'Grave concerns' over survival of hospitality businesses amid rising costs

Tom Hardy, Hitchin BID manager, is calling on the government to help businesses through rising costs

Tom Hardy, Hitchin BID manager, is calling on the government to help businesses through rising costs - Credit: Hitchin BID

Businesses in Hitchin are facing uncertainty as uncapped energy and electricity bills rise by 250 per cent in some cases, according to the town's Business Improvement District.

The BID has called on MP Bim Afolami to support a cut in VAT for businesses to help our local eateries and stores weather the storm. 

Manager Tom Hardy penned a letter to the Hitchin and Harpenden MP, stating that "as businesses are not protected by the price cap we are now seeing energy costs rising dramatically across Hitchin town centre".

He added: "They are facing severe difficulties ahead and if nothing is done to support them many will be forced to close."

One Hitchin café is already set to close at the end of this month due to an increase in rent costs, the Comet reported last week. 

Tom told the Comet: "Hospitality businesses in Hitchin are facing huge, uncapped increases in their utility costs this year.

"Although the cap is rising for residents, businesses are exempt from this and therefore exposed and open to exploitation.

"Our businesses have seen astronomical rises which are due to increase further in the coming months.

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"I have grave concerns for the survival of many of these much-loved establishments and have urged the MP to help support them by rolling a VAT reduction package."

In his letter to the MP, Tom gave the example of one business which tried to renew its electricity contract and has been met with a 250 per cent increase.

"In their other venue energy bills have increased by 150 per cent", he said. "They employ 35 members of staff between the two sites and with this dramatic increase to their electricity bills alone, as well as gas and water, they will likely have to close in a matter of months as the business will no longer be viable."

He also cited examples from across Europe where the hospitality industry has reduced VAT rates, including In Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, where it is less than 15 per cent. 

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami was approached for comment, and is yet to respond. 

Are you a business concerned about rising costs? Let us know at news@thecomet.net