MOTs, childcare, taxes: What's being considered to fix cost-of-living crisis and is it enough?

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports on what's being considered to help struggling families amid the cost-of-living squeeze.

Boris Johnson has been branded an "ostrich" with his head in the sand over the cost-of-living crisis, with prices rising but additional support so far not forthcoming.

The cost-of-living in the UK has rocketed since last year, with changes to the energy price cap adding around £700 to the average household's yearly bills and a national insurance increase taking approximately an extra £130 out of the average person's pay packet.

That increase of £830 to the cost of living is compounded by rising prices throughout the UK, with rent, council tax, fuel and food costs and all soaring, along with inflation reaching the 30-year-high of 7% this month.

And Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis says household energy bills could have risen by an average of £1,300 within a year, when the cap rises again in October.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said working people are "looking for help" from the government and the hit to people's payslips has the prime minister's "fingerprints all over it".

Mr Johnson held a Cabinet meeting this week in which ministers talked through "a number of ideas" that could help people and suggestions will be further explored at a domestic and economic strategy committee set to be convened in the coming weeks, his spokesman said.

Many of the ideas floated involve a cutting of bureaucracy and standards previously required under EU law which the UK is no longer subject to following Brexit.

So what is being considered to help struggling families?

  • An MOT every two years?

Under current rules, any car over three years old must have an MOT once a year, to ensure it is safe enough to be used on Britain's roads.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was reportedly keen at Cabinet to reduce the requirement to once every two years, something he has not denied.

Asked about the issue by the Commons' Transport Select Committee, Mr Shapps said any changes would need to meet a "very rigorous safety standard".

"I don't rule anything out," he said, "if you look at things like MOTs - cars have clearly become a lot more reliable than when the MOT, named after the Ministry of Transport, was put in place."

He added: "I think it's always right to keep these things under review, but there's a lot of road to cover before we get to that point."

A number of parts such as lights, seatbelts, tyres and brakes are checked to ensure they meet legal standards.

The tests cost up to £54.85, with repair bills on top.

  • Childcare

Parents could receive further childcare support, Prime Minister Johnson hinted, as ministers considered separate changes to nursery numbers to reduce costs for families.

The cost of childcare for an average part-time weekly nursery place for a child under two has risen significantly in recent years.

The prime minister told TalkTV: "The truth is that we have a lot of tax-free childcare already provided for but not enough people take it up ... we'll look at all sorts of things to help people."

He added: "I want people to realise that a lot of people have the potential to get tax-free childcare and they're not taking it up.

"We want to see more take-up [in] tutoring, helping kids at school. It's a fantastic thing ... when we have great projects, like tax-free childcare, like free tutoring, I want people to know about it."

Ministers were already looking at increasing the number of children each staff member at a nursery can look after, as part of a wider set of measures to improve the quality of childcare and ease costs.

However it is understood no decision has yet been made on ratios by the Department for Education.

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  • Green levies

There's also been talk of ministers considering whether to scrap green levies, placed on people's energy bills, which are used to fund renewable energy schemes.

According to reports, Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng rejected calls at Cabinet to scrap the levy, which adds £153 to the average energy bill.

But the levy, which is helping the UK achieve its net zero targets, looks set to stay.

Prime Minister Johnson recently insisted the levy is useful and told reporters during his visit to India that “actually green technology, green, sustainable electricity can help to reduce bills".

  • Food import tariffs

Cabinet was reportedly split over calls to cut tariffs on the import of food products that cannot be produced in the UK, such as rice.

Those in support of the move say it would help the poorest households stock their cupboards but it appears there won't be a change anytime soon after the international development secretary said it would be make a negligible difference.

She told a Commons committee: "All of us across every department are very focused on thinking about exactly how the tools that we have within our own departments, the interfaces with our constituents, where we can find ways to reduce costs.

“In terms of tariffs, it’s a tiny, tiny proportion — 0.4 per cent — on the cost of living. That isn’t really where the key areas are."

What government help is already available?

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced £350 in support for struggling households, but Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis says that's "clearly not enough" to help people facing what could be a cost-of-living increase of well over £1,000.

  • Discount for domestic energy companies

The chancellor said all domestic energy customers will get an up front discount on their energy bills worth £200 from October in the form of loans.

The government will provide firms with loans to help them afford the discount and households will repay the discount in £40 instalments over five years.

  • Council tax rebates

Rebates of £150 will be provided in April to households in council tax bands A to D, with no need for the cash to be repaid.

Around 80% of all homes in England will benefit from the rebate, the Treasury says.

  • Help from local authorities to increase

Councils have also been given a fund of nearly £150 million to support struggling house families in living in high tax rate homes.

Local authorities can use the cash to help lower income households in higher council tax bands, and households in bands A-D who are exempt from council tax.