COST OF LIVING CRISIS: 71-year-old owner of award-winning Burnley fish and chip shop Belfields facing £700 weekly energy bills fears gruelling winter will shut down thousands of small businesses

The 71-year-old owner of an award-winning Burnley chippy facing £700 weekly energy bills fears a gruelling winter will shut down thousands of small businesses.

Lynda Fielding says she is working tirelessly and living off less than minimum wage to ensure her fish and chip shop’s survival as businesses face unlimited energy price rises next month.

It is the latest blow for Belfields in Parliament Street after food prices for key ingredients like flour soared by almost 100 percent following start of the Ukraine war, the mum-of-two adds.

Lynda said: “It’s awful. I’ve never seen anything like this before. I can’t see a way out. I love the industry but I do fear that a lot of businesses will have to close their doors. It’s already started. I know of two shops in the North-West that have had to hand the keys in because they can’t make a living.

(l-r) Angela Bingham, Lynda Fielding, Robert Belcher and Sinead Birch at Belfields Fish and Chips in Burnley. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

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“My biggest worry is the energy price rise. I’ve absorbed a lot of the increases myself and I’m working a lot of hours for less than minimum wage.

“I can’t pass the business on to my son right now because I don’t know what the future is and I don’t want him to be stuck with the shop if it’s not viable and he can’t make a living out of it, which is a shame.

“I’ve taken a reduced profit out of the business to keep my staff in work and we haven’t replaced those who have left. There have been times I have sent staff home and run the business myself at my age because we haven’t been busy."

Lynda says the shop used to serve 2,000 people a week in its heydays 20 years ago but now only sees around 500, adding: “The spend is down and I’m trying to keep my menu affordable but we’re paying out even more in energy bills. It’s worrying for our future and I really don’t know what the answer is or if we can carry on trading.

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Exterior of Belfields Fish and Chips in Burnley. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“If we can ride it all out, I’m hoping something will change.”

How have chippies been impacted by droughts and the Ukraine War?

Lynda, who is a member of the National Federation of Fish Fryers, says the cost of fish has risen by 60 percent in the past two months.

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“There’s a high price because people want to buy sustainable fish from well-managed waters within fishing quarters, and fishermen risk their lives to hunt,” she said.

“The cost is not far off sirloin steak but I can’t charge steak prices. People think fish is cheap but it isn’t - it’s a prime product.

“Ukraine is a huge importer of flour, and oil prices have been rising since the start of the war as there’s been a supply issue,” she added.

Potato prices remain steady but she expects them to rise in the coming months as the summer drought has created poor yields.

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“I should have put my fish up by a pound but I’ve only put it up by 40p. I haven’t changed the chip prices for 18 months but I don’t know how much longer we can do that. There’s only so much you can absorb before you’re no longer viable.”