WELSH Government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans has said the Spring Statement has let down people struggling with the rising costs of living.
The Chancellor’s statement was delivered amidst widespread calls to deliver more support to help people pay bills. The Welsh Government had called for measures including increasing welfare benefits, a windfall tax on big energy companies, and introducing a low income energy tariff to better target support to lower income households.
Despite the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) almost doubling its inflation forecast to 7.4% from 4% for this year, the Chancellor limited the uplift in benefits to just 3.1% – after a below inflation increase of 0.5% last year.
April will see more pressure on household budgets, with energy bills and National Insurance contributions both rising.
Rebecca Evans, Minister for Finance and Local Government, said:
“People will be right to feel let down by today’s threadbare statement. Bills are rising rapidly and disposable income is falling, but there is not enough in today’s statement that recognises the struggle many are facing. It’s an ideological, regressive statement from the Chancellor that lacks practical measures to help those who need help the most – there is nothing for those who cannot work and those on lower incomes.
The UK government has squandered the opportunity to provide meaningful support. It exposes an out-of-touch Chancellor and exacerbates the fairness gap running through Westminster’s lacklustre approach to the cost of living crisis.”
Last month the Welsh Government confirmed a £330 million cost of living support package, included extended £200 winter fuel payments, a £150 cost of living payment and more money through the Discretionary Assistance Fund.
The minister added:
“In Wales we provided a cost of living support package worth nearly double the equivalent support provided in England. We encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with what is available and to take advantage of the support on offer. But we also recognise it doesn’t provide all the answers, and that many of the key levers such as welfare support lie in Westminster. We will continue to call on the UK government to join us in providing a full crisis response to help people with the rising cost of living.”