Treasury ‘plan to suspend pensions triple lock’ puts Johnson and Sunak on collision course
The pair are also said to be at loggerheads over the prime minister’s desire to build a new royal yacht at a cost of £200m, cap social care costs at £50,000 and make further green pledges at the Cop26 climate summit in November.
It follows days of speculation over the government’s spending plans after it emerged that a rise in average wages during the pandemic would result in a 6 per cent increase in the state pension – at a cost of £4bn.
Mr Sunak confirmed on Thursday that he was prepared to keep his “triple lock” promise despite rejecting the £14bn Covid catch-up plan for schools to help pupils recover from lost lessons in the lockdown. Downing Street also insisted that Boris Johnson was “committed to the triple lock”.
However The Sunday Times reported that Treasury officials are said to be examining plans to put any pensions rise on hold for a year to save money.
A former minister has already suggested that the system could be “fudged” by applying the formula over a longer period or by accounting for the effect of the pandemic and the furlough scheme on earnings data.
The Times reported that there was “growing consternation that Boris Johnson keeps announcing plans costing billions of pounds when there is no means to pay for them.”
It claimed Mr Sunak is worried about increasing public borrowing in the event that interest rates start to rise to peg back inflation. The UK’s inflation rate jumped sharply from 1.5 per cent to 2.1 per cent in May.
Officials also told the paper that the financing of the royal yacht was “a complete and utter sh**show” after Mr Sunak refused to fund the project – leaving the Ministry of Defence, the Cabinet Office and the Department of International Trade facing the bill.
And the prime minister was accused of backing a “Marshall Plan” for climate change – which would involve the G7 helping developing countries meet carbon emissions targets – without telling the Treasury.
The “triple lock” promise, which was a Conservative manifesto pledge in 2019, ensures pensions rise annually by whichever is the highest of average earnings growth, inflation or 2.5 per cent.
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