Explainer

Prime Minister's in-tray: What are the key issues Liz Truss will have to tackle?

Liz Truss speaking to her supporters.
Liz Truss will have to address a number of pressing issues after being appointed Britain's next prime minister. Credit: PA

Liz Truss has been announced as the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest and Britain's next prime minister.

When she walks into No 10 Downing Street she will be immediately confronted with a number of pressing subjects.

Much of the Conservative Party leadership contest has focused on how any prospective prime minister plans to tackle these head on.

But what exactly are the key issues Ms Truss will need to address without delay?

Cost of living

At home the most urgent issue for Ms Truss to contend with will be support for households and businesses in the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Household bills for many UK residents have soared in recent months, leading to questions around how she plans to ease the financial blues.

Homes' energy bills, for example, will grow by 80% when the new energy price cap takes effect from October 1, 2022.

Businesses' bills are already soaring even higher, as their energy prices are not regulated by a cap.

Global demand for oil and gas has rocketed this year and the problem has only been exacerbated by Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.

Unprecedented levels of inflation - the current rate is 10.1% - are also adding further pressure to Britons already struggling to make ends meet.


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As winter fast approaches, calls have grown for added support to be offered to struggling families and those most at risk of energy poverty.

In a move to assure concerned households Mr Johnson has insisted that whoever takes over from him will announce "another huge package of financial support".

On the eve of the leadership result Ms Truss vowed to act on soaring energy costs within a week of taking office.

According to reports in the Times and Telegraph on Monday, she is reportedly considering a freeze on energy prices.

She has also pledged help in the form of tax cuts by, amongst other plans, reversing the increase to National Insurance (NI) contributions and cancelling the rise in corporation tax.

Ukraine and defence spending

Russia's bloody Ukraine invasion and stranglehold on a key gas pipeline has no end in sight.

Ms Truss will need to outline plans for the UK's continued response.

During his time in office Mr Johnson adopted a hardline stance against the Kremlin and his successor will be expected to do much the same.

Since Russia's invasion began the UK has positioned itself as a firm ally of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Under Boris Johnson's leadership the UK has been a firm ally of Ukraine after it was invaded by Russia. Credit: Twitter/Boris Johnson

A new £54 million package of support - including 200 state-of-the-art drones and loitering munitions - was announced in August, adding to the more than £2.3 billion worth of military and financial aid already donated.

Ms Truss has said she will continue to offer support to Ukraine.

At the same time an escalation of global security fears, due to Russia's invasion, has led to debate about the level of funding the government commits to Britain's defence.

During her campaigning, Ms Truss pledged to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030.

NHS backlog

Figures released by NHS England in August revealed that a total of 6.7 million people were waiting to start treatment, at the end of last June - the highest number since records began in 2007.

Stretched waiting lists for the health service were compounded by the Covid pandemic, which has led to resources being diverted from non-urgent appointments.

The government must also grapple with a GP shortage, as a recruitment struggle leaves patients up and down the country competing desperately for limited appointments.

Ms Truss has made public her proposals to divert £13 billion of funding for the NHS to deal with a Covid backlog in social care.

Mr Johnson introduced plans to raise the £13 billion amount by raising national insurance (NI) contributions.

In the short term the NI takings are currently slated to be allocated to the health service, before being shifted to social care in the future.

Ms Truss has revealed she would scrap the NI rise and find the extra funding from general taxation, but she added it should go towards social care.

Strikes and public sector pay

Picket lines have once again become a familiar sight in Britain, as fed-up public sector workers take action over pay and conditions.

Several mass walkouts have been staged by rail workers this summer, while industrial action has also been launched by bus drivers, barristers and Royal Mail employees.

And with further action yet to come, Ms Truss will be under pressure to resolve the brewing discontent urgently.

She has said she plans to crack down on strike action within public services.

Strike action over work pay has been taken by a number of public sector entities in 2022. Credit: PA

However, unions have hit back at any possible proposals and threatened mass action at what they view as an attack on trade unions and civil rights.

To date, there has also been no suggestion from Ms Truss that she will improve on offers of pay increases to public sector workers.

In August, she performed a U-turn on plans to link public sector pay to local living costs, after being criticised by unions.

Rwanda and immigration

Earlier this year Home Secretary Priti Patel unveiled plans to send migrants to Rwanda in a bid to curb Channel crossings.

But the scheme's first deportation flight, due to take off on June 14, was grounded amid legal challenges.

One of the first major decisions Ms Truss will have to make is whether she continues support for the plan.

But despite the proposals facing international criticism, Ms Truss has indicated a desire to see it successfully implemented. She said she would "support and extend" the policy "to more countries".

More than 20,000 people have arrived in the UK after navigating busy shipping lanes from France, in small boats such as dinghies so far in 2022, according to government figures.

Net zero

Tackling climate change is also high on the agenda for the incoming leader.

Currently, the UK has set itself a net zero emissions target for 2050 and aims to be powered entirely by clean electricity, “subject to security of supply”, by 2035.

The UK has set itself a net zero emissions target for 2050. Credit: PA

But recent weather events have led to renewed calls from climate activists for these targets to be met much earlier.

July's sweltering heatwave peaked anxieties when it brought with it Britain's hottest day on record, and led to a drought being declared for parts of England and Wales by August.

Ms Truss has confirmed she will maintain the UK’s 2050 net zero target, but also said she wants to rethink some net zero policies - such as temporarily scrapping the green levy.

Cost of housing

Rental prices in much of the UK are soaring, and the government is under increasing pressure to help tenants.

In April rents swelled by 4.1% - the highest level for a decade - and London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned of rent hikes of 12% on average in the capital.

The government has been pressed on what support it can offer embattled renters.

Shortly before he was sacked from his position as levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, had suggested the only way to solve the lack of available homes in the UK was for greater investment to help build social housing at pace.

The current Tory government has a manifesto pledge of constructing 300,000 new homes a year, though ministers have not offered a guarantee that they will be able to meet the goal.

Prior to the end of last month ITV News learned that ministers are consulting on whether to introduce a social housing rent cap from April 2023 on more than four million households.

However critics noted there was nothing in the proposals to help private renters, as reports emerged of desperate tenants queuing for properties and plunged into bidding wars in areas squeezed by high demand.

Home owners who have tracker mortgages or fixed rates are about to end face higher payments imminently, in tandem with soaring energy and good prices.

Many households' mortgage payments will spike after the Bank of England increased interest rates in a bid to deflate ballooning inflation.

Ms Truss will need to sign off any planned interventions in the housing market once she's sworn in as prime minister.