Rishi Sunak accused of not doing enough as inflation hits fresh 30-year high

Rishi Sunak has been accused of "not doing anywhere near enough" to tackle the cost of living crisis as inflation hit a fresh 30-year high last month.

The SNP said the majority of families will be thousands of pounds worse off this year, with the Chancellor “posted missing”.

Official figures revealed that Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation reached 5.5 per cent in January, up from 5.4 per cent in December and again reaching the highest level since March 1992, when it stood at 7.1 per cent.

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The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the price of clothes and footwear had helped push inflation higher.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Soaring energy costs are expected to drive CPI to 7.25 per cent in April, the highest level since August 1991.

Trade union Unison said January’s inflation data is the “stuff of nightmares”.

General secretary Christina McAnea said: “Households already feeling the pinch will be aghast at this latest hike in living costs.

“For many low and middle-earners, food, energy and transport are quickly becoming unaffordable luxuries.”

SNP MP Alison Thewliss urged Mr Sunak to “get on with the day job” and introduce an emergency budget.

She said: "The Tory cost of living crisis is spiralling out of control but the Chancellor has been posted missing - and is not doing anywhere near enough to get a grip and support families.

"Households are already struggling from a toxic combination of Tory cuts, regressive tax hikes, and the soaring cost of Brexit and energy bills.

"With inflation rising and wages falling behind, the majority of families will be thousands of pounds worse off this year.

"This crisis has been a decade in the making. Under the Tories, the UK has suffered from years of pay stagnation, poor economic growth, and deep cuts to social security.

"The UK has the worst levels of poverty and inequality in north west Europe, and people are increasingly struggling to get by. That is not a record to be proud of.

"Rishi Sunak must stop positioning himself for a Tory leadership contest, and get on with the day job by introducing an emergency budget with a Real Living Wage, reversing £1040 Tory cuts to Universal Credit, matching the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide, and turning his insulting energy loan into a more generous grant.

"The UK government is undermining Scotland's efforts to help families and tackle poverty. For every step we take forward, Westminster drags us back.”

The Bank of England increased interest rates earlier this month to 0.5 per cent in the first back-to-back rise since 2004, and experts believe the base rate could hit 1 per cent in May as policymakers battle to rein in rampant inflation.

Energy bills are set to rise by 54 per cent for 22 million households from the beginning of April, adding £693 to the annual bills of a typical household.

Mr Sunak has so far resisted growing calls for the UK Government’s forthcoming National Insurance increase to be postponed, instead offering support including a state-funded £200 discount on energy bills in October, which households will eventually have to repay.

Homes in England will also get a £150 council tax rebate for properties in bands A-D.

Last week, SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced similar measures in Scotland.

She said almost three-quarters of Scottish households will receive a £150 boost to help deal with the cost-of-living crisis.

But anti-poverty campaigners said this would “barely touch the sides of the gaping hole in many low-income households’ budgets”.

They also accused her of failing to target support at those who need it most.

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Ms Forbes previously said local authorities will be handed an extra £120 million in a bid to avoid “inflation-busting” council tax hikes.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer repeated his call for a “windfall tax” on the profits of oil and gas companies.

He said: “What we, the Labour Party, have said is, what you could do on energy bills is a windfall tax on the oil and gas companies in the North Sea – they’ve made more money than they were expecting because of global prices – and use that to bring down energy bills by up to £600.”

Sir Keir accused the UK Government of “whacking families who are already suffering” by hiking national insurance.

Liberal Democrat Treasury Spokesperson Christine Jardine said UK ministers need to “stop wringing their hands and give families a lifeline”.

She said: "Families are facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis, with a triple whammy of spiralling energy bills, Conservative tax rises and 30-year high inflation.

"People are worried about heating their homes and putting food on the table, yet all we've seen from this Government is half measures and a raft of tax hikes in April. That's not the leadership people need in this crisis.

"Ministers need to stop wringing their hands and give families a lifeline, by providing proper help with energy bills and scrapping their unfair national insurance tax rise."

A spokesman for the Treasury said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living and are providing support worth around £20 billion across the UK this financial year and next to help.

“To help people manage the increase in energy bills we’ve introduced the energy bill reduction to spread the increased costs over a few years so they are more manageable and we have provided £290 million for the Scottish Government through the Barnett formula as a result of the council tax rebate scheme.

“This is on top of Spending Review 2021 providing the Scottish Government with the biggest annual funding settlement since devolution.”

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