TIMES could be tough for some Huntingdonshire companies over the coming three months, but could pick up strongly after that, a senior business adviser believes. Dominic O'Sullivan, who represents Business Link in the area and is one of the judges for The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business Awards, says the district has so far survived the economic downturn more strongly than most other places. "It was tightening up pre-Christmas, but we hadn't seen the impact yet. People may have been hanging on until Christmas, rather than lay employees off," he told The Hunts Post this week. "It's too early to tell whether it's a time-lag or whether Huntingdonshire is not affected as badly as elsewhere. There's a lot of local business-to-business activity here. "It's tight, and companies are looking for support, but I don't see people jumping off cliffs, even though the national media are talking it down." Some companies had been reducing their wage bill, with employees taking pay cuts of up to 30 per cent in exchange for keeping their jobs, and employers hanging on to their employees' skills in preparation for when the economy picks up. That could be as soon as spring this year, after the banking sector had written off all its bad and risky debt. "The first quarter of 2009 will be difficult, but good businesses will survive," Mr O'Sullivan predicted. "I think the banks' [annual] reports at the end of March will be horrific because they will take the opportunity to write off everything they can. But a year later they will be flying high because they will have started lending again. We are all expecting them to clear the decks for business lending. "Things will start to change after March when the skeletons are out of the cupboard. 2009 is not going to be as bad as the national media are saying. It will level out in the second half, even if the property market takes longer to recover," he forecast. "And we will come out of this in a stronger position.