Rishi Sunak is planning further help with the cost of living, the UK education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, has said, adding that it would “irresponsible for me to say ‘job done’” days after the spring statement.
Zahawi’s hint came amid reports Sunak will look again at a further council tax rebate in the autumn, after the chancellor was widely criticised for a statement that appeared to do little to ease the pressures of rising energy prices and inflation.
Sunak announced a rise in the threshold for paying national insurance, as well as a 5p fuel duty cut, but no additional rise in benefits. The Resolution Foundation has predicted half a million children could be pushed below the poverty line next year.
Zahawi told Sky’s Sophy Ridge that there would likely be further help, amid reported tensions between Sunak and Boris Johnson over the reception for the statement.
“I think he will continue to keep an eye on this, it’s only right,” he said. “It’s irresponsible for me to say ‘job done’ because energy prices are volatile, inflation remains high, so it would be absolutely irresponsible to say ‘job done’.
“But I think £22bn, in one year, of help when you’ve just spent £400bn is the right thing to do.”
The Sunday Times reported that the chancellor was considering proposals for a new council tax rebate in the autumn, with consumers facing the possibility of further fuel bill rises in October. On Friday, the energy price cap will rise by almost £700 to £1,971 – but could rise to just under £3,000 by October 2022 for the average dual fuel bill.
The shadow work and pensions secretary said Sunak had been “playing games” by announcing a future 1p cut to income tax in the statement while people were struggling this year.
“Rishi Sunak absolutely had more room for manoeuvre in this spring statement and mini budget, but rather than acting in the interests of the British people, he was playing games,” said Jon Ashworth.
“He was acting in his own interest because he thinks by offering an income tax cut in two years that’ll help him politically with Conservative MPs if there’s a leadership contest or that’ll fit the Tory election grid.”
Labour has called for the chancellor to cut VAT on energy bills and to impose a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies, as well as cancelling the planned rise in national insurance from April.
“He’s imposed these very punishing tax rises, these very severe real-terms cuts to the pension and support like universal credit, and he’s expecting people to be grateful because two years down the road he’s saying there’s going to be an income tax cut even though that income tax cut nowhere near offsets the 15 tax rises that he has imposed on the British people, 3,000 extra per household if you do a rough and ready calculation,” he told Sky.
“He is a tax-rising chancellor, he is Mr Tax and it’s the British people who are paying the price.”