No 'Major' New Help With Energy Bills, Says Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said there was no extra "headroom" to stop energy bills rising from April.
Jeremy Hunt is facing calls to scrap the planned rise in the energy price guarantee in April.
Jeremy Hunt is facing calls to scrap the planned rise in the energy price guarantee in April.
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The chancellor is resisting calls to stop the planned rise in energy bills from April, saying there is not the fiscal headroom available.

Jeremy Hunt indicated there would be no “major new initiative” to help households in the spring, when the average bill is expected to rise by £500.

The energy price guarantee, which the government introduced in October, protects customers from increases in energy costs by limiting the amount suppliers can charge per unit of energy used.

It has kept a typical household energy bill in Great Britain for dual-fuel gas and electricity at £2,500 per year, and in Northern Ireland to around £1,950 per year.

But Hunt confirmed in his Autumn statement last October that while the scheme would continue beyond April this year, it would be less generous than previously.

From April, bills will be capped at £3,000 per year rather than the current £2,500.

Universal support payments will also end in April, but there will still be targeted support for those on low incomes and pensioners.

Asked if he was ruling out more support, the Hunt told reporters at a London science facility: “We constantly keep the help we can give families under review.

“But if you’re saying ‘do I think we’re going to have the headroom to make a major new initiative to help people?’, I don’t think the situation would have changed very significantly from the autumn statement, which was just three months ago.”

Asked why the government does not halt the rise in the energy price guarantee Hunt replied: “We know just how tough it is for many people dealing with these huge spikes in their energy bills.

“And that’s why we’re giving about £3,500 for the average family this year and last to help with those pressures, absolutely unprecedented support.

“We always look at what else we can do, but we also have to be responsible with public finances.”

The government is facing calls to halt the rise as households across the country struggle with the cost of living.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis revealed that he had written to the chancellor asking him to postpone the rise.

The Labour Party has also said it would freeze energy bills at their current rate until July, paid for through an increased windfall tax.

Lewis told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme on Thursday that a 20% rise in energy bills would be “damaging to people’s pockets”.

“It’s also damaging to people’s mental health — yet another major bill going up when the nation is already shivering with the damage of the cost of living crisis.”

He added: “It just seems to me there is no need to do this.

“If we postpone this rise it is likely from July, wholesale prices will have gotten to the price cap and if the energy price cap, which is set by the regulator and is dictated by wholesale prices, is lower than the energy price guarantee we pay the lower amount, and that is likely to happen from July.

“To put this national act of harm of increasing the price guarantee for just three months, to throw another 1.7million people into fuel poverty taking it to 8.4 million, it seems unnecessary.”

Hunt acknowledged that energy prices had come down but said that had also resulted in lower receipts from the windfall taxes applied to energy giants.

“At the same time as energy prices have come down, so too have our receipts from the windfall taxes,” Hunt said.

“So we have to look at everything in the context of what is responsible for public finances, because if we don’t, we’ll just see interest rates go up and then everyone who has a mortgage up and down the country will face a different kind of cost.”


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