Rishi Sunak has asked families to “be careful” about their energy use to help reduce bills, but said the government will continue to support people during the difficult winter.
The prime minister, who is attending the G20 summit in Indonesia, said that while everyone was “making their own decisions”, using less energy would have “an additional byproduct of increasing our energy security”.
The Guardian revealed last week that the Treasury was considering raising the energy cap from its current level of £2,500 from next April, with discussions continuing over whether Jeremy Hunt should make an announcement in Thursday’s autumn statement.
During interviews with broadcasters at G20, Sunak called on city executives to cut back escalating bankers’ bonuses by showing more “pay control,” and claimed it was his desire to reduce the number of nurses dependent on food banks.
He urged companies not to hand out big salary increases to top managers to avoid a “wage price spiral”, warning that the difficulties would continue for at least a year.
Given the risk of a higher energy bill, Sunak told GB News, “I think people will make their own decisions. Ultimately, what is the thing that people struggle with the most right now, it’s high bills, right?”
“So if there are things we can all do to improve the efficiency with which we use energy, and to be careful about it, I’m sure that’s what people everywhere are doing, because this is also beneficial in reducing bills. It has the additional byproduct of increasing our energy security. , but my priority is to make sure we support the people who need our help paying the bills during the winter. That’s what we’re doing. That’s what the government will continue to do.”
With some NHS trusts having to set up food banks for staff, Sunak was asked if it was his burning desire to reduce their reliance on emergency support. “I’ve said previously that it is,” he told ITV News. “I think it’s clearly a tragedy for people to use food banks. Nobody wants to see food banks in our society.
“But while people use it, I have tremendous admiration and gratitude for the people who provide it in my constituency and elsewhere as well. But of course I would like to get into a position where no one needs to use a food bank.”
With the government preparing for widespread strikes across the health services after nurses voted to strike for industrial work for the first time in decades. Sunak described the required 17% wage increase as “unsustainable”.
The prime minister warned that inflation was still “the enemy we must face”.
Days before Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s statement in the fall expected to unveil tax increases for all and cut public spending to fill an estimated £60 billion “black hole”, Sunak said lowering inflation from levels around 10% was the top priority.
“[The statement] It will put our public finances on a sustainable path, which will help us control inflation. “It’s going to help us limit the increase in mortgage rates and that’s why we need to do what we’re going to do, but that’s very much the conversation we’re having at the G20.
“This is an international conversation about this that’s happening here as well, so we’re not alone in this challenge.”
Following reports that City’s bonuses this year averaged £20,000 – £5,000 more than last year – Sunak said executives should “embrace paycheck” at a time like this and ensure they also “take care of all their workers”.
“If we end up in a wage-price spiral, the people who will suffer the most are the low-income people, and we’ll still be having that conversation within a year,” he added.
Asked if he enjoyed private health care, Sunak refused to answer, saying only that it was “not appropriate” to talk about “family health care”.