RISING fuel costs sending energy bills spiralling are causing alarm at many North-East companies.

Circatex and Prestige Seating Technology, both of South Shields, South Tyneside, have spoken out after seeing costs rise in recent months

Printed circuit board manufacturer Circatex is working with the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) to highlight the need for price stability in the energy market.

Steve Jones, Circatex chairman, said electricity costs for the plant had increased by £50,000 a month - a 60 per cent rise - which would inflate the company's bill from £1m to £1.6m a year.

"Costs like that cannot be instantly absorbed but, at the same time, we cannot pass them on to our customers," he said.

"If you get on a plane and get lumbered with a £15 surcharge, you have no option but to pay it, but that is not the case for companies such as ours that are operating in a global market."

Similarly, chair manufacturer Prestige Seating Technology said its £20,000 annual gas bill would rise by 43 per cent next year.

Earlier this month, car maker Nissan revealed that its combined gas and electric bill would double to £14m next year.

The NECC is working with organisations, including the Intensive Energy Users Group and various consumer councils, to try to mitigate the impact of rising costs.

In early spring, the NECC will submit evidence to a Government-commissioned energy review looking at the UK's future energy supply.

Chief executive George Cowcher said: "The UK is on the verge of moving from a net exporter to a net importer of fuel. That has important ramifications for everyone, not least business.

"We have to find a way to ensure our companies are not subject to the vagaries of energy price fluctuation in the way they are now."