Somerset County Council has called for any review of energy price support for businesses to focus on support for small businesses and the adoption of green and renewable energy.
In a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, signed by Councillor Val Keitch, Executive Lead Member for Local Government Reorganisation and Prosperity, and Councillor Sarah Dyke, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change, the council argues: “Small businesses have been disproportionately hit by energy costs, with 44 per cent saying their energy costs have at least doubled. Such businesses lack the buying power to secure preferential tariffs from energy suppliers as well as the financial capacity to effectively hedge against movement in the energy market.”
The council acknowledges that the “Energy Bill Relief scheme is providing a lifeline for small firms across the UK. However, with an ongoing cost of doing business crisis, a continuation of the EBRS for the smallest firms is going to be critical for the UK economy overall and rural economies, in particular. An extended programme of support whilst energy prices remain so high should not, in our view, simply be targeted at individual sectors, but also at vulnerability due to business size. For rural businesses, a continuation of the support for those not on the grid too for their supplies is also important.”
Cllr Keitch said: “In a large, and largely rural, county like Somerset small businesses face real challenges from the dramatic rise in fuel costs. Credit is due for the measures put in place, but it is important that when deciding how support continues, the Chancellor properly understands that small businesses are often the lifeblood of rural communities. There will be no ‘levelling up’ in rural counties if those businesses go to the wall.”
Cllr Dyke added: “We accept that subsidy cannot continue indefinitely which is why we’d like to see a move to support for local businesses to change to renewable fuels. The recent fuel price shock makes it pretty clear that a robust and resilient rural economy now needs the energy security that non-fossil fuels offer.