Liz Truss ‘favours targeted help over support for all’ to ease cost of living crisis

ITV News political correspondent Libby Wiener addresses the latest speculation Liz Truss is planning VAT cuts.

The Liz Truss camp has said the Tory leadership frontrunner is leaning towards targeted support, instead of help for all to ease the deepening cost of living crisis.

But they maintained she is not “ruling anything out” at this stage.

As the contest enters its final week, the country is still in the dark about exactly how either candidate would act to take the sting out of sky-high energy bills this winter.

Various different possibilities have been floated in the press, with Mr Sunak’s team warning reports that Ms Truss plans to cut VAT by 5% across the board would be “regressive”.

Reports over the weekend suggested his rival was considering the move as a “nuclear” option.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

The Sunday Telegraph said this was one of a series of possible strategies to ease the strain being drawn up by the Treasury for the new prime minister to look at when they take office.

It was also reported by the BBC on Sunday that Ms Truss had “ruled out” direct support for everyone to assist with soaring bills.

But a source from the foreign secretary’s team later said that – while she is more attracted to targeted assistance – she has not yet ruled anything out.

“Liz has been clear we need to lower the burden of taxation and focus on boosting energy supplies and this will be her priority as prime minister,” they said.

“She’s also been clear further support may be required to help. Her preference is to target this to those most in need, but isn’t ruling anything out.”

Credit: PA Graphics

Ms Truss has pulled out of an interview with veteran BBC political journalist Nick Robinson which was due to air on Tuesday.

Her team said she could “no longer spare the time” to take part in the one-to-one interview, which was scheduled for 7pm on August 30 on BBC One, BBC News tweeted on Monday.

Ms Truss’s rival in the race for No 10, Rishi Sunak, sat down with Robinson earlier this month.

Robinson tweeted: “Was pleased to secure an in-depth interview with @trussliz on BBC1. I am disappointed & frustrated it’s been cancelled.”

Ms Truss had already declined to be interviewed by veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil on Channel 4, while Mr Sunak has faced him.

She did face questions from a GB News audience in Leigh, Greater Manchester, in an hour-long programme earlier in August, something Mr Sunak has avoided.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are edging closer to the end of the Tory leadership contest Credit: Danny Lawson/James Manning/PA

Meanwhile, polling from The Times has released new polling suggesting nearly half of current Tory voters want Britain’s energy industry to be renationalised.

The newspaper reported that 47% back returning energy companies to public ownership, while 28% oppose it and 25% are unsure, according to the YouGov survey.

The poll, carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, also found that Labour’s plan to temporarily freeze energy bills, valued by the party at £29 billion, is supported by 51% of Tory voters, with only 17% opposing the policy.

With the energy price cap set to rise by 80% by October, whoever emerges as Boris Johnson’s successor on September 5 will have a mammoth task on their hands to steer the country through the winter.

Regulator Ofgem warned the government on Friday that it must act urgently to “match the scale of the crisis we have before us” as Britain faced the bleak news that the average household’s yearly bill will rise from £1,971 to £3,549.

Headteachers and NHS bosses have warned that schools and hospitals, whose bills are not covered by the price cap, may have to cut staff to make savings.

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Paul Whiteman, the head of the NAHT school leaders’ union, told The Mirror some of his members are finding “the only possible action they can take is to cut staff hours”.

Rory Deighton, from the NHS Confederation, said: “The gap in funding from rising inflation will either have to be made up by fewer staff being employed, longer waiting times for care or other areas of patient care being cut back.”

The Sunday Telegraph reported that one option on the table for addressing the crisis is a 5% cut to the the 20% headline rate of VAT, saving the average household more than £1,300 per year.

But The Sun suggested Ms Truss is being pressured by allies to slash the rate even further – down to 10%.

How likely is it that Liz Truss would cut VAT if elected as PM next month? ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports

Mr Johnson has said that whoever succeeds him in No 10 will announce “another huge package of financial support”.

Ms Truss has argued it is not “right” to announce her full plan before the contest is over or she has seen all the analysis being prepared in Whitehall.

Her leadership rival has also said he favours “caution against providing definitive answers before getting into Downing Street”, arguing it is “responsible” to first have “full command of the fiscal situation”.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is said to be preparing a farewell message to mark his departure from office, in which he will insist Britain must push ahead with investment in green energy.