Business Leaders Want To Change Relationship With EU 
According to a survey published today (November 1), more than half of business leaders in the UK want to significantly change the country's relationship with the European Union.

When asked whether they "would like to see Britain's relationship with Brussels changed to focus on trade", 56 per cent said they did, while only 23 per cent disagreed with the statement.

However, the survey also showed that a satisfactory change in the terms of the relationship would boost support for staying in the EU, with 16 per cent saying that achieving a "meaningful change" would result in their wanting to remain part of the political union.

The survey, conducted by YouGov (for Business for Britain), which polled more than 1,000 business bosses from firms of all sizes and sectors, also found that almost half believe that the costs of complying with Single Market regulation outweigh the benefits of being in the EU, compared with 37 per cent who disagree and 17 per cent who have not yet made up their minds.

The survey identified nine key areas of competence over which there is a preference for the UK Government to regain control from Brussels. These include employment law, environmental regulation and health and safety legislation.

In addition, almost 60 per cent of respondents said that they want to see the Government focus on the newly industrialised countries, such as Brazil, China and India more than on the EU for future trading links.

According to the survey, 66 per cent of those polled support holding a referendum on the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has supported draft legislation promising a referendum on EU membership by the end of 2017 and
has pledged to renegotiate the terms of Britain's membership of the EU, including the claw-back of some key powers to Westminster.

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Economic Growth Driven By Housing Market 
As new figures show that mortgage lending in September were the highest in five years, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said that the UK's economic recovery is still at an early stage and is reliant on rising house prices and consumer demand.

Speaking in an interview with the Western Mail newspaper while on a visit to Wales, Mr Carney said that most of the growth is coming from the household sector and the pick-up in the housing market from quite low levels. He also commented on the fact that lending to larger businesses rose in September.

The Governor said that this rise is around where he wants it to be but added that the Bank would be vigilant about any future excessive lending to households and that he hoped to see more access to finance for start-up and smaller companies, which would give growth a firmer footing.

During the interview, Mr Carney said that net lending figures for business are not very strong at the moment but it is important that new businesses get access to credit, as this is the stage in the recovery where that should really start to happen.

He also added that the recovery is mostly being driven by growth in London and the South East and said that the Bank would use the full range of instruments at its disposal to help balance the economic recovery around the different parts of the UK.

Mr Carney also said that the Bank would be "vigilant" about signs of "acceleration and greater exuberance in lending practices" but that it had not picked up any such signs yet.

Given the disparity of the speed of recovery in Wales compared with England, Mr Carney denied that the size of the public sector in the Principality might be holding back the recovery there, adding that it will be driven by the private sector, whether in Wales or elsewhere in the UK.

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Mortgage Lending Highest In Five Years 
According to the latest figures from the Bank of England mortgage lending has hit its highest level since February 2008, although the number of approvals is still much lower than before the financial crisis, when the average was 90,000 loans a month.

Lenders approved 66,735 mortgages in September, which was a little higher than City forecasts of 66,000 and quite a bit higher than August's upwardly revised figure of 63,396.

The rise in mortgage lending has been steady since April when the Government launched the first phase of its Help to Buy scheme, which enables borrowers to put down a deposit of 5 per cent in return for taking out a shared equity loan.

The second phase, in which the Government will guarantee mortgage repayments, began earlier this month, so cannot have had an impact on September's figures, leading to speculation that mortgage lending will continue to grow as the year goes on.

In addition, with news earlier this week revealing that house prices rose in every English region in September, many critics are now predicting another housing bubble.

Others, however, point out that, at £1bn, mortgage lending is still only slightly higher than the average of £0.7bn over the previous two years and mortgage approvals were still close to 40 per cent down on typical pre-recession levels.

Meanwhile, other news from the Bank data was that, while overall lending to business also rose, funding for small firms fell during September, particularly for young, fast-growing businesses.

Loans to businesses in September were at their highest level since January this year, rising to £720m but loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fell by £383m.

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Cost of sickness could make SMEs feel ill 
According to recent research, the cost of sickness is more than "40,000 a year for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), while micro businesses, with fewer than 10 members of staff lose out by around "3,500.

The research, from AXA PPP healthcare, also revealed that 60 per cent of bosses of small firms don't always believe their employees when they call in sick and that over a third admit to checking the social media profiles of those they suspect of "pulling a sickie".

Meanwhile, around a quarter of employers said they have no qualms about asking colleagues to call and check on workers they think are lying about being ill, so it is no surprise that nearly half of employees say they feel nervous about calling their boss even when they are genuinely ill.

The research also found that the impact of employee sick leave varies with company size. While micro-businesses of up to 10 staff have on average 5.2 sick days per employee per year, this increases to 6.8 days for companies with 100 to 250 employees.

Not surprisingly, smaller firms are generally more effective at managing sickness absence, which may be because better communication and trust between bosses and employees come from working closely together.

The research also unearthed problems to do with stress in the workplace, with almost half the SME employees polled saying that they feel stressed at work more than twice a week.

Money topped the list of reasons for stress, with just over a third citing worries over cash as a reason, which was closely followed by work problems at 31 per cent and family issues at 18 per cent.

When the survey addressed business owners, two third of bosses admitted that their firms do not provide training for managers that would enable them to spot signs of stress, anxiety or depression in employees, while over half do not actively monitor employee stress levels.

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Fastest Economic Growth In Three Years 
The latest official figures show that UK economic output rose by 0.8 per cent between July and September, which is the best quarterly performance since 2010.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said there had been a "fairly strong" performance across all sectors, with construction up 2.5 per cent over the quarter, the second successive quarter of growth after a volatile performance during the last year.

The ONS said that production grew by 0.5 per cent, though this remains 12.8 per cent off its 2008 level, while within this, manufacturing improved 0.9 per cent in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, the services sector, which accounts for some three-quarters of UK GDP, grew by 0.7 per cent. Output from services is now 0.4 per cent above its pre-crisis peak in the first quarter of 2008.

However, despite news of the second strong quarterly performance in a row, the level of GDP remains 2.5 per cent lower than it was when the recession began at the start of 2008.

The ONS said that national output had grown by 1.5 per cent between the third quarter of 2012, when the economy was boosted by the London Olympics and Paralympics, and September 2013. During Q3, output increased by 1.4 per cent in agriculture, 0.5 per cent in production, 2.5 per cent in construction and 0.7 per cent in services.

Commenting on the data, Chancellor George Osborne tweeted "country is on the path to prosperity", while Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that the figures show that the UK is "firmly on the road to economic recovery".

The figures, released on Friday (October 25) are a first estimate only, however and could be revised up or down in subsequent months.

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