‘Above my paygrade’: Emergency budget to tackle cost-of-living crisis not ruled out by minister

Kit Malthouse says decision ‘above my pay grade’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 10 May 2022 08:32
Comments
<p>Chancellor is under pressure to deliver emergency financial support</p>

Chancellor is under pressure to deliver emergency financial support

An emergency budget aimed at tackling the cost-of-living crisis has not been ruled out by a government minister, who suggested the decision was above his “pay grade”.

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse also claimed the government cannot “spend our way out” of the crisis, as he downplayed the prospect of rapid help in the Queen’s Speech later today.

With the public facing escalating energy costs and soaring inflation, trade unions, business leaders and opposition leaders at Westminster have urged chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver an emergency budget to alleviate the impact on households.

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Malthouse acknowledged government “alarm” at predictions by the Bank of England last week that inflation could exceed 10 per cent this year — a level not since since 1982 — with energy bills set to rise again.

While support is not expected in the Queen’s speech, asked whether there would be an “emergency budget” to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, he replied: “I don’t know. You’d have to get the chancellor on and talk to him about that.

“I think he said in the media yesterday he is constantly reviewing what he can do to assist. We’re obviously in a time of very volatile fuel prices — they are moving around a lot — we need to see a little more about where that fuel price is going to go, before we design what may come forward.

Pressed again: “Well we don’t rule anything in or out — I’m afraid you’re asking questions above my pay grade.”

He added on Sky News: As far as the cost-of-living crisis is concerned, it is incredibly challenging for people out there at the moment. Obviously, legislation takes some time to put in place, it has to go through both Houses, it can often be many months, sometimes over a year, before it hits the statute book.

“I do know the prime minister and chancellor are in constant conversation about how we can be agile in assisting people through this challenging time.”

His comments came as Derek Lickorish — a former chair of the government’s fuel poverty advisory group — suggested around eight to 10 million households will require around £1,000 each to “get them through this very, very difficult period”.

He estimated the cost to the government would be between £8 and £10 billion, and warned: “Repayment of this sum is impossible for these consumers — it has to be a grant. These are exceptional circumstances. It’s going to have to go on the government’s credit card.”

Mr Lickorish, now a non-executive chairman at Utilita Energy said: ““I know the impact from our company the price increase from 1 April along with the increase in national insurance that some customers have seen.

“We’ve got 140 per cent increase in our call rate to our extra care team. That’s gone from 2,000 a week that we would expect at this time of year… to 5,000 a week.”

He also suggested some customers on pre-payment meters were self-disconnecting, as he called for a “substantial package to get through what is going to be the most difficult time in the history of the industry”.

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