Small firms face ‘brutal’ year as ministers scale back energy support, warns Metro Mayor.

Confidence among the West’s smaller companies has plunged to levels not seen since Covid.

The Federation of Small Businesses’ confidence index for the South West, including the West of England, dropped to -62 in the final three months of 2022, from -1 at the start of last year.

The figures – for the October 2022 to November 2022 period – showed that the general cost of doing business, including sky-high inflation, had left confidence levels among the West’s firms on the floor.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said he was doing all he can to offer support to firms whether this cost-of-doing-business crisis including helping them invest in new products and equipment to drive growth through his £1.3 million Business Growth and Adaptions Grant scheme, and other measures.

But he warned that the sobering stats meant ministers must now reconsider plans to scale back its energy relief for business from April amid fears many will be forced to close this year by unaffordable bills. About one in four small businesses across the West will have to close, downsize or restructure their operations due to the cut in energy subsidies, the FSB warns.

Mayor Norris said: “The West’s companies have faced a tough couple of years – inflation through the roof, sky-high energy bills and shortages of workers to name just a few. This cost-of-doing-business crisis means it is no surprise that confidence levels are rock bottom. Add with even larger hikes in their energy bills still to come, it’s clear smaller Bristol firms face a brutal year. I’m doing all I can at a regional level to help businesses whether this storm in the short term. But we need a solution to help firms that need urgent support on energy costs and that has to come from Whitehall. Otherwise, firms will be forced to close their doors for good”.

95% of all West of England businesses are smaller or medium sized firms.

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