The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce that organises the annual Be Inspired Business Awards, the BIBAs, is calling for more support to help county businesses survive skyrocketing energy costs.
According to the most recently available sub-national energy statistics compiled by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, there were 58,100 non-domestic electricity users in Lancashire in 2020 which, between them, consumed 3,438 GWh of power. There were also 6,800 non-domestic users of gas that collectively used 5,041 GWh in industrial processes and heating.
The top three Local Authority areas for business electricity use were topped by West Lancashire, followed by Blackburn-with-Darwen then Preston.
A slightly different picture emerges for business gas consumption, with West Lancashire again out front followed by Preston and then Wyre, reflecting the predominance of manufacturing processes that depend on gas, particularly in Skelmersdale and the chemical cluster at the former ICI Hillhouse in Thornton-Cleveleys.
Geoff Mason, policy manager at the Chamber, said rising energy bills are a major concern for businesses that are not protected by a price cap in the same way that residential users are: “Every business in Lancashire relies on electricity to one extent or another, with many also using gas. They can’t function without these commodities but they increasingly can’t afford them either. It’s causing a real cost-of-doing-business crisis.
“Nationally, we’re already seeing an increase in business insolvency rates because of these pressures, and just last week the long-established Singleton’s cheese brand here in Lancashire fell into administration with energy costs cited as a contributing factor.
“Whilst it’s important that help is offered to homeowners, businesses need targeted support too. They can’t continue to absorb the massive increases in energy bills that they’re being faced with and so will have no choice but to either close, causing job losses, or pass those costs on to consumers.”
The same call for support was made back in February by Norman Tenray, CEO at Obas UK that’s sponsoring the Small Business of the Year category in this year’s BIBAs. He previously argued that unless the county’s small employers are given more support, their rising energy bills would be passed on to consumers, adding to the cost-of-living squeeze, and said that “a big hike in energy bills is the last thing that small businesses need as they emerge from the Covid pandemic”.
Geoff Mason concludes: “It’s absolutely vital that the next Prime Minister urgently prioritises UK energy production so that we’re no longer at the mercy of foreign powers and benefit from greater resilience to international price shocks. But in the immediate term, businesses need to see their energy price pressures eased now, using every available means.”