The chancellor will meet with business groups as fears of cutting energy support grow

Business groups are meeting with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday over the government’s plans to help with energy bills amid concerns that support will be halved when the current scheme ends.

Mr Hunt is believed to be convening a lunchtime meeting to brief business groups on what shape the support will take, involving the Federation of Small Businesses, UK Hospitality, the CBI and the British Chambers of Commerce.

It comes as there are calls for urgent clarity after the government delayed releasing details originally scheduled to take place before the new year.

The current scheme, which limits wholesale electricity and gas prices to around half the expected market price, ends in March.

Households have already been told their bills will be capped until April 2024, albeit at a rate higher than the current annual cost of £2,500, while businesses have been kept in the dark.

Mr Hunt is said to be considering plans to maintain support for all UK businesses after the existing scheme ends, which would mean a shift towards targets only targeting sensitive sectors.

The revised program is to offer help with bills for another year, until March 2024.

However, it is believed that energy support for businesses will be cut significantly to ease the strain on Britain’s battered public finances as the cost of the current six-month scheme is seen as unsustainable.

It is understood that final details on the new package will likely be announced next week.

Mr Hunt promised to give firms certainty about future support plans until the new year, saying last month that an announcement would be made just before or just after Christmas.

Energy and money bill

Mr Hunt is said to be considering plans to maintain support for all UK businesses after the existing PA scheme ends

Business groups are furious about the delays, adding to uncertainty at a time of soaring prices, the impact of strikes and a bleak wider economic picture.

Hunt said in his fall budget in November that the government would only have to target support to the most vulnerable industries and would likely have to cut the aid it receives.

Business groups opposed the plans, warning of job losses and business failures if popular support were withdrawn.

While ongoing support for all businesses is welcome, there are concerns about drastically reducing support.

The chief executive of the Chemical Industry Association said there would be “widespread concern” about a significant reduction in the level of support for energy-intensive industries.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today show how concerned members of the association were about the decline in energy support, Stephen Elliott said transparency.

He added: “We are very interested in what will happen from the end of March.”

“Throughout 2021 and before the Russian invasion, we have been looking for more targeted government support,” he said, adding: “I think more can be done with targeted intervention in energy-intensive sectors such as chemicals.”

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