Ice cream shop in Plymouth at risk of closure as energy bills soar

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Household energy bills are rising at the moment but the problem for businesses could be even more damaging.

There is not a price cap for businesses like there is for gas and electricity at home - and one trader on Plymouth's Barbican says his bills are more than six times what they used to be, calling them "astronomical and unsustainable".

Bertie's Ice Cream shop in Plymouth should have been making a fortune over the summer. With the heatwave and holidays in full swing, an ice cream is often a go to for most as a sweet treat and a cool down.

But they say their takings are down on last year because people have been cutting back on spending.

That's just the tip of the iceberg - as the rise in electricity prices, not capped for shops like they are for household bills, could finish them off.

Bertie's and Gertie's on the Barbican Credit: ITV

Philip Burnett who runs the shop said: "We've got freezers and a fridge and it's gone from £80 a month to £520 per month so it's astronomical and unsustainable.

"If the bottom rung goes, with all the small businesses, everything will go with it. I believe they haven't foreseen what impact this is going to have. It's big."

Philip and his partner are looking at the stark reality they might have to close the snack bar she runs next door - it uses much more energy and is about to come out of a fixed-rate contract. Ten people could lose their jobs.

They have already taken three of their six freezers out of this shop and started storing stock at home where the energy is slightly cheaper but, they say, if the Government doesn't act soon it just won't be able to survive.

In Exeter, half of businesses surveyed say they are expecting severe effects from the energy price increase, ten percent say it will be catastrophic.

The local chamber which represents traders says the Government needs to bring in a price cap and VAT relief right away.

Philip Burnett of Bertie's Credit: ITV

Richard Marsh, from Exeter Chamber said: "Certainly the 1 in 10 who said it was catastrophic were referring to closure and, just in Exeter, that means 400 businesses.

"Clearly that cannot happen, it cannot be allowed to happen.

"This is a crisis. We've been through a few crises and actually furlough was a great scheme and it did keep many businesses afloat. It seems a real shame that we are going to let businesses just slip away now.

"Businesses will go bust it means people will lose their jobs. It means prices will rise and that will contribute to the inflationary problems the country is seeing.

"That's why Government needs to act now, not wait for some distant time in the future, act now otherwise we will lose these businesses that have struggled through the pandemic and are just about surviving now but won't with these energy bills."