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Energy bills: Budget didn't go far enough, says Mhairi Black

Mhairi Black criticised the budget. (PA)
Mhairi Black criticised the budget. (PA)

The budget "totally missed the mark" when it comes to supporting people struggling