By Mike Goodall, FSB

I am hearing concerns about rising energy costs from a growing number of Worcestershire-based businesses who are members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). All sectors are being affected – although some more than others – by the exponential rise in electricity, gas and vehicle fuel prices.

While valiant attempts have been and continue to be being made to avoid passing these costs onto clients and consumers, the rate and size of the increases mean that this is becoming increasingly difficult.

Indeed, recent figures from the Office for National Statistics, showed that input costs for businesses were rising at more than 18 per cent, while the consumer price index was currently rising at ‘only’ nine per cent.

Clearly then, margins are coming under intense pressure. In fact, some of our Worcestershire members have told me that they have scaled back their operations, because the cost of doing more outweighs the savings of doing less.

That’s why FSB is urging the government to act now. Households have rightly received help with their energy bills, while big businesses are able to use their bargaining power to get better deals from energy companies. However small businesses – especially micro businesses with under 10 employees – are left high and dry and at the mercy of spiralling prices. We would like to see small businesses receiving relief via a reduction in business rates or a direct reduction to energy bills like the support households received. We are also asking for the smallest, micro businesses to be eligible for the consumer price cap.

More widely, a cut in VAT would give the economy a real boost and would be a lifeline to countless struggling businesses. At the very least, cutting VAT on energy would offer real help.

There are clearly global forces at work which are affecting costs and over which our own government has little control. However, these must not be used as excuses for inaction on the very many areas where we do have ‘levers to pull’ at the national and local levels.