Independent retailers still in desperate need of government help with energy bills

The Fed calls for an independent ombudsman to represent small businesses in taking the energy companies to task



28 April 2023

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Irish government is “very mindful of issues such as costs and competitiveness for business, particularly for SMEs” in a response to a recent request for government help made by the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed).

Taoiseach Varadkar was responding to a letter from the Fed’s national president Jason Birks and its Ireland president Martin Mulligan which outlined the financial pressures currently facing smaller stores, particularly in relation to energy costs.

The letter stated that the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme, which is due to end on 31 May, provided some welcome relief. However, it is simply not enough. The current cost of living crisis is a terrifying prospect for businesses that simply will not be able to continue if prices continue to rise.

In his reply, An Taoiseach said: “The government greatly appreciates the significant contribution of the retail sector to the Irish economy and is very conscious of the scale of the energy crisis and of the serious choices that many business owners are facing at present.

“We will continue to keep matters relating to the competitiveness of the retail sector under close review in the period ahead.”

However, NFRN Ireland president Martin Mulligan said he wasn’t impressed with the  response.

“I’m not very happy with his reply and I’m angry that nothing is being done to help us independents with our energy bills,” Mulligan said.

“This time last year my monthly electricity bill was between €2,000 and €2,500. My bill for February this year was €5,756 and I’ve just received my bill for March which has gone up by almost another 100% to €11,369.

“If this keeps up, more businesses are going to close and it’s a crying shame that nobody in government really cares about us.”

Mulligan also called for an independent ombudsman to represent small businesses in taking the energy companies to task.

“I don’t see why the government can’t call in the energy providers to one of their committees and get a straight answer to this problem. It just beggars belief that nobody can get a simple answer,” he said.

“The only way I can save money is to reduce my staff again, and I’m already working 13 hours a day.

“It’s worse than Covid. We could deal with Covid, but we can’t deal with this,” he added.



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