'Incredibly worrying!' Survey highlights fears of Shropshire small firms over energy crisis

Hundreds of small firms across Shropshire fear they will struggle to pay their energy bills next year unless the Government extends its financial relief scheme beyond the end of March.

Ruth Ross, deputy chief executive of Shropshire Chamber
Ruth Ross, deputy chief executive of Shropshire Chamber

That was the finding of a new survey, which has been described by Shropshire Chamber of Commerce as ‘incredibly worrying’.

Research from the British Chambers of Commerce found almost half of small to medium-sized businesses expect to experience difficulties once the Government’s current Energy Bill Relief Scheme ends.

More than one in three of these businesses are also said to be predicting they will find it difficult to pay, even when they are in receipt of Government support.

Ruth Ross, deputy chief executive of Shropshire Chamber, said: “These are incredibly worrying figures which show why it has to be a top priority for the Government.

“Here at Shropshire Chamber, we do have members and partners with solutions which could save money for businesses, and we’re keen to spread the word.

“For example, small companies that are on a night and day tariff can charge a battery during the evening, and use the power stored during the day, making significant savings. We can signpost businesses to this kind of support, which is available right here in Shropshire.

“It’s clearly concerning to hear almost half of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) say they will face difficulties paying their bills once the Government support runs out. But what is even more alarming is that 4% fear they will not be able to pay them at all after March 31.”

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chamber of Commerce, said: “While current Government support is welcome, there is a cliff-edge looming, and firms will struggle to see beyond it. They need certainty on what will happen in April so they can plan with increased confidence. Government should not forget those businesses that will not benefit from a new energy package but will continue to require support once the current scheme ends.”

The Chamber network says there is also a lack of competitiveness in the business energy market. Firms are struggling to get quotes from different providers, and they are not guaranteed access to fixed-rate contracts.

It believes Ofgem should be given more power to strengthen regulation of the energy market for businesses, ensuring suppliers offer fixed-rate contracts to business customers, and that competitiveness is increased.

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