Commenting on the preliminary GDP figures for the fourth quarter, David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:  

“The fall in GDP in the fourth quarter is worrying and well below everybody’s expectations. Even if you accept the assessment from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) that underlying growth was flat before the impact of the severe weather, the outcome is very disappointing.   

“There are positive features in these figures, notably the strong growth in manufacturing. However the decline in services is of concern and could have an adverse effect on jobs.  

 “In spite of these figures we believe the government should persevere with the deficit cutting programme, but the economy is clearly fragile and policy must be implemented cautiously. The MPC must abandon any early interest rate rise until the recovery is more secure. On its part, the government must ensure obstacles that hamper businesses in their efforts to create jobs, invest and export must be removed.”