Following the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement today, the BII has issued the following statement from CEO, Steve Alton:
“Today’s statement from the Chancellor offers little immediate comfort to our members, all of whom are facing the most challenging and critical times for their businesses.
“As small businesses at the heart of their communities, run in the main by independent operators, they are amongst the hardest hit once again.
“We welcome the news that Business rates relief for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure sectors will be continued and increased to 75% for 23/24, in line with our consistent calls on Government for ongoing support in this area.
“However, energy price rises are crippling these vital and viable businesses, and whilst the current Energy Business Relief Scheme offers some support, for many, it is having a limited impact in terms of mitigating the huge cost increases they are bearing.
“The scheme only addresses a discount on actual energy usage, and other increased costs such as management fees and standing charges mean that bills have risen in real terms by well over 200% and in some cases up to 700% in comparison to 2021.
“Our essential bricks and mortar businesses must be recognised as extremely vulnerable, and whilst we await the review of the EBRS scheme at the end of this year, we will continue to take the financial realities for our members to key Government departments, making the case for the ongoing, meaningful support that is urgently needed.
“Whilst general inflation is at an all-time high, our members have seen price rises for food, drink and other essential goods and services for their venues at a much higher level, throughout 2022.
“In addition, our recent survey with other industry trade bodies, revealed the impact of chronic staffing shortages for BII members, with 20% vacancies over the key festive trading period, leading to 1 in 3 operators having to reduce trading hours to cope with demand. Unable to trade fully in this golden quarter, for many, they will be facing a cliff edge for their businesses come January.
“Whilst the support for those more vulnerable individuals in the form of a rise in the National Living Wage is welcome for staff, these additional, unavoidable costs for our members, without further support from Government, could be the nail in the coffin for many small businesses.
“As the public face their own cost of living crisis, pubs cannot simply pass these rapidly escalating costs through to their customers.
“Our sector stands ready to be a key part of the stability and growth that is at the heart of the Government’s strategy. As national unemployment is expected to rise to 4.9% in 2023, we can offer local employment & rapid career progression as well as huge tax revenues into the Treasury. To do this, we need ongoing, meaningful support for energy bills and wider escalating costs, alongside full reform of the outdated and unfair Business Rates system, not just short-term relief.”