THE UK ended 2019 in stagnation with “protracted weakness across most indicators of economic health”, research has found.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) – whose members include Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry – has revealed the results of its latest Quarterly Economic Survey.

In the service sector, which accounts for almost 80 per cent of UK economic output, all key indicators worsened at the end of 2019 compared with the previous quarter and all remained well below their historic average.

Indicators for manufacturing and export orders were negative for two consecutive quarters for the first time in around a decade, while the number of manufacturers planning investment in plant and machinery was at an 80-year low.

Cashflow, a key indicator of business health, improved slightly from its lowest level in eight years but remained very weak across both manufacturing and service sectors, the BCC said.

Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC, said: “The UK economy limped through the final quarter of 2019.

“The fourth quarter was characterised by a broad-based slowdown in the dominant services sector with all key indicators weakening in the quarter, amid sluggish household expenditure and crippling cost pressures.

“Despite some improvements, indicators in the manufacturing sector remain very weak by historic standards, and with indicators for domestic and export orders continuing to contract, the near-term outlook for the sector remains challenging,” Mr Thiru added.

“A faltering service sector together with listless manufacturing activity points to a downbeat outturn for UK GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2019”.

BCC director-general Adam Marshall said: “The end of political deadlock at Westminster must also bring action to renew business confidence and tackle the prolonged stagnation that’s affecting so much of the UK economy. The government must use its newfound majority to take big decisions to stimulate growth.

“If ministers take action to reduce up-front costs, move key infrastructure projects forward, and to help businesses on training, they’ll be rewarded with increased investment.

“However, they also must move quickly over the coming weeks to ensure that Brexit is done right. A clear future trading relationship with the EU is also crucial to many firms’ future investment and growth prospects.”