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British society divided on social values but majority back tax hikes to pay for cost of living help | Politics News

British society is divided on many social issues but the majority reject the government’s policy of tax cuts, according to a survey.

Britons disagree on issues from Scottish independence to proportional representation in elections but most agree that higher taxes should fund extra help for households through the cost of living crisis.

The National Centre of Social Research (NatCen) interviewed 6,250 people in Britain between September and October last year for its 39th annual British Social Attitudes report.

It showed 52% were behind raising taxes and spending more on health, education and social benefits.

As many as 46% of Conservative voters and 61% of Labour supported tax hikes.

And the majority would back government intervention similar to that seen during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the economy, as concerns mount over social inequality.

The survey pointed to fears over inequality increasing since the pandemic – with almost half (49%) calling for money to be redistributed to those who are less wealthy, a figure up 10% since 2019.

There were relatively few differences in economic values between northern and southern England – despite the government’s levelling up agenda highlighting regional inequalities.

But the attitude of people outside London is in marked contrast with those living in the capital, who are more pro-welfare and socially liberal.

Some 37% of people in the north expressed pro-welfare views compared to 35% in the south.

In London, this figure rose to 47% – against 30-37% elsewhere.

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The Truss plan: Economy, energy and NHS

Constitutional challenges

Participants were also quizzed about their views on Scottish independence – with the results showing Britain is more polarised than ever.

Some 52% of Scots are in favour of leaving the UK, up from 23% in 2012.

But the figure remains unchanged in England since 2012, with only one in four backing Scottish independence.

For the first time in the survey’s history, more people (51%) favour bringing in proportional representation for elections rather than the traditional first past the post system.

Support in Northern Ireland to stay part of the UK has slipped to below half (49%) for the first time, the research showed.

Culture wars including the issues of identity, immigration and equality could re-ignite the Brexit divide which saw Remain and Leave voters holding radically opposing views – but the balance of public opinion is mostly tipped towards socially liberal beliefs, according to the survey.

Under-pressure health service

Meanwhile satisfaction with the NHS plunged to its lowest level in 25 years, with long waiting lists described as a major barrier to receiving care.

Two thirds of people blamed long delays to get a GP or hospital appointment for being dissatisfied with the beleaguered health service.

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Record ambulance wait times in July

But more than half of people in England and Scotland said they would pay higher taxes to improve the level of healthcare for everyone.

Three quarters surveyed said the NHS should “definitely” be free of charge and available to everyone.

NatCen senior research fellow, Sir John Curtice, said: “The findings of our survey certainly suggest why Britain might appear divided, buffeted, and ‘broken’.

“The health service is widely thought not to be providing the timely service that people need and expect. Support for leaving the UK has grown in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and how Britain should be governed has become much more of a divisive issue.

“A new gap on attitudes to welfare and social issues has opened between the capital and the rest of the country. And divisions over ‘culture war’ issues could potentially become part of our politics, thereby helping to perpetuate the Brexit divide.

“True, the gap in attitudes between the North and the South of England appears to have narrowed, while people still have faith in having a tax-funded NHS that is free at the point of use.

“But the new government faces a particularly formidable challenge in bringing Britain together.”

Government warned to reinstate eviction ban to prevent people from losing homes during cost of living crisis | UK News

The eviction ban must be reinstated in England to ensure no one loses their home during the cost of living crisis, a new report has warned.

The Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping warned that inaction could lead to a “catastrophic” homelessness crisis, with the government failing to meet its manifesto pledge to end rough sleeping.

Its new report calls on the government to temporarily bring back the eviction ban – mirroring what was announced in Scotland earlier this month.

The report calls for a pause in benefits deductions and for benefits to be increased immediately – not next April as planned.

It urges the government to take a “two-pronged” approach to get people off the streets and ensure vulnerable tenants do not end up on them.

The commission was set up to examine the lessons from the public health emergency response to rough sleeping during the pandemic. It is chaired by former head of the Civil Service Lord Bob Kerslake and comprises 36 experts from the health, housing and homelessness sectors.

Its latest report includes new recommendations on the cost-of-living crisis and says “the cost of not acting now is too great, as we stand on the precipice of a new emergency”.

