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08 Sep 2022

Businesses need more substantial energy support, says East Midlands Chamber – but don’t neglect green investment

Commenting on Prime Minister Liz Truss’ energy plan, East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said: “As the cost of doing business crisis bites ever deeper, it will be reassuring for firms to know there will be some support to put a lid on eye-watering energy prices that have been causing a huge amount of angst.

“Confidence has been plummeting in recent months as firms are hit from all sides, with many SMEs lowering their sights to just get through a long, hard winter before they can begin to think about a longer-term future.

“As ever, the devil will be in the detail and while households now know what the price cap will be over the next two years, businesses largely remain in the dark when it comes to financial forecasting beyond the next six months. Firms need certainty and, if we are to prevent businesses that would be viable in normal times from being squeezed out of existence, we need a longer period of intervention commensurate with that for households.

“Immediate support for businesses is the number one priority today but we must not take our eye off the ball in the race to net zero. Over the past two-and-a-half years, businesses in our region – which is traditionally represented strongly by energy-intensive industries – have responded to enormous challenges by improving their efficiency and investing in technology that reduces energy usage.

“Research we conducted in partnership with the University of Derby also demonstrated how the proportion of East Midlands organisations integrating green growth into their business strategies has more than doubled over the past four years, from 9.7% in 2018 to 21.5% in 2022.

“So what we also need is a long-term plan to support firms to continue this journey by investing in growth that is sustainable for both their business and the environment, which ultimately helps with national energy security.

“While energy prices top the list of cost pressures facing businesses, our ongoing Quarterly Economic Survey for Q3 2022 shows there remain huge concerns over staffing, raw materials and fuel. Government must also address these issues by reviewing and reforming the shortage occupations list to include more jobs at all skill levels, backing businesses to invest in training current and new staff, and removing barriers to international trade.

“It’s important we get this right so companies can get back to doing what they do best – creating jobs, wealth and opportunities, and helping the economy get out of the difficulties it’s currently in.”