Rishi Sunak Dodges Confirmation on Tax Reductions Ahead of Upcoming Election

Rishi Sunak, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressed his desire to cut taxes but refrained from confirming a timeline before the upcoming general election. The announcement follows similar sentiments from cabinet minister Michael Gove, who advocated for tax cuts pre-election. Sunak emphasized that his current focus is on curbing inflation and alleviating living costs.

The issue of taxes and the controversial HS2 project has created tension within the Conservative Party, particularly as they convene in Manchester for their annual conference. The Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted that UK tax levels are at their highest in 70 years, with prospects of reduction appearing dim.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss and her allies, advocating for tax cuts, stand in contrast to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who deemed such cuts “virtually impossible.” Sunak, in his first conference as party leader, affirmed his conservative stance on tax reduction but provided no specifics on the timing of implementation.

The Chancellor asserted that his primary concern is addressing inflation, pointing to a target of halving the current rate by year-end. In the three-month period ending December 2022, inflation stood at 10.7%, with Sunak aiming for a 5.3% rate.

In an interview with the BBC, Sunak underscored the necessity of tackling inflation for any potential tax cuts. The government’s tools to combat inflation are limited, with the Bank of England proposing interest rate hikes as the most effective strategy.

Amid concerns within the party regarding taxes, environmental policies, and the HS2 rail line, Sunak dismissed claims that the Tories were losing touch with voters. Despite trailing Labour in polls, he remains committed to implementing what he deems right for the country.

The Prime Minister faced questions about the departure of Richard Walker, CEO of Iceland supermarkets, from the Conservative Party, who accused the Tories of being “out of touch.” Sunak, however, reiterated his commitment to necessary changes, including the pursuit of net-zero emissions.

Leading up to the conference, Sunak unveiled a £1.1bn fund for towns considered “overlooked.” Speculation about the potential cancellation of the Birmingham-to-Manchester leg of HS2 was met with no official comment from the Chancellor.

Sunak, who assumed leadership without a traditional vote, defended his decisions and policy changes, asserting that he acts in accordance with his convictions. Despite bleak assessments from some Conservative MPs, he remains steadfast in presenting himself as a transformative prime minister, setting the stage for further policy announcements during the conference.