Rishi Sunak is under intense pressure to do more to ease the cost of living as families brace for a £1,600 hit this month.
Tory MPs and campaigners urged the Chancellor to revisit last week’s mini-Budget to help millions facing an unprecedented hike in everyday costs.
A record rise in energy bills kicks off a year of economic pain for millions.
The energy price cap will jump from £1,277 to £1,971 – an increase of £693 – with official forecasts suggesting it will increase by a further £788 in October.
An independent assessment for the Daily Mail found that price rises and tax hikes this month alone will cost a typical family of four over £134 a month – equal to more than £1,612 a year.
A record rise in energy bills kicks off a year of economic pain for millions
Energy firm websites crashed yesterday as struggling customers tried to register their meter readings on the last day before the massive rise.
Next week, the Chancellor’s controversial hike in national insurance contributions will kick in, costing someone earning £30,000 an extra £255.
Council tax bills are rising by an average 3.5 per cent. And the hospitality sector warned that the decision to increase VAT to its pre-pandemic levels would put further pressure on inflation rates which are already forecast to hit 9 per cent this year.
Hospitality firms warned price rises in pubs and restaurants are ‘inevitable’ from today when the reduced rate of VAT on the sector goes up from 12.5 per cent to its pre-pandemic level of 20 per cent.
Former minister Robert Halfon said that while the Chancellor had already moved to help by means of measures such as last week’s 5p cut in fuel duty, the scale of the crisis meant he would have to get his chequebook out again.
The OBR has warned that families face the worst squeeze on living standards since records began in the 1950s this year
Pensioners are also facing a tough time after the triple lock was suspended during Covid
Mr Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow, in Essex, urged the Prime Minister to use next week’s energy strategy to take VAT and ‘green tariffs’ off energy bills, a move which he said could reduce them by hundreds of pounds.
He said: ‘I welcome the action the Government has taken but we will have to go further, particularly on energy bills.’
Former Cabinet minister John Redwood also urged the Chancellor to ‘do more’ to help struggling families – including ditching the NI hike and VAT on domestic fuel.
‘More action is needed now to see off the hit to real incomes in April and May, rather than pausing to see what happens in the autumn,’ he said.
Mr Sunak has already unveiled some measures to help, including a £200 loan to assist with energy bills, which comes through in October, and a massive rise in the threshold for paying national insurance, which will leave most workers better off when it comes into force in July.
Next week, the Chancellor’s controversial hike in national insurance contributions will kick in, costing someone earning £30,000 an extra £255
Millions of households living in homes rated council tax bands A to D will also benefit from a one-off discount worth £150.
Yesterday the Chancellor acknowledged that many families would find the coming months ‘tough’ – and admitted that his decisions to raise taxes were ‘certainly unpopular’.
But he suggested that the Government’s towering debts left him with little room to do more. He said: ‘We’re facing a very difficult situation with the price of things going up and I want to do what we can to ameliorate some of that, but I’m also honest with people that we can’t ameliorate all of it, sadly.’
But Downing Street left the door open to a possible further package of help.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the Government had put in place support worth £22billion. He added that the Government cannot do ‘absolutely everything to cover off some of these pressures that we are seeing globally’.
But he said ministers would keep the situation under review. He said: ‘We are ready to take further steps if needed to support households’.
Labour yesterday put the cost of living at the centre of its campaign for next month’s local elections. Launching the party’s campaign in Bury yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer branded the package of help ‘pathetic’ and called for a windfall tax on energy firms, which he said could knock £600 off average bills.
Senior Tories also fear the cost of living could dent the party’s hopes in next month’s elections.
Conservative backbencher Craig Mackinlay said he ‘fears for the May elections’ because of the cost of living crisis.
He told the Mail: ‘It’s not a great place to be politically when all these bills arrive in April.’
An assessment of rising costs conducted for the Mail found that households face a tough financial year.
Fuel poverty charity National Energy Action warned the cost of heating an average home has now doubled in 18 months, leaving 6.5 million households unable to live in a warm, safe home across the UK.