Lord Kerslake said the government’s responses to the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis “must be equally urgent”.

He added that failure to act could see this become a “homelessness as well as an economic crisis” and that the results could be “catastrophic”.

The National Residential Landlords Association said it was right to call for improvements to the benefits system, but that preventing failed tenancies from ending would be “catastrophic” and would not address people’s hardships.

Chief executive Ben Beadle said: “There is a very real danger that an eviction ban would give free rein to tenants committing antisocial behaviour and those deliberately not paying their rents, knowing they will face no consequences and the bill will be picked up by others.”

The government did not say whether it was considering a temporary ban.

A spokeswoman said: “We are giving councils £316 million this year to ensure families are not left without a roof over their heads.

“This is alongside the action we are taking to support families with the cost of living this winter through our £37 billion pound support package.

“This includes £1,200 this year for the most vulnerable, helping them to pay their bills and stay in their homes.”

Criminals exploiting cost of living crisis with energy rebate scam emails | UK News

Criminals are cashing in on the energy crisis by offering bogus rebates to try and trick victims into handing over bank account details.

Police say in the past fortnight they’ve had nearly 1,600 reports of suspicious emails with links to malicious websites designed to steal personal and financial information.

The scam emails pretend to be from the energy regulator Ofgem and are headed “Claim your bill rebate now”, telling recipients they are due a payment under a government scheme to help people cope with escalating gas and electricity costs.

Detective Chief Inspector Hayley King, of the City of London Police, said: “It is shameful that in a time of financial hardship, criminals are targeting members of the public by claiming they are entitled to receiving rebates and refunds.

“If an email is genuine, the company will never push you into handing over your details. Always take a moment to consider if the request you have received is genuine.

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‘I will make sure people can afford their energy bills’ says Liz Truss

“We would always urge people to follow the Take Five to Stop Fraud advice and think carefully before giving out their personal and financial details.”

Police fear many recipients will be duped into responding to the fraudulent emails because of the hardship expected as energy prices soar.

The emails were reported to police because they contained a glaring error, urging recipients to apply for an energy bill rebate “before September 2020”.

An Ofgem spokesperson said: “Protecting consumers is our top priority and it is alarming that vulnerable customers are being preyed upon in this way when people are already struggling so much.

“That’s why, as energy regulator, on top of issuing our own warnings and advice, we have asked all energy suppliers to ensure clear and up to date information on scams is easily accessible on their websites.

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Stephen Johnston retired thinking he’d have enough money to get by, but he’s struggling to pay his bills

“We take these attempts to exploit consumers very seriously and work with the National Cyber Security Centre to prevent these malicious attacks. If people are unsure if something is a scam they should pause, check and don’t let callers push you into anything.

“Genuine organisations won’t mind you calling back; only scammers apply pressure and insist you hand over details immediately.

“If you have any doubts about a message, consumers should contact the organisation directly and not use the numbers or address in the message – use the details from their official website.”

Police say that anyone suspicious of an email can forward it to report@phishing.gov.uk to have it checked out.

Cost of living crisis: Liz Truss considers ‘nuclear option’ of cutting VAT to 15% | UK News

Liz Truss is considering a “nuclear” option that could see VAT cut from 20% to 15%, according to reports.

A source told Sky News that Ms Truss “will consider options to help people but it would not be right for her to announce her plans before she has been elected prime minister or seen all the facts”.

Estimates suggest such a VAT cut would save the average household more than £1,300 a year, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies said it would cost taxpayers £3.2bn a month, or £38bn for a year.

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How will energy prices hit households?

Mr Sunak’s team criticised the plan as expensive and “incredibly regressive”.

A source close to Ms Truss’s discussions told The Sunday Telegraph: “They [the Treasury] have talked about the Gordon Brown approach that he took at the time (of the financial crisis), when it looked as though consumer confidence was falling.

“They are talking about the last big economic shock that hit the whole economy and consumers in 2008, and the Treasury’s response to that.”

And another claimed she “doesn’t have time” to offer targeted support, warning: “People are going to start going out of business from the minute she takes office.”

