Essex: Soaring fuel prices are hitting small businesses the hardest
SOARING fuel prices are “severely affecting” the livelihood of small businesses across Essex, industry leaders have warned.
A survey of more than 1,000 small businesses across the county has revealed that eight out of 10 are being stifled because of rises in fuel duty.
Essex Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which compiled the results, is particularly concerned for the manufacturing, construction and transport sectors.
“Here in Essex we are aware of companies which have already ceased trading due to the high rise in the cost of fuel,” said the group’s chairman Iain Wicks.
A limousine company, a haulage firm, and courier and taxi companies in this region have all gone bust as a result of increases, he said.
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Colchester taxi driver Kim Naish said: “The cost of fuel is a real killer for our business. I put �20 in my taxi at a time and that lasts me a day – a couple of years ago it would have seen me through a weekend.
“With the recession there are less people taking taxis, so you can’t put your prices up or you’ll just lose your customers.
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“I’m having to work longer hours at peak times like Friday and Saturday nights to get by. It’s a struggle and I’m thinking about doing something else.
“There are about 10 or 11 taxi companies in the Colchester area and maybe 500 drivers so this is having a real impact on the economy.”
The Essex FSB is calling on the Government to reverse the planned one pence rise in fuel duty in next week’s budget and to introduce a fuel duty stabiliser – a mechanism to adjust fuel prices in order to alleviate the impact of oil price rise shocks on pump prices.
Mr Wicks said that research shows that the hike in fuel duty will cost small firms up to �2,000 over the next six months, on top of regular outgoings.
“Unlike big businesses, small firms are unable to absorb the cost, and so to deal with the extra expenses they will have to increase prices, lay off staff and freeze wages,” he said.
“The FSB believes that while a cut in VAT would lower the price at the pump, it will not stem the volatility in fuel prices in these uncertain times – something a fuel duty stabiliser would.
“Introducing a fuel duty stabiliser would provide greater certainty for businesses and families by stabilising the cost of fuel and allowing them to factor in fuel costs as they plan for the future.”
Chancellor George Osborne gave a strong hint this week that measures to reduce the impact of rising oil prices at the petrol pump would be included in his budget.