LONDON – The British government could provide another multi-billion pound package to help shield households from a further jump in energy bills later this year after its latest budget was criticised for not going far enough, the Sunday Times reported.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak announced a package of state-backed loans to energy providers and a rebate on local taxes in February to help soften the blow from a 54% hike in energy prices that comes into force in April.
For the average household, prices will rise to 1,971 pounds ($2,600) a year in April, the same month that taxes rise, but with global gas prices continuing to surge, analysts have said that the regulatory price cap could increase by another 30%.
The Sunday Times said the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Sunak had signalled that the state would step in to cover up to half of any increase in energy costs.
“We’ve already looked at this and concluded that council tax is the best way to do it,” the Times quoted a source in the finance ministry as saying, referring to a local tax paid by households. “You’ve got an existing mechanism. You don’t need to set up a whole new system. It would make sense to do it like that again.”
The Sun on Sunday also said Sunak was seeking to do more.
“I know people are deeply anxious about making ends meet,” it quoted Sunak as saying. “While we can’t completely shield everyone from the global challenges we face, we can, and will, help you deal with these rising costs.”
Britain’s education minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday the government would continue to keep an eye on costs but noted that it had provided financial support throughout the pandemic.
($1 = 0.7583 pounds)