Rishi Sunak pledges: How is the Prime Minister doing on his five promises? Inflation, growing economy, reducing debt, NHS wait times, stop the boats

The Prime Minister has made little impact on his five pledges, a problem that could haunt him in an election year.

At the start of 2023, Rishi Sunak unveiled five promises that his Government would deliver on to give the public “peace of mind”.

These pledges came mainly without clear targets, meaning ministers could insist it was going well, even if the changes were minimal. The promises included halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting NHS waiting lists and stopping the boats.

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Speaking on Monday morning, Mr Sunak insisted “good progress” had been made on his pledges, but in reality it’s been a hard year for the Prime Minister. Here’s the verdict on where the UK Government is on its pledges, one year on.

Has Rishi Sunak dropped the ball on his five pledges?Has Rishi Sunak dropped the ball on his five pledges?
Has Rishi Sunak dropped the ball on his five pledges?

Halve inflation

The one area of good news for the Prime Minister is inflation, which has halved from 10.7 per cent to 3.9 per cent, its lowest level since September 2021.

Mr Sunak argued this was the result of the decisions taken by his Government, having also claimed inflation rising was due to factors outside his control.

He said: “It happened because we took difficult and responsible decisions to control spending and borrowing and welfare and allow the Bank of England to get on and do its job. And because we did all of that and successfully halved inflation, we are now in a position where we can cut your taxes.”

Inflation has been halved, but it’s outside his control, and worth noting that people are still paying far more for goods than they should be. The Bank of England’s 2 per cent target for inflation won’t be hit anytime soon.

Verdict: Achieved

Grow the economy

Less cheerful reading for Mr Sunak is the state of the economy, with the Prime Minister claiming it was growing in November. However, just three days later revised figures showed the economy shrank between July and September.

Economists now believe Britain is heading for a recession, with forecasts showing little growth following the Autumn Statement.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insists the "medium-term outlook" for the UK economy is "far more optimistic than these numbers suggest".

Verdict: Minimal change

Reduce debt

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When Mr Sunak made his announcement, the national debt was equivalent to 94.9 per cent of GDP. According to the latest figures, it's now 97.5 per cent.

Government borrowing towards the end of the year was higher than expected, and ministers borrowed over £24 billion last year compared to the year before.

Despite this, Mr Hunt still caved to pressure from the Tory right to announce tax cuts at the Autumn Statement, taking another £6bn from the public purse. If he wants to deliver more tax cuts before the election, this will only get worse.

Verdict: Failing

Cut NHS waiting times and waiting lists

The waiting list and waiting times in England are both shrinking, but the waiting list is still longer than in January 2023.

For NHS England, patients were waiting for 7.71 million routine hospital appointments in October, down from a September peak. However, only 69.7 per cent of patients were seen within four hours in accident and emergency departments, with the Government target being 95 per cent.

This comes in the backdrop of ministers blaming the waiting list on strikes, with UK health secretary Victoria Atkins calling junior doctors "doctors in training", despite them being fully qualified, and making up 48 per cent of doctors.

Verdict: Some progress

Stop the boats

Small boat crossings fell by more than a third last year, marking the first year-on-year decline since records began in 2018.

Provisional figures show 29,437 migrants arrived by this route, compared to 45,774 the year before. However, levels were still higher than 2021. This shows that while the Prime Minister has not “stopped the boats”, there has been a reduction in the number of crossings being made.

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The result is a rare success for Mr Sunak, who on Monday failed to deny that he discussed scrapping the Rwanda deportation scheme during his 2022 Tory leadership campaign. It follows him claiming last week the asylum backlog had cleared, when the backlog is actually now 98,599.

Verdict: Some progress



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