Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the Irish government is “very mindful of issues such as costs and competitiveness for business, particularly for SMEs” in his response to a request for government help made by the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed).
An Taoiseach was responding to a letter from the Fed’s national president Jason Birks and its Ireland president Martin Mulligan which outlined the financial pressures currently facing smaller stores, particularly in relation to energy costs.
While acknowledging that the Temporary Business Energy Support Scheme, which is due to end on 31 May, provided some "welcome relief," the letter stated that it was "simply not enough" and that "the current cost of living crisis is a terrifying prospect for businesses that will not be able to continue if prices continue to rise."
In his reply, Mr Varadkar said, “The government greatly appreciates the significant contribution of the retail sector to the Irish economy and is very conscious of the scale of the energy crisis and of the serious choices that many business owners are facing at present.
“We will continue to keep matters relating to the competitiveness of the retail sector under close review in the period ahead.”
Businesses Are Going To Close
Mulligan said that he wasn’t impressed with the Taoiseach’s response.
“I’m not very happy with his reply and I’m angry that nothing is being done to help us independents with our energy bills," he said.
“This time last year my monthly electricity bill was between €2,000 and €2,500.
"My bill for February this year was €5,756 and I’ve just received my bill for March which has gone up by almost another 100 per cent to €11,369.
“If this keeps up, more businesses are going to close and it’s a crying shame that nobody in government really cares about us.”
Call For Independent Ombudsman
Mulligan also called for an independent ombudsman to represent small businesses in taking the energy companies to task.
He said, “I don’t see why the government can’t call in the energy providers to one of their committees and get a straight answer to this problem.
"It just beggars belief that nobody can get a simple answer.
"The only way I can save money is to reduce my staff again, and I’m already working 13 hours a day."