Spring Statement: What can Wales expect on fuel, national insurance and benefits?

As the cost of living crisis worsens, there’s now pressure on Rishi Sunak to act to help. Credit: PA

The Chancellor of the Exchequer is due to deliver his Spring Statement this week.

It’s a kind of mini-budget, intended to be more of an update on UK Government spending plans, but a seemingly perfect storm of problems making the cost of living crisis worse means there’s now pressure on Rishi Sunak to act to help.

So what sort of things could he do and what do politicians here in Wales want him to do?

Cut fuel duty

Increasing oil and gas prices were already pushing up the cost of petrol and diesel as well as home energy costs. Now the war in Ukraine and the impact of sanctions on Russian businesses could cause those costs to go up even higher.

Rishi Sunak has hinted that a fuel duty cut could be one of the things he’ll announce on Wednesday. He’s said to be considering a temporary cut of up to 5p a litre.

Some of those calls have come from his own side, including from more than fifty Conservative MPs and Conservatives in the Senedd.

Rishi Sunak is said to be considering a temporary cut of fuel, up to 5p a litre. Credit: PA

The Welsh Conseratives' Shadow Finance Minister Peter Fox said, “The Welsh Conservatives believe that the Chancellor’s Spring Statement provides the right opportunity to protect the increasingly tight budget of families and businesses, and this can be done by a progressive cutting of fuel duty.

“This is a balanced approach that gives both taxpayers and the Treasury something to help weather the post-pandemic, economic headwinds, something we need in Wales more than anywhere after two decades of Labour’s failure to boost wages.”

Scrap or delay National Insurance increase

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

It’s needed, says the Chancellor, to pay for extra investment in health and social care post-pandemic.

But business leaders and politicians have urged him to scrap it or delay it, including the First Minister Mark Drakeford who’s signed a joint letter with the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Labour council leaders and metro mayors.

Some newspaper reports have claimed the Rishi Sunak is looking at softening the blow by raising the National Insurance threshold so that fewer people would pay the increased amount.

Food banks are also seeing the effects of energy price hikes. Credit: PA

Reinstate Universal Credit uplift

The Chancellor is also being urged to reinstate the payment of an extra £20 per week that those claiming Universal Credit received during the pandemic.

This uplift ended in October and the UK Government said it would focus instead on creating jobs but the letter signed by the First Minister calls for that decision to be reversed:

He said, “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 food bills soar, will deepen the cost of living crisis millions face.

“They are unfair and for millions will be unbearable, pushing them over the edge into extreme poverty and unable to afford to heat their homes or provide the nutrition their children need.”

Put benefits up

In April, benefits such as Universal Credit will go up by 3.1% but many others say that with so many costs increasing and inflation predicted to rise by as much as 8%, the Chancellor should consider putting welfare payments up by a larger amount.

The UK Government has said it recognises the pressures caused by the rising cost of living and has earmarked over £20bn of support, payments for vulnerable households and boosting the minimum wage.

Rishi Sunak has said that he stands ready to help families. We'll find out what his plans are on Wednesday.