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Business group warns ‘cliff edge is looming’ for many smaller firms after energy bill support ends

Updated: May 2, 2023

When the UK Government's Energy Bill Relief Scheme expires on March 31 of next year, nearly half of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) will struggle to pay their energy bills.

Another 4% won't be able to pay their energy costs at all, and 37% believe it will be challenging to make ends meet even with more government assistance.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) poll results present a dismal image for SMEs this winter.

Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the BCC, cautioned that businesses will "struggle to see beyond" the conclusion of the programme and insisted that it should continue through March 31 for those who require help.

More over four out of ten (41%) SMEs didn't feel that the prices offered when they most recently renewed their contract were reasonable.

Another 29% claimed that there were few tariff possibilities, and nearly a quarter (24%) did not believe switching providers was simple.

Since April 2022, 22% of the studied SMEs have renewed their gas and 25% their electricity tariffs.

‘Number one business concern’

Ms Haviland said: “Energy costs are the number one business concern, with 55% of firms saying it should be a top priority for the new prime minister.

“It’s clearly worrying that almost half of SMEs say they will face difficulties paying their energy bills once the government support runs out.

“But what is, perhaps, even more concerning is that 4% said they will not be able to pay their bills at all after March 31.”

British Chambers of Commerce director-general Shevaun Haviland. Image: British Chambers of Commerce

She added: “With over 5.5 million SMEs across the UK, if this was replicated on a national level, over 220,000 small and medium-sized businesses would be in danger.

“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.”

Uncertain times ahead

After April 2022, SMEs that renewed their energy tariffs reported greater difficulties.

After March 2023, three-fifths (60%) indicated they would have trouble making their payments, and 7% said they would be unable to do so.

Over half (51%) of people will have trouble paying their bills between now and the end of March, when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme is in effect.

Are you one affected by the above? Get in touch to see how we may be able to help,


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