HAVING done their best to survive Brexit and COVID, small businesses in Fife are now facing another huge threat – the cost of energy.

While residents are reeling at the huge hike in their electricity and gas bills, there is a cap on the price they will have to pay.

That's not the case for businesses who, faced with sky-high energy costs and other new problems such as worker shortages and rising inflation, are finding it's too much with some already forced to close.

At last Thursday's Fife Council cabinet committee former council leader, SNP councillor David Alexander, said: "We've concentrated a lot on energy costs in terms of the public, is there any scope at all for us to help business locally, small and big?

"Not so far away from here was a 200-year-old paper mill that died because of energy prices and there was no-one there to help.

"Once they go, they go. They don't come back.

"Some of the smaller businesses, even bakeries, I'm hearing they're shutting down too."

Gordon Mole, head of business and employability, replied: "Obviously, at a local level, we don't have all the levers of control around energy and there is no cap on energy prices for businesses.

"Some are on fixed deals and will continue to be so, some are coming off fixed deals and are working with Business Gateway and the economic development team on programmes such as the local heating and energy-efficient strategy work.

"And there's the funding we've secured through LACER (Local Authority Covid Economic Recovery) for business adaptation, towards low-carbon and more efficient business premises.

"So we can do our bit to reduce those costs, through better insulation and better energy efficiency.

"I would also anticipate businesses will become more interested in the next few months as they roll off those fixed deals, in district heating and community generation schemes.

"I don't think we can shield businesses but we can support them in those ways."

Mr Mole said it remained a "challenging time for Fife's economy".

He explained: "While we've had some really positive interventions, particularly in the last few months with events returning to Fife, including the 150th Open Championship and a record number of small business start-ups, there are continuing challenging headwinds: the interest rate rises, energy for business is uncapped and clearly a consideration, together with material shortages which have resulted from a number of factors including the war in Ukraine and other supply chain disruptions.

"Whilst significant redundancies which were perhaps anticipated in the early stages of COVID, have been mitigated against and we haven't seen that at scale in Fife, we are seeing significant skills shortages and staff shortages in a number of sectors."

In the early days of COVID, there were fears of a huge rise in unemployment – now the situation is completely different.

Mr Mole's report noted that, in May, there were more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK for the first time since records began.