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Government ‘dithering and delaying’ over support for cost-of-living crisis

‘If Johnson is serious about helping families, then we need UC boost and £10 an hour minimum wage,’ TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady tells the Star

THE government was accused of “dithering and delaying” in providing support during the cost-of-living crisis today after a minister claimed that the universal credit (UC) uplift will not return.

Ministers have been facing calls for the return of the £20 weekly uplift to the benefit, which was introduced in the pandemic but withdrawn in October, to help the poorest households.

But Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke ruled out the measure today, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We were always explicitly clear that was a temporary response to the pandemic.

“That is not going to return. The question now is how we look at the next range of solutions to deal with the challenges we’re facing.”

Pressure has also mounted for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants to help struggling households.

Ministers and Tory MPs have offered mixed messages on whether the government would implement the tax.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted that there would be further help to deal with soaring bills, but said that he was “not attracted” by the idea of a one-off levy on the companies seeing a boom in profits.

Mr Johnson also claimed that the government would “put our arms around the people,” but has declined to spell out what support might be offered or when.

Mr Clarke told LBC today that a windfall tax remains an option if energy companies do not invest their “enormous profits” in securing the future security of domestic energy supplies.

He also told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the government is “not going to rush into action” but suggested support will be forthcoming given the “severity of the situation.”

Tory MP Jesse Norman said that it is “perfectly clear” that the government would need to do more to support people and that “a windfall tax justification in part rests on [that] widespread need.”

He added that “even [former PM Margaret] Thatcher passed a couple of windfall taxes quite early on in her time.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady told the Star: “Families have been waiting far too long for the emergency Budget they need to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

“If Boris Johnson is serious about helping families, it’s abundantly clear what must be done.

“We need a boost to UC. The minimum wage should go up to at least £10 an hour.

“And we need a windfall tax on excess profits from oil and gas, with the funds used to cut bills now and to retrofit homes to keep bills down for good.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that a “range of things” need to be looked at to help people with the cost of living.

“Reinstating UC is one of them,” he said after a tour around Sainsbury’s in Nine Elms, south London.

“There’s all sorts of work that needs to be done on benefits as well. But the windfall tax is a simple solution which could be voted through Parliament very easily.

“It’s Labour’s plan, we’ll vote for it if the government brings it forward, but dithering and delaying is the thing that’s stopping people getting that money to help them with their bills.

“Six-hundred pounds for those who would need it most would make a huge, huge difference.”

A Fuel Poverty Action spokesperson said: “Government policies have consistently flogged the people who are struggling to survive while helping out the wealthy and fossil fuel profiteers.  

“The return of the £20 uplift on Universal Credit is certainly urgent and vital.  Beyond that we are pressing for Energy For All -- a free band of energy to ensure that every household has enough to keep warm and keep the lights on- funded by a windfall tax on energy companies, an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and higher prices for those who use more energy and can well afford to pay more.”

Downing Street said it was not ruling out raising UC despite Mr Clarke’s comments, and that there was no particular timescale on when the government could announce further packages.

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