Boris Johnson is set to announce new measures to help with rocketing energy bills within the next month, it has been reported.
Ministers have concluded that ‘something needs to be done’ before prices rise on April 1 as the price cap is increased, but have not yet decided what form this will take.
According to Sky News, the Prime Minister will personally take part in meetings on the energy crisis next week.
The measures will mean the spending of additional funds from the Treasury, which has already shelled out billions during the coronavirus pandemic.
An announcement of what measures are to come is expected on or before February 7, which is the date that energy watchdog Ofgem will announce the scale of the hike in the price cap.
This will then be in place from April until September.
Boris Johnson is set to announce new measures to help with rocketing energy bills within the next month, it has been reported
However, it is expected that householders will be hit with an increase of around £600 a year, meaning annual bills could be in excess of £1,877.
A source told Sky News: ‘It would be ideal if we could announce something before 7 February,’ said a government source.
‘Ministers are acutely aware of the 1 April issue.’
Options being considered are likely to target the less well-off.
One possibility is to expand the Warm Home Discount, the Telegraph reported.
2.2 million homes already qualify for the scheme, which provides £140 from October 2021 to March 2022.
Ministers have already said the scheme should be improved by £10 next winter and to allow an extra 800,000 households to be covered.
But the scheme could be made more generous sooner in a bid to battle the energy price crisis.
The news came as it emerged that customers face the threat of higher shopping bills because companies are passing on the costs of spiralling energy prices.
A British Chambers of Commerce survey of almost 5,500 companies found three out of five expect their prices to increase in the next three months.
Families have been warned domestic gas and electricity bills also could rise as much as 50 per cent in April as the energy price cap is hiked.
Boris Johnson last night rejected demands to suspend green levies on household bills to alleviate pressure on consumers.
At a meeting with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday, energy company chief executives called for the levies to be removed from bills along with VAT.
The bosses also asked the government to provide loans so they can in turn help customers and for an increase to the £140-a-year warm homes discount available to the poorest households.
At a meeting with Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng yesterday, energy company chief executives called for the levies to be removed from bills along with VAT
Asked yesterday if any of the ideas would be implemented imminently, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: ‘I’m not aware of any further changes at the moment, but obviously we keep it under review and are listening to those that are most affected.’
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On the specific question of whether green levies will be kept on bills, he replied: ‘There’s no plans to change that approach.’
The spokesman added: ‘I think we’ve seen through the fluctuations in things like gas crisis that it is important to have secure domestic renewable sources of energy. That’s what we’re investing in.’
This week the Prime Minister also appeared to rule out cutting VAT on fuel, saying it wouldn’t benefit those most in need.
Earlier, Tory MP Robert Halfon had argued removing the levies could provide struggling consumers with a saving of almost £200 on their annual bills.
‘The Government must do what they can to reduce energy bills – of course reducing VAT would help and it is an important gesture,’ the chairman of the Commons education committee told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.
‘But there is an elephant in the room, and that is the so-called energy tax green levies which amount to 25 per cent of the electricity bill that we all pay.’
Mr Halfon, the MP for Harlow in Essex, said ministers should ‘at least suspend green levies’ while global gas prices are high, or put in place a ‘downward escalator’ to ensure green taxes on bills decrease when wholesale energy prices increase.
The industry body that represents energy companies yesterday warned the expected rise in April of the energy price cap, which limits the amount a household can be charged, could lead to a further two per cent rise in the overall cost of living.
Figures published last month showed inflation was already running at 5.1 per cent in the 12 months to November, its highest rate in 10 years.
Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of Energy UK, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is a wholesale price risk, which is a whole-economy risk, it doesn’t just apply to the energy retailers or the sector.
‘It’s quite likely that the Treasury themselves will have to take a view on what to do because this impacts not just the energy retailers, but the whole economy. Energy costs going up like this could be a one per cent to two per cent inflationary increase.’
Employees could see bills rise 18% to £868 to cover the extra costs of heating and electricity
Experts have called for urgent intervention after the wholesale cost of gas rose by more than 500% in 12 months as industry leaders hold crunch talks with the Government about the crisis
Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said firms are suffering a ‘huge headache’ because of continuing supply chain disruption, soaring inflation and rising energy costs.
It said its survey showed that the recovery had ‘stalled’ in recent months, with firms facing ‘unprecedented’ inflationary pressures.
£5m a day fuel ‘rip-off’
Motorists were ripped off by £5million a day last month by filling stations cashing in on lower wholesale oil prices.
Analysis by the RAC found that average pump prices for unleaded fell by just 2p a litre, but could have gone down by 12p if the full drop in wholesale prices had been passed on.
And a 2p fall in diesel prices could have been 8p. The difference made the cost of filling a typical family car £6 more expensive than it should have been for petrol and £4 for diesel, said the RAC. Spokesman Simon Williams called the profits ‘nothing short of scandalous’.
The Petrol Retailers Association said profit margins have remained higher so stations can recoup losses made in the pandemic.
Manufacturers surveyed said they faced pressures to raise prices because of the cost of raw materials, other overheads, pay settlements or finance costs.
At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday Mr Johnson faced a barrage of questions on the rising cost of living from MPs on all sides, including his own.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner raised concerns over inflation nearing 6 per cent.
Mr Johnson denied saying fears about inflation were unfounded, although a Sky News clip from October showed him saying: ‘People have been worrying about inflation for a very long time… and those fears have been unfounded.’
Mrs Rayner, who was standing in for Sir Keir Starmer after he tested positive for coronavirus, said: ‘In October the Prime Minister said that fears about inflation were unfounded, but working people across the country are starting the new year facing rising bills and ballooning prices, so how did he get it so wrong?’
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Of course I said no such thing because inflation is always something that we have to be careful about, but what we are doing is making sure that we protect the people of this country throughout what is unquestionably going to be a difficult period.’
Tory MP John Penrose argued there was a need for ‘structural reforms to the energy price cap… as well as energy self-sufficiency to uncouple us from Russian gas’.
In response, Mr Johnson said: ‘This Government are taking the tough decision to invest in the long-term future of our energy supply, investing in massively increasing our supply of renewables but nuclear as well.’
Food bills up £15 a month
Food bills are rising by £15 a month due to big increases in the cost of fresh meat such as beef and lamb.
Inflation on household essentials of 3.5 per cent is adding the average amount compared with a year ago, according to research.
The figure is the highest in almost four years, except for a blip in 2020 linked to the impact of the pandemic.
An employee stacks vegetable shelves at a Waitrose supermarket in London
Retail analysts Kantar, who sourced the data, said the cost of fresh beef was up by some 12.2 per cent on a year ago with fresh lamb up 9.5 per cent.
The figures, which cover the four weeks to Christmas, also show a rise of 11.4 per cent on savoury snacks and 9.4 per cent on crisps. Grocery sales in December were at £11.7billion.
Fraser McKevitt, of Kantar, said ‘people seized the chance to enjoy Christmas after [2020’s] muted festivities’.
Source: Daily Mail UK