No Spoilers

Treasury Minister David Ashford says he won’t preview what he plans to announce in April when he outlines the gov’s response to the spiralling cost of living crisis.

Mr Ashford was responding to an urgent question from Arbory, Castletown and Malew MHK Jason Moorhouse.

Mr Moorhouse had asked: ‘What the Council of Ministers and the Manx Utilities Authority are doing to reduce the impact on electricity customers of recent increases in the wholesale price of gas; how much this will cost the taxpayer; what the impact will be on Government debt; and if he will make a statement?’

In his response, the Treasury Minister said that £750,000 has ‘already been paid to support families with the rising cost of gas and other fuels impacting on home heating’.

The total amount paid via the three Winter Bonus schemes this year is approximately £1.5 million.

Mr Ashford added: ‘The issue of rising electricity costs, along with rising costs of other fuels needs to be considered in the broader context of its impact on the cost of living. As such, Council of Ministers are monitoring the impact of rising energy prices in the context of their impact on inflation and the cost of living and considering options for supporting those hardest hit. As I have already stated, I will be making a financial statement in Tynwald in April, at which point I hope to outline what the support will look like, the cost of any proposals and their impact on Government finances.’

No Pre-empting

When pushed for more details by Mr Moorhouse, the Minister said he was ‘not going to pre-empt what will be stated in the statement in April’. He added: ‘We are, of course, looking at what the cost of living actually is and what impact that is having across different types of families, because we have to remember that the cost of living increase will not have the same impact on everyone exactly the same.’

No Just Benefits

Mr Moorhouse later asked whether social security should be looking to support those most in need and whether the MUA should focus on getting the cheapest prices to all customers.

The Minister said that the phased increase of 15% in April and again in July will allow the Treasury to ‘impact on households and bring forward such support’.

He added: ‘In relation to the benefits system, Mr Speaker, again, I am not going to pre-empt anything I may say in another place [aka upstairs in a different room] in April, but we do have to recognise that there are some limitations to the benefits system as well and there can be people who fall through the net. It is not just those on benefits who are going to be squeezed by the cost of living there is – I do not particularly like the phrase ‘the squeezed middle’, but that particular section as well that will not necessarily fall within the benefits system as it currently stands. So our examination has to be much wider than just looking at those who currently fall within the benefits system.’

A further question on the topic garnered similar responses from Mr Ashford.