Saturday, 2 Mar 2024

Jeremy Hunt plans major change to benefits to fund tax cuts before next election

Former PM Liz Truss makes her case for growth

Jeremy Hunt is considering cutting benefits in real terms to allow for tax cuts before the general election.

Treasury officials are understood to have drawn up ways to save money ahead of his autumn statement on November 22.

One option being looked at is ending the link between benefit increases and inflation.

It would give the Chancellor a better chance of being able to fund a tax giveaway in the Budget next spring.

Ministers insist they are committed to maintaining the triple lock that guarantees the state pension will go up by the highest of inflation, the rise in wages or 2.5 per cent.

But the benefits link is not protected by the same guarantee.

Allies of Liz Truss pointed out she planned to link benefit rises to wages rather than inflation to “kick start economic growth” by cutting nearly £5 bill from the welfare bill but “people holding senior roles in the current Cabinet” objected.

They added that it was “another pale imitation of the Truss playbook”.

It comes as the Prime Minister and Chancellor are under pressure from some Conservative MPs to slash taxes ahead of the next general election, due before January 2025.

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The tax burden is currently at its highest level since World War Two.

But Rishi Sunak and Mr Hunt have so far resisted the calls, pointing to ongoing efforts to curb high inflation.

A government spokesman said: “In order to protect the most vulnerable from the impact of high inflation, the government increased benefits by over 10% this year.

“As is the usual process, the Secretary of State will conduct his statutory annual review of benefits and State Pensions in the Autumn, using the most recent data available.”

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