This was far from a feel-good spring statement for the people who really matter



Just hours before Chancellor Rishi Sunak got up to deliver his Spring declarationrevealed the head of the supermarket chain Iceland that some food bank users purchase root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots because they spend too much energy cooking them.

Not in recent memory has the choice between “hot or eating” been illustrated in such sharp terms.

When Rishi Sunak revealed measures that he claimed would help millions of families with the sky-high cost of living, he may have thought he had done enough, politically, to satisfy grumbling conservative MPs.

There was a reduction of 5p in the fuel tax, a tax reduction of 6 billion. pounds for workers with the increase of the national insurance threshold, and – in a rare rabbit out of the hat – a 1p reduction in the basic rate of income tax to 19p, in 2024.

How wise of him, some conservative MPs with a narrow majority may have thought of planning a tax cut four weeks before a general election.

Yet it quickly became clear that this was very far from a feel-good account for the people who really matter – the voters.

If the poorest families can not afford gas to cook potatoes now, how much worse will it get?

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The Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) gave a glimpse: With inflation at 6.2 percent and expected to reach 8.7 percent this year, nominal earnings will grow by only 5.3 percent.

This means an overall reduction in disposable income of 2.2 percent – the largest decrease since the rationing age.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies said most of the tax cuts announced by Mr Sunak would be canceled by already planned increases in national insurance and the freezing of income tax thresholds for four years – in fact a real increase.

There was nothing for old-age pensioners or people on benefits of working age.

If the poorest families can not afford gas to cook potatoes now, how much worse will it get?

And his decision to postpone the 1p income tax cut until April 2024, just as pencils are being tipped into ballot boxes across the country, rather than now, when desperately needed, seems like a thinly veiled cynical maneuver to win the Conservative re-election rather than help people through one of the most difficult economic periods in 70 years.

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