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The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss has, as promised, sought to tackle the cost-of-living crisis in her first few days in office. She is the fourth Conservative Prime Minister to govern the UK in a little over six years. The government has seen many major changes over this time including Brexit, the corona pandemic and now a cost-of-living crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and volatile energy markets.
One of the Prime Minister’s first moves after her appointment was to appoint her new cabinet. This included the widely expected appointment of Kwasi Kwarteng as her new Chancellor after he previously held the position of Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The previous Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, spent only two months in the job.
As expected, the Prime Minister announced to a packed House of Commons that the government will introduce an energy price guarantee from 1 October 2022 to help tackle the continually increasing energy costs. This will see the average household have their energy bills capped at £2,500. The Prime Minister also confirmed that the £400 energy rebate for UK households announced by the former Chancellor and fellow leadership contender, Rishi Sunak, would be rolled out next month as planned.
The new cap will stay in place for two years and should help to offset the previously announced 80% increase to the energy price cap to £3,549 that was set to come into effect from 1 October 2022. This will save the average household at least £1,000 a year before considering further predicted increases. The savings, for all households, will be delivered through a new ‘Energy Price Guarantee’ which limits the price suppliers can charge customers for units of gas. There will also be equivalent support for homes that do not pay direct for mains gas and electricity – such as those living in park homes or on heat networks.
The Prime Minister also announced help for businesses and public sector organisations, many of whom are facing crippling energy costs. Initially this help will be made available for six months with the possibility of further help for vulnerable businesses and industries to be announced at a later date. At the time of writing, no further details had been published.
The new Prime Minister also revealed that the ban on fracking in England will end and that up to 100 licences for drilling and fracking will be issued to help combat the energy crisis and make the UK more energy self-sufficient. This should help to ease future problems with energy supplies. A new commitment for the UK to become a net-energy importer by 2040 was also announced.
There had been calls for the government to introduce a windfall tax on energy firms to help pay for these measures, which will be at an enormous cost to the exchequer. However, there was no announcement of such a windfall tax with the Prime Minister saying such a move ‘would discourage the very investment we need to secure a homegrown energy supply’.
Hopefully these measures will reduce predicted inflation and support families and businesses across the country. It remains to be seen if any further support measures will be announced and, if and when, we will be notified of a date for the forthcoming, September emergency financial statement.