A report by MPs into the consequences of rising energy bills is most welcome but the timing of the report has raised concerns for the Federation of Small Businesses, Cornwall Regional Committee.
The Business and Enterprise Select Committee quite rightly called for action on rising gas and electricity invoices, and the FSB has also raised its concerns that the situation will only get worse with the closure of Energywatch. There is a further need for recognition of the similarity between small businesses and domestic consumers and the creation of fairer pricing in the energy market. Much to address but who will take responsibility and when?
With over 30,000 calls from small businesses received every year, Energywatch is a familiar brand to many business owners. But from October 1 2008 it will be disbanded and with Parliament’s Summer Recess the concern is that impact of the report will be lost and small businesses will have no recourse.
Celwyn Richardson, FSB Cornwall’s Regional Secretary and Energy Spokesman said:
“I find it most unfortunate that this report comes out while Parliament is in recess, and with such a short time before Energywatch is “killed”.
“The result is that there will be little chance of holding Government to account (even if the opposition parties wanted to do so), and the only scrutiny will be after the event when the initial damage will have been done!”
“As one who is working within the Energy Markets, I can see what others would describe as a “disaster” syndrome, descending upon us. But, those making the decisions in Whitehall and Downing Street will continue drawing their ample salaries while the small businesses who indirectly pay for them struggle even more.”
John Holbrow, FSB environment and energy chairman, said:
“The FSB welcomes the recommendations of The Business and Enterprise Select Committee on rising energy prices and the recognition that these costs have an extremely adverse effect on business.
“Small business owners are very similar to small domestic consumers in terms of energy consumption patterns and expertise but often fall foul of complex bill formats, infrequent meter readings, incorrect billing, poor customer service and lack of information on switching suppliers.
“This report underlines our warnings that the demise of regulator Energywatch will have a detrimental effect on small businesses. Their work is unlikely to be covered by Consumer Direct, which will nominally take over energywatch’s responsibilities but has shown little willingness or ability to tackle small business energy issues.
“It is alarming that with increased prices there will be nowhere for small businesses to turn.”
Notes to Editors
The FSB is Britain’s biggest business organisation with over 215,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed, and all those who run their own business. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk.
More information about energywatch is available at www.energywatch.org.uk .