Spring Statement: Rishi Sunak urged to take action as households set for ‘fiscal punch in the face’

Rishi Sunak has been urged not to "duck" the cost-of-living crisis amid warnings households are set for a "fiscal punch in the face" from rising energy bills.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Simon Walker / HM Treasury
Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Picture: Simon Walker / HM Treasury

SNP finance secretary Kate Forbes called on the Chancellor to use today's Spring Statement to outline "significant actions to support households and businesses".

The Scottish Government announced last week it would be increasing eight benefits it provides by 6 per cent, and Ms Forbes urged her UK counterpart to do the same.

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She said: “This is not a time to be ducking the considerable challenges we face and I expect the Chancellor to use the Spring Statement to outline significant actions to support households and businesses, considering that most of the relevant powers are reserved to the UK Government.

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“The Scottish Government is doing all it can to help those most in need.

"We are uprating eight Scottish benefits by 6 per cent from April 1 as well as doubling our Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week per eligible child.

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"I call again on the UK Government to follow our lead and uprate social security benefits by 6 per cent.”

Rising petrol prices, soaring energy bills, widespread inflation and an increase in National Insurance contributions from next month are all piling pressure on household budgets.

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Personal finance expert Martin Lewis said many people will not be able to afford the energy bills hike.

He told Westminster's business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) committee that "people are going to feel a fiscal punch in the face" when the bill for a typical household soars by around £700 in April.

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And the energy price cap is expected to rise further in October, he said.

The Treasury has already announced plans to offer financial support to the public through a £150 council tax rebate to some households – a move mirrored in Scotland – and a repayable £200 saving on energy bills this year.

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The Chancellor is expected to use today’s statement to further address the cost-of-living crisis, but also stress the importance of a strong economy in responding to the threat from Russia.

He will say: "We will confront this challenge to our values not just in the arms and resources we send to Ukraine, but in strengthening our economy here at home.

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"So when I talk about security, yes – I mean responding to the war in Ukraine.

"But I also mean the security of a faster growing economy. The security of more resilient public finances.

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"And security for working families as we help with the cost of living."

A survey for the RAC found four out of five motorists want the Chancellor to cut duty or VAT on fuel.

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The poll of 2,000 drivers questioned between Friday and Monday indicated 83 per cent want Mr Sunak to help reduce the impact of record pump prices.

Figures from data firm Experian Catalist show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on Monday was 166.6p, while diesel was 178.7p.

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Fuel duty is currently levied at 57.95p per litre for petrol and diesel, with VAT at 20 per cent charged on top of the total price.

Mr Sunak is reportedly preparing to cut fuel duty by up to 5p per litre.

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