Senior Conservatives are pushing for radical measures to protect people from the coming “hurricane”, warning that they will face punishment at the polls if they fail to take action.
The research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found nine out of 10 people are concerned about how they will afford our heating and food as living costs rise.
Six out of 10 (59 percent) say the economy and the cost of living would determine how they would vote if there was a general election tomorrow. The issue ranks far above the NHS and healthcare (21 percent), the war in Ukraine and foreign policy (five percent) and the environment and climate change (four percent).
Robert Halfon, the chairman of the education select committee, said: “The polling shows that people know that a hurricane is coming. The question is whether they are going to be sheltered from the storm.”
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith wants benefits to be immediately uprated in line with inflation and called for green levies on energy bills to be scrapped and funded out of general taxation.
He makes the case in a new report for the Centre for Social Justice, stating: “These add needlessly to the cost of energy, piling unnecessary taxes on top of the rising price of electricity and gas.”
Former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey pushed for tax cuts.
She said: “This poll confirms what we all know – that the public are hugely concerned about the cost of living and how they are going to be able to pay their bills for even the basics; and also that the government is not yet doing enough to support people through this incredibly tough time.
“We need to cut taxes and fast – if we are not going to cut taxes during a cost of living crisis then when on earth are we going to do so? If we don’t step up now with more support I fear the public will punish us at the next general election”
Conservative MP Miriam Cates called on the Chancellor to reduce taxes for families with children.
She said: “When you look at other countries you can see how unfair our tax system is for families. If you earn a wage of £50,000 then the Treasury thinks you are very well off, putting you in a higher tax bracket and taking away your child benefit.
“But actually, if that salary has to feed, clothe and heat four people, and you are the only earner, you can really struggle. The tax system takes no account of how many people an income is supporting.”
Tory Marcus Fysh urged the Chancellor to cut VAT across the board to reduce prices, saying: “Unless we take radical fiscal measures to reduce prices now, in a Bill next week or the week after, I am afraid that it will be too late and we will be tipped into severe recession later this year.”
Their calls come as a Resolution Foundation report warns that the “cost of living gap” between the richest and poorest households is bigger than at any point since records began in 2006.
it found that headline inflation for the poorest 10th of households has now hit 10.2 percent, compared with the 8.7 percent rate experienced by the richest 10th of households.
Stephen Crabb, a former Work and Pensions Secretary said: “Make no mistake, this issue is going to dominate our politics right through to the next election. Unless the Government comes up with a clear plan for helping families and pensioners get through this storm, we risk a huge backlash from voters.”
Forty-five percent are “significantly concerned” about paying for their heating while 30 percent are “fairly concerned” and 16 percent are “slightly concerned”.
When it came to paying for food, 39 percent are “significantly concerned”, 31 percent are “fairly concerned” and 19 percent were “slightly concerned”.
And 33 percent are “significantly concerned” about affording their rent or mortgage, with 22 percent “significantly concerned” and 16 percent “slightly concerned”.
Caroline Abrahams of Age UK pushed for action, saying: “Ministers should agree to raise the value of the state pension and benefits to match the rate of inflation this year as well as, in the case of older people, fully implementing the triple lock once again next year.”
Azmina Siddique of the Children’s Society, said the charity had “heard of children losing sleep, worried about bailiffs knocking at their doors because they’ve not had the money to keep up with payments, and their families being evicted.”
It wants free school meals provided to all children whose families receive Universal Credit, arguing this would “ensure another 1.5million children would have a decent meal every school day.”
Dennis Reed of Silver Voices, which champions the needs of older citizens, said that unless action is taken the crisis will lead to “horror stories of older people being found unfortunately deceased” because they were not “able to eat properly and not being able to heat their homes properly”.
The crisis is expected to cause particularly intense difficulty in many of the areas the Government wants to “level up” as part of its prosperity boosting programme.
An analysis by the think tank Onward found that fuel poverty in parts of the country including Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent is two-thirds higher than the UK average – and more than four times higher than in areas such as the City of London and Wokingham.
Households in the North East spent twice as much as a share of income on gas and electricity than Londoners.
MPs are now pushing the Government to consider bold measures to alleviate hardship.
Former security minister Sir John Hayes said he would favour a “windfall tax not just on energy companies but on all kinds of corporate giants that are profiting from the disadvantage of others”.
He added: “I personally would remove VAT from domestic heating oil. There are hundreds of thousands and possibly millions of people living in rural Britain [whose heating oil] has more than doubled in price in a very short time so why not have a targeted cut on that?”
The Redfield & Wilton polling found 56 percent of respondents backed a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies and there is evidence the public are open to the idea of extracting Britain’s underground gas through the controversial process of “fracking”.
Thirty-six percent supported lifting the moratorium on fracking to reduce energy bills while 20 percent were opposed.
Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, who founded the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of MPs, said he was opposed to a windfall tax, arguing that if the cash raised worked out at £100 a household this was “not a good enough reason in my view to destroy the UK’s reputation as a stable place to do business, especially as we’re asking the same companies to invest in new North Sea oil and gas and renewable technologies.”
Making the case for tax cuts, he said: “With record tax receipts of £718billion last year, the Chancellor has room to reduce taxes and therefore prices that left unchecked would flow through to higher inflation and further damaging interest rate rises. We will be judged on how we act; while the Chancellor might wish to wait until the autumn budget to present a range of beneficial measures, he’d be well served to take a range of action now.”
But Labour Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: “How much more evidence do the Tories need that a windfall tax on oil and gas profits is the fair and right way to cut bills now? Their failure to act is shameful.”