Spring Statement: ‘Comprehensive programme’ needed to address ‘rocketing costs’ – Ben Lake MP
Rural fuel duty relief, energy efficiency investment and benefit increase among Plaid Cymru calls ahead of mini-budget
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has today (Wednesday 23 March) called for a “comprehensive programme” to address “rocketing costs and increased taxes” ahead of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement.
Amid reports that Rishi Sunak will announce a cut to fuel duty, Plaid Cymru are instead advocating reforms to the Rural Fuel Duty Relief, which would instead target relief for areas most reliant on car use due to low levels of public transport. The party argues that a wholesale cut to fuel duty would be inconsistent with climate targets, and that targeted support for rural areas and rebates for key sectors such as haulage would be fairer.
The Ceredigion MP is also reiterating calls he made during a speech on his Ten-Minute Rule Bill on Tuesday (22 March) in which he called for an energy efficiency programme to be delivered through a devolved Shared Prosperity Fund. He also calls to scrap the planned hike to National Insurance, and to provide relief for small employers. This would be achieved by increasing the Employment Allowance to £5,000 – a measure also advocated by the Federation of Small Businesses.
Plaid Cymru are also calling for benefits to be increased in line with inflation, rather than the 3.1% currently planned, given that the Bank of England predicts that inflation will rise above 7% next month. Recent analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that increasing benefits by the planned rate of 3.1% at a time of soaring inflation at would mean that 9 million low-incomes households entitled to means-tested benefits, both in and out of work, would experience an average real-terms cut of £500 a year.
Ben Lake MP said that it would be “inexcusable to inflict such additional hardship on people when the cost of living is already soaring.”
Plaid Cymru’s Treasury spokesperson, Ben Lake MP said:
“People and businesses across Wales are facing rocketing costs and increased taxes. Today, the Chancellor has a golden opportunity to announce a comprehensive programme of support for businesses and households that are struggling under the weight of rising costs.
“Rural businesses and households in Wales will be particularly hit by the rise in fuel and energy prices. In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor must reform the Rural Fuel Duty Relief scheme to help areas in Wales where a lack of public transport has led to higher dependency on car use for essential journeys, and introduce a temporary rebate scheme for key sectors such as haulage and public transport.
“Furthermore, the Chancellor should waste no time in bringing forward investment to improve our housing stock's energy efficiency. Plaid Cymru are calling for an ambitious housing retrofit to reduce energy bills in the long-term, which should be delivered through a devolved Shared Prosperity Fund.
“The Chancellor should make use of improved tax receipts to reconsider the planned hike to National Insurance, and at the very least should increase the employment allowance to allow small businesses to carry on trading without increasing costs for customers.
“Finally, an immediate measure the Chancellor must announce is an increase to benefits in line with inflation. His refusal would mean that 9 million low-incomes households entitled to means-tested benefits, both in and out of work, would experience an average real-terms cut of £500 a year. It would be inexcusable to inflict such additional hardship on people when the cost of living is already soaring.”