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OAPs ‘at forefront’ as Sunak mulls raising pensions and benefits with inflation

OAPs ‘at forefront’ as Sunak mulls raising pensions and benefits with inflation

Pensioners will be kept to the “forefront” as difficult spending decisions are taken, the Work and Pensions Secretary has said.

The comments by Mel Stride come as Rishi Sunak considers raising state pensions and benefits in line with inflation in a move that would likely usher in deeper public spending cuts elsewhere and higher tax rises.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt are considering imposing up to £60 billion in tax rises and spending cuts in the autumn budget on November 17.

Treasury sources insisted no decisions have been taken, but did not deny a report in the Times stating they would avoid real-terms cuts on pensions and benefits.

Speaking on Times Radio Mr Stride assured pensioners that the Government would seek to protect them through the months ahead.

He said: “Pensioners are absolutely at the forefront of the group that we want to really protect as much as we can through these difficult times.”

Cabinet meeting
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride (Aaron Chown/PA)

But he re-iterated that there are “tough choices” coming for the Chancellor.

Raising state pensions and benefits with soaring inflation could cost a combined £11 billion next year but would prevent a rebellion from some Tory MPs and avert at least some criticism of the challenging decisions being unfair.

Members of Mr Sunak’s Cabinet including Michael Gove have previously warned against going back on the manifesto commitment of maintaining the pensions “triple lock” as inflation soars past 10%.

But with Mr Hunt considering up to £35 billion of “fiscal tightening”, any extra spending would leave more severe savings and higher tax hikes required elsewhere.

The Chancellor was understood to be considering a stealth raid on inheritance tax by extending a freeze on the inheritance tax “nil-rate band” from 2025-27 to 2027-28.

The Financial Times, which first reported the plans, said the move could raise at least half a billion pounds for the Treasury.

Mr Sunak will meet with his Cabinet on Tuesday as he seeks to find departmental savings.

He is also understood to be considering a major gas deal with the US after returning from the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt.

The Daily Telegraph said an “energy security partnership” would see Britain sold billions of cubic metres of liquefied natural gas over the coming year.

Downing Street sources, however, suggested that no deal is imminent, meaning it is unclear how much of the gas would be in the UK for this winter.

Fresh supplies would reduce the risk of blackouts as the Russian invasion of Ukraine causes energy shortages.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps hinted on Monday that the windfall tax on oil and gas giants could be expanded to ease the burden on taxpayers.

“I think that might be a clever way of asking me what’s in the autumn statement again, but we will be setting that out, the Chancellor will be setting that out, very shortly,” he told Sky News.