CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak has said he is determined to press ahead with his financial strategy, after coming under intense criticism for the cost of living crisis.

On a visit to Darlington, he warned of ‘some challenging months ahead ‘ but told The Northern Echo: “I don't do this job so that every day is a popular headline. I do what I believe are the right things for our region.”

The Chancellor was in town to report on the success of recruitment for the Darlington Economic Campus, but personal and political pressure has been growing since the backlash to his Spring Statement, so the Richmond MP was determined to nail his colours to the mast and not be diverted from his policies.

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“We have to think about making sure we get our borrowing back to a sensible level and get our debt falling,” he told us at Darlington College.

“That's particularly important at a time when you've got rising inflation and rising interest rates - the government borrowing lots and lots of money in that type of environment, isn't that responsible.

“And for all the people that we were talking about making sure we can help, it would be far worse for them if inflation got out of control and lasted for longer – and that that was exacerbated by the government excessive borrowing just because I was trying to chase a popular headline for a week.

“I'd rather be honest with people and say that this is a global set of problems. The inflation problem is a global problem. And we can make a difference and ease some of the burden because I know it's challenging for families to grapple with these things. And we've put in place a diverse and significant set of interventions that will help.

“We can't solve all of the problems, but it wouldn't be responsible to borrow lots to try and do so because that risks making the situation worse. And that's in nobody's interest.

“I'm hopeful that I can just make sure I say that enough times and communicate that to people so they realise, this is not that I don’t want to - I wish I could and of course, it would make my life easier. But I genuinely don't think it's the right thing to do.

“It wouldn't help all the people that I care about. I don't want them to have more problems down the line. That's what I believe in.”

The Northern Echo: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak talks to business leaders and Treasury staff at Darlington.Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak talks to business leaders and Treasury staff at Darlington.

Admitting that ‘I can't make every problem disappear’, he added:

“I know it's difficult and I want to make sure that we can do and I can do everything we can to help people get through what are some challenging months ahead.

“People are looking at what's happening around them and seeing prices go up. And of course, people are worried by that. And I want them to be reassured that me and the government are on their side, and doing what we can to ease the burdens that they are facing.

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On the measures he had put in place which he was so sure were the right route, he said: “Do they solve the entire problem? Of course they don’t. I'd be wrong and lying if I said I could, but we are providing significant help with energy bills, and with more to come. And I've always been very clear that people's energy bills are protected now until the autumn, right, so the price cap kicks in, and it lasts all the way through until October.

The Northern Echo: The Chancellor holds a Q&A with employees, local residents and businesses at Darlington CollegeThe Chancellor holds a Q&A with employees, local residents and businesses at Darlington College

“And we announced an intervention to support people with their energy bills from now when the increase goes in. And then the bills can't increase again until the autumn and I said very clearly that we will obviously review the situation and decide on the appropriate course of action at that time.

“But none of us sitting here know what the price cap is going to be in the autumn, right? They are very volatile energy prices, they've been going up and down. So fuel prices are going up and down as well a lot over the past month or two.

“It wouldn't be right to kind of stand up now and say, Well, this is what will happen, we just don't know. But we've always said we stand ready to support people as required.”


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