A new grassroots campaign is warning of mass closures and redundancies among retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses in the face of the spiralling energy crisis. #BusinessSOS has been launched by business bodies across the country representing 150,000 companies and is warning the current crisis could supersede covid for its long-term impact and cause "irreversible damage" to UK high streets and the economy.
It is now calling for a three-point action plan from the Government. It wants a reduction in VAT from 20 per cent to 12.5 per cent for the headline rate and VAT on business energy bills to be brought down from 20 per cent to five per cent to match domestic billing.
The campaign is also calling for 100 per cent business rate relief until March 31, 2023, and a discounted kwh (kilowatt-hour) price on all business energy bills.
Matters relating to energy bills have been appeased somewhat today by new Prime Minister Liz Truss' statement to the House of Commons.
She has announced that an energy price freeze for businesses will be installed but only for six months while 'vulnerable' industries, including pubs and hospitality, could then receive longer-term support, due to be set out later. A review in three months will decide which sectors should receive ongoing help, she told MPs today.
Matthew Sims is chief executive of Croydon Business Improvement District and co-founder of #BusinessSOS.
He said: "To say the energy crisis is worse than 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."
Andrew Taylor, campaign co-founder and managing director of independent pub company Bart & Taylor, added: "Without immediate intervention, local communities will change forever as they lose their social spaces. For the first time in living memory, energy costs are now greater than rent and increasing on a daily basis in the absence of any intervention or price cap since April."
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body 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."
The campaign is also being supported by Association of Town and City Management, British BIDs, British Beer and Pub Association, The BID Foundation, Night Time Industries Association, UKHospitality and UKinbound.