Cinema boss's fears for the future as energy bills set to double

East Coast Cinema, Lowestoft. Michael Hansell outside the building.

Michael Hansell, owner of East Coast Cinema in Lowestoft, said he was at "a total loss" as to how his business would survive rising energy costs. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The boss of a town's cinema has accused the government of "pitiful complacency" and called for a windfall tax amid fears his business will not survive the year.

Michael Hansell, owner of East Coast Cinema in Lowestoft, said he was at "a total loss" as to how his business would survive this latest challenge while still recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Waveney MP Peter Aldous, Mr Hansell said: "East Coast Cinema in Lowestoft has survived so much in the last 12 years.

"In 2011 we survived an essential transition to ‘digital projection’ which would have closed us if we couldn't fund the hugely expensive new equipment. In 2013 we survived ‘The Great Flood of Lowestoft’ which closed us for three months. In 2020-21, the Pandemic.

"Despite the fight in me to tackle this new challenge with equal vigour, come wintertime it may be just too much.

"My concerns are obviously shared by thousands of other small and medium business owners, but knowing we are not alone doesn’t help.

"All it does is cement my anger and frustration at the total lack of momentum from the government and MP’s to take prompt action to avert an impending national crisis of job loss and severe energy poverty."

East Coast Cinema, Lowestoft with owner Michael Hansell outside the building.

Michael Hansell, owner of East Coast Cinema in Lowestoft, said he was at "a total loss" as to how his business would survive rising energy costs. - Credit: Nick Butcher

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Mr Hansell said energy costs at the cinema would double in July. It comes at a time when the business, and the film industry, is still recovering from the pandemic.

He added: "How are we supposed to find another £36,000 per year to pay the energy bill increases?

"In business, we plan for increased costs, but who can plan for one of their essential utilities more than doubling with the threat of further increases in the winter, especially straight after a pandemic? 

"This needed to be nipped in the bud much earlier on by the government and the fact it hasn't should make every MP feel ashamed with themselves."

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Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney has criticised the government's current refugee policy over Ukraine. - Credit: Jamie Honeywood

Mr Aldous said: "I am very sorry to learn that East Coast Cinema is struggling with the increase in bills.

"I acknowledge the tremendous stress this is causing in households and businesses across the country, and have been urging ministers to introduce more targeted support for those most affected.

"The government recognises the impact rising energy prices have on businesses of all sizes.

"Ofgem and the government are in regular contact with business groups and suppliers to understand the challenges they face and explore ways to protect businesses.

"This extensive engagement continues across government at both ministerial and official levels on this situation to understand, and to help mitigate the impacts of this issue."

Warning businesses will close and jobs will be lost "as a result of this inaction," Mr Hansell called for a windfall tax to be applied to energy companies and a price cap to be added to small and medium businesses "as a matter of the utmost urgency".

He said: "It's not rocket science and it will save jobs. There is no excuse for such pitiful complacency during this growing crisis and every MP shares responsibility by their inaction."

Mr Aldous, however, disagreed that a windfall tax on oil and gas companies was the way to go.

He said: "I understand why people are calling for a windfall tax. However, the government does not intend to introduce such measures for a number of reasons.

"The UK’s oil and gas sector is world-leading, with particular benefits to the union, with key sites in Aberdeen, Teesside and specifically in our area focussed around Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth.

"Sudden rate changes would discourage investment and job creation, depress production and make the UK more reliant on imported gas. 

"The oil and gas industry and its supply chain support almost 200,000 jobs, including many in our area, though investment in 2020-21 was at an all-time low of £3.5 billion.

"There is £11billion of opportunities awaiting investment and a windfall tax would threaten the investment we need to support jobs and increase the economic recovery of our gas resources."