Business owner has ‘sleepless nights’ over bills as chancellor rejects calls to extend relief scheme

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt visited Darlington today ahead of Small Business Saturday this weekend. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees News

A small business owner has told ITV Tyne Tees she has had "sleepless nights" over energy bills.

It comes as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has rejected calls to extend Government help with energy bills ahead of Small Business Saturday this weekend.

Jasmin Rodgers, owner of Hatch Luncheonette in Darlington said: “The energy providers send out these bills and they’re quite shocking bills.

“I got one last night, I got an email from our energy provider that said that our direct debit for the coming month was going to be £5000.

“Obviously that was a huge shock because it's normally around £800 a month.

“The problem you’ve got is when you ring them, as I rang them this morning, they can’t really answer our questions because they haven’t really been told by the government exactly what’s happening with the energy relief scheme. 

“So you don’t really get any answers from them, and you just have to deal with it for now. 

“I have sleepless nights about it because the quotes they give you are just astronomical."

  • Video report by Rachel Bullock.

The energy relief scheme was launched in October for businesses, voluntary organisations, and public sector organisations such as schools, hospitals and care homes.

Th schemed aimed to provide discounts to gas and electricity unit prices by comparing what organisations would pay this winter compared to a baseline ‘government supported price’ which is lower than currently expected wholesale prices this winter.

However this discount will end on 31 March 2023 and there have been calls for this to be extended as businesses predict future financial difficulty.

Ms Rodgers said: "You can’t get any sort of fixed rate at the moment, they can’t put you on any sort of product.

"Obviously if they are helping us till April, that’s great but it's obviously going to be a concern again in April because we still have to put our ovens on.

"Yes, we won't have heating to worry about as much but we’ve still got the basics, the fridges, the coffee machines. We need energy for everything, obviously, everybody does.”

When asked if he would extend support for small businesses, Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt said: "What I can do is tell you what we've already said for those businesses, which is a big reduction in the business rates.

"They pay a 75 percent reduction in most retail hospitality and leisure businesses and then two and a half billion pound reduction every year as we move to the new system of re-evaluation for business rates.

"We're giving all the help we can, and the reason is because although it's tough now if you look at the forecast by the Office of Budget Responsibility, actually, inflation comes right down towards the end of next year.

"The year after that we start moving in to very healthy growth, so a very difficult period because of what is happening in Ukraine and the aftermath of the pandemic but also tremendous potential for the country."

The Federation of Small Businesses, which represents smaller firms, told ITV Tyne Tees that energy bills are already forcing some business owners into reducing their business or closing down altogether, a situation which they claim will only get worse from next April.

Michelle Ovens CBE, director of Small Business Saturday UK, said: “Small businesses are the life and soul of our economy, society, and communities, but with everything they have been through, many are now really finding things tough as economic conditions worsen.

"Public support is urgently needed. We need to all show our favourite small businesses just how much we love and appreciate them this weekend and beyond. It can have a transformational impact.”  

Small Business Saturday, which falls on 3 December this year, is a national campaign that was launched 10 years ago to encourage communities to shop local and support small businesses.

Organisers have said, with the rising costs, this year's campaign is the "most crucial Small Business Saturday yet".

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...