Energy crisis: “We have gone through covid, but this feels much worse” say Bedford business owners

The Foxy Wings crew.
Gabriela Pearson (centre) with the Foxy Wings crew. Image: Foxy Wings

As the new prime minister, Liz Truss, announced a £150bn plan to relieve the stress from Britain’s soaring energy prices, Bedford businesses have told the Bedford Independent that they are dreading their bills this winter.

Among the worst hit are Foxy Wings at Riverside Bedford, who collected the keys to their building just over a year ago.

They estimate that their annual energy bills could hit around £150,000, far higher than their combined rent and rates.

“When we took on the space we anticipated that our energy bills would be around £60,000 per year,” said co-owner, Tim Edwards.

“Based on the bills we’ve received, we’re looking at costs three times that. The current situation is definitely hitting independent hospitality businesses the most.”

Gareth Barber, owner of live music venue, Esquires, said that he was waiting to see what support would be offered, “before I get really depressed about it”.

Their monthly bills have soared from around £600 to £3,336 a month.

Gareth Barber of Esquires
Gareth Barber, owner of Esquires

“We worked so hard during the Covid lockdowns for this to come around the corner. It’s pure greed,” he said.

“I’m normally really focused and optimistic, but I feel completely detached. The whole country is completely f***ed.”

Emotional strain

Siobhan Moriarty-Jones, the owner of Cavalier Club Barbershop on Harpur Street, shared Gareth’s thoughts.

“At what point does a business become a charity? A business has to make a profit to be viable,” she said.

“The emotional strain is becoming unbearable. We have gone through covid, but this feels much worse.”

Siobhan Moriarty-Jones, owner of Cavalier Club Barbershop

Professor of Global Economy at Cranfield University, Joe Nellis, expressed his concerns about businesses facing these dispiriting energy prices and what this means for the economy’s future.

“This is the toughest economic time we have seen since the 1970s and an economic environment that many of us have never faced,” he told the Bedford Independent.

“With the new energy price cap introduced, this £100bn will be re-paid for decades, our children, our grandchildren, and grandchildren’s children will all be paying this debt.

“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will face the biggest challenge.

“SMEs make up 60% of UK jobs, they are the backbone of this country and will face the toughest challenge ahead.

“It could take the UK economy and especially Bedfordshire a possible two to three years to recover from this, and probably more.”

The PM announced that businesses will get support with bills capped for six months, a shorter period than many had hoped for, whilst households will be covered for two years.

After six months, the government will change from a business scheme to a more focused plan for vulnerable industries.

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