Companies in Birmingham are struggling to meet the high costs of gas, electricity and oil although many are doing all they can to minimise the impact, according to a survey by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The research follows claims that many companies are needlessly being forced into receivership largely due to high energy costs.

Forty per cent of those surveyed by BCI have employed consultants or in-house energy experts to help them reduce their utility consumption and 80 per cent have invested in energy efficient technology.

All of the businesses surveyed scrutinise their energy bills for potential errors and always dispute anything unusual with their utility provider. The majority of large power users also negotiate special contracts in order to get the best deal.

Charlotte Ritchie, policy executive at BCI, said: "Chamber members are well informed about the ways they can reduce the impact of high utility costs.

"The steps that businesses can take to significantly reduce their energy bills are quite limited, time consuming and costly.

"This survey has shown that businesses are already doing their utmost to lessen the burden, but many are still being crippled by soaring energy prices.

"The percentage of total business spend now allocated to energy costs in some industry s ectors has drastically increased and energy is now seen as a priority even where it is not the core business.

"We simply cannot afford for our businesses, particularly our energy intensive manufacturing companies, to be competitively disadvantaged over energy costs. The Government must do all it can to support our businesses, including providing incentives to become more energy efficient.

"Tax breaks would certainly benefit those businesses invest-ing in energy efficiency and we also need greater research and investment into new energy efficient products."