A shopkeeper has warned customers of a potential ice cream and cold drink shortage this summer as high bills are forcing businesses to turn off fridges and freezers.

David Lomas, owner of Lomas News in Unsworth, was given a lifeline last year when the Energy Bill Relief Scheme was introduced.

But because of his fixed contract with an energy company, he said he is "stuck", and without government help,  he cannot afford to pay the full amount. 

David's bills have tripled to around £400 a month despite his energy-saving efforts and he believes that with his current rate, turning the fridge and freezer back on could cost at least another £250 to £300 a month.

Having tried to cut back in as many ways as possible, David said: "The freezer was the first thing to go.

"We also installed LED lights and unplugged one of our drinks fridges over winter but there is no chance we can afford to plug them back in again."

As a result, David said the shop will not be selling ice creams this summer and will have a reduced number of cold drinks on offer. 

He said: “I can't afford to put them on, especially in the summer months.

"Because of the heat, the workload on that equipment goes up threefold and you've got to sell a lot of ice creams and cans of coke to cover that.”

Under the Relief Scheme, around £150 was contributed towards energy bills at Lomas News and other business owners also received a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices from October to March.

Despite wholesale costs having been reduced, The Association of Convenience Stores estimates there are around 6,900 independently owned convenience stores, like Lomas News, that are currently stuck in excessive fixed contracts which put businesses and jobs at risk.

David said: “Some energy companies haven’t lost any money because the government have been helping reach their asking prices but now that help is gone, we are expected to pay the full price.

“It is profiteering, and we are the ones losing out, if I went to any other company I could get a deal for less than half of what I am paying now but because of this fixed contract, I’m stuck.

“In hindsight, I should have shopped around but I was advised to stick with my supplier and I took that advice.”

In response to the national problem, a Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said:  “We acted swiftly to provide businesses with unprecedented support, saving them £7 billion and enabling some to only pay around half of predicted wholesale energy costs.

"Our support is continuing through our Energy Bills Discount Scheme.   

“Contract negotiations are ultimately a matter for suppliers and their customers. However, we are in regular discussions with them and Ofgem (energy regulator) to make sure businesses get a fair deal.”  

MP for Bury South, Christian Wakeford, said: “Sadly David’s story is one that is far too common across Bury South.

"A huge number of businesses and residents in my constituency have contacted me regarding the same issue across a variety of energy companies, I have contacted Eon for an explanation and to work towards a resolution.

"There needs to be a proper windfall tax on the huge profits the energy giants are making, because while they make huge profits, people are paying huge bills.

"Those are not profits because of the great ingenuity of the companies that money should go into helping families with their energy bills and helping businesses who have also seen their bills go up."

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