Business leaders from across the region have been reacting to the Government’s response to the impending energy bills crisis.
Amid rising energy costs, inflation levels not seen for decades and new bank base rate rises, there is concern amongst businesses and households over what the future holds.
Prime Minister Liz Truss’ new Government has announced plans to provide a two-year energy bill freeze for households, along with a six-month Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses and other non-domestic users.
Responding to the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme announcement, Claire Ralph, Policy Manager at Business West, said, “Business West welcomes details announced today on the Energy Bill Relief Scheme for businesses across the South West which provides an element of certainty, for a limited time, on the unit prices that business customers can be charged by their utility providers.
“This support provides businesses with vital breathing and planning space to manage cashflow and profitability through the winter months. Business West on behalf of firms across the region calls on early clarity of longer-term protection the Government has promised for ‘vulnerable’ customers given the potential for a cliff edge on 1st April 2023 if this isn’t well targeted.
“We are relieved that firms who attempted to forestall tariffs continuing to escalate by locking in new fixed term contracts since 1st April 2022 will be covered by the scheme at the same rates. Businesses don’t need to do anything to qualify as the new rates will be applied by their utility providers via adjustments to their bills, providing timely relief to anxious firms.”
Mike Lloyd is Managing Partner of Haines Watts Swindon. The firm of Chartered Accountants works with many SMEs in Swindon and Wiltshire and the team is well-versed in the concerns of the business community.
Mike said, “It has to be a good thing for business, particularly as interest rates are set to continue rising. Whether it is enough will vary from business to business but the discounts are bringing the costs to business well below current wholesale prices.
“Is it for long enough? We can only see what happens to the energy markets over the next six months. It may well need to be extended over and above ‘the at risk’ sectors that are already looking set to get longer term support, but whether it will be is too early to say.
“Like Covid-19 it will have to be paid for by this and future generations and the ability to do that will depend on the strength of our post Brexit economy.”
Michael Blaken, Accounts Director at Optimum Professional Services in Swindon, said, “The Energy Bill Relief Scheme is a good first step for the Government to help relieve the pressure of soaring fuel prices for businesses in Wiltshire.
“It’s a price reduction as opposed to a price cap, therefore the treatment is different to the domestic market that people are starting to experience. Of course, this only lasts for six months from October, so unless prices begin to fall considerably, we’d like to see further help from next April.
“In the meantime, our advice as accountants is for businesses to do all they can to reduce costs, without compromising the level of service they offer to customers.”