THE Northern Echo is adding its name to those of the 50 signatories of a letter calling on the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make sure he increases social security payments by the going rate of inflation in his Autumn Statement in a fortnight.

Benefits like Universal Credit go up in April by the rate of inflation in the September before, so next April, they are due to go up by 6.7 per cent, if the chancellor agrees.

Even that rise, though, will leave the poorest lagging behind as for much of 2023, prices have been rising by double digits with the price of food, which the poorest spend a larger proportion of their income on, soaring by the most.

In the North East, 35 per cent of children grow up in destitution – they are not kept warm, dry, clean and fed – with pockets of the poorest areas seeing more than 50 per cent. One of the main aims of levelling up should be to cut those figures so that these children have the same life chances as those in other areas to become economically successful.

It is rumoured that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is going to find some “fiscal headroom” in the nation’s finances which will leave him able to cut tax ahead of the election. It is speculated that inheritance tax will be his target, even though it is only paid by the very richest – only 3.73 per cent of estates in 2020-21 were liable for inheritance tax.

It is inconceivable that the Chancellor could choose to make the richest richer while failing to give the poorest an equitable boost, which is why the letter from the cross-party North East Child Poverty Commission has been signed by people and organisations concerned with fairness.