Cost-of-living: Rishi Sunak feels heat as Labour opens 15-point poll lead on economic squeeze


ishi Sunak came under pressure on Thursday to act now to help cash-strapped families as a poll showed Labour stretching its lead as the most trusted party on dealing with the cost-of-living crisis.

The Ipsos survey for the Standard found that 37 per cent of adults in Britain most trust Sir Keir Starmer’s party to reduce their or their family’s cost of living, compared with 22 per cent for the Conservatives. The 15-point gap compares with a nine-point one in March.

The Tories lead as most trusted to grow the economy has also dipped, getting 36 per cent backing for this, unchanged on March, with Labour rising four points from 23 per cent to 27 per cent.

As Conservative MPs and business chiefs stepped up calls for the Chancellor to offer more support to households most vulnerable to the financial squeeze after inflation hit a 40-year high of nine per cent, the poll also showed how millions or Britons are already making cutbacks.

Women in particular are looking for savings in household budgets including on food purchases, buying fewer premium brands, holidays, luxuries and travel as petrol and diesel prices continue to climb to new highs.

Asked which areas they had made “noticeable reductions” in since the start of the year:

  • 56 per cent of adults said heating, electricity or water use
  • 36 per cent mentioned how much food they buy (41 per cent of women said so)
  • 38 per cent named spending on premium or expensive brands, by switching to cheaper or value brands (43 per cent of women)
  • 34 per cent highlighted going out and socialising with friends or family
  • 31 per cent mentioned holiday plans (34 per cent of women)
  • 39 per cent picked out treats or luxuries for themselves (44 per cent of women)
  • 31 per cent said travel by car or train (35 per cent of women)
  • Just over a quarter (27 per cent) stated buying household items such as TVs, furniture or kitchen appliances

Gideon Skinner, head of political Research at Ipsos, said: “There is pressure on the Chancellor and the Government to act. The public do not think rises in the cost of living are solely the Government’s fault as they see that other factors are also playing a role, but they do want the Government to provide more support — including many of their own voters.”

In a speech to the CBI business group last night, Mr Sunak warned the “next few months will be tough” but signalled he was ready to offer more help in coming weeks or months to households worst hit by the squeeze.

The Government has so far resisted calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants, whose profits have soared, to pay for more support for struggling families. But the Treasury and No10 are keeping “all options” on the table.

The Chancellor is reportedly considering a range of measures said to include an increase in the warm homes discount, tax cuts and more targeted support for the poorest families.

However, Tony Danker, director-general of the CBI, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Mr Sunak could not afford to delay. He said: “You have to help the hardest hit now.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse suggested a windfall tax could be “warranted” in some circumstances.

Some senior Tory MPs, such as Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, and Mel Stride, who chairs the Treasury Committee, now back a windfall tax.

The scale of financial gloom hanging over the country was further laid bare by 72 per cent of Britons expecting the general economic conditions to get worse over the next year, with just 15 per cent believing they will improve, giving an Economic Optimism Index of -57, compared to -56 in April.

The poll showed Boris Johnson’s party clawing back some ground as the most trusted party on levelling-up, with Labour still far ahead though on 39 per cent with the Tories on 18 per cent, a gap of 21 points, but compared to 30 in January.

On who is best to manage Britain’s relationship with the EU, the parties are level-pegging, with the Conservatives on 29 per cent and Labour 28 per cent.

The headline voting intentions put the Conservatives on 33 per cent, down two points on April, Labour 39 per cent, down one point, and Liberal Democrats 12, up two points, but all findings essentially suggesting little change as they are within the margin of error of polls.

Meanwhile, figures from data firm Experian Catalist show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts yesterday was 168.2p, up from 167.6p per litre on Tuesday. Diesel reached an average of 181p per litre yesterday, up from 180.9p a day earlier.

Ipsos interviewed 1,013 adults in Britain between May 11 and 17. Data are weighted.


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