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Bristol’s BIDs throw their weight behind business energy costs campaign

Bristol’s BIDs have thrown their weight behind a new campaign urging the government to take action on the cost-of-living crisis.

The #BusinessSOS campaign is warning of mass closure and redundancies if immediate and effective action isn’t taken to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and the related cost of doing business, in which businesses are expected to face serious challenges in paying energy bills which, unlike domestic bills, are not price capped.

The campaign, which represents over 150,000 retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses says the spiralling energy crisis is superseding the pandemic with the potential to cause irreversible damage to UK high streets and the economy.

Campaigners say mass closures and redundancies are inevitable if Government does not swiftly implement measures that alleviate the critical pressures that businesses, like households, have been facing since April 2022.

#BusinessSOS has published a three-point-plan to support ailing businesses:

Reduce VAT

  • Headline rate reduced from 20 per cent to 12.5 per cent
  • Business energy bills reduced from 20 per cent to five per cent to match domestic billing

Business Rates Relief

  • 100 per cent rate relief until 31st March 2023

Energy Rate Relief

  • A discounted kwh price on all business energy bills

Matthew Sims, founder of the #BusinessSOS campaign and CEO of Croydon BID said: “The new Prime Minister has days to save the high street as we know it.

“The impending announcement on how the Government will tackle the energy crisis facing businesses will either ensure businesses can remain trading or set in motion mass closures and redundancies.

“To say the energy crisis is worse that the pandemic is not an understatement, it is the reality facing businesses today and why the clock is ticking for the new Government to provide clarity and introduce measures providing tangible and immediate relief.”

Vicky Lee, head of Bristol City Centre BID said: “A key part of our role as a BID is to represent businesses so that their voice is heard, and our support during this current economic landscape is focused on lobbying central government to implement measures that will keep local businesses afloat through this financial crisis.

“By joining with BIDs and business representatives in the UK from across all sectors, we have a collective voice that urges our new government to act now.

“Reductions in VAT, business rates and energy rate relief are the most significant interventions the government can provide that will dramatically change the outlook for local businesses and help them weather the storm we face in the coming months.”

Steve Bluff, head of Redcliffe & Temple BID, said: “The cost of living and inflation is having a significant impact on businesses and how they operate, we are hearing stories from city centre businesses of bills going up by over 400 per cent, which clearly is not sustainable.

“Businesses have already had to weather challenges associated with Brexit and Covid, and now face further uncertainty and insecurity, just as they were starting on the road to recovery.

Vivienne Kennedy, head of Broadmead BID said: “The concerns and impact of the cost-of-living crisis are growing daily.

“A third of retailers in the Broadmead BID area are independents, equating to over 110 businesses, and they are worried about the future of their businesses with the continued rising costs.

“It isn’t just the costs directly relating to business operations, it is the impact they will also have on consumers across the Christmas period and the winter months. Support and action from the government at this time is crucial if high street businesses are going to survive.”

The campaign is also supported by national business organisations.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, said: “The hospitality sector is crucial to delivering the business-led growth the new Government is striving for, but we are facing an existential crisis due to soaring energy bills.

“We’re encouraged by the new Prime Minister’s commitment to tackling energy prices, but we need to see urgent, comprehensive action.

“As well as a price freeze, we need to see a cut to VAT and a business rates holiday if businesses in the sector are to have any hope of making it through the winter.”

Ojay McDonald, CEO of the Association of Town and City Management said: “Right now, businesses are already deciding to scale back or shut up shop for good. The knock-on impact on employment is unimaginably bad. We need decisive action from the government now to save the high street.

“Let’s not shy away from how comprehensive this support needs to be. Energy prices have been unsustainable for months. We are at the stage where a price freeze is inadequate. Discounts on the cost of energy are vital.

“We also need to halt the decline of consumer confidence to keep businesses trading. That’s why this three-point plan on energy, VAT and businesses rates as a combination is the right route to take.”

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Over the last week we have seen a huge escalation in closure notices from pubs, bars, restaurants, venues and clubs across the country, with over 70 per cent of businesses stating they will be financially compromised within weeks, all of which have stated untenable operating costs as reasons too close.”

“The industry’s future is finely balanced between the delivery of an imminent survival package by the new Chancellor and continued consumer spend and confidence.”

And Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “The pub and brewing sector makes a huge contribution to our economy in high streets and local communities throughout the country, yet it still remains in a precarious position after the pandemic.

“Immediate action on energy is critical, but investment in our sector for the long-term is also essential. As the PM works towards a fiscal statement and full budget we hope she will seriously consider a cut to business rates and VAT so Britain’s pubs and brewers can get back on their feet fully and thrive in the communities they proudly serve.”

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