A senior minister is under fire after complaining that the cost-of-living crisis was making life ‘tricky’ for his family – while pulling in a six-figure government and MP salary.
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse bemoaned the cost of oil to heat his family home in rural Hampshire on the day he and other MPs received a £2,212 pay rise.
He conducted a series of media interviews this morning in front of a log fire in which he admitted that energy price rises which kick in today will make life ‘tough’ for millions of Britons.
But he defended Chancellor Rishi Sunak over his handling of the economy, as other ministers quietly demanded more help for the least well-off.
MPs’ salaries rise to £84,144 on Friday, up by 2.7 per cent, after the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) announced last month that their pay would go up for the first time in two years.
Because of his ministerial salary top-up his pay is now £115,824, neatly five-times the UK average salary.
But it comes on the same day that the biggest jump in domestic energy bills in living memory has come into effect, and days before national insurance contributions will increase by 1.25 percentage points.
Discussing his own situation he told LBC: ‘Obviously the day-to-day is quite tricky.
‘As you know, I’ve got children. They need to be fed and that cost is rising. My fuel prices are rising quite significantly, and I have to say that in my constituency I’m on oil central heating still, sadly.’
The Conservative MP for North West Hampshire continued: ‘Oil, I’m afraid to tell you, doesn’t come under the energy price cap, and lots of people in rural areas are suffering from the oil price rise.
‘So we are feeling it very significantly. I have to confess to you, we did convert last year to electric vehicles, so we are feeling the electric price but not through the petrol. So it is a challenge for everybody.’
He added that he had attempted to log on to his energy provider’s app on Thursday as millions tried to give meter readings before the price rise came into effect, but found it ‘wasn’t working either’.
Mr Sunak is facing opposition from inside the Government over his refusal to provide more cost-of-living help to hard-pressed families bracing for a £1,600 hit to income.
A record rise in energy bills that starts today kicks off a year of economic pain for millions. The energy price cap will jump from £1,277 to £1,971 – an increase of £693 – with official forecasts suggesting it will increase by a further £788 in October.
It comes as inflation hits levels not seen for 30 years, while millions of workers brace for a hike in National Insurance Contributions (NICS).
Mr Sunak had said the Government is trying to help cushion the blow, including lifting the NICS threshold by £3,000.
But one Cabinet minister told the Times today that the help on offer was ‘not enough, adding: ‘It doesn’t even touch the sides for a lot of families. It feels unsustainable.’
Mr Malthouse said there was hope that inflation would ‘recede shortly’ and that the Chancellor was studying the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.
He told BBC Breakfast the ‘quite significant’ 54 per cent increase to Ofgem’s energy price cap had presented an ‘extremely tough’ situation ‘against a background of inflation and to see these rises in day-to-day living costs’.
Mr Malthouse said Rishi Sunak had ‘moved quite extensively to try and help’, adding: ‘I can’t pretend to you it isn’t tough.
‘It is going to be, as we see this inflation in fuel prices spike at the moment – hopefully receding shortly – it is going to be hard, and we’re all going to have to work together to get through it.
‘I know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is looking very closely on almost a daily basis at the impact it is having on individuals and their families, and across the economy, and trying to balance the assistance we give, within the financial constraints we’ve got – with an economy, don’t forget, having just come out of a pandemic, having spent 400-odd billion pounds keeping people going through two extremely tough years.’
Put to him that the Chancellor did not do enough to help the public in the spring statement, he replied: ‘He has moved twice now to bring in assistance.’
Charities have warned that 2.5 million more households are set to fall into ‘fuel stress’ as the 54 per cent increase hits bills.
The Resolution Foundation think tank said the number of English households in fuel stress – those spending at least 10 per cent of their total budgets on energy bills – was set to double overnight from 2.5 to five million.
Citizens Advice chief executive Dame Clare Moriarty said: ‘The energy price cap rise will be potentially ruinous for millions of people across the country.
‘The support announced so far from the Government simply isn’t enough for those who’ll be hit hardest. With the long-anticipated price rises now hitting, many more people will face the kind of heart-rending choices that our frontline advisers already see all too often.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also stuck the boot in this morning, warning that the energy bill increase was leaving people ‘tossing and turning in their beds’.
He told Sky News: ‘People don’t want a revolution. They do want to know ”how am I going to pay my energy bill which has just gone up today by hundreds of pounds”?’
‘This is a significant and worrying day for millions of people.’
He added: ‘For the Government to decide to impose more tax in national insurance, now is the wrong time. It’s the wrong tax at the wrong time.
‘I think most people are clear that … the Government really needed to step up in its spring statement last week. They failed to do so and their response is frankly pathetic on a very, very difficult day for millions of people.
‘Energy bills are going up far more than we’ve ever seen on record. People are really struggling and I just don’t think the Government gets it.’
Tory MPs and campaigners urged the Chancellor to revisit last week’s mini-Budget to help millions facing an unprecedented hike in everyday costs.
An independent assessment for the Daily Mail found that price rises and tax hikes this month alone will cost a typical family of four over £134 a month – equal to more than £1,612 a year.
Energy firm websites crashed yesterday as struggling customers tried to register their meter readings on the last day before the massive rise.
Next week, the Chancellor’s controversial hike in national insurance contributions will kick in, costing someone earning £30,000 an extra £255.
Council tax bills are rising by an average 3.5 per cent. And the hospitality sector warned that the decision to increase VAT to its pre-pandemic levels would put further pressure on inflation rates which are already forecast to hit 9 per cent this year.
Hospitality firms warned price rises in pubs and restaurants are ‘inevitable’ from today when the reduced rate of VAT on the sector goes up from 12.5 per cent to its pre-pandemic level of 20 per cent.