Will Rishi Sunak’s billions ease the cost-of-living crisis?

£15bn relief fund praised as ‘substantial’ and ‘welcome’ – but critics warn it doesn’t go far enough

Rishi Sunak departs Downing Street
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Rishi Sunak’s 15bn cost-of-living spending package has been lauded for going further than pundits expected, despite some critics warning that it still is not enough.

Every household will get a £400 energy bill reduction in the autumn. Pensioners will get an extra £300 winter fuel payment, while people with disabilities will receive £150.

‘Throwing the kitchen sink’

The Guardian said the timing of Sunak’s announcement – coming 24 hours after the release of Sue Gray’s report into Partygate – could only be interpreted as “cynical”. But the plans themselves are nevertheless “substantial” and “welcome”, the paper added.

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The support was described as a “genuinely big package” by Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) director Paul Johnson. He tweeted that the measures – “in conjunction with tax rises already in place” – are “hugely redistributive” and will take from “high earners” to help the “poor”.

The New Statesman’s political editor Andrew Marr also praised the scale of the response, saying on LBC that “when Sunak acted, he threw the kitchen sink at the problem.

“In fact not just the sink,” he added, “but the fridge freezer, the hob and the cutlery drawer as well.”

‘A sticking plaster’

However, the boss of Asda said the package is a “drop in the ocean” compared with the pressures consumers are facing. Stuart Rose told Retail Gazette that “there is still going to be continuing pressure and a lot of toughness for people”.

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the Fabian Society, told The Guardian that the measures are a “sticking plaster”, a response echoed by the Institute for Public Policy Research, which said the “measures offer temporary relief, but any long-term solution must ensure our social safety net is fit for purpose”.

The package “will bring relief: for a while”, agreed Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph. But when its effects are completed next Easter, inflation is still expected to be around 8%. “And what then?”

“This can’t go on forever,” wrote the IFS’s Johnson in The Times. “In the end it is only getting inflation under control and the economy growing which will protect our living standards,” and if Sunak fails on that, “all of these measures will turn out to have been mere sticking plasters on a gaping wound”.

There have also been questions about how much protection the chancellor is really offering to the most vulnerable. MoneySavingExpert founder Martin Lewis said Sunak is “giving with one hand and taking away with the other”, the The Independent reported.

This was in reference to the chancellor announcing that those receiving disability benefits would be handed £150 in extra support – just as nearly 300,000 disabled people are being cut off from the warm home discount scheme.

The i news site also warned that some will “fall through the cracks” of Sunak’s spending plans.

Families with children will see a “smaller increase in income”, the site said, because “they tend to use more energy, and will also have higher food and general living costs, but the lump sum support will not reflect this”.

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Chas Newkey-Burden has been part of The Week Digital team for more than a decade and a journalist for 25 years, starting out on the irreverent football weekly 90 Minutes, before moving to lifestyle magazines Loaded and Attitude. He was a columnist for The Big Issue and landed a world exclusive with David Beckham that became the weekly magazine’s bestselling issue. He now writes regularly for The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, Metro, FourFourTwo and the i new site. He is also the author of a number of non-fiction books.