Editor’s Viewpoint: a time to reflect

Editor’s Viewpoint: a time to reflect

In the Viewpoint column of the magazine’s October edition, PBM editor Paul Davies reflected on a momentous week that witnessed the appointment of a new PM and the death of the Queen.

It is, of course, impossible to start this column without paying respect to the Queen. Her passing is an immeasurable loss both for the Royal Family and the nation itself. Writing this ahead of her funeral, one can only presume to know quite how moving an occasion that will be, especially given we have already witnessed so many powerful and emotional images, and heard so many poignant stories.

Beyond the natural emotion, the ceremonial majesty (to be prosaically literal) equally enveloping her death and the ascension of King Charles III to the throne has been a moment in history the likes of which the vast majority of us will never have seen. Nothing I write could accurately sum up the impact her loss will have on the country’s collective sense of identity, or the near-personal feelings of bereavement experienced by many…

Quite naturally, the loss of our longest-serving monarch has dominated the news cycle and entirely overshadowed the appointment of Liz Truss as Leader of the Conservative Party and UK Prime Minister. With all parliamentary business effectively suspended once the ominous news began to break, full details of the new PM’s plan to manage the energy crisis have remained on hiatus.

By the time this issue lands on your desks, it is expected that the full package of support — for consumers and businesses alike — will have been laid out (***post-publication UPDATE…), accompanied by a ‘fiscal statement’ from the new chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng.

Whilst this column last month largely focused on the energy crisis for consumers and the potential shockwaves the ensuing reduction in disposable income could have on construction and RMI spending, debate had subsequently began to open up on the direct challenge facing businesses.

And although industry did not previously benefit from the supposed protection of an energy price cap, many firms were locked in to longer-term deals with their supplier or broker. Yet especially for those nearing the end of such arrangements, anxiety was rising and the media had started to carry reports of firms facing astronomical cost increases of up to 600%.

From what was indicated before the period of national mourning, the new government’s ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ plan for businesses will provide a freeze on unit costs in a similar way to the non-commercial scheme (although the level was unconfirmed at the time of writing) for an initial six-month period. This was to be followed by a more ‘targeted’ policy package going forward.

Without a completely clear picture to draw on, we have tried to draw together a number of these ‘cost of living crisis’ strands in this issue. For instance, we carry details of the Quarter 2 reports from both the Builders Merchant Building Index and the Plumbing & Heating Merchant Index, in addition to our regular merchant market sales and confidence tracker The Pulse, to reflect on the demand-driven concerns.

Equally, a comment piece from NMBS MD Chris Hayward draws on the buying society’s discussions with its merchant members to outline a number of proactive steps businesses can take to manage the challenges, whilst we also highlight the BMF’s new Energy Plus service which is intended to offer the best available deals on utilities.

Lastly, an important contribution from Rainy Day Trust CEO Bryan Clover reflects on the rising concerns about rampant inflation amongst the sector’s lower earners. As Bryan explains, the industry charity can offer a variety of targeted support measures for those in real need but it requires your assistance in ensuring that message is heard.

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