The measures announced by the chancellor Rishi Sunak as part of Wednesday’s Spring Statement have received mixed reactions from those hoping for relief from the UK cost-of-living crisis.
The announcement was made against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the fastest rising prices in energy, fuel and food for 30 years as inflation rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February 2022.
Sunak outlined a series of measures designed to relieve some of the pressure on the poorest in society by cutting fuel duty, providing council tax rebates, raising the threshold for paying National Insurance and giving local authorities £500m more to help vulnerable families.
However, commentators such as the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ director Paul Johnson, said the measures amounted to a ‘relatively modest’ giveaway of around £5bn which would do little to prevent a significant hit to living standards amongst the least well off. Analysis from the Resolution Foundation estimated that despite Sunak’s changes, 1.3 million more people would be pushed into poverty from next month.
In his defence, the chancellor said that it was impossible for him to fully compensate UK consumers for spiralling energy costs which were affecting those across the whole of Europe. He also said that the current situation needed to be seen in context of the ‘biggest economic shock in over 300 years’ due to the pandemic.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson also hinted that more help for low earners was on the way, assuring the public that the cost-of-living crisis was the ‘single biggest thing’ the government was trying to fix.