Shropshire Star

Government's energy support package for businesses welcomed

The boss of a health and fitness club has welcomed the Government’s decision to cap energy bills for businesses for six months.

Dave Courteen, from The Shrewsbury Club

Dave Courteen, managing director of The Shrewsbury Club, said the decision ends a lot of the uncertainty for both large and smaller companies.

The scheme will fix wholesale gas and electricity prices for firms for six months from October 1, shielding businesses from crippling costs.

It is understood the scheme will be reviewed after three months with an option to extend support for "vulnerable businesses" – but it is not known what sectors come under the category.

Despite welcoming the support package, Mr Courteen warned further support may be needed after the winter.

"While the six-month Energy Bill Relief Scheme is a very welcome help, this still creates a cliff edge moment from April 2023," he said.

“Like other health clubs, gyms and spas across the country, here at The Shrewsbury Club, we’re impacted by high energy bills all year round. Energy rates are exponentially higher than 2019 and we are in a low margin industry.

"We’re not like other businesses – we don’t have a seasonal spike in energy, we need to heat our swimming pools, and maintain the cool temperatures in our gym and studios for 12 months of the year.

“I understand the scheme will be reviewed after three months with an option to extend support for ‘vulnerable businesses’ – but it is not yet known what sectors will come under this category.

“Come March, yes, the weather may warm up a few degrees, but our energy bills won’t change, our members will still want to jump into a warm swimming pool, relax in a heated sauna and workout in a cool gym.

“It’s an issue facing businesses of all kinds, from hospitality through to manufacturing, but the impact is wider in the health and wellness sector. Many might not see us as a crucial service but health and fitness clubs like ours are one of the key factors why so many people lead healthy lifestyles. We also know that regular exercise in a gym setting has a hugely beneficial effect on people’s mental wellbeing.

“If services like ours had to close because of the energy bills it would have a huge impact on the wider community. Whether you’re a regular swimmer, amateur tennis player or gym-goer, keeping your body moving and heart pumping is key to a healthy lifestyle – keeping people out of doctors waiting rooms and hospitals.”

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “For months we have been calling for Government intervention to help businesses with eye-watering energy bills. This support package is significant and will ease the cost pressures that have been piling up on businesses.

“It will allow many firms that were facing closure, or having to lay off staff or reduce output, to keep going through the winter.

“But the exact level of support will vary greatly from business to business depending on the detail of its contract, so some will inevitably do better than others.

“We now need action to get this saving passed onto business as soon as possible – every day will put some firms closer to the edge and they cannot hang on much longer.

“There must also be effective legal oversight to ensure no firms that are due this money miss out.

“We understand there are a range of unknowns for the Government in looking ahead, but without further reassurance very few firms will make plans to invest or grow.

“Some businesses will still struggle to meet their bills despite this government intervention, the Chancellor must prioritise those firms in his mini-budget on Friday.

“There are a range of other challenges that must be addressed including labour shortages, supply chain disruption, and rising raw material costs.

“To truly revitalise our economy for the difficult months ahead then there must be a clear long-term plan that gives business the confidence to grow.”

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