FSB NI flags up major report on local businesses fearing energy cost rises
Following the announcement by Prime Minister Liz Truss of a government package to deal with the energy crisis, the Federation for Small Business (FSB) has warned that the time for action must not be delayed any longer.
The FSB indicates that its new major report finds that almost all small firms are concerned about rising energy costs.
With small businesses having faced eye-watering energy price hikes since 2021, its Out in the Cold report lays bare the scale of the current emergency at their doors.
According to latest research, close to two-fifths have seen their energy bills doubled, tripled or even higher. Nearly a quarter of firms have held back from investments and business expansion.
In light of the findings, FSB NI is urging the UK Government and the NI Executive to provide direct financial support and implement regulatory measures to enable small businesses to survive the critical coming winter months.
The FSB proposed package of recommendations includes direct financial support to help with bills as well as a temporary VAT reduction on energy and fuel bills.
This would deliver cashflow benefits to those businesses that can reclaim VAT, reduce costs for micros businesses that are not VAT-registered, and lower bills for domestic consumers.
Ministers urgently need to put in place a rate rebate for small businesses struggling to pay their energy bills.
The establishment of an Energy Stakeholder Group by the Department of the Economy could help to ensure effective engagement with small businesses along a range of energy issues.
They should also work to ensure incentives are in place for the small and microbusiness community to ‘pool’ together in order to benefit from economies of scale when producing, storing and sharing energy.
Alan Lowry, Chair of FSB NI’s Policy Board, said: “Given the frequency of the small business closures we have witnessed in recent weeks, it is crucial that all possible measures are taken by Ministers at Westminster. This includes Stormont, to share the burden and provide assistance as a matter of real urgency.
“While national and regional governments can do little to influence global energy markets, they can to a lot to mitigate the worst effects of rising costs and protect the businesses that provide the majority of employment across Northern Ireland.
“It is vital that a package of financial support and regulatory measures is urgently put in place and quickly delivered so that our small businesses are supported and the livelihoods of the thousands of people they employ are protected.
“Small businesses themselves are doing all they can to cut their energy use and cut costs but, without further help, it won’t be enough to save many this winter.”
“We need to see comprehensive action and we need to see it immediately – otherwise we will see even more small firms lost forever.”