Rishi Sunak has denied that his living expenses announcement was constructed as a “fig leaf to cover up” the Sue Gray report.
The Chancellor was grilled by money-saving expert Martin Lewis after unveiling a £15billion emergency package of measures to help people through the worst incomes crisis in a generation.
Critics have accused the Government of timing the announcement to divert attention from scathing criticism of Boris Johnson for breaches of the Downing Street lockdown.
Mr Lewis said the timing of the announcement left some with a “slightly bad taste in the mouth” and expressed his readers’ concern that the perceived delay had impacted people’s mental health.
The chancellor – who was fined along with the prime minister for breaching lockdown laws – denied that the report’s release informed his policies.
Speaking to the founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, he said, “I can categorically assure you that this had no impact on the timing of our announcement of support. I can absolutely vouch for that and my word.”
He said it had been necessary to wait to act to get a better sense of where energy prices would be going into the fall.
Ofgem signaled this week that the price cap is expected to rise by £800 in October, taking annual bills to £2,800 for most households.
Mr Sunak said “no chancellor can solve every problem” but indicated he was ready to intervene again next year if the cost of living balance was not restored.
When asked whether he might announce new measures in the spring, the Chancellor said: “I think people can judge me by my actions during the time I’ve been doing this job.
“I am responding to the situation the country is in and supporting people where we can, helping the most vulnerable and doing so in a responsible manner to ensure the economy and country are strong.
“I’ll continue like this, I don’t know what the prices will be next year.”
He said next year’s increases in benefits and pensions are likely to be large as they will be indexed to inflation from September.
Mr Sunak added: “That should give people a tremendous sense of security – we are providing aid to get people to the point where incomes are rising next year.”
Earlier this morning he endorsed a major about-face by adopting Labor’s policy of partially funding the aid by imposing an unexpected tax on rising oil and gas company profits.
A previously announced rebate of £200 for households to help cover rising energy bills has been raised to £400 and will be paid out in October.
Crucially, it no longer has to be repaid in larger bills over the next five years, as was the case with the original scheme.
Further targeted measures will help the most vulnerable households to weather the crisis.
People on the lowest incomes – this applies to Universal Credit, tax credits, pension credits and legacy benefits – will receive a lump sum payment of £650.
An extra £300 in one-off payments will flow to pensioners alongside the winter payment for fuel this winter at a cost of £2.5bn.
Worth £900m, those receiving disability benefits will get a £150 living cost payment until September.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at email@example.com.
For more stories like this, Visit our news page.
Get the top news, feel-good stories, analysis and more
https://metro.co.uk/2022/05/26/cost-of-living-rishi-sunak-grilled-by-martin-lewis-over-energy-rebate-16718757/ Cost of living: Rishi Sunak grilled by Martin Lewis on energy discount