UK unveils cost-of-living budget as mass strikes hit country

The UK unveiled a new living wage budget on Wednesday, including additional aid for rising electricity bills, but the government is set to stand firm on rising public sector wage demands as the country weathers a new wave of strikes.

Treasury Secretary Jeremy Hunt presents his tax and spending plan to Parliament from 1230 GMT as teachers, junior doctors, civil servants, BBC journalists and drivers on the London Underground stage a final day of mass strikes.

Public and private sector workers show little sign of ending a strike that began last year when soaring inflation led to wage cuts.

Inflation in the UK remains above 10 percent.

The government on Wednesday said it would extend a subsidy on electricity bills for another three months after the invasion of Ukraine by oil and gas producer Russia sent them skyrocketing.

“Continuing to reduce energy bills is part of our plan to help hard-working families lower the cost of living and halve inflation this year,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Conservative administration has noted increases in childcare funding and other proposals to encourage parents, people over 50 and others to return to the labor market.

It aims to fill 1.1 million staff vacancies – partly because of a shortage of post-Brexit EU workers and a record number of people classified as long-term sick.


Chancellor of the Exchequer Hunt is expected to announce that workers can put more tax-free money into their private pensions, even if many don’t have the disposable income to do so.

“Reports of leading physicians retiring early due to the impact of pension tax benefits…are undoubtedly of particular concern to the government, given the pressure on the healthcare system already in the wake of the pandemic,” said Tom Selby, head of pension policy. in A.J. Bell.

In neighboring France, the Senate voted over the weekend to approve highly unpopular reforms to the country’s pension system.

The main measure is to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64, which many see as unfair to people who started working at a young age.

The retirement age of 66 in the UK will be raised before the end of the decade, meaning a longer wait to access a state pension. Private pensions are available at an earlier age.

More defense spending

In addition to pay problems, medical workers are protesting overwork caused by a shortage of labor.

A spokesman for Sunak said the government wants to work with unions to achieve a “fair and reasonable” wage increase.

“But we’ve made it clear that we want the strike to end before we do.”

Hunt insisted the government must keep spending tight after debt shot up in the midst of the Covid pandemic.

The National Education Union on Wednesday threatened to ramp up action unless the government put “money on the table.”

“Shamefully, ministers don’t seem to be interested in giving their staff a fair pay raise to help them get through the cost-of-living crisis and beyond,” he added, as schools close across the country.

Other budget plans already announced include an additional £5bn ($6.1bn) for defense over the next two years, focusing on nuclear resilience and replenishing depleted munitions stockpiles.

The UK has also announced a 20-year plan to sequester carbon and switch to nuclear power as it bolsters its energy supply and aims for a net zero economy by mid-century.