Government pledge on help for firms’ soaring energy bills this winter welcomed by Business West

September 5, 2022

The South West’s largest business organisation has ‘warmly welcomed’ the government’s promise to help firms with spiralling energy bills this winter – but called for it to regulate the market to ensure stability in the future.

Prime Minister Liz Truss’s energy price freeze announced yesterday means households bills will be capped at £2,500 a year from the start of next month. She pledged that businesses would receive equivalent support for six months.

Business West, which runs Bristol Chamber of Commerce, gave the thumbs up to the protection for households and said it was relieved that equivalent protection had been promised for business customers for this coming winter.

Director of policy Matt Griffith, pictured, added: “We await detail about how this will work in practice for firms in our region and what happens to bills beyond the initial six-month period if prices remain high.

“Businesses need long-term market regulation to provide certainty and stability to support their otherwise viable operations.”

He encouraged Chamber of Commerce members and concerned businesses to get in touch with Business West so it could represent and speak for them directly with key decision makers, such as ministers, MPs and the Bank of England.

Earlier this week Business West had urged Ms Truss to prioritise support for firms as she spent her first few days as Prime Minister. 

The organisation said companies needed decisive action from Number 10 to help them weather the looming economic storm.

It also urged Ms Truss to deliver an economic strategy that addressed the fundamental and structural problems businesses face.

Business West managing director Phil Smith said: “In these challenging and uncertain times for businesses, with inflation reaching record levels and energy bills going through the roof, businesses need a strong leader to help them weather the storm.

“With a recession being forecast by the British Chambers of Commerce, working to support businesses must be the top priority, as the potential scope for business closures and/or redundancies will only add to the financial woes facing UK firms.”

He said the results of Business West’s most recent Quarterly Economic Survey showed that inflation was the top source of concern for firms in the region, while confidence in the UK economy overall was as low as in the depths of the pandemic.

“These issues are complicated, and yet announcements often seem to be short term or uncoordinated,” added Mr Smith.

“In the same way that businesses need to plan for their own futures they look to the government to develop and clearly communicate an economic strategy that address the fundamental and structural problems businesses face.”

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), of which Business West is a leading member, recently called on the government to implement a five-point plan to provide vital support to firms.

Its suggestions are:

  • Ofgem more power to strengthen regulation of the energy market for businesses
  • Temporarily cutting VAT to 5% to reduce energy costs for businesses
  • Providing Covid-style support by introducing Government Emergency Energy Grant for SMEs
  • Temporarily reversing NICs to put money back into the pockets of businesses and workers
  • Immediately reviewing and reforming the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to help bring down wage pressures and fill staffing vacancies.

Mr Smith said: “We know that good business is good for our community, so the new Prime Minister must act to ensure that firms can ride out this economic storm.

“Our current Quarterly Economic Survey is asking businesses to tell us what the incoming government can do to support their growth.”

Click here to take part in the survey.


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