Business

Owners say small businesses are vital – amid ‘vague’ support from Government

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mall businesses have been described as “so important” and a “huge part of the fabric” of their communities.

It comes as owners criticised the “very vague” help offered through Liz Truss’s new energy help plans.

The Prime Minister has promised six months’ support for businesses struggling with bills, with targeted support for vulnerable firms beyond that, of which hospitality and particularly pubs were highlighted.

The plans were revealed after warnings earlier this week that tens of thousands of UK businesses could be forced to fold without help to address spiralling energy bills, with many hoping for more support.

Instead, they say they were left with questions because of the lack of details.

Sarah Laker, 52, who owns a stationery shop in Marple in Cheshire and one in nearby Wilmslow, told the PA news agency she had “hoped for a longer period of time” in which support was offered, but “I think six months will take us over the winter, where our electric usage is higher”.

“We have electric heating in both our shops, so I think the six months will see us through the winter and that means that we won’t have to increase any prices in the shop,” she said.

“I was quite worried that when it goes up in October, I was going to have to increase prices as we couldn’t absorb any more costs, which obviously would not be very good for our customers, who are also experiencing hard times at the moment.”

Ms Laker also spoke about how the “community element” of her business is “one of the most important factors for me” and why support is needed for such businesses.

I remember when we came out of the first lockdown, an old chap came in – he’d been a regular customer for years, never really spoke to me but was always polite – and after the first lockdown, he came in with a box of chocolates for me and he said, ‘I’ve really missed you’

“I think, as an independent shop within a local community, you are a huge part of the fabric of that community and you are giving back to the society. I think it is so important to have shops like mine in the community.

“I remember when we came out of the first lockdown, an old chap came in – he’d been a regular customer for years, never really spoke to me but was always polite – and after the first lockdown, he came in with a box of chocolates for me and he said, ‘I’ve really missed you’.

“It really brought it home to me that perhaps I could have been the only person that gentleman spoke to all day and he obviously felt it was important to him that I was still there after lockdown.”

Paul Cook, 50, a director of The Angry Parrot Micropub in Cheltenham, said that as winter approaches, he is worried he “won’t get people through the door and (the pub) will shut down”.

He said he was left with many questions following Ms Truss’s announcement of promised support for businesses.

“How much will their bills increase by? Will they still increase? Will it still be silly money?” he asked.

“It’s very vague. It’s only for six months. What happens after six months when it is the winter and people are cutting back because their bills have gone up significantly?

“It’s not a win-win at all. It just leaves businesses in a bit of a limbo, really, because we just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Mr Cook said “pubs are more than just the beer and soft drinks”.

He added: “It’s a community. It’s a place for people to come who maybe haven’t got family or have got family and just want to escape the general malaise of life and talk to people.

“We encourage that. It’s all about chatting and getting to know each other and inclusion.”

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