Mr Brown announced a year-long cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15% in December 2008 in response to the financial crisis.

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have been under growing pressure to say how they will help the millions of Britons struggling with record energy prices and inflation.

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‘My spending approach is the right one’

Read more:
Explainer: Everything you need to know about higher bills
Analysis: Even those who’ve done the right thing won’t escape impact of energy bills rise

Other possibilities being considered by Ms Truss include extending the 5p cut in fuel duty beyond March, and resuming help for businesses that was seen during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as a larger reduction in VAT for hospitality, tourism and agriculture.

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s night-time economy adviser, said on Saturday: “There is no energy price cap for hospitality. An untenable situation.

“Without intervention, we will sadly see closures like never before in our lifetime. It’s criminal.”

He retweeted a post from the owners of the Rose and Crown pub in Merseyside, which said it had received a quote of £61,000 for its electricity bill.

The Sunday Times said Ms Truss’s team is also considering lifting the personal tax-free allowance, raising the point at which people pay the 40% rate of tax, and cutting the basic tax rate below 20%.

An insider told the newspaper that if Ms Truss decided against immediate tax cuts, they could be incorporated into a longer-term review of the tax system, which she is expected to announce alongside a fiscal package.

Mr Sunak wrote in The Times on Saturday that help with energy bills should be directed at low-income households and pensioners, delivered through the welfare system, winter fuel and cold weather payments.

He also acknowledged that providing “meaningful support” would be a multibillion-pound undertaking”.

A Treasury spokesperson said the department is making the “necessary preparations” to ensure the next government has options to deliver extra help “as quickly as possible”.

Meanwhile, in his final days as PM, Boris Johnson said that the UK’s future “will be golden”, despite some “very tough” months ahead.

Writing in The Mail On Sunday, he blamed Vladimir Putin for the worsening crisis, saying: “It was Putin’s invasion of Ukraine that spooked the energy markets. It is Putin’s war that is costing British consumers.

“That is why your energy bill is doubling. I am afraid Putin knows it. He likes it. And he wants us to buckle.”

Last week, energy regulator Ofgem announced that the price cap would rise by 80% from October, meaning a typical default tariff customer will pay £3,549 a year.

The latest predictions from energy consultancy Cornwall Insight are that the price cap will breach £6,600 in April.

It prompted calls for more government help directed at the most vulnerable, but Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi said that even those on higher salaries could struggle in the months ahead.

He says Britons on £45,000 may also need support to pay their energy bills.

Boris Johnson says Britain will ’emerge stronger and more prosperous’ after cost of living crisis ends | Politics News

Boris Johnson has predicted that the UK will “emerge stronger and more prosperous” once the cost of living crisis begins to ease.

Despite huge hikes in energy prices, largely caused by the war in Ukraine, he has also said the West must “double down” on its support for Kyiv and not “go wobbly”.

“It was Putin’s barbaric invasion that spooked the energy markets,” the prime minister writes in the Mail on Sunday.

“It is Putin’s war that is costing British consumers. That is why your energy bill is doubling. I am afraid Putin knows it. He likes it. And he wants us to buckle.”

It comes as the prime minister’s likely successor, Liz Truss, is considering cutting VAT by 5% across the board, according to The Telegraph.

A source told Sky News that Ms Truss “will consider options to help people but it would not be right for her to announce her plans before she has been elected prime minister or seen all the facts.”

The Tory leadership frontrunner has previously committed to carrying out a “thorough review” of the tax system which is “too complicated”.

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv in support of Ukraine as it marks 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union. Picture date: Wednesday August 24, 2022.
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Boris Johnson met Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv on Wednesday

On Saturday, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi predicted that Britons earing £45,000 salaries will need government help to pay their energy bills this winter – and not only people on benefits.

Striking a more positive note, Mr Johnson claimed the UK’s “bounce back can and should be remarkable and that our future will be golden”.

The outgoing PM says the UK is in a stronger position that may at first be apparent.

This is because of “long-term decisions, including on domestic energy supply”, he writes.

PM’s optimism won’t help with people’s energy bills

Boris Johnson is known for his optimism, but telling people they will “emerge stronger and more prosperous” from the cost of living crisis won’t help with their bills right now.

