Sunak urged 'not to duck challenges' faced by cost-of-living crisis

Kate Forbes made the comments ahead of the Spring Statement, set to be announced on Wednesday.

Finance secretary  Kate Forbes urges Rishi Sunak to increase benefits in Spring Statement Getty Images

Scotland’s finance secretary has urged the UK Government not to “duck the considerable challenges we face” as a result of the cost-of-living crisis. 

Kate Forbes made the comments ahead of the Spring Statement on Wednesday, where Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will lay out his plans to tackle rising fuel and energy bills. 

In February, Ofgem announced the cost of gas and electricity would rocket by more than 50% for consumers after the price cap was hiked to £1971.

While in March, the cost of fuel hit a record high, with the price of filling up the average family car rising by £17 in a year. 

Last week the Scottish Government announced it would be increasing eight benefits it provides by 6%, with Forbes urging her UK counterpart to do the same.

Forbes said: “This is not a time to be ducking the considerable challenges we face, and I expect the Chancellor to use the Spring Statement to outline significant actions to support households and businesses, considering that most of the relevant powers are reserved to the UK Government.

“The Scottish Government is doing all it can to help those most in need. We are uprating eight Scottish benefits by 6% from April 1 as well as doubling our Scottish Child Payment to £20 per week per eligible child. 

“I call again on the UK Government to follow our lead and uprate social security benefits by 6%.”

Forbes has urged the Chancellor to implement business relief on national insurance contributions and provide immediate funding for sectors impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Finance Secretary added that there should be powers provided to increase levels of flexible working to allow more people to get back into work, as well as two more cold weather payments.

The Chancellor is expected to use Wednesday’s statement to address the cost-of-living crisis but also stress the importance of a strong economy in responding to the threat of Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

“We will confront this challenge to our values not just in the arms and resources we send to Ukraine but in strengthening our economy here at home,” Sunak is expected to say.

“So when I talk about security, yes – I mean responding to the war in Ukraine, but I also mean the security of a faster growing economy.

“The security of more resilient public finances.

“And security for working families as we help with the cost of living.”

Around £21bn of support is expected to be announced on Wednesday, including £9.1bn in energy bill rebates and freezing fuel and alcohol duties.

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