In yet another U-turn, Liz Truss suggested last night that she WOULD hand government cash to Britain’s poorest to help with soaring energy bills.
It comes as the Treasury confirmed it was working on options for the new prime minister to help ease the cost of living crisis, with benefits increases, cash payments and even a freeze of the energy price cap reportedly on the table.
Truss – the frontrunner to succeed Boris Johnson – now seems likely to offer cash grant of some form to vulnerable households, stressing she would do “all I can” to ensure energy bills were paid this winter.
Meanwhile rival Rishi Sunak said he would hand “around £400” more support than planned – at a cost of several billion pounds, The Times reported.
Members of the former chancellor’s camp also said he would extend windfall taxes on energy companies to ease household bills, as senior ministers discuss fresh levies with oil and gas bosses.
Tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts
Truss, however, has said that further windfall taxes would hurt investment. In a statement on the cost of living, she said tax cuts would be “our first port of call”.
“I understand how difficult the rising cost of living is making life for many, and if elected I will do all that I can to help struggling households,” she said.
But Sunak accused her of a “major U-turn on the biggest issue facing the country”, saying: “Taking action means providing direct support, which Truss had previously dismissed as ‘handouts’.”
The revelations come as Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng prepare to press gas and electricity company executives for solutions to the predicted spike in bills over winter.
The summit with utilities bosses, expected to take place in Downing Street, comes after Cornwall Insight predicted bills are set to soar to around £3,582 in October, from £1,971 previously, before rising even further in the new year.
Executives are being asked to submit a breakdown of expected profits and payouts, as well as investment plans for the next three years.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown has suggested scrapping the price cap and negotiating lower rates with energy bosses, according to reports.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, the Chancellor told reporters: “I think it’s important we all get round the table, I will continue to do the work I need to do as Chancellor, but I also want to challenge them, to say are you making the investment? How can you help your customers? What more can we do together? That’s the reason for the meeting.”
Speaking in Belfast on Wednesday, he added: “What I want to do tomorrow is understand better how they’re committed to that investment in gas, because whatever happens we need energy security and we’ve got a strong strategy that Kwasi and I will continue to push hard.
“The other area I want to look at is some of the energy producers, if you look at the renewable energy producers, the amount that they get paid is linked to gas prices.
“So, they haven’t changed anything they’re doing, they haven’t had any increase in their input costs at all, but they’re getting a much higher return because of the unusually high gas price because of Putin.”