Following a meeting today with the Chancellor on new energy support for businesses, BCC Director General, Shevaun Haviland, said:
“Businesses have been desperate to learn if support for their energy bills will be extended beyond the April cliff-edge.
“An announcement in the coming days on the exact shape of the assistance cannot come soon enough for many, with thousands fearing closure if it is not extended.
“More than a third of firms have told us they are finding it difficult to pay their energy bills even when they are in receipt of Government support.
“Any continued help is welcome, but it is now clear the new plan will be at a lower level than the existing one. That’s unsurprising, given the state of public finances, but this will still have a significant impact on many businesses, in particular SMEs and energy-intensive firms.
“With little sign that energy prices are likely to substantially ease this year, the Government also needs to be thinking about the long-term solutions.
“There must be reform of the business energy market. It is crucial the Government increase Ofgem’s powers so it can play a role in protecting firms’ access to energy deals through greater regulation.
“It must also take action, including grants, green loans or tax breaks, to help firms become more energy efficient – to reduce the continued strain on their operating costs.
“We must not be sat around the table again in 12 months’ time. It is vital that an energy strategy is developed that promotes longer-term stability, removing the need for government support and setting up the UK as a global hub for green innovation.
“The time for listening is over, the Government must act now to give businesses confidence to invest, grow and power the much-needed recovery of our economy in the months ahead.”