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UK business owners more worried about rising cost of energy than Brexit

Energy companies failing SMEs: businesses forced to cut jobs and scale back opening hours to make ends meet as nearly half of micro-businesses (48%) have slashed staff working hours to pay for rising energy bills.

More business owners are worried about the rising cost of energy (50%) than they are about Brexit (44%).

One in ten (9%) have seen their energy bills jump by a massive 500GBP or more per year.

The energy market is failing Britain's small businesses, as a new study reveals businesses are even scaling back staffing costs to compensate for rising energy bills.

The data also revealed SMEs are more concerned about the rising cost of energy and its impact on their business - than they are about the potential fall-out of Brexit.

More than three quarters (77%) of 1,000 small businesses surveyed have seen the cost of their energy supply rise by at least 100GBP per year with one in ten (9%) forking out an additional 500GBP or more, according to an independent survey commissioned by UTILITA ENERGY.

Its third annual Powering the UK High Street Report, looking into the treatment of small businesses by energy companies, also found more than a third of micro-businesses (39%) have been forced to make staff redundant to reduce the cost of running their business - with half (48%) reducing staff hours to pay for their energy.

Despite Ofgem's announcement of its strategic review of the micro-business energy market, two thirds of micro-businesses (66%) say they are still caught out with unexpected terms and conditions or costs when signing a new energy deal.

Shockingly, more than a third (37%) are still asked to make large upfront deposits to secure their supply or are being placed on high tariffs (34%) as they're seen as a credit risk.

Utilita CEO, Bill Bullen, said: "We commissioned our first annual Powering the High Street report in 2017 as we knew many micro-businesses found it hard and costly to engage with suppliers to find a better deal on energy.

"We've learned 68% of businesses surveyed do believe their provider gives them a fair deal. Let's hope this is a sign of things to come.

"But there is a lot of work to do - it's still concerning to see so many businesses worried about the cost of their energy rising and payment pressures and how this impacts their workforce. Further still, almost a third (29%) of businesses are tackling inflexible payment terms and a quarter (24%) are asked to pay crippling rates. This just isn't fair."

There were 5.7 million small businesses in the UK last year, accounting for 96% of all businesses. This population fell by 0.5% from 2017 reflecting closures of smaller, non-employing businesses. This decrease in the business population is the first fall in these records, which began almost 20 years ago in 2000, and reflects the state of the UK's high street today where business collapses and closures are rife.