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West Midlands’ smallest businesses feel neglected by Government

A survey has found that most owners of micro businesses with less than 10 employees in the West Midlands feel overlooked and misunderstood when it comes to the right support from the Government.

Business owners are worried about energy costs

Valda Energy, the company behind the research, says that with the colder weather now with us, micro business owners remain concerned about high energy costs and are calling for more tailored help, such as a regular winter support scheme for companies that need it most.

Steve James, chief executive of Valda, said: “Only four per cent of the business owners we surveyed in the West Midlands said they were happy with the Government support in place to help with energy bills. And alarmingly, nearly one in five, facing rising costs, high energy prices and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, said they feared closure over the next six to 12 months.”

According to the survey, 56 per cent of owners in West Midlands do not feel the Government understands their needs with 29 saying they have been neglected in favour of hand-outs to consumers and larger businesses.

Just under half (46 per cent) believe the Government’s Energy Bill Relief Scheme did not offer sufficient help over the winter months, with many believing the scheme was simply not in place for long enough. Just 21 of businesses said the less generous Energy Bill Discount Scheme that followed is providing adequate support.

Valda’s research highlights concern amongst small businesses across the region, with 49 per cent calling for the introduction of a regular winter support package this year and 41 per cent asking for tailored support for businesses that need it most. Others are demanding more green energy subsidies, free carbon audits and additional help to improve energy efficiency.

The survey found that because of additional worries relating to higher inflation and interest rates, supply chain availability, difficulties over recruiting skilled staff and industry legislation, micro businesses are struggling to plan ahead. Just 44 per cent of respondents in the region said they no longer carried out regular financial forecasts and, of those that did, only 13 per cent were looking as far ahead as 12 months.

Mr James is urging industry, government and Ofgem to come together to design a tailored funded support package for those businesses most in need, including those that signed at a time of very high prices in 2022. He says: “Small businesses are vital to the success of the local economy, but their voice is not being heard. I believe the government has a duty to act now, before demand increases over the winter months, communicating to owners what support will be available this winter and providing more levelled and sustained protection for companies over the medium to long term.”

And he argues that providing the right help might not cost the Government any more money than it has already pledged, saying: “One obvious helpline would be to see the underspend on the EBRS scheme – now expected to be in the region of £11 billion ­– go towards helping businesses in high-rate fixed term contracts. Certainly, it’s an idea that 79 per cent of the micro business owners we surveyed in the region were in favour of.”

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