Welsh minsiter blasts ‘inaction’ of UK Government over cost of living crisis
A Welsh minister has blasted the UK Government’s “inaction” over the cost of living crisis as crippling energy price rises are set to plunge over half the population into “a decade of poverty”.
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said that families in Wales were “facing the biggest fall in living standards since records began”.
Ofgem has confirmed an 80.06% rise in the energy price cap, sending the average household’s yearly bill from £1,971 to £3,549 from October.
The likely next Prime Minister Liz Truss has today pledged “immediate support” to ease the sting of spiralling energy bills as the Tory leadership contest enters its final stretch.
The Foreign Secretary acknowledged the strain is “clear” at the checkout and the petrol pump, but insisted that Britain will “get through these tough times” – vowing to ensure help is “on its way”.
But with Ofgem’s announcement to lift the energy price cap, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt has hit out at the inaction of the UK Government and their failure to support the most vulnerable with the cost-of-living crisis.
“The projections for those who will be plunged into poverty are unforgiving and all the while we are faced with the unacceptable three-pronged chaos of a failing UK government, a cruel price cap increase and the record profits of oil and gas giants,” Jane Hutt said.
“While oil and gas giants bathe in record profits from shaking down customers and revelling in government support packages, the UK Government fails to even acknowledge an emergency budget is necessary.
“People across Wales need support now. We need an emergency budget, we need to freeze gas and electricity prices immediately and we need to tax the oil and gas giants making record profits.”
Liz Truss previously signalled she could help firms and households with soaring energy bills with direct support this winter.
She was looking at assistance “across the board” despite in the past insisting she was focused on slashing taxes, rather than what she termed “giving out handouts”.
The Foreign Secretary has now promised “decisive action” to deliver “immediate support”.
She has also pledged to “fix the problems at the heart of this energy crunch at their source” by “radically” boosting domestic supplies.
It comes as Ofgem is expected to announce another huge rise in the energy price cap on Friday.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Ms Truss said: “The impact on our cost of living is clear at the supermarket checkout, at the petrol pump and on our latest energy bills.
“I know how hard it is for millions of Britons, and how grave concerns are about the consequences of today’s decision by Ofgem on the next energy price cap.
“The rest of Europe is facing the same challenge, which will loom large as winter sets in.
“If I am elected leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister, I will take decisive action on entering No 10 to provide immediate support, but will also tackle the root causes of these issues so we are never again in this difficult position.
“To those of you feeling the squeeze, my message is clear: I will ensure support is on its way and we get through these tough times.”
She repeated her pledges to cut taxes, including by reversing the national insurance hike, and slash green levies on energy bills.
‘Decade of poverty’
Jane Hutt said that since November 2021, the Welsh Government had used “all available financial” levers to deliver a number of support packages to support households across Wales deal with the crisis.
“We first announced our Household Support Fund which included, among other support, a £200 cash payment for families on low incomes to help with energy bills,” she said.
“Again, the Welsh Government stepped up to support families following Ofgem’s announcement at the beginning of the year to increase the domestic energy cap with an unprecedented £330million cost-of-living support package.
“This package of support delivered a £150 payment to households with their council tax, £25million for a discretionary fund aimed at supporting struggling households and £21million to extend free school meals during 2022.
“I’m proud that we are now able to provide a further £90million to run another Welsh Government Fuel Support Scheme in 2022-23, this scheme will launch on 26 September and we’ve extended the eligibility to support more households with vital support.
“We have delivered this package of support from our own budget, this is on top of the announcements from the UK Government, but Ofgem’s decision today, demonstrates the real need for further targeted support immediately, we know what we have provided is not enough.”
Reiterating the call to deliver a package of support for the most vulnerable, the Minister stated: “Welsh Government Ministers have consistently called on Westminster to take several measures that will help support people during this crisis.
“We’ve called for the introduction of a lower price cap for low-income households, we called for a significant increase in the rebate through schemes such as the Warm Homes Discount, to restore the £20 uplift in Universal credit and uprate benefit payments for 2022-23 to match inflation rather than using the September 2021 CPI figure of 3.1%.
“Our actions go some way to addressing the serious problems the most vulnerable in our society are facing, but unfortunately, these calls have fallen on deaf ears.
“The continued inaction by Westminster carries the real risk of consigning the people of the UK to a decade of poverty. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
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