Unemployment warnings during the pandemic (that he recalls in his article) may not have materialised, but the energy cap rise has: most households will have to pay thousands more and bills are likely to rise even further next year.

It is easier to sound hopeful when it is someone else who will have to make the difficult decisions: Boris Johnson knows his legacy is likely to loom over the next government and he may well continue to make his views known.

The chancellor has also spoken on rising bills. Nadhim Zahawi warns that middle-income households (like senior nurses and teachers on around £45,000 a year) need more help, and prices could remain “punishingly high” for two years.

The chancellor is urgent and gloomy, unlike Boris Johnson.

But in just over a week’s time there will be new occupants at Number 10 and Number 11; how the new government deals with the cost of living could well define it and decide the next election.

Regarding support for Ukraine, Mr Johnson says “we cannot flinch now”.

“If Putin is allowed to get away with his murder and mayhem, and to change the borders of Europe by force, then he will simply do it again, elsewhere on the periphery of the former Soviet Union,” he says.

“Other countries will draw the lesson that violence and aggression can pay off and that will usher in a new cycle of political and economic instability.”

The PM goes on: “That is why we must continue to back the Ukrainians – and their military success continues to be remarkable.

“Volodymyr Zelenskyy has shown his country is fundamentally unconquerable.

“Now is the time for the West to double down our support, not to go wobbly.”

Cost of living crisis: Britons on £45,000 will need help paying energy bills – not just those on benefits, chancellor says | UK News

Britons on £45,000 salaries will need government help to pay their energy bills – not just people on benefits, the chancellor has warned.

Nadhim Zahawi also told The Daily Telegraph that households must try and reduce their energy consumption, and that he fears gas prices could remain elevated for another two years.

Millions of households will see their energy bills rocket in the autumn after the price cap was hiked to £3,549 a year – a record increase of 80%.

While every household in the UK is being given a £400 rebate on their energy bills, Conservative leadership candidates Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are being urged to take further action.

But there has been debate over whether additional support should be distributed widely or concentrated on Britons with the lowest incomes.

Mr Zahawi told the newspaper: “My concern is there are those who aren’t on benefits. If you’re a senior nurse or a senior teacher on £45,000 a year, you’re having your energy bills go up 80% and will probably rise even higher in the new year – it’s really hard.”

While he said Universal Credit is a “really effective way of targeting”, he said other ideas are being explored “to make sure we help those who really need the help”.

Mr Zahawi has reportedly drawn up a series of options for the next prime minister to consider – and despite calls for urgent action from the industry regulator Ofgem, Ms Truss has said it would not be “right” to announce her full plans for tackling the cost of living crisis until a new Conservative leader is named on 5 September.

The chancellor went on to warn that the UK is “in a national economic emergency”, adding: “This could go on for 18 months, two years, if Putin continues to use energy as a weapon.”

Read more:
Explainer: Everything you need to know about higher bills
Analysis: Even those who’ve done the right thing won’t escape impact of energy bills rise

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How will energy prices hit households?

Businesses fear rising energy bills

In other developments, 26% of small and medium-sized enterprises polled by YouGov have warned that their energy bills will be unsustainable within 12 months.

And of the companies already paying more for gas and electricity, 75% said they will have to pass these costs on to their customers.

What’s more, 5% of all businesses polled said that their current energy bills are already unaffordable.

Mr Zahawi told The Telegraph that the government is planning to offer support to small firms, and said there would be a “longer-term scarring effect on the economy” without it.

Proposals could include cutting VAT for particular sectors – returning to a policy that was in force during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Why high energy bills hit everything

Politicians feel the heat

In all, around 24 million households will be hit by the price spike.

Soaring wholesale gas costs – fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – have driven the energy price cap increase, which is widely expected to spiral even further next year, with average bills forecast to hit £5,386 in January and £6,616 in April, according to analysts Cornwall Insight.

It ramps up the squeeze on households already wrestling with soaring food and fuel prices.

Sky News has found a third of households are already struggling to pay their energy bills, while Philippe Commaret, managing director of energy giant EDF, says half of UK households could be in fuel poverty in January.

