ABERDEEN law firm Ledingham Chalmers is continuing to feel the impact of the slowdown in the local economy since the oil sector crash, with its turnover and profits both falling in the last financial year.

Turnover, which had already fallen by 1.5 per cent in the previous 12-month period, was down by 6.5 per cent to £11.5 million in the year to the end of March.

Pre-tax profits, meanwhile, which fell by 12 per cent in the 2015/16 year, were down a further 10.5 per cent to £3.4m.

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Despite the drops, firm chairman Jennifer Young said the firm was ahead of its budget for the year after it took a highly conservative approach in light of the oil sector’s woes.

“We went through a very robust business planning process in terms of looking very carefully at budgets and projections for that year,” Ms Young said.

“That’s because we are still seeing the ramifications of what’s been happening with the oil price downturn.

“The residential property market is showing signs that it might be getting better but we weren’t sure how it was going to play out.

“Those two issues were priorities for us. It wasn’t a year for us to be setting any growth targets.”

Although the oil price has improved since bottoming out at under $30 a barrel at the start of 2016, Ms Young noted that the wider impact of the slump is likely to be felt by businesses across the north east for some time to come.

“There is always going to be a time lag,” she said.

“What we are seeing in the north east is that we are probably a few moves away from the direct impact of the oil price downturn.

“For any business operating in this area, whether it’s selling sandwiches, in general retail or professional services, there’s a time lag on how these things play out.

“Confidence in the area has taken a bit of a knock.”

In addition to the oil price effect, Ms Young said that businesses in Aberdeen and the surrounding area were impacted during the 2016/17 year by uncertainty around what was going to happen with their business rates, which were revalued earlier this year.

As the revised rates were calculated based on 2014/15 turnover for the hospitality sector and 2015 rental values for everyone else, companies’ confidence was hit by facing boom-time bills during the reality of a downturn.

“We were impacted by that too, not at the same level that some have been, but there’s absolutely no doubt that the uncertainty caused by that in the financial year we are talking about was another thing that chipped away at confidence levels,” Ms Young said.

With the oil price coming off its historically low base and many businesses in the area benefiting from rates relief, Ms Young said the current year is looking better for the area.

That said, she added that the firm expects its financials for 2017/18 to be broadly in line with those for 2016/17.

As well as its main office in Aberdeen, Ledingham Chalmers has smaller bases in Inverness, Stirling and Edinburgh.

It also has an Aberdeen-based investment subsidiary, Golden Square Wealth Management, which contributed just under £1m of total revenues in 2016/17.

That figure was unchanged on the previous year.