Jeremy Hunt’s back-to-work budget includes a reduction in childcare fees

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Chancellor confident Wednesday’s budget will boost economy (Image: PA)

Jeremy Hunt has promised to cut childcare costs as part of a broader initiative to get more people back into work.

The Chancellor will also turn the benefit system on its head so that 2.5 million people written off as long-term sick can return to work without fear of losing their entitlements if it doesn’t work out.

And he will entice over-50s to return to work by investing in what he calls the “back-to-work budget” continuing education program.

Mr Hunt will also stop customers with prepayment meters from being charged more for energy – which could shave £45 a year off bills. And he is being urged to scrap a £500-a-year increase in average fuel bills due to come into effect next month.

The measures are likely to anger some Tory MPs who are calling for tax cuts.

But the Chancellor is confident Wednesday’s budget will lift the economy out of the doldrums by boosting the workforce.

He said high childcare costs discourage some low-income parents from taking a job. To fix this, he’s paying families up front through Universal Credit. The maximum amount parents can claim – which has stood at £646 a month per child since 2005 – will increase, although he didn’t say by how much.

Abolishing a system for assessing benefit entitlements will allow sick and disabled people to try to work without fear of losing payouts, he added.

And he urged those over 50 not to retire too soon, telling The Mail on Sunday: “This should be a time when you’re thinking, ‘I’ve got 20 years of working life ahead of me’. Around 600,000 in that age group have left their jobs since Covid – including many wealthy people who are no longer paying their mortgages, experts say.

While cutting taxes is high on his list of priorities, Mr Hunt said it was important to be “responsible in managing public finances”. “Breaking down barriers that prevent people from working” is key to growing the economy, he added.

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said No 10 left the UK in a “low growth, low investment spiral”. And Sarah Olney of the Lib Dems said the budget was “hot air and no help” for ailing Britons.

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Justin Scaccy

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