Boris Johnson is taking his Cabinet on an ‘outside’ trip to Stoke-on-Trent to discuss the cost of living crisis, hoping to inspire some new ideas among his ministers.
The Prime Minister and his top team are making a 300-mile round trip to the Staffordshire town on Thursday as they come under increasing pressure to help families under pressure.
But there will be no fact-finding missions in food banks or team-building exercises in potteries. Ministers will simply hold one of the regular cabinet meetings usually held in Downing Street.
So why Stoke? According to No 10, Mr Johnson hopes the new surroundings outside the meeting room window will inspire Cabinet members to ‘bring the benefits of the Queen’s Speech to life’.
Downing Street said ministers will discuss how the government’s new legislative program can boost the economy and help ‘level up’ the country – highlighting recent funding already given to Stoke.
The symbolic gesture – aimed at reminding voters in the northern and Midlands ‘red wall’ areas that the Government cares about them – at least allows Mr Johnson to avoid the glare of Westminster for an afternoon , while other fines are imposed. Party door.
But coming out of the SW1 bubble doesn’t mean new financial help is on the way for those struggling with soaring bills, in Stoke or elsewhere.
The Prime Minister had previously asked his cabinet colleagues to find free ways to ease the pressure on household finances – whether by promoting little-used benefits or relaxing MOT tests.
Ministers will discuss these cheap alternatives to fiscal firepower, as Chancellor Rishi Sunak keeps his cards close to his chest about all the big plans he has ahead of the autumn budget.
In his opening address at Thursday’s meeting, the Prime Minister urged ministers to ‘ensure that we use all our ingenuity’ and ‘all our compassion’ to help those struggling with the cost of living – claiming he was keen to ‘reduce the cost of energy’.
There are #10 signs and the Treasury is changing its mind about a windfall tax on oil and gas company profits, with the idea that it would be “back on the table”.
Ahead of the big trip to Stoke, Mr Sunak told the BBC on Thursday he was ‘pragmatic’ about the idea as a possible way to raise funds although he was ‘not naturally drawn’ to the concept.
“There are people who think windfall taxes can never be the answer, and then there are other people who think windfall taxes are an easy, quick and simple answer to solving all problems,” he said. he declared. “I’m not into any of those schools of thought, I’m pragmatic about it.
And Mr Johnson refused to rule out a take on the profits of fossil fuel companies. This follows an admission by BP chief executive Bernard Looney who said his company’s investment plans would not be affected by a windfall tax.
The Prime Minister suggested in an interview with LBC that while he still dislikes these taxes because of their impact on investment, it is something that will need to be addressed.
Pressed by host Nick Ferrari’s comments about Mr Looney, Mr Johnson said: “Well, you know, then we’ll have to watch it.”
The PM added: “I don’t like them. I didn’t think they were the right thing. I don’t think that’s the right way to go. I want these companies to make big, big investments.
Mr Johnson also suggested on Thursday that the government would offer more help to struggling families in July. “There is more to come on the track. July and so on,” he said.
Additional financial aid on the way, or only the free initiatives of various departments?
The Prime Minister did not say – although he urged people to check what benefits they might be entitled to. “What people don’t realize is that there’s actually help that’s not being taken into account.”
Just in time for the trip to Stoke-on-Trent, new analysis from Bloomberg finds that the leveling push upwards has largely failed to reduce the regional inequality gap since 2019.
The pay gap between the South East, London and the rest is widening in most places, while public spending per capita has fallen behind London in all parts of England.
Stoke is not the only place ministers are visiting today. Apart from the cabinet meeting in Stoke, ministers are due to visit communities and businesses in the west of England, the Midlands and Wales.
The Prime Minister leaves to visit a sports facility in Birmingham in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.