The Liberal Democrats have demanded a £10 billion energy bailout fund to save struggling businesses from soaring energy costs.
The party’s Welsh Leader Jane Dodds MS said that the energy crisis is having a COVID like impact on small and medium sized businesses and that equally drastic action needs to be taken by the UK Government in order to stop Welsh towns becoming ghost towns.
The scheme proposed by the Liberal Democrats would offer grants of up to £50,000 to shops, pubs, restaurants and all small businesses to help them cope with sky-rocketing energy bills. Unlike households, businesses are not covered by the energy price cap set by Ofgem, with many facing closure or staff redundancies as their bills rise by almost 400%.
Wales is particularly dependent on small and medium sized businesses compared to the rest of the UK, with these type of businesses accounting for 43.5% of employment and 35.0% of turnover in Wales.
Under the proposals, small and medium-sized businesses would be offered government grants covering 80% of the increase in their energy bills for one year, up to a maximum of £50,000. For example, a typical small restaurant would receive a grant of around £10,000 to help with their bills. The plans would benefit the 1.4 million small businesses across the UK, from high street shops to local pubs and cafes.
The Liberal Democrats have said the estimated £10 billion cost of the scheme could be met by reversing the Conservatives’ planned tax cuts for big banks, which are seeing their profits grow with rising interest rates. That would include cancelling the Government’s cut to the Bank Surcharge that is due to take effect in April 2023 and restoring the Bank Levy to 2015 levels, raising £10.6 billion over the next four years.
Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:
“Welsh high streets face being turned into ghost towns and unemployment could sore as Conservatives fail to take any action or even seem to care about rocketing energy bills.
“Our local shops, pubs and restaurants could all close their doors for the last time over the coming months unless the government steps up urgently.
“This is a particular concern in Wales where small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of our economy and provide a high percentage of our employment, with this is even more the case in rural areas of Wales.
“We need an energy bailout now to save the high street, rescue small businesses, keep people in their jobs and keep prices down for families.
“This could be funded by reversing the Conservatives’ tax cuts for the big banks, and focusing on saving our struggling small businesses instead.
“The new Conservative Prime Minister must get the Government’s act together and bring in legislation to protect families and businesses from soaring energy bills as soon as Parliament returns, or they risk crashing the entire economy.”