Jeremy Hunt has written off tax breaks for now - but PM will want to find a way to cut burden, writes Natasha Clark

22 September 2023, 14:15 | Updated: 23 September 2023, 14:22

Rishi Sunak could bring in some tax cuts ahead of an election next year
Rishi Sunak could bring in some tax cuts ahead of an election next year. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Every Prime Minister wants to cut taxes before they go to the polls.

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Promising voters more money in their pockets is a must to woo over a sceptical electorate, especially with Brits suffering with the highest tax burden of modern times.

The PM repeatedly tells us he wants to cut taxes, when the time is right.

However, with soaring inflation and interest rates, a fragile economy, and the public finances down the toilet, will Jeremy Hunt be able to offer a sweetener in the next six to twelve months to appease both his backbenchers and the country?

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The Chancellor was defiantly playing down expectations last night, telling LBC that it would be "virtually impossible" to do so right now.

Mr Hunt told Andrew Marr: "Every Chancellor wakes up to a newspaper headline, at least once a week that says there's extra headroom, and the Chancellor might be able to do this or might be able to do that.

"I really, really wish it was true but unfortunately, it just isn't.

Jeremy Hunt has told LBC tax cuts are virtually impossible
Jeremy Hunt has told LBC tax cuts are virtually impossible. Picture: Alamy

"If you look at what we are having to pay for our long-term debt, it is higher now than it was at the Spring Budget.

"I wish it wasn't, it makes life extremely difficult, it makes tax cuts virtually impossible, and it means that I will have another set as frankly very difficult decisions.

Tax cuts 'virtually impossible' Chancellor tells LBC in blow to Tory right

"All I would say is if we do want those long-term debt costs to come down, then we need to really stick to this plan to get inflation down, get interest rates down. I don't know when that's going to happen.

"But I don't think it's going to happen before the Autumn Statement on November 22nd."

Of course, he knows this could be his last Autumn Statement and the Government’s second-to-last big financial statement before the next general election.

Tax breaks 'impossible' says Jeremy Hunt although flatline on inflation means 'plan is working'

Rishi Sunak could unleash a tax cut next year
Rishi Sunak could unleash a tax cut next year. Picture: Alamy

He will be eagerly anticipating shuffling around the finances to give voters a slither of economic relief they desperately are crying out for during a harsh cost of living crisis.

And Tory MPs will be breathing down his neck to try and make it happen sooner, rather than later.

Will it happen in November?

I’d be surprised if the Chancellor doesn't find some sort of spare cash for a little baby rabbit from the hat – possibly from scrapping parts of HS2 which has now been widely tipped, and continuing the much-hated income tax bracket freezes.

But my money would be on saving most of any planned giveaways for a spring budget bonanza, so it's fresh in voters' minds when they go to the polls.

That means it will have to be brought in immediately, promising voters they will see relief instantly.

Whether the weary electorate, after months of rising mortgages, food and energy bills, will fall for a short term cut which will barely touch the sides of their bank accounts, remains to be seen.