Chancellor Rishi Sunak vows ‘to do what we can’ to ease the cost-of-living crisis as he hints he could bow to pressure and issue more Government support

  • Rishi Sunak vows ‘to do what we can’ to ease the cost-of-living crisis for Britons
  • The Chancellor is under pressure to offer further help for struggling households
  • He suggests the level of help will depend on the extent of the energy crisis

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today vowed ‘to do what we can’ to ease the cost-of-living crisis for hard-pressed Britons as he hinted more Government support might be coming.

With recent warnings that inflation could keep rising to a staggering 10 per cent this year – and fears that energy bills will rise dramatically again this autumn – Mr Sunak is under increasing pressure to offer further help for struggling households.

The Chancellor has also been stung by the continuing backlash to his hike to National Insurance contributions, to help fund the NHS and social care, and the poor reception his mini-budget in March received from Conservative MPs.

Mr Sunak today said he had always been ‘very clear’ that the Government stood ‘ready to do more’ in the face of the squeeze on Britons’ incomes.

But, speaking to BBC Look East in Ipswich, Suffolk, the Chancellor suggested that the level of further help would depend on the continuing extent of the energy crisis, which has been exacerbated by the Ukraine war.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure to offer further help for struggling households

Inflation is set to remain above the Government’s two per cent target until early 2024

Last month, inflation soared to a new 30-year high as the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate increased to seven per cent in March from 6.2 per cent in February

Energy bills to hit £3,000 in October, warns ScottishPower boss 

Energy bills could hit close to £3,000 in October, a supply boss has warned, amid fears some 10 million homes could be unable to afford heating this winter.

Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, expressed concern over a ‘huge increase’ in customers struggling to pay for their energy, and said ministers were running out of time to set up a financial support scheme.

He said annual bills are about to soar to £2,900 this autumn if wholesale gas prices continue to sky-rocket – exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and a scramble for alternative suppliers to Russia – over the coming months.

Households have already seen a 54 per cent rise in the energy tariff price cap on April 1, adding about £700 to annual bills and taking them close to £2,000.

‘What I have always said is, once we have better clarity on what energy prices will be in the autumn, then we will be in a position to know what the right response is,’ Mr Sunak said.

On whether he could level with people and say ‘the Government can’t do everything to help you’, the Chancellor replied: ‘Of course, the forces we are grappling with are global in nature and we are not the only country to be facing higher energy prices or higher inflation in general.

‘You know, we can do things to support people and we are going to do what we can to ease the burden. I wish I could make it completely go away, but I can’t.’

Asked whether he was losing sleep over the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Sunak added: ‘No, I know this is something that millions of families are grappling with every day. I know it’s the number one thing on their mind. Of course, I get that.

‘And what I’m trying to do is make sure that we put policies in place that support families to help navigate the next few months, which we know will be challenging.’

A leading energy boss today warned electricity and gas bills could hit close to £3,000 in October, if wholesale prices continue to rocket amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower, expressed concern over a ‘huge increase’ in customers struggling to pay for their energy, and said ministers were running out of time to set up a financial support scheme.

He has previously suggested the poorest should get £1,000 slashed from their energy bills. 

Downing Street today said it was open to all options for dealing with mounting living costs.

Asked what Boris Johnson would say to Tory MPs demanding an income tax cut – planned for 2024 – be brought forward, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman pointed to ‘significant support already available’.

He said: ‘We know that this is at the forefront of the public’s mind; it’s certainly at the forefront of the Prime Minister’s mind and we will keep all options open.’

On whether people would have to wait until the autumn budget before anything further was done, the spokesman said the Government would act ‘when it is the right time to do so – I don’t restrict that to a certain period in the year’.

He added ministers were still against a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, as Labour are demanding, and argued this would ‘deter investment at a time we need it most – not least in renewable energy’.

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