Northern Ireland businesses facing closure in wait for government's energy plan to deliver

A Northern Ireland businessman has said his energy bills have reached a "frightening" level.

On Wednesday, the new Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg announced a major energy support scheme for the UK.

The scheme, the government said, for Northern Ireland will run in parallel to that in the rest of the UK.

Local businesses have said they need the money sooner rather than later.

David Thacker, who has run The Chippy on the Shankill Road for almost 20 years, told UTV that his latest energy bill had trebled.

"The costs that have come into the business is frightening... £1,200 a month historically was all we were paying for gas and electric to run the whole shop - last month it was nearly £4,300," said David.

David Thacker, owner of The Chippy on Shankill Road, Belfast.

He continued: "Those in the power are doing nothing, they're not even sitting in Stormont so they can't enact any new legislation.

"We still have no idea of what the help is, how much it is, how long it will last and whether we have to pay it back or whether we're going to be paying this for the next 20 years."

David's fish shop business isn't the only company hit with rocketing energy bills.

In a recent snap poll conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses NI, one-third of companies here said the may have to downsize in the next 12 months, while 25% said they may have to shut shop altogether.

Roger Pollen from FSB NI told UTV: "It's a very scary picture looking ahead.

"The cost of living crisis is just the flip-side of the cost of doing business crisis and we've got to remember that small businesses employ more people than all large businesses and the entire public sector combined, so if those businesses are coming under existential threat, that's going to ripple out through the whole of society."

That ripple effect can already be felt in the manufacturing sector, with industry bosses warning of a 'tsunami' of energy bills this winter.

Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of Manufacturing NI, said: "We're not expecting, given how the UK government has to legislate for this, we're not expecting any cash to actually be visible for businesses this side of Christmas unfortunately."

He continued: "If we had an Executive in place, those decisions could be taken much more quickly.

"Those decisions could actually ensure that money was on the ground much more swiftly and that the risk and danger our business community is facing right now could be averted in a timely fashion.

"The importance of the Executive has never been as important as it is right now."

The Prime Minister's energy plan has offered some hope - however important questions remain over how and when the help will arrive for households and businesses in Northern Ireland and if a Stormont Executive is needed to ensure its rollout.

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