Household energy bill cap frozen for further three months, Hunt announces
A major expansion of free childcare (for England only) and an extension in support for household energy costs will help ease the cost of living as Jeremy Hunt sets out a “Budget for growth”.
The British chancellor confirmed that the energy price guarantee, which caps average household bills in Britain at £2,500, will be extended at its current level from April to June.
While the cap does not apply to Northern Ireland, it is expected similar help with energy costs will be announced here.
You’ll see the reporting of the EPG as limiting average annualised energy bills to £2,500. That’s GB. The operation of the NI market means it’s £1,950 (for dual gas/electric customers). pic.twitter.com/MDCFjx2pjD— JPCampbellBiz (@JP_Biz) March 15, 2023
The cap had been due to rise to £3,000 in April and the cost of scrapping the planned 20% increase will amount to around £3 billion.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "We know people are worried about their bills rising in April, so, to give people some peace of mind, we're keeping the energy price guarantee at its current level until the summer, when gas prices are expected to fall.
"Continuing to hold down energy bills is part of our plan to help hardworking families with the cost of living and halve inflation this year."
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Falling global energy prices mean that the current level will be extended to "bridge the gap" until costs are expected to fall below the cap.
Mr Hunt said: "High energy bills are one of the biggest worries for families, which is why we're maintaining the energy price guarantee at its current level.
"With energy bills set to fall from July onwards, this temporary change will bridge the gap and ease the pressure on families, while also helping to lower inflation too."
A key plank of the Budget is expected to be a package of measures aimed at removing barriers to work - with the childcare announcement a major part of that, as well as a move which will ease cost-of-living pressures.
The current provision of up to 30 hours a week of funded childcare in England for parents of three and four-year-olds is expected to be extended to also cover one- and two-year-olds. The measure will not be applied in Northern Ireland.
Measures expected in the Budget include:
- An increase in the tax-free lifetime allowance (LTA) on pension savings, reported to rise from £1.07 million to as much as £1.8 million.
- Paying childcare support to parents on Universal Credit upfront in England, rather than in arrears, and increasing the amount they can claim.
- A ramping-up of sanctions for claimants who do not look for or take up employment.
- The creation of 12 investment zones - eight in England, four in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, benefiting from tax breaks, each backed by £80 million over five years.
- Some £63 million of money to help leisure centres with swimming pools meet energy costs and become more efficient.
- Ending the "prepayment penalty" for energy bills which sees households with prepayment meters charged more than those on direct debit.