Sunak Might Further Help With Cost of Living Amid Criticism of UK Mini-Budget

© REUTERS / JEFF OVERS/BBC / Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak appears on BBC's Sunday Morning presented by Sophie Raworth in LondonBritain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak appears on BBC's Sunday Morning presented by Sophie Raworth in London
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak appears on BBC's Sunday Morning presented by Sophie Raworth in London - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.03.2022
London is facing the prospect of public discontent as the costs of goods are rising alongside skyrocketing energy prices. The latter have spiked amid Western countries’ decision to freeze the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, slap sanctions on Moscow, and promises to stop buying energy resources from Russia.
UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is mulling additional measures to help Brits weather rising costs of living, UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has hinted in an interview with Sky News. His statement comes amid reports of tensions between Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson over criticism of the chancellor's original proposals on supporting Brits.
"I think [Sunak] will continue to keep an eye on this, it's only right. It's irresponsible for me to say 'job done' because energy prices are volatile, inflation remains high, so it would be absolutely irresponsible to say 'job done'", Zahawi said.
The education secretary defended Sunak's original "mini-budget" unveiled in his Spring Statement earlier this week. Zahawi stressed that planning to spend £22 billion on supporting citizens is the "right thing to do" after the government spent a whopping £400 billion on supporting the British economy during the pandemic.
Zahawi did not elaborate on the specific means that Sunak is considering using to further help with the cost of living. However, media reports have suggested that a rebate on the council tax might be in play by autumn amid expectations that energy prices will continue to soar in October, with the energy price cap hitting almost £3,000 (up £1,029 from the current level of £1,971).
Sunak's Spring Statement contained a reduction on fuel duties by five pence per litre, which would last a year, as well as a reduction on VAT from 5% to 0% for households that have invested in solar panels, heat pumps, or insulation to save on energy consumption. The chancellor also said that the threshold for paying national insurance will rise by £3,000 instead of £300, while the cost of the insurance itself is scheduled to rise by 1.25%.
These measures were slammed as insufficient by the shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Labour lawmaker Jonathan Ashworth. He accused Sunak of trying to play politics and save some measures for later, for example to win the support of some Conservative lawmakers in a couple of years amid a possible contest for the party leadership.
"Rishi Sunak absolutely had more room for manoeuvre in this spring statement and mini budget, but rather than acting in the interests of the British people, he was playing games", Jonathan Ashworth said.
Ashworth suggested that Sunak should instead cut VAT on energy bills and tax oil and gas companies more.

Brits to Face Soaring Costs of Living Amid Anti-Russia Sanctions Spree

As the UK expects inflation to hit an unusually high level of 7.4% in 2022, it also faces the prospect of a further increase in energy prices due to soaring costs of buying gas and coal. The prices of these resources, as well as oil, have spiked in the wake of Western sanctions against Russia over its special military operation in Ukraine, as well as amid calls for cancelling purchases of Russian energy resources for good. The US has already implemented a ban on the latter, while Europe plans to abandon Russian gas, oil, and coal by the end of 2022.
At the same time, European governments have failed to elaborate on how they intend to replace the supplies from Russia, which provides up to one third of all gas and upwards of a quarter of all oil imported by the EU. Media reports earlier this year suggested that global energy giants saw no alternatives to Russian resources, at least in 2022. The US expected its domestic energy companies to ramp up their output of oil and gas, but so far this has not happened, with these firms enjoying windfall profits from skyrocketing prices.
Increased fuel prices are displayed at a filling station in Long Stratton, Britain, March 10, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 27.03.2022
Majority of Brits Expect Heating, Energy Bill Problems, Poll Shows
According to a poll conducted by Techne for the Sunday Express, 58% of Brits are highly concerned by the rising cost of living, with 67% of all respondents expecting trouble paying for heating and energy. UK citizens plan to cut down on their spending in certain areas in order to deal with the rising costs, the poll shows: 80% said they would avoid large purchases, 55% told Techne that they would reduce spending on leisure activities, while 37% thought they could save some money on clothes.
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