As businesses and residents await this week’s expected mini budget for help with soaring bills, Victoria Roberts speaks to local experts about what measures can be taken by both firms and households to cut down on their bills
UK chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is set to deliver a mini-budget this Friday (September 23) amid soaring energy, staff and materials costs.
Energy prices have been the focus of many businesses’ hopes for government intervention after residents’ bills were capped by PM Liz Truss last week, but organisations’ energy prices are not limited by the ‘energy price cap’, which only regulates domestic prices.
We spoke to a range of local experts about what can be done to help keep bills down for both residents and businesses during the cost of living crisis…
Contact your MP
“I urge those in need to not relent on their communications with our MPs,” he told the Times.
“I also urge local business to communicate with each other, there are a few great WhatsApp groups that are sector specific. I know that the Hospitality one has been a godsend for many of us, with sharing of information and all pulling together in a combined effort to lobby our MPs.
“Just after the pandemic we saw our communities really rally round our small and local businesses, I really didn’t think I’d be asking them to do so soon, however, I know they will come to the fore once again,” he said.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Councils Small Business Champion Cllr Matthew Sankey
Invest in energy efficiency
“Money doesn’t grow on trees, so why waste it on your energy bill? If you have the means, invest in energy-efficient appliances and fixtures to cut your costs in the long run.
“That could be from reconsidering how you cook (whether you use a microwave, oven or air fryer), turning off appliances at the wall when they’re not in use and using energy-saving light bulbs. Need more advice? Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a professional.”
Karen Smith, Bright Spark Electrical Services, Tonbridge
Reach out for advice
“Rising energy costs are affecting everyone – but especially businesses, which have far fewer visible solutions available.
“This can leave entrepreneurs and owners feeling anxious about their finances. However, you’re not alone. If you’re a business owner who is having difficulties, reach out for key advice on how to best approach this difficult period.”
Julian Weekes, ActionCOACH Business Growth Specialist, Kent, Surrey & Sussex
“Whatever type of insurance you need, shop around at the time of renewal, especially if you’ve been with the same provider for a few years… Simple advice, but it will save you money!”
Oliver Burt, Acer Insurance Services, Westerham
“Social broadband is a low broadband tariff (£15/month) available to most people on universal tax credit and some with very low incomes.
“Currently, only one per cent of those eligible have signed up for it. This is a great way to ensure you and your family stay connected without breaking the bank. You can find out more and apply by searching for ‘social tariffs’ on the Ofcom website.”
Jules Rastelli, Pink Connect, Cranbrook
Look for reward schemes
“There is an opportunity for people to get discounts and cashback from lots of household names, like Tesco and M&S through a number of different schemes.
“For instance, ActionCOACH offers an Exclusive Rewards app that provides cashback and voucher codes for thousands of retailers, saving you money on your shopping. If you’re a local business owner, you can also be listed for free through this service to drive visibility and sales.”
Lucy Cameron, ActionCOACH, Tunbridge Wells
Fixing business energy bills
Small organisations can fix energy prices at predictable levels, using a broker.
In 2012, KCC founded a brokerage service, Lumina, to find businesses the lowest-cost energy contracts available in the market.
The organisation, which operates nationwide, manages a combined energy spend of £450million each year.
Alex Greig, vice-chairman of the Tunbridge Wells Business Improvement District, also recommended Tunbridge Wells-based energy broker-consultants Energy Pal, to help businesses renew their contracts at the best available rate.
Look ahead instead of burying your head
By Amanda Redman, Financial Planner
THE COST of living is a source of depression and anxiety for almost a third of people in Britain, but it is essential to face your finances.
New research by Wealth at Work showed that 26 per cent of people feel depressed and anxious over the escalating cost of living, while 34 per cent view this as their biggest concern.
This comes after the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by a staggering 8.8 per cent in the 12 months to July 2022 – another 40 year high.
These are difficult times, and it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand when it comes to your finances, but taking stock of where you are currently and where you want to go, and devising a plan to get you there, should help give you a sense of direction.
Whilst there’s no magic wand to wave at the escalating problem, we can offer support by developing good money habits and introduce good practices.
These could include tracking expenditure, budgeting, prioritising what you spend your money on so that you live within your means and avoid credit cards – for example by using cash to pay where possible rather than using cards or paying online.
It’s important to try and look beyond the immediate crisis and spend time now preparing for the future.
This can include building cash reserves to act as emergency funds, taking the time to learn more about the basics of investing, perhaps working with a financial adviser, so you can become more financially resilient.
Inflation and higher interest rates are likely to be with us for the next few years, so now is the time to start managing your money better.