Energy bills D-day next week for pubs and shops as Jeremy Hunt announces cut

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Pubs warn they could have to shut en masse if there
Pubs warn they could have to shut en masse if there's not enough help from Jeremy Hunt (Image: Surrey Advertiser - Grahame Larter)

Stricken pubs and shops face D-day as Jeremy Hunt announces cut-down energy bills help for business.

The Tory Chancellor will make a statement to Parliament next week on his new, stripped-back scheme from April 1.

Pub and shop chiefs warned they are “on the brink of collapse because of sky-high bills” as they met the Chancellor at the Treasury today.

But Mr Hunt told them the existing scheme was “unsustainably expensive”, and firms will have to “transition” to a “lower level" of support.

The British Beer and Pub Association warned help must be extended “to avoid significant business failure and the closure of many pubs and brewers”.

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Chief executive Emma McClarkin added: “Without extended support at close to current levels, pubs and brewers in communities across the country could be lost for good.”

Energy bills D-day next week for pubs and shops as Jeremy Hunt announces cutThe Tory Chancellor will make a statement to Parliament next week on his new, stripped-back scheme from April 1 for businesses (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Liz Truss announced in September that businesses, charities and public buildings would get a six-month cap on bills - but this would narrow from April.

Ministers had pledged to confirm details of the April scheme by the end of 2022, but this was delayed.

Tonight the Treasury confirmed it will be announced in the House of Commons next week.

Tina McKenzie of the Federation of Small Businesses warned they were “still very much in the dark on whether they’ll continue to be supported on energy bills”.

She added: “We made it clear in our meeting with the Chancellor that we can’t afford a cliff-edge scenario that would see a raft of business failures…

“With the current scheme ending in three months, it’s been impossible for small firms to plan their 2023.

“We’ve heard countless examples of small businesses on the brink of collapse because of sky-rocketing energy bills and the lack of assurance from the Government on energy support.

“From the Bed & Breakfast in the Lake District that has closed for the winter to bring down bills to the fish and chip shop in the East Midlands which would fall into the VAT system.”

Energy bills D-day next week for pubs and shops as Jeremy Hunt announces cutThe British Beer and Pub Association warned help must be extended “to avoid significant business failure and the closure of many pubs and brewers” (PA)

Alex Hall-Chen of the Institute of Directors said: "The Energy Bill Relief Scheme has been a crucial intervention.

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“Our research [shows] it removed a serious risk to around a quarter of businesses this winter.

"Businesses will be reassured that support will continue in some form for a further 12 months.

"However, it is a shame that the government has not found a way to target the support to those sectors of the economy particularly exposed to volatile international energy markets.

"This means that the most vulnerable businesses will lose support at a critical time compared to what they have had this winter."

The Treasury said Mr Hunt “praised the resilience of the business community in the face of an unprecedented increase in energy prices, caused by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine ”.

A spokesperson added: “The Chancellor was clear that this level of support is unsustainably expensive and that the current scheme was always time limited to six months.

“Extending the scheme at current levels could cost tens of billions of pounds, with costs potentially doubling or tripling if international energy prices increase further than expected.

“It is vital that taxpayers' exposure to volatile international energy prices is reduced.

“The Government has protected businesses this winter from these high energy costs through the £18 billion Energy Bill Relief Scheme - one of the most generous support packages in Europe.

“However, no Government can permanently shield businesses from this energy price shock.

“However, the Chancellor also heard the concerns of the business community who are facing high energy prices and explained that any future support, while at a lower level, would be designed to help them transition to the new higher price environment and avoid a cliff edge in support.”

Dan Bloom

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