Spring Statement: What could Rishi Sunak do on fuel costs, national insurance and benefits?

Watch Rishi Sunak's spring statement live.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is due to deliver his Spring Statement on Wednesday.

Normally, this kind of mini-budget would not loom very large in people's minds - it's intended to be more of an update on the UK Government's department spending than a major fiscal or political event.

But the state of play over the last few months means there is no "normal" anymore.

Rising inflation and the economic impact of the war in Ukraine have put increased pressure on the Government to intervene, to stop the cost of living crisis getting worse.

And we had several hints from the Conservative Spring Conference in Blackpool this weekend that Rishi Sunak will use it to provide more help.

So, what should people look out for when the Chancellor gets to his feet in the House of Commons on Wednesday?

Will he scrap plans to increase National Insurance?

This tax rise is due to come into force in April, meaning everyone in work and their employers will pay more national insurance.

Business leaders and politicians have urged Rishi Sunak to scrap or delay it - here's the former Liberal Democrat Leader and Cumbrian MP Tim Farron:

But pressure is also piling on from among some of the Conservative party too.

Will he scrap it?

Highly unlikely. The Government says the money is needed to invest in health and social care - first in tackling the huge waiting lists for NHS treatment caused by the pandemic, and then for investing in the care sector.

Those challenges haven't gone away.

But the Chancellor hasn't ruled out adjusting the payment threshold at which people have to pay National Insurance. At the moment most people start paying NI when their income hits £9,568. Bringing that close to or in line with the income tax threshold (£12,570) could soften the blow for some of the worst-off households.

What about the price of petrol?

The price of filling up your car is one of the more dramatic faces of the cost of living crisis.

Petrol prices hit a new record every day for a week, and is currently £1.66 a litre, a 55% rise on two years ago.

It's prompted fears the country is heading for a "de facto lockdown" as people can no longer afford to drive.

Rishi Sunak hinted at fuel duty cut as he vows to ‘stand by’ struggling households.

So what could change?

Tax makes up a significant chunk of the cost of petrol at the pumps - it's been frozen at 57.95p per litre since 2011.

But now, Rishi Sunak is reportedly gearing up to announce a further temporary cut in fuel duty of 5p a litre.

The big question is whether this will make enough of a difference for people also facing increased energy bills and food prices.

And does it create a headache for the Government down the road - once you've lowered a tax, it's a political challenge to get it back up again.

Will the £20 Universal Credit uptick return?

People getting Universal Credit payments had an extra £20 a week to help them through the worst parts of the pandemic.

The uplift ended in October 2021 - leaving many wondering how they would keep their heads above water.

With the shocks of inflation hitting people hard, the Chancellor has been urged to reinstate this payment, with the North West's Metro Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotherham adding their names to a joint letter by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

They wrote: "Six million low income families have already lost £20 a week because of the cut in Universal credit in October.

"Further cuts in the value of their incomes, as heating bills surge and good bills soar, will deepen the cost of living crisis they and many others face."

Now when the Government ended this payment in the autumn, they made it clear that their strategy was about focussing on helping people into and through higher paid jobs. That narrative gets harder with soaring inflation.

And on Sunday, the Chancellor didn't directly rule out bringing some kind of emergency payment back, when asked about it by the BBC.

He said: “I think what we’re doing is taking targeted action on the areas where we know there’s most acute pressure...For people on Universal Credit, we’ve taken an approach to help make sure their work is rewarded and, of course, I want to make sure that we’re helping people who are most vulnerable.”

And could benefits payments increase?

In April, benefits such as Universal Credit will go up by 3.1%

But inflation is predicted to rise by as much as 8%.

That gap has left economists worried that many more families could be pushed into poverty:

So what more can be done about it?

The UK Government has said it recognises the pressures caused by the rising cost of living and has earmarked over £20 billion of support, payments for vulnerable households and boosting the minimum wage. It's also expected that the the eligibility of the Warm Homes Discount will be expanded to cut energy bills.

The question is whether there are other rabbits the Chancellor can pull out of his hat in the Spring Statement.

And the row will be whether this can be enough to support people who are struggling to put food on the table.