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Parents could receive further childcare support, Boris Johnson has hinted, as he seeks cost-free measures to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister would sign off on new support when he chaired a “domestic and economic strategy committee” in the “coming weeks”.
But No 10 suggested no new money would be provided in the coming months to ease the pain after Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned against rising public debt or inflation.
Ministers discussed “a number of ideas” at Cabinet on Tuesday after Mr Johnson asked them to bring “innovative” schemes to tackle soaring costs.
He accepted Britons were facing “real pressures” but blamed external factors such as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “crazed malevolence” in Ukraine and lockdowns in China.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson told ministers “there was more to do, including in areas like childcare, to further ease pressures for those who need it most and to get even more people into high-skilled, high-wage jobs”.
He declined to give more details about the plan, saying it was “live policy work taking place and I’m sure we’ll have more to say in the future”.
Ministers were already looking at increasing the number of children each staff member at a nursery can look after, as part of a wider set of measures to improve the quality of childcare and ease costs.
However it is understood no decision has yet been made on ratios by the Department for Education.
Mr Sunak “underlined the importance of not feeding in to further inflation rises and emphasised that the UK is currently spending £80 billion servicing our debt”, No 10 said.
This meant no new money to alleviate the crisis until a further financial announcement from the Chancellor, Mr Johnson’s spokesman suggested.
He told reporters: “Certainly, the budgets for departments are set and there are no plans to go outside what’s been agreed.”
It was understood the Government was looking at measures that could be introduced quickly rather than those requiring new legislation.
Ideas that could be considered include cutting tariffs on food that cannot be produced in the UK, such as rice.
Reports have also suggested that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps proposed that MOT tests could take place every two years, instead of annually.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to be drawn on leaks from Cabinet because “it’s important that this policy work is able to be done properly before being set out”, but he added: “I think the public can be reassured that we are considering every possible option to ensure the public can keep more of their money and we can reduce the burdens on them in the face of these global inflationary pressures.”
The spokesman said the committee examining the proposals was not new and its membership included the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay.
“It will meet in the next couple of weeks, I don’t have an exact time frame for you”, he said when asked about the timing.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he wants to see “an emergency budget, not a Cabinet meeting” to address the cost-of-living crisis.
He told reporters in Stevenage: “The cost-of-living crisis has been staring us in the face for six months now and it’s a real problem for people struggling with their bills – and the Cabinet meeting this morning isn’t going to change any of that.”
The Government has done “very little in relation to energy bills” and “made a bad situation worse by choosing to put taxes up”, he said.
Following reports that shadow cabinet minister Lisa Nandy had urged Sir Keir to stop focusing on the partygate scandal and instead make the cost-of-living crisis the centre of his pitch to voters, the Labour leader said: “When we started the campaign, we had a laser-like focus on the cost of living and we’ve maintained that throughout…”