Truss puts cost-of-living plan on hold until Tory leadership election concludes
Liz Truss’s camp says she will not finalise her plans for crucial cost-of-living support before receiving the “full support and advice” only available to the government of the day.
The public will likely be forced to wait to find out what help they will get with skyrocketing energy bills until Ms Truss is expected to replace Boris Johnson in Downing Street next week.
The Tory leadership frontrunner has been accused by Labour of causing families “unnecessary worry” with her “flip-flopping” on potential measures to deal with the cost-of-living crisis.
Her campaign, which is under growing pressure to detail how she would help households this winter, said that meetings offered with Government officials to prepare for a possible transition do not cover all the information needed for Ms Truss to make an informed decision.
A campaign source said: “Liz and her team are working to ensure that they are able to hit the ground running if she is elected Prime Minister.
“Access meetings with the Cabinet Secretary have been offered to provide limited briefings to help prepare for forming an administration.
“But addressing the cost of living crisis will rightly require the full support and advice that is only available to the government of the day.”
Over the weekend, the Foreign Secretary’s team said she is leaning towards targeted support over help for all, but maintained she is not “ruling anything out”, while it was also reported she is considering slashing VAT by 5% across the board.
Labour condemned the contradictory statements and accused Ms Truss and her rival Rishi Sunak of lacking plans to deal with soaring prices.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said: “This flip-flopping by Liz Truss, floating one policy idea after another, is causing the country unnecessary worry about their bills”.
Ms Truss pulled out of an interview with veteran political journalist Nick Robinson which was due to air on the BBC on Tuesday, in which she was expected to have been pressed on her support plan.
Robinson said he was “disappointed and frustrated” by Ms Truss’s cancellation as she also faced accusations of dodging scrutiny.
A source from Mr Sunak’s team said: “Avoiding that scrutiny suggests either Truss doesn’t have a plan at all or the plan she has falls far short of the challenges we face this winter.”
Calls for the incoming prime minister to address rising costs are becoming increasingly urgent, with school leaders warning that without more funding children’s education would be damaged due to redundancies, larger classes and cuts to the curriculum.
Former Tory education secretary Kenneth Baker told The Guardian: “Some schools are bound to go in the red…
“We’re heading into a really ghastly two-year period and it’s going to require remarkable leadership to come out of this smiling”.
The Government has been accused of being missing in action amid resounding warnings that people are facing a dire winter.
Critics have pointed to the contrast with emergency measures being taken by European governments to deal with soaring energy bills.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday pledged to reform the European electricity market to help curb prices for customers.
Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has insisted he has been working tirelessly to come up with proposals for either Tory leadership candidate for more cost-of-living support.
He is travelling to the United States this week to seek cooperation on tackling the crisis with top bankers and US government officials, saying: “These global pressures must be overcome through global efforts”.
James Murray, Labour’s shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “Rather than going on another junket at the taxpayers’ expense, the Chancellor should start listening to people here at home and implementing Labour’s fully funded plan to freeze energy bills”.
Regulator Ofgem warned the Government last week that it must act urgently to “match the scale of the crisis we have before us” as Britain faced the bleak news that the average household’s yearly bill will rise 80% in October from £1,971 to £3,549.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, who is likely to be appointed Chancellor if Ms Truss enters No 10, and Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg have been holding talks with oil and gas giants to secure energy supplies amid fears of shortages this winter, according to The Times.
The newspaper reported Ms Truss would invite applications for drilling licences to explore new fields in the North Sea if she becomes prime minister, and push oil and gas firms to invest in their existing sites to maximise production.
Mr Rees-Mogg has been tipped for the position of Ms Truss’s business secretary, though her camp insisted his meetings with oil and gas companies were set up by civil servants and not linked to her campaign.
The Cabinet Office was contacted for comment on the capacity in which Mr Rees-Mogg held the talks.
Ms Truss and Mr Sunak will go head-to-head again in the final official hustings of the Tory leadership race on Wednesday.
The ballot of Conservative Party members closes on Friday, with the winner to be announced next Monday.
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