The prime minister has claimed that the burden on hard-pressed households is “starting to ease”. In a BBC interview, Rishi Sunak said pressures from higher bills or mortgage rates were subsiding.
It comes as eight million people on means-tested benefits will receive their final cost-of-living instalment. The £299 payment will go directly into bank accounts of those eligible before 22 February without the need to claim.
No further payments of this kind are scheduled and charities are urging the government to consider more support. However, questions have been raised over whether such payments were the best way to help struggling households. This payment of £299 is the last of three instalments that totalled £900 that will have been paid within a year.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he was “sad” to hear about parents being so low on money they have been watering down baby formula for their infants.
“But my job is to make sure that we can ease those pressures,” he said, pointing out that inflation – which measures the pace of prices rises – is now much lower than its peak of 11.1% in October 2022.
“That’s why it was important that we prioritised bringing inflation down […] that will have an impact on people because it will start to ease some of those pressures,” he said. Although, a drop in global energy prices and the Bank of England’s decision to increase interest rates have had the biggest part to play in cooling price rises.
Mr Sunak also said that households were “starting to see mortgage rates come down” and the government had given “meaningful” tax cuts. Those on low incomes and receiving benefits such as universal credit are eligible for the cost-of-living payments, but they should be wary of scams in which fraudsters use the opportunity to try to access personal details. They often purport to be from government bodies. Some are designed to capture financial information.
On legitimate payments, there will be a reference on a recipient’s bank account of their National Insurance number, followed by DWP COL, or the reference HMRC COLS for those who are eligible through tax credits. After this final instalment, no further cost-of-living payments are currently scheduled, with some pressure on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to announce more support in next month’s Budget.
“Our data shows that the cost-of-living payments do offer some respite to people, but this is short-lived. Historically high energy bills, unaffordable housing and other spiralling costs are keeping people in crisis,” said Morgan Wild, of Citizens Advice. The government has responded with temporary support but we need more than quick fixes. Long-term commitments are needed to raise people’s incomes and standard of living.”
The prime minister also told 5 Live that the government had provided “considerable support for the most vulnerable in society… totalling about £100bn”. He added: “Taken in the round, there’s lots of support for the people who need it.
In other news – MP Mike Freer has announced he will stand down at the next general election over safety fears
A man has been charged in connection with threatening behaviour towards Conservative MP Mike Freer. The Met Police said James Phillips, 46, of north London, had been charged with malicious communications.
Mr Freer’s office reported on 1 February that the minister had received an abusive phone call the previous day, the police said. The MP for Finchley and Golders Green is to stand down at the next election over safety fears. Read more