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Ofgem chief executive Jonathan Brearley told Sky News that the price cap will be “devastating news” for many people.

Putting the increase into context, he added: “When I look at the prices for winter now for buying the gas, they are 15 times what they normally are. If that were to happen in petrol, that would mean it would cost £400 to £500 to fill our car.”

Boris Johnson has stressed he will leave major decisions on additional support to his successor.

Ahead of the increase, frontrunner Liz Truss said she would use an emergency budget to “ensure support is on its way” if she becomes prime minister.

Her rival Rishi Sunak has pledged more targeted support and to remove VAT from energy bills.

Labour has claimed that Ms Truss’s plans to combat the cost of living crisis would leave four million families “out in the cold” if further direct support is only rolled out to those on benefits.

Cost of living: Retail sales recover slightly in July with 0.3% rise but but long-term decline persists | Business News

UK retail sales rose in July but the longer-term downward trend in consumer spending shows no sign of abating, official data shows.

Sales increased by 0.3% in July, which was much higher than economists’ forecasts of a 0.2% drop, according to the Office for National Statistics.

But sales fell by 1.2% in the three months to July when compared with the previous period, continuing the decline since last summer.

Sales are 3.4% lower than last July in further evidence that people are tightening their belts in the face of the cost-of-living crisis.

A revision of June’s retail figures also put sales slightly lower, with a 0.2% drop rather than 0.1%, in a sign that shopping activity was slower than previously thought, the ONS reported.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “Retail sales nudged up very slightly in July, but looking at the longer-term picture, they are continuing the downward trend which started last summer.

“Online sales did pick up this month, as retailers told us that sales were boosted by a range of offers and promotions.

“However, fuel sales fell with some evidence suggesting the very hot weather meant fewer people travelling.

“Clothing and household goods sales declined again, with feedback continuing to indicate consumers are cutting back due to increased prices and concerns around affordability and cost of living.”

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What is driving the inflation spike?

Read more:
How everyday items have risen in price in the past 12 months
Three things that need to happen for prices to return to normal

It comes as new research indicated consumer confidence is at an all-time low in light of “acute concerns” about the soaring cost of living and bleak economic outlook.

The Bank of England has warned that escalating inflation is likely to tip the UK into recession later this year.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) soared to 10.1% in the 12 months to July, up from 9.4% in June and remaining at the highest level since February 1982, driven by an increase in food prices on top of previous sharp rises in household energy bills.

No new measures to help with cost of living after crisis talks between Boris Johnson and energy bosses | Politics News

Boris Johnson has doubled down on his insistence that it is for his successor to “make significant fiscal decisions” after talks with energy bosses ended with no new measures to ease the cost of living crisis.

Speaking after the meeting, the prime minister said he would continue to urge the energy sector to ease the financial pressures facing struggling families.

But he repeated his stance that it is for his successor in Number 10, either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, to “make significant fiscal decisions”, a Treasury spokesperson said.

Politics hub: Truss retains commanding lead in race for No 10 – live updates

Mr Johnson has been under pressure to use his remaining time in office to come up with a new package of measures to deal with the rising cost of living.

He has been accused of going “missing” and running a “zombie government” as the country hurtles towards a recession, with energy bills forecast to top £4,200 by January.

On Monday he rejected calls from Gordon Brown to hold daily emergency COBRA meetings to stop people “going cold and hungry” this October, when the energy price cap rises.

The former Labour prime minister said fresh support can’t wait until a new PM is chosen on 5 September.

However, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said that “by convention it is not for this prime minister to make major fiscal interventions during this period”.

In a tweet after today’s meeting, Mr Johnson said he knows people are worried about the “difficult winter ahead”.

He said there is already a package of support in place, including a £400 energy bill discount for all households.

The Treasury said that Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and the energy firms agreed to “work closely” over the coming weeks to ensure that the public, including vulnerable customers, are supported in the face of rising costs.

Britain faces a national emergency with rising energy bills and a cost of living crisis.

But Labour accused the government of showing a lack of urgency and of being “missing in action”.

“Families are worried about how they will pay their bills. But instead of showing leadership, the Conservatives are missing in action.

