Business owners have said a planned increase in the minimum wage would mean they would be forced to reduce staff hours.

Chancellor George Osborne yesterday recommended an above inflation increase to the minimum wage.

If implemented workers over the age of 21 would see their pay rise from £6.31 an hour to £7 by the start of 2015.

Daniel Buss, owner of Waltham Abbey shop Stanley Bridge Cycles in Leverton Way, said: “The rise would affect us, without a doubt.

“I either put my prices up, and risk losing custom, or I reduce staff hours in order to keep the wage bill the same.

“It would mean I would just have to work the hours to make up for it.”

Mr Buss and his business partners employ three members of staff full time and two part-time.

He added: “Some of the bigger companies will be able to swallow the cost but small retailers will really struggle.”

Another small business owner, Kevin Taylor, of Taylor’s Cards in The Broadway, Debden, said: “We are a small business and it would put more of a strain on us.

“I can’t put my prices up because I would lose out.

“From an employee’s point of view it’s a good thing because it hasn’t gone up with inflation in recent years but the government need to think carefully about the proposal in case it ends up ruining small businesses.”

The employer of five added: “They need to come up with something else to make sure they balance the cost for small businesses.”

In favour of the proposal was waitress Diane Purcell, who works part-time at Epping Tea Rooms in High Street, Epping.

She said: “It’s a good thing because the minimum wage is not enough to live on at the moment.

“It shouldn’t affect small businesses that much because it’s only a small increase and small businesses don’t employ many staff.”

The single mother-of-two has her income supplemented by tax credits.

She added: “£7 an hour would be plenty to live on and it would reduce the benefit bill for the taxpayer.”