitchen in Walton, Surrey, after being made redundant in 1997.

After 12 years of growth, the company - which supplies more than 100 shops, including Harrods and Selfridges - suffered its first dip in profits last year. But things have quickly turned around, with a growing number of orders from as far afield as Germany meaning Anila and husband Dan are looking to employ more staff.

"I think the fact fewer people can afford to eat out has helped speciality food firms like us because customers realise they can enjoy the same quality food for a fraction of the price," said Anila.

Other findings from the BCI show that 60% of Hounslow's entrepreneurs have recently cut costs or made redundancies and more than half (58 per cent) have experienced a decline in sales.

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