“The prime minister and chancellor have gone AWOL, whilst the candidates for the leadership have no substantive ideas about how to help working people meet the challenges they face.

“Labour will take the action that’s needed to get us through this crisis, with real action to bring down energy bills for families, and build a stronger economy for our country.”

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey added: “It is appalling that the Conservatives still haven’t announced any extra support for families and pensioners facing the hardest winter in decades.

“The cruellest element of this chaos is that those who could actually help, Truss and (Rishi) Sunak, are more interested in speaking to their party than taking the action our country needs.”

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Gordon Brown ‘not leading Labour’s policy’

The roundtable meeting comes as Labour prepares to announce its own package of measures to tackle the cost of living crisis.

Sir Keir Starmer will be visiting Edinburgh tomorrow, where he is expected to speak about some of the elements of the party’s proposals to help people with rising energy bills, before a full announcement next week.

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‘People will go hungry and cold’

Labour has faced criticism for attacking Boris Johnson for going on holiday amid the worsening economic crisis, despite Sir Keir also being away himself.

Earlier on Sky News, a Labour frontbencher denied Gordon Brown was leading the party’s policy in Sir Keir’s absence after the ex-PM called for energy firms to be temporarily nationalised, in his third major intervention this week.

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Nearly 50,000 sign petition backing Gordon Brown’s call for emergency budget
Gordon Brown ‘seeing poverty I did not expect to see again’

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‘We’ve got zombie government’

Shadow Justice Minister Steve Reed said Labour would be setting out a package of proposals “in the next few days”.

Asked if Gordon Brown was “leading the charge of the Labour party”, he said: “No, Labour is going to come up with a fully costed package of proposals for how we will help the British people. Next week is when we are going to bring that forward.”

Labour has already called for ministers to scrap what they call a “loophole” in the windfall tax on oil and gas profits.

The government announced in May that it would be introducing a levy on the “extraordinary profits” of the oil and gas sector. This included a tax break which the government said was intended to encourage investment.

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But Mr Reed said it was doing “nothing of the sort” as he called on the government to come up with solutions to the cost of living crisis now instead of watching the Tory leadership contenders “fight each other like rats in a sack”.

Earlier this week, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey called for the rise in the energy price cap this October to be scrapped and for the cost to be covered through a windfall tax.

And today, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also piled on the pressure as she said the energy price cap rise should not go ahead and accused the UK Government of being “missing in action” on the issue.

Boris Johnson will not intervene in cost of living crisis as that is ‘for future prime minister’ | Politics News

Downing Street has rejected calls for Boris Johnson to summon an emergency COBRA meeting to deal with the cost of living crisis.

Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, has called for Mr Johnson to meet with his two potential successors and thrash out a financial package of measures before energy bills soar in October.

He said people will go cold and hungry this winter if urgent action isn’t taken now, telling Sky News he was seeing poverty in his hometown in Fife “that I did not expect to see ever again in my lifetime“.

Politics Hub: Brown slams ‘vacuum’ at heart of government

But the prime minister’s spokesman said that although the government recognises the challenges facing struggling households, “by convention it is not for this prime minister to make major fiscal interventions during this period. It will be for a future prime minister.”

He also defended Mr Johnson for going on holiday as the Bank of England warned of a looming recession, saying the public understand it’s “not unusual for ministers to take time off during recess”.

Mr Johnson and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi faced criticism for being missing in action amid grim forecasts that the UK is heading for the worst financial crisis since the 2008 crash, with interests rates soaring to their highest level in 27 years.

The PM’s spokesperson said Mr Johnson – who is now back in No 10 after his holiday in Slovenia – had spoken to Mr Zahawi while on his break to discuss measures that will be coming in this year.

He suggested Mr Johnson had no plans to sit down with Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak, saying: “Both candidates have spoken about new things they would introduce.”

(left to right) Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, during a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street, London. Picture date: Tuesday July 19, 2022.
Image:
Boris Johnson and Nadhim Zahawi have been criticised for doing nothing in the face of a grim economic forecast

Ms Truss has pledged to reverse the national insurance tax rise immediately if she becomes prime minister, while Mr Sunak has promised a VAT cut on energy bills.

