E Point Perfect

Iceland boss warns over jobs amid soaring energy costs for hard hit businesses


Iceland Richard Walker CBI
Iceland’s Richard Walker warns over energy costs
// Iceland boss Richard Walker calls on government to act. with mall companies most at risk
// CBI backs political intervention, with companies concerned over upcoming energy price hikes

Iceland boss Richard Walker has called on ministers to issue more support for businesses struggling with soaring energy bills.

Without a price cap on businesses’ energy bills, smaller firms will collapse, the supermarket’s managing director told CityA.M. as he claimed an absence of further support for businesses was “really serious,” as the weather turns colder.

“They need to do something,” he said, pointing to a variety of measures including a price cap for businesses, under-writing energy bill loans, plus specific tax deductions on energy.

“There’s a lot of different things they can do,” Walker said. “If they don’t, it will mean bankruptcy, job losses and further price rises for consumers.”

The frozen food giant has been hit by surging energy costs as Walker conceded: “There’s not much we can do, that’s the reality. It’s very, very challenging.”

Shoppers have been adapting their weekly shopping habits in the face of rising living expenses, with Walker suggesting more consumers could turn to frozen food, especially with reduced stock of fruit and vegetables leading to prices increasing, meaning people could switch to frozen produce.

Ministers must “step up and do more,” to help struggling households while it was “incumbent” for every business to do what they could to help consumers, Walker said.

READ MORE: Iceland debt downgraded as it plunges to full-year loss

Meanwhile, many viable companies face “distress” unless urgent action is taken by the government to get a grip on the energy cost crisis, the Confederation of British Industry has warned, with many being pushed to the brink by further price hikes.

It published survey data that showed 69% of firms expect energy bills to rise in the next three months, and nearly a third expect increases of more than 30%.

Nearly one in three businesses canvassed by the organisation also said soaring gas prices are likely to hamper investment in transitioning to net zero emissions and the CBI said the government should target support at those households and firms most in need.

It called for extra money to be directed to the poorest through the current energy bill support scheme.

It also pressed for HMRCs to repeat the Time to Pay scheme, introduced during the pandemic, which gave flexibility to businesses over when they could pay their tax.

CBI chief policy director Matthew Fell said: “We can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that many viable businesses are under pressure and could easily tip into distress without action. The guiding principles for any intervention must be to act at speed, and to target help at those households and firms that need it most.”

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