Liz Truss does not rule out real benefit cuts, but guarantees pension increases

Liz Truss has refused to rule out real-world welfare cuts, though she said pensions would rise in line with inflation.

The prime minister declined to commit to an annual increase in benefits in line with inflation as millions feel the pain of rising energy and food costs.

Ms Truss defended plans to cut the top income tax rate for the country’s wealthiest as part of her controversial £45 billion package of tax cuts, but didn’t rule out cuts to public services.

Aware that pensions will rise in line with inflation, she said she had committed to “triple lockdown” to protect her from price hikes.

But it refused to offer the same guarantee for benefits in April despite prices rising 9.9% year-on-year and the Bank of England expecting inflation to peak at 11%.

She did not rule out backtracking on Boris Johnson’s promise to keep benefit increases in line with inflation, saying Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith was “looking into” the issue.

“She will make a decision about it and we will announce that this autumn,” Ms Truss said during an interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday.

She also refused to rule out near-term cuts in government agency funding, which would force ministers to consider cutting services and staffing levels.

“I will not write any future budgets for your show,” Ms. Truss said.

“I believe in results rather than inputs, so I believe in what people see and what people feel.”

Conservative former Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said it will be “very, very, very difficult” to argue that imposing real benefit cuts while slashing taxes on the highest earners is the right thing to do.

He told a recording of the Chopper’s Politics Live podcast for the Telegraph that the abolition of the 45% tax rate on income over £150,000 should instead be reversed.

Katie Schmuecker, policy adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said in a statement Ms Truss’ comments “will have contributed to the growing fear felt by those on the lowest incomes”.

“It is both morally unacceptable and harmful not to commit to helping people who are already struggling to feed their families, cook hot meals and heat their homes when she has reaffirmed her intention to help those with the to help highest incomes,” she said.

“There is still time for the Prime Minister and her government to commit to raising benefits in line with prices as usual and avoid this damaging act of historic proportions.”

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Mike Fahey

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