With energy bills, petrol prices and inflation all at record highs, Rishi Sunak has been under pressure to tackle the cost of living crisis that is hammering UK households.
On Wednesday the chancellor claimed he was doing just that: he slashed fuel duty by 5p a litre, scrapped national insurance payments for the poorest workers by raising the tax threshold and promised an income tax cut from 20p in the pound to 19p by the next election in 2024.
But some of the country’s top policy wonks aren’t convinced the measures go far enough in alleviating the squeeze on household finances.
They say the spring statement does “next to nothing” for some of the country’s the poorest people.
Paul Johnson, head of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, pointed out that the rise of inflation to 6.2 per cent meant that households were seeing the biggest fall in living standards since the 1950s.
And he tweeted: “No extra money for health, schools or other public services despite huge increase in inflation. Likely implies big real pay cuts for most public sector workers.”
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) also said the chancellor’s statement was “woefully inadequate” and “does too little for those at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis”.
NEF chief Miatta Fahnbulleh said Sunak could have taken pressure of those struggling the most by increasing benefits like Universal Credit.
“There were many things the chancellor could have done to take the pressure off families, like bolstering social security to support families at the sharp end of this crisis, a windfall tax on energy producers’ excess profits to soften the rise in energy prices and investment in housing retrofit to improve energy security for all,” she said.
“Today we needed to see real and decisive action to tackle a crisis that people are dealing with every day and yet help was thin on the ground, especially for those that needed it most.
“The chancellor is about to learn that you can’t tax cut your way out of a cost-of-living crisis, and millions of people are about to pay the price.”
And Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, tweeted:
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation claimed Sunak had “abandoned many to the threat of destitution”.
Head of economics Dave Innes also accused the chancellor of “acting recklessly” by not increasing benefits in line with inflation.
“The chancellor has acted recklessly in pressing ahead with a second real-terms cut to benefits in six months, while prioritising people on middle and higher incomes,” he said.
“Changes to National Insurance won’t help those who aren’t working or can’t work due to disability, illness or caring responsibilities, and exposes them to an increased risk of becoming destitute.
“This means they will face regularly going without absolute essentials such as food, energy and basic hygiene products.
“Make no mistake – this dire situation will leave millions in despair as a direct consequence of the chancellor’s irresponsible choices today”.