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Freeze energy prices for firms or risk business failures, warns East Midlands Chamber

A five-point plan has been created for the government.

East Midlands Chamber has sent out a stark warning to the government as it believes energy prices could see businesses go under.

The Chamber says that an energy cap for businesses must be introduced and prices frozen at an affordable level for at least the next year. It warns against a “cost-of-doing-nothing crisis” that will result in business closures and redundancies.

East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “The cost-of-living crisis and cost-of-doing-business crisis are two sides of the same coin – without alleviating the financial pressures on our firms, we will have a cost-of-doing-nothing crisis.

"Companies will be forced to pass on rising costs for energy, people and raw materials to consumers and continuing to hit people in the pocket."

Frozen prices could give organisations the 'headroom' to make key investments in their plant, machinery or people. Scott says these are all 'crucial drivers of productivity improvements'. He suggests these types of investments will make the necessary productivity gains in order to dampen inflationary pressures until a longer-term solution is found.

The chamber of commerce for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire has also joined the British Chambers of Commerce network in creating a five-point plan for Government to support businesses via the following measures.

The five-point plan

  1. Ofgem to be given more power to strengthen regulation of the energy market for businesses

  2. Temporary cut in VAT for energy from 20% to 5% to reduce costs for businesses

  3. Covid-style support by introducing a Government emergency energy grant for SMEs

  4. Temporarily reverse the increase in national insurance contributions and put money back into the pockets of businesses and workers

  5. Government to immediately review and reform the shortage occupation list to help bring down wage pressures and fill staffing vacancies

In the East Midlands, 62% of organisations told EMC's Quarterly Economic Survey they expect they will be forced to increase their prices in the coming months for these reasons, while confidence in their ability to grow is declining.

Scott explained: "At more than 10%, inflation is at a 40-year high; we are seeing the largest increase to interest rates in 27 years; and eye-watering energy bills are causing real concerns among both businesses and their employees.

“The worsening economic projections being published daily mean we can’t afford to wait any longer without practical support measures being put in place as we now risk businesses being forced to scale back or shut down altogether – resulting in people losing their jobs and livelihoods.

“Now is the time for action. We recognise there is no easy answer to the challenges we face but the Government must start by introducing an energy price cap for businesses, like in the residential sector.

“This should be frozen at an affordable level, according to size and sector, for at least the next year until a long-term solution can be devised by Government working in collaboration with the private sector. Scottish Power has already proposed a desirable solution to Government that would fix prices for two years via guaranteed loans to energy suppliers.

“What is absolutely clear is any short-term fixes should not be at the expense of the net zero agenda.

"Organisations are already mapping out their own business plans with sustainable growth in mind, with our research showing the proportion of East Midlands firms selling green goods and services has trebled in the past seven years, so we must also continue to invest in the infrastructure that enables a green economy to flourish.”


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