Energy crisis: Chancellor refuses meeting with struggling operator

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

The Swan at Bampton: Chancellor refuses to meet with Top 50 operators on energy crisis
The Swan at Bampton: Chancellor refuses to meet with Top 50 operators on energy crisis

Related tags Devon Finance Gastropub

A leading operator has been refused a meeting with the chancellor of the exchequer after writing to him expressing concerns with skyrocketing energy bills.

The Swan in Bampton, Devon, owner Paul Berry wrote to the chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi MP, asking if he might meet with a few operators from the Top 50 Gastropubs list to discuss the problems of soaring electricity prices for pubs.

The letter said: “What is happening is a big concern to us. We are seeing people’s electric bills going from £20,000 plus a year to some being quoted £100,000 a year!”

“I appreciate you’re a very busy person, but we are the type of people that are the backbone of British industry. We are passionate about what we do. We have to work the amount of hours we do with so little reward for it. 

Support didn't touch the sides

“A meeting would be so important to put over the points that are really important to us after Covid. We realise we had a lot of help, but to be quite honest, for some businesses, it never touched the sides.”

However, a Government spokesperson, Tom, replied saying the chancellor would not be able to meet the operators due to diary constraints.

This response was “very weak”, according to Berry. “There was no real reply,” he said. “Just basically, ‘I’m busy’”. Berry had arranged a meeting with a new Tiverton and Honiton MP Richard Foord a few weeks ago but could not attend as had lost his voice due to an operation.

“His campaigning never mentioned tourism which is surely one of the biggest industries in Devon,” he added.

Berry was finding the energy crisis a “huge worry”. He said: “Not only are pubs at risk, but everyone who supplies us is at risk as well including our butchers, veg supplier, frozen produce suppliers and local farmers.

Knock-on effect

He added: “It will also have a massive effect on breweries many of us work with. Also, people like photographers are not going to get work if we can’t afford to have the work done.”

The pub owner had not seen a price rise yet at the site, which was on a contract until the end of February 2023. However, constantly changing prices on what was on offer at the site was “not a good thing for customers,” he added.

Also, the team had swapped over to induction cooking more than a year ago to save money on gas.

Berry said it would be helpful if more operators could voice concerns to Government and MPs, and top pub chefs with ‘big names’ could help in attracting publicity to the issue.

However, he also believed the issue was out of hands. “The war in Ukraine is not helping,” he said. “It’s sad, but Ukraine needs its independence, and we have to help, but I wonder how long people will tolerate Britain’s help when it’s affecting them so bad.”

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