Shropshire businesses face ‘frightening’ future as bills crisis deepens

Businesses in Shropshire have spoken of the uncertainty caused by not knowing how the Government plans to tackle the energy bill crisis beyond March.

Businesses are concerned over energy bill uncertainty
Businesses are concerned over energy bill uncertainty

Findings from the British Chambers of Commerce suggested small businesses across the county fear they will struggle to pay their energy bills next year unless the Government’s financial relief scheme is extended.

The situation has already been described as ‘incredibly worrying’ by the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce.

Now businesses have spoken of the difficulties caused by rising energy bills.

Harry Haralambous, owner of Salop Fish Bar, in Oswestry, said the situation remains ‘frightening’ for firms.

“It’s starting to be a challenge,” he said. “Things are very vague, in terms of support moving forward, with no definite idea of what to expect. There’s no clarity and you just can’t plan ahead.

“We had our first gas bill for two months last week and it was £3,900. The previous one had been £300.

“We are still waiting for an electric bill so it’s tough. It really is a case of battling through. We know the next few months are going to be a struggle, so you just have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully, come the summer, we can come out the other side and, with any luck, prices will come down or help will be there.

“There have always been challenges at certain points but I don’t think it’s ever been as it is now. The worry for us, of course, other than rising bills, is the question – will customers, who are going to have to pay extra in terms of energy, going to be prepared to buy a takeaway?

“We have managed to keep our customers at the levels we have so far but will that be the case if people start running out of money themselves?”

Bill Barrass, of Newport Engravers, admitted he was concerned about the next six months or so.

“We have had had a pretty good year considering everything that is going on in the world,” he said.

“But we are paying a hell of a lot more for our electric and gas, like everyone else, and it’s tough going for any High Street business at the moment. Everything is going up and we have to tweak our prices accordingly, otherwise we would go bump.”

Ruth Ross, deputy chief executive of Shropshire Chamber, said the chamber will be ready to support those in need.

“We (Shropshire Chamber) have members and partners with solutions which could save money for businesses, and we’re keen to spread the word," she said.

“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.”

One Telford company has spoken of the long and short-term ways in which businesses can start to cope with the challenges of spiralling energy costs.

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson, managing director of AceOn Group, pointed to a ‘window of opportunity’ for firms to tackle issues surrounding energy bills.

“Unfortunately, the government’s plans to support businesses through the energy crisis will only provide temporary relief from the pain of rising energy costs,” he said.

“As the Chamber of Commerce rightly points out, battery storage can be an effective means of reducing energy costs through peak saving – charging it when tariffs are lower overnight for use in the day. Businesses and organisations can in many circumstances reduce their bills and even earn extra income simply by installing battery storage that can trade and support the grid.”

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