Roman Road Market Christmas lights. Image taken by Phil Verney.
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‘Closing on Mondays for the first time in 11 years’: How East End businesses are cutting down energy costs

Faced with rising prices, businesses of all sizes are scratching  their heads about how to reduce energy usage, but what measures are being taken by our local favourites?

G Kelly on Roman Road has always had an open-door policy, letting the comforting smell of pie and mash waft down the street enticing hungry passersby. But with energy prices skyrocketing, they can no longer afford to let any heat escape and G Kelly’s has reluctantly broken a habit of a lifetime by closing their door (but make no mistake, they are very much open for business!). 

As Neil Vening, General Manager of G Kelly explained: ‘Luckily we signed our energy contract before the war in Ukraine pushed prices up but we are still paying more than double what we were previously.’ 

‘We are very conscious of what we are using, but at the end of the day you can’t bake pies without the oven, and we can’t cook them in batches because then you lose the whole essence of the meal being freshly prepared and hot.’ 

Just down the road at Cafe Creme, owner and manager Burçin Yılmaz is also having to make unprecedented changes. For the first time in over 11 years, she said the cafe will be closed on Mondays in order to save money on energy bills and staffing costs. 

With businesses tightening their belts, it’s easy to feel disheartened. But rest assured that Christmas will not be cancelled this year on the Roman. 

The Christmas light display will go up as planned on Roman Road however the lights will be turned off every night at midnight, saving the council 40% of the energy used, and only those late-night revellers among us will notice the difference. The lights will be turned back on every afternoon at 3pm. 

Over at Canary Wharf they are taking a similar approach to their festive lighting display, which will operate on a timed system saving almost half the total energy usage and costs. 

Despite these savings businesses across the country had warned they would need to cut jobs or be forced to shut down without government help. 

In late September the government announced the energy bill relief scheme, a six-month support measure for businesses, charities and public sector organisations including schools, freezing prices higher than they were last year but far lower than they would have been without intervention. 

In theory, suppliers should now be able to automatically calculate a firm’s new bill and apply the discount accordingly, so businesses don’t have to do anything to receive the discount. It is estimated that the total cost to the government could be up to £48bn. 

On top of this measure, Tower Hamlets Labour proposed a motion for an Emergency Hardship Fund for small businesses but this was rejected by Mayor Rahman and the Aspire Group in a Council meeting on Wednesday 5 October. 

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets Council said: ‘We’re aware of the struggles that the cost-of-living crisis presents for businesses in our borough, which is why we’re lobbying central government to request more support so that we can ensure our local economic response is one that relieves businesses of some of these pressures.’

Mayor Rahman announced in a Tweet on Thursday 6 October that businesses in the borough will receive a subsidy of approximately £2,300 towards their business rates, as part of the government’s Covid Additional Relief Fund. 

As long as the War in Ukraine continues, the future of all of our energy bills remains uncertain. But with the enterprising East End spirit of local businesses behind us, we’re confident that those energy efficient lights will shine brightly on the Roman this Christmas. 

Businesses can find more information and advice on the Tower Hamlets Council website

For more like this, read our article about local residents coping with the soaring cost of living.

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