Gordon Balmer resized

PRA executive director Gordon Balmer

The PRA has added its voice to business organisations criticising the government’s revised Energy Bill Discount Scheme, warning it could threaten the fuel resilience of the UK.

The new scheme will come into operation in March and will replace the original scheme introduced in October.

The original scheme was launched to support businesses which were struggling to cope with soaring energy bills and imposed a cap on the unit cost businesses had to pay for gas and electricity, with the government committed to paying the rest.

However, this due to the high cost of the measure, the government said it would only be for six months until it could come back with a revised scheme, with most support targeted at energy intensive sectors.

It has now announced that from March it will provide a subsidy for the next year, but this means most businesses will pay far more than they are currently.

Gordon Balmer, executive director of the PRA, said: “Our members have worked hard to keep their communities fuelled and fed during unprecedented times. The government’s failure to provide targeted help to sectors most in need will threaten fuel resilience in the UK.

“We urge the Chancellor to reconsider his decision and offer support to business who might struggle to survive after this cut.

“The PRA will continue to engage with the government to achieve targeted support for those businesses most in need.”

The ACS has already warned that local shops may be forced to close. Chief executive James Lowman said: The new package of business support is woefully inadequate. By moving to a subsidy on energy bills, and failing to target specific sectors or those worst affected, the government has spread £5.5bn support over every type of business, the result being a level of subsidy that is ultimately pointless.

“Make no mistake, local shops will go out of business if the government does not rethink its approach before April. Retailers who struck contracts at the peak of the wholesale energy price will still see their bills quadruple even with this meagre support, blowing their commercial model out of the water. Our sector is resilient, plays a vital role in communities, and in fact offers energy bill payment facilities for millions of customers including the most vulnerable. This policy will have very serious consequences for our members and the customers and communities they serve.

“It is not too late for the Chancellor to reconsider the support he is offering, to find practical ways of targeting it more effectively, and to save the businesses who he is effectively consigning to closure with his decision.”

Jason Birks, national president of the Fed (Federation of Independent Retailers), said: “This is hugely disappointing for many independent retailers who are struggling to survive. With rising energy bills, falling margins, and rising payroll costs, small businesses will continue to struggle or, indeed, cease to exist unless additional financial support is available.”