Tories condemn millions to cost-of-living misery

Sunak's statement fails to deliver

Rishi Sunak's Spring Statement can be summed up with one simple phrase - 'Was that it?'

After the Chancellor's recent inadequate plan to deal with soaring energy prices in which he tried to convince people that a £200 loan was some sort of rebate, I don't think people were expecting great things from him in his Statement. Somehow on Wednesday, he managed to underwhelm everyone.

The cost-of-living crisis is now a full-blown emergency. In a matter of days, households are facing a huge rise in their energy bills. The price of a weekly grocery shop is noticeably increasing and shows no signs of slowing as inflation remains high. Household budgets are under the greatest strain in living memory.

Yet this Tory mini-Budget was a massive missed opportunity. It:

  • Failed to do anything to reduce energy bills
  • Failed to reverse the £1040 Tory cuts to Universal Credit
  • Failed to follow Scotland in uprating benefits by 6%
  • Failed to match the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide
  • Failed to reverse the real-terms cut to pensions
  • Failed to scrap the National Insurance tax hike
  • Failed to introduce a Real Living Wage
  • Failed to raise sick pay
  • Failed to lift the benefit cap
  • Failed to turn the £200 energy loan into a grant

It really is no surprise that leading poverty charities and think tanks have criticised the Chancellor's Statement as "woefully out of touch", "deeply disappointing" and "a drop in the ocean".

The Tories are failing to rise to the occasion. We are facing the biggest drop in living standards since records began. Rishi Sunak has completely failed to address the crisis households face and it is perplexing why he has made a conscious decision to leave the most vulnerable worse off.


UK's most vulnerable face crunch as Rishi Sunak helps better-off

There really is nowhere for the Tories to hide on this. The Spring Statement is a brutal attack on the households that need the most support at this time of crisis. Distributional analysis from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation lays bare exactly where the real-term cuts to incomes will be felt deepest - by those who earn the least.

Shocking figures released by the Resolution Foundation estimate that the number of people living in absolute poverty, meaning those suffering a severe deprivation of basic human needs, will rise by 1.3 million next year. It needn't be this way. In Scotland, the SNP Government is doing what it can with a fixed budget and limited resources.

Rishi Sunak could choose to emulate the Scottish Government. He could scrap the punitive benefit cap and increase social security payments. He could reinstate the pensions triple lock and raise the state pension by an adequate amount to ease some of the burden on older people. He could make sure no child need go to bed hungry by recreating the game-changing Scottish Child Payment across the UK. But he chooses not to and is either unwilling to help or willfully ignorant to the plight of millions.

When I asked him about the catastophe of food insecurity in our communities, I got the typical head-in-the-sand response.

The Tories will tell you that the Chancellor has no headroom to help. That simply isn't true. Rising prices fuelled by inflation mean that the Exchequer is benefitting from an unexpected tax windfall. He is sitting on that money to use as an election war chest instead.

You don't need to take my word for that. The Financial Times opened its article on the Statement with the following:

"Rishi Sunak on Wednesday offered pain relief to households facing a crippling cost of living crisis, but he banked most of a £50bn windfall in the public finances as the country enters dark economic times."


Rishi Sunak banks public finances windfall for pre-election tax cut

The Chancellor indicated on Wednesday that he was intending to cut income tax by 2024 - just ahead of a General Election. The Tories are refusing to take action now in the hope that people have short memories and will vote for them at the next election based on a tax cut that came too late.

Under the Tories, the UK already suffers from the worst poverty and inequality in north west Europe, and the highest in-work poverty this century, but Rishi Sunak's budget did nothing to reduce energy bills, nothing to uprate benefits in line with inflation, and nothing to reverse the £1040 Tory cuts to Universal Credit.

The majority of families will be hit by a toxic combination of Tory cuts, tax hikes and inflation but the Tory government has offered next to nothing for millions of pensioners, disabled and unemployed people, who will instead face real terms cuts to their incomes.

This Westminster crisis has been a decade in the making, and despite all the smoke and mirrors, the fact is that millions of people will be hundreds or thousands of pounds worse off this year as a result of Tory cuts, tax hikes and failure.

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