I think we’re alone now...

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Winter of discontent: The Morning Advertiser editor Ed Bedington fears the industry will not last without help
Winter of discontent: The Morning Advertiser editor Ed Bedington fears the industry will not last without help

Related tags Legislation Licensing Multi-site pub operators Pubco + head office Social responsibility Finance

What will it take for this Government to wake up and face the reality of the energy crisis for business?

When a single steel plant announces closure, threatening thousands of jobs, the Government rolls out the tanks and pulls out all the stops to help.

When our industry says that two thirds of businesses are likely to go under due to the energy crisis, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs, not to mention the knock-on effect to suppliers and other businesses, Boris tells us to suck it up and the Government says we’ve had enough.

Literally, that is their response: “We did enough for you all during the pandemic with grants and loans, so stop holding your hand out”. I paraphrase slightly.

So, yes, thanks for the previous bailout for the crisis that was of your own making.

We didn’t really have a lot of choice but to shut our businesses when the authorities decided, based on flawed and dubious data, that we were a health risk. Data that has since been widely rubbished.

Businesses forgotten

But this crisis is not of the industry’s making, nor the Government’s, but while the authorities rush round trying to find solutions to ease the consumer purse, they seem to be wilfully forgetting the plight of UK business.

Our recent survey revealed some truly frightening figures, and clearly some very frightened operators as well. More than 70% said they would not be able to stay open through the winter without intervention. More than 78% said they couldn’t afford rates that are set to rise in excess of 500% on previous prices.

Now operators are even being refused the option of signing up to an inflated fixed contract, leaving them adrift in an open market with prices rapidly approaching £1 per unit.

At the same time as all this, like some kind of sick joke and with all the timing of a surprise mother-in-law visit, the TUC starts calling for an increase in the minimum wage to £15 an hour.

Honestly, where do these people live? Yes £15 an hour would be lovely, but if you’re a pub operator facing escalating costs on a scale that would make Elon Musk wince, the last thing you need is outlandish calls that fly in the face of reality.

Legacy bid

And Boris, in the dying minutes (or the reality, months, due to the length of time its taking to pick the worst possible replacement) makes one last grasp for a Churchillian legacy, telling us to endure the cost of energy as the “Ukranians are paying in blood”.

Cheers Boris, we’ll remind you of that when the lights go out and the economy shuts down, but you’ll probably be on the beach somewhere, clutching some expensive wallpaper.

The support plan suggested by the energy companies sounds like a possible way out of the crisis but, as yet, I’ve not seen any mention of businesses in that scheme.

I certainly hope to god there is because the way things stand right now, I might not have an industry to write about by the winter.

What’s left of this Government needs to step up now and get a handle on possibly the biggest crisis this industry, and any industry, has seen in generations.

Related topics Rebuilding the Pub Sector

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