A promised bailout for businesses from rocketing energy bills is unlikely to be ready until November, No 10 has admitted – but the help will then be backdated to October.
Downing Street confirmed that officials are struggling to get the scheme – to deliver “equivalent” help to that offered to households – up and running next month.
But the prime minister’s spokesman said: “We will provide the support to cover their October bills and that support will be backdated as required.”
He also told anxious businesses that details of the scheme will be announced next week, once the national period of mourning following the Queen’s death is over.
Unlike households, business energy bills have not been frozen until 2024 and they have been promised only 6 months of “equivalent” relief, as many contracts come up for renewal.
The head of the Night Time Industries Association has warned that 7 out of 10 pubs are likely to close this winter without an urgent rescue package, because they face unpayable bills.
The British Chambers of Commerce has now joined warnings of the economic price to be paid from any delay, arguing investment decisions will be put on hold.
“The lack of detail on exactly how much help any individual business will get, and for how long, means very few will be planning to invest any time soon,” said Alex Veitch, is director of policy.
The spokesman said the government still does not know whether it will require legislation to deliver the help to businesses – amid uncertainty about when the Commons will sit again.
But he said, of ongoing talks with firms: “We did recognise there is concern about the support but what we are saying is that we will be providing the support to cover their October bills.”
Executives have been told in recent meetings with the government of the risk the scheme may not be ready until November, The Financial Times revealed.
“It is not worked through yet,” said one government official. “I don’t know whether it will come in before November. There’s some debate about whether it can be brought forward and happen before then.”
Because there will be no energy price cap for businesses, they had been left in the dark when their bills will be reduced – unlike households, where the freeze kicks in on 1 October.
Many firms have fixed contracts lasting one or two years, but it is estimated that one third have contracts that traditionally come up for renewal in October, before the winter.
Mr Veitch, added: “There are also a whole host of other issues ranging from transport and shipping costs, raw material prices, energy sector regulation and the tight labour market that must be addressed.
“It is imperative the government’s forthcoming ‘fiscal intervention’ provides business with confidence that there is a cohesive plan to take the economy forward.”
No 10 also confirmed a likely cut to the Commons recess period, with MPs currently not due to return until 17 October, saying: “We are looking at changing the recess dates.”