Chancellor must help businesses out of crushing cost-of-living crisis, head of British Chambers of Commerce demands
- Shevaun Haviland is pushing Treasury to ease pressure and help firms
- BCC director general wants Chancellor to axe national insurance rise
- Sunak should also impose cap on energy bills for small and medium businesses
Rishi Sunak must help businesses out of the crushing cost-of-living crisis, the head of the British Chambers of Commerce has demanded.
Shevaun Haviland had already railed against the rise in national insurance contributions, brought in controversially last week, claiming this would push struggling firms to the brink.
Now, in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, Haviland is pushing the Treasury to ease some of that pressure and help firms urgently with their ballooning energy bills.
Call for action: British Chambers of Commerce boss Shevaun Haviland says Chancellor Rishi Sunak must help firms
‘Last summer businesses were already saying there was an increase in raw materials and shipping costs,’ she said.
‘Recruitment was so hard, and into December energy prices started to tick up. National insurance contributions have risen this month, and that was before the situation in Ukraine saw energy prices go off the scale. This is not business as usual, it’s very serious. We just wanted another year for businesses to get back on their feet.’
The BCC director general wants the Chancellor to axe the national insurance rise, which hits employers and workers, as soon as possible.
Sunak should also impose a cap on energy bills for small and medium-sized businesses, she added, since many firms that usually pay a monthly contract are being moved on to expensive variable tariffs.
The Chancellor ought to consider energy rebates, giving small firms money off their bills, and a moratorium on extra costs such as VAT and business rates until the worst of the crisis is over.
Haviland said: ‘Business owners don’t want the Chancellor to prop them up. But he should be taxing growth, not adding on more costs when firms are really struggling.’
Doron Zilkha, founder of the London cafe chain Quarter Group, said he had never seen anything like the jump in costs in 25 years in hospitality.
He said: ‘Am I going to keep absorbing these costs? Am I going to have to shut my doors and lay off staff? Are we going to see a total shrinkage of the hospitality industry?’
Zilkha added: ‘I’ve been in this sector since 1997. I’ve lived through many recessions. But where we are headed to now, the divide is beyond anything I’ve seen.’
One manufacturing firm from Cambridgeshire called the BCC last month after its energy bills jumped from £14,000 a year to £46,000 overnight, while the bill for one medium-sized manufacturer in the North has soared from £140,000 a year to £706,000.
Haviland said: ‘We really need to see some action.’