British businesses have been warned by government officials that they will have to wait longer than households for financial support with their energy bills amid delays in launching the £150bn scheme, according to reports.
Company bosses are increasingly worried about the prospect of delays to the arrival of support because fixed energy contracts come to an end in October for hundreds of thousands of firms.
Business leaders had been told by government officials in recent meetings that the support scheme for companies may not be ready until November, the Financial Times reported, although it cited officials who hoped the package could still be activated next month.
An emergency budget to provide more detail on energy support and introduce winter tax cuts for millions of people is expected from the government late next week, once the UK emerges from national mourning after the death of the Queen.
Truss has been under pressure from her own party to set out her economic plans as soon as possible. The government confirmed on Wednesday that it would also set out further details of the business support scheme next week.
A government spokesperson said: “The scheme will support businesses with their October energy bills, including through backdating if necessary.”
Firms across many sectors of the economy have warned for weeks that they may not survive the winter as a result of soaring energy bills.
Pubs and brewers are among those raising the alarm that any delay in the government’s support package could force more businesses to close, triggering job losses.
Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of industry body, the British Beer and Pub Association, said these businesses “will not be able to wait days, let alone months to get clarity on their energy bill. Many are making decisions now as to whether they will have to close this winter.
“We need urgent clarity on whether this cap will deliver for businesses and help them out of a crisis that has been building for months, and urge the chancellor to seriously consider what immediate reassurance he can give for the thousands of business owners currently in despair.”
Firms broadly welcomed the six-month support scheme announced last week by the new prime minister, Liz Truss, but they are still waiting for details on how it will work.
Sign up to Business Today
Get set for the working day – we’ll point you to the all the business news and analysis you need every morning
The support being offered to households will freeze energy bills at an average of £2,500 a year for the next two years from 1 October, replacing the existing Ofgem energy price cap.
However, the separate scheme described as offering “equivalent support” to businesses is more complicated because they are not covered by the energy price cap. Ministers and officials are reportedly struggling to find a mechanism for setting a limit to businesses’ energy costs.
No 10 has previously said legislation would not be needed to bring in the energy support package for households, as it would involve guarantees between the government and private energy suppliers. However, it is thought that some legislation may be needed to enact support for businesses.