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Fears of Delays to Energy-Support Package Vex UK Businesses

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Businesses have still not been given details, figures or the timings of the UK government’s proposed energy support package, raising fears that it won’t be ready in time to be implemented in October.

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Prime Minister Liz Truss had vowed that firms would receive “equivalent” support to households when she announced her plan for the winter energy crisis last week, raising hopes that help for businesses would be ready at the beginning of next month.

While firms don’t have the same cliff edge as households as the energy price cap does not apply to them, thousands of businesses face steep price rises within weeks as their fixed-price energy contracts expire at the start of October.

“We would’ve liked to have seen it come in a lot quicker,” said Verity Davidge, director of policy at manufacturing association Make UK. “Companies are saying to us: it’s great the government has finally stepped in, but what do I do now? I’m in limbo between now and probably the end of November.”

Conversations between government officials and firms have so far not contained details of exactly what unit price the government will set for firms’ energy, or when it is likely to come into force, leading to rising concerns that the package will not be ready for October, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Read more: Energy Price Cap Seen Saving UK From ‘Consumer Armageddon’

Government officials warned companies that they might have to wait until November for the help to come in, although they said they still hoped it would go live next month, the Financial Times reported.

The mounting fears of a delay will raise questions over whether MPs should sit in Westminster for additional days this month. Parliamentary business is currently suspended due to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, and it is due to go into recess for the party conferences Sept. 22.

The department for business, energy and industrial strategy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night.

The plan to help businesses with energy costs and whether it would require legislation was still being worked on, the prime minister’s spokesperson Max Blain said on Monday.

“We now need absolute clarity as fast as possible as to who will and won’t be helped,” said Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors. “This is essential for businesses trying to plan their cashflow requirements in the next few months.”

The UK’s leisure industry is also demanding answers. “Pubs and brewers will not be able to wait days, let alone months to get clarity on their energy bills. Many are making decisions now as to whether they will have to close this winter,” Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said.

(Adds comments from business groups in fourth and final paragraphs.)

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