Neither have ruled out further direct support for families struggling with mounting energy bills, which are expected to climb to nearly £4,000 a year from January as gas prices continue to push upward.

However, Mr Brown said new measures cannot wait as he criticised their “obsession” with tax cuts.

Read more:
Calls for emergency increase to Universal Credit
PM and chancellor ‘completely on top’ of economy despite being on holiday
Truss and Sunak face calls for daily COBRA meetings

Mr Brown set out his own vision for dealing with the cost of living crisis, including changing the windfall tax, a cap on energy bills and reforming the benefits system.

He branded the Tory party’s windfall tax “stupid”, claiming the opt-outs included in the tax brought forward when Mr Sunak was chancellor reduced the value of the tax from £15bn to £5bn.

Ms Truss and Mr Sunak continue to clash over their plans for the economy.

Mr Sunak launched a fresh attack on his opponent’s plan for tax cuts in an emergency budget, describing it as a “big bung” for large businesses and the better-off that would do little to help those most in need over the coming winter.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis – who is backing Ms Truss, the foreign secretary – said they would look to do “whatever we can” to help people under pressure from rising inflation.

“She’s willing to do more to help people but her focus is around doing it in a way that puts more money in people’s pockets, creating a high-growth economy with higher wages, more people in work,” he said.

“So rather than having handouts, what we do is have a low-tax economy that’s driving growth and therefore with people having more money in their pockets, they’re better placed to deal with some of the challenges that we see.”

Cost of living: People fear ‘awful winter’ as bills continue to rise | UK News

If people are struggling to pay their bills now – during a hot summer – how much worse will it be in the winter when homes need to be heated?

From the stories Sky News viewers have been telling, it is clear that as soon as temperatures begin to drop, the crisis will worsen significantly.

After bills, one viewer said he and his partner are left with “£3 for three weeks to live on”.

Another said he and his family are reducing the amount of food they buy, not travelling to see family members, and limiting the children to one hour on the TV or computer.

Keith Ashworth, 66, from Nottingham, is fuelling his years old Land Rover with vegetable oil because diesel is so expensive.

“I was hoping to go part-time fairly soon – but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’m working really just to make ends meet,” he said.

At the end of the month, there is “very little left – sometimes nothing left”.

He and his husband Daryl are collecting “scraps of wood” to use in their wood burner in the winter and considering selling the static caravan they own in the Peak District where they go for a break.

“There’s no light at the end of the tunnel – it’s just going up and up and up,” Keith added.

Daryl and Keith Ashworth say they are 'counting the pennies'
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Daryl and Keith Ashworth are ‘counting the pennies’

Tracey Blanc, from Clitheroe, emailed about how her energy costs had risen ten-fold in a month. She sent a copy of her bill showing £58 was taken by direct debit on 1 July, while on 1 August it was £611.

Viewer Melanie texted about her hours at work, which had been reduced, and said as she was also unable to find a new lodger, she had ended up draining her savings.

She is now working three jobs, including nights and weekends.

“It’s going to be an awful winter,” Susan Pilkington said.

‘I’ve never been more afraid in my life’

A carer who has been unable to work for eight years, Susan, said she has “never been more afraid in (her) life”.

Her energy bills have “doubled” and she has asked her supplier to remove her gas meter because she “can’t afford the standing charge never mind the gas itself”.

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Viewer Simon texted to say he wants to take his children on holiday, but only has 52p left in his account.

Kev, 50, texted to say he lives alone in a one-bedroom flat and claims Universal Credit.

“I’ve had to stop paying my water bill and TV licence just to survive,” he said.

“All my money is for rent and electricity bill.”

Glenn took aim at fuel and utility companies making large profits, saying the cost of living crisis is being driven by “greed and bonuses”.

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Julie Martinez emailed to say she works as a health care assistant on a psychiatric ward doing 13-hour shifts and is getting into debt on her credit card for using the money to pay for her petrol to get to work.

“I have no money left over at the end of the month, and I am struggling to feed myself,” she said.

“I feed my dog before I feed me.

“I feel at breaking point. Something has to give or people are going to end up homeless.”