West Bromwich inflatable theme park owner facing £90,000 hike in energy bills

An inflatable theme park owner has spoken of his fears for the future of his business as he faces soaring energy bills hiked by almost £90,000.

Inflata Nation West Bromwich
Inflata Nation West Bromwich

Zahoor Ahmed, who owns Inflata Nation West Bromwich, faces paying £124,000 next year as his contract approaches an end – a huge hike from the existing £36,000.

And while he waits to see how government plans to shield small businesses from crippling costs turn out, he admits his company is facing an uncertain future.

He said: “It’s an incredibly tough time for small businesses right now and a lot of us simply won’t be able to cope with these soaring bills.

“We are facing the prospect of paying more than £370,000 just for electricity in the next three years. It’s simply too much.

“It’s good that the Government is trying to tackle the issue, but the plans are only for the next six months and we will be back in the same situation after that.

Zahoor Ahmed

“I’ve already told my staff that we might face difficult decisions, it could be the case that I will have to lay off up to 15 of the 25 people we have.

“The Government help might help save a few of these jobs but it can only go so far and we need to see how that help looks in the longer term.

“I’ve been speaking to a lot of other small business owners and we’re all in the same boat.

“I’m trying to find ways to cope with the increased costs, speaking to suppliers, looking for better efficiencies, but we already did a lot of these things to get through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“These are decisions I obviously don’t want to be making but we have to find ways to adapt.”

Inflata Nation West Bromwich, in Astle Park, offers a range of slides, bouncy castles, ball pits and climbing walls.

Since opening in 2019, it has become a family favourite day out for residents of the district and beyond.

But the cost of living crisis engulfing the UK has put it and many other small businesses under incredible pressure as the price of electricity soars.

Unlike residential properties, businesses do not have a cap on their electricity bills, leading to some receiving quotes of four or five times their existing outgoings.

This week Government officials announced plans to fix energy costs for small businesses for six months in an effort to lend a helping hand, but Mr Ahmed is waiting to see how that makes a difference.

Inflata Nation West Bromwich will see its existing three-year contract with its electricity company come to an end in November, so Mr Ahmed has been sourcing quotes for a new contract.

However, his existing supplier says they can’t provide him with a new quote as many suppliers are afraid of the risk of small businesses going bankrupt and defaulting on bills.

He added: “I’ve been speaking to a few electricity companies and the latest quote was for £124,000 a year for three years.

“I’m still trying to source other quotes but I’m sure they will all be a lot more than what we are paying right now, and that’s tough for any small business to swallow.

“I’m exploring every avenue to keep things running smoothly, but there is only so much we can do.

“The last thing I want to do is lay off anyone as we have such a great team here and obviously households are experiencing soaring costs as well so it’s a really bad time for anyone to lose their income.

“My friends run companies in other industries, from restaurants to engineering, and we are all facing huge hikes.”

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