Households braced for energy bill rise with chancellor expected to offer help to hard-up families

UK

Analysis by Jon Craig, political correspondent

It’s being called D-day for the cost-of-living crisis. And Rishi Sunak is determined to be centre stage and show the public and Tory MPs that he has the right measures to tackle it.

On a day of good news and bad news, on which the bad threatens to outweigh the good, the chancellor will be hoping to bring some respite to hard-pressed families struggling to pay their soaring household bills.

The cost of living is also centre stage in the battle between the political parties, rivalling the Downing Street party allegations, and seems certain to dominate the next general election campaign.

Mr Sunak is under intense pressure from opposition MPs and his own backbenchers to introduce emergency measures urgently and deal with it.

And so, after Ofgem announces the lifting of the price cap on energy bills, probably by about £650 and taking it up to nearly £2,000, Mr Sunak will respond almost immediately in a House of Commons statement.

The headline in this statement is likely to be a £6bn loan scheme for energy companies, allowing them to give rebates of around £200 to households to compensate.

But will it be enough? And how will it go down in the Commons? Free-market Conservative MPs on the right of the party, such as Steve Baker and Sir John Redwood, are already complaining that it’s intervention in the market and profoundly un-Conservative.

Labour, on the other hand, will claim what the chancellor should be doing is axing VAT on energy bills, a move put forward in an Opposition Day debate in the Commons this week but rejected by the government.

But Mr Sunak will also pull a rabbit out of the cost-of-living hat by announcing a surprise move to give council tax rebates to those from poorer households, probably those living in Band A, B and C properties. A targeted move to help the less well off, he will claim, confident that Labour won’t be opposing that.

Up next, at midday, will be an interest rate rise, from 0.25% to 0.5%, from the Bank of England, which will be sold as a move to curb inflation, now heading towards 7%. Tell that to homeowners with mortgages, however.

Mr Sunak will round off his day blitzing household bills with a high-profile live TV address in a Downing Street news conference in the afternoon or early evening.

No doubt, however, he’ll be asked if he’s on manoeuvres against his embattled boss, Boris Johnson.

To which he’ll no doubt reply that the only manoeuvres he’s on are against the rising cost of living and soaring household bills.

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