Jeremy Hunt to defend autumn statement amid warning of record fall in living standards

Jeremy Hunt will continue to defend his autumn statement today as experts warn of a record fall in living standards across the country.

The chancellor presented his economic plan to parliament on Thursday, littered with stealth taxes and curbs on government spending amounting to £55bn in an attempt to plug the black hole in public finances.

But the independent Office for Budget Responsibility warned the disposable incomes of UK households would fall by 7.1% over the next two years - the lowest level since records began in 1956/7, and taking incomes down to 2013 levels.

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As a result of the Mr Hunt's announcements, the tax burden in the UK will also now be at its highest since the Second World War, and there are stark warnings about increased bills and higher unemployment as the recession takes hold - as well as predictions the economy will still shrink 1.4% in 2023.

But most of the difficult decisions on spending have been postponed until after the next general, due in 2024.

Both the Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies will lay out their own analysis of the plans later this morning, but Treasury analysis already suggests around 55% of households will be worse off as a result of the measures.

Meanwhile, Labour has blamed "12 weeks of Conservative chaos" and "12 years of Conservative economic failure" for the bleak outlook.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the government of forcing the UK economy into a "doom loop where low growth leads to higher taxes, lower investments and squeezed wages, with the running down of public services".

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During his statement, Mr Hunt distanced himself from the philosophy of Liz Truss's short-lived government - which promised billions of unfunded tax cuts and sent the markets into turmoil.

Yet, while the chancellor froze tax thresholds, lowered the point the higher rate of income tax kicks in and extended the windfall tax on energy firms (the latter, a Labour policy) amid other measures, he also promised more spending on the NHS, social care and education, as well as re-committing to uprating pensions and benefits in line with inflation.

Mr Hunt also pledged to continue support for energy bills from April next year - though raising the cap to £3,000 for the average household.

Speaking to reporters after the announcement, he said the government was "helping every bit as much as we can" to reduce the impact of the recession on households and businesses, as well as protecting public services.

But he pointed to those spending decisions, adding: "As soon as the recession is behind us, then, yes, we will consolidate to make sure that we're balancing our books - and I think that's what people would want."

While many in his party were supportive of the "difficult decisions", the chancellor made in light of the energy crisis, the war in Ukraine and the fallout from the pandemic - as well as Ms Truss's tenure in office - other Tories warned against hiking taxes while the country is in a recession.

Former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News: "My worry is they've estimated that they will get certain revenues from their tax rises [but] those tax rises could end up damaging the economy and they won't get the revenues thereafter, which means they'll be back again looking for more.

"[There] is every chance that tax increases don't yield what you think they will, so this could lead to a deeper recession. We need to watch that very carefully and see where it goes."

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And former Wales Secretary David Jones told the Telegraph that the if high taxes continue, "the prospects of Tories winning the next election... are going to become more remote".

Opposition parties were also quick to condemn the plan, with Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Olney saying it will "cause untold pain for everyone", and the SNP's Kirsty Blackman saying it "ushered in a new era of damaging austerity cuts".

MPs will debate the measures in the Commons on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will be talking to Sky News at around 7am this morning about his autumn statement announcement