In his spring statement, Rishi Sunak points to a reduction in fuel taxes

Rishi Sunak gave a clear indication in his spring statement this week that he will cut fuel taxes, while warning that the UK’s days of higher public spending – including on defense – are over.

The Chancellor said he will help families struggling with the cost of living when he presents updated economic forecasts on Wednesday, saying: “Where we can make a difference, of course we will.”

Sunak admitted that energy prices are “the number one priority” for people at the moment and that as an MP for Richmond, a rural Yorkshire constituency, he knew fuel prices were “a big problem”.

“It’s a challenge for families, I understand that,” he told the BBC Sunday Program. He said his policy was to “take targeted action where we believe the most acute pressure is”.

Sunak is under pressure to further cut taxes across the board, saying they would come down “over time”; He blamed the pandemic for giving Britain its highest overall tax burden since the 1950s.

But he refused to say whether he would cut income tax or change the threshold for paying Social Security in the spring declaration, as many Tory MPs would like.

Sunak made it clear he would now firmly resist pressures to increase public spending and borrowing – some of which have come from his Downing Street neighbor Prime Minister Boris Johnson in recent weeks.

In particular, Sunak appeared to rule out an emergency increase in defense spending, arguing that another £24 billion had already been allocated to the military budget despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We acted and did this before this happened and that’s a good thing,” Sunak said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

Sunak insisted the government’s integrated defense and foreign policy review last year acknowledged the Russian threat, though critics say the document was overly preoccupied with an “Asia-Pacific bias.”

He said his priority is getting value from the money the government is already spending, particularly in the NHS, and touted efficiency gains to save £5.5billion, which he said would be put back into public services .

The Chancellor said his priority was cutting taxes compared to the rest of Parliament after analysis showed he had raised more taxes in two years than former Labor Chancellor Gordon Brown had in a decade.

Sunak insisted Brown was not struggling with a pandemic, but his credibility with Conservative MPs now rests on his ability to control spending and cut taxes ahead of the election.

Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chancellor, told Sky News Sophy Ridge on Sunday Program: “He always says he’s a low-tax chancellor. He has a chance to prove it on Wednesday.”

Labor is calling for a reversal of the £12bn increase in social security. Labor also wants a windfall tax for North Sea oil companies.

But Reeves said Labor would not “stand in the way” if Sunak voted to cut fuel taxes by 5p a liter in his statement next week. In his spring statement, Rishi Sunak points to a reduction in fuel taxes

Adam Bradshaw

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