Rishi Sunak plans ‘bold Covid-style economic action’ to help with soaring energy bills

·2 min read
Rishi Sunak at an event in Edinburgh, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party - Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire
Rishi Sunak at an event in Edinburgh, as part of the campaign to be leader of the Conservative Party - Jeff J Mitchell/PA Wire

Rishi Sunak will ensure “bold” economic interventions on a similar scale to Covid measures to help struggling Britons this winter, an ally has suggested.

Oliver Dowden, a former Tory Party chairman, praised Mr Sunak’s plans for “bold and direct action” over the cost of living crisis.

The former chancellor has clashed with Liz Truss, his Tory leadership rival, on the best response to rising household costs as energy bills are projected to reach up to £500 a month by January.

Last week he pledged another multi-billion package of support further to the £37billion he oversaw during his time at the Treasury, while the Foreign Secretary rejected the use of state “handouts” in favour of immediate tax cuts.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Dowden said: “I think you've seen from Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor, both in response to the furlough scheme, when he came up with that in a matter of days, that saved millions of jobs, and the action he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson took earlier this year – it’s that kind of scale of intervention that is required.

“These things don’t necessarily have to be done through an emergency Budget… There is no doubt that we do need an intervention of a considerable scale to deal with this because we have to be honest with people about the scale of the challenge that they are facing.”

Ms Truss has pledged to introduce an emergency Budget as soon as she entered Downing Street, although it is not clear whether Mr Sunak would do the same.

Mr Dowden stressed the next prime minister had to be “realistic” about the current economic situation in light of inflation hitting a 40-year high.

“Rishi Sunak accepts the need for these bold, big interventions – Liz Truss has put her emphasis on this tax cut,” he added.

Ms Truss has pledged a series of immediate measures to cut taxes for Britons, including a reversal of the National Insurance increase introduced by Mr Sunak back in April.

Asked about the energy price cap, which is likely to rise again in October, Mr Dowden said: “Let’s see when we know the exact level of the price cap, but if it looks like it’s going to be at that kind of scale then of course we’ll need further intervention.”

The former culture secretary also dismissed suggestions from Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, who called for daily meetings of the Cobra emergency committee aimed at solving the current crisis.

“I would say though I don’t take enormous lessons from Gordon Brown, remember this was a man who gave us a 75p rise for pensioners, so he’s not really got a great record on this sort of thing,” Mr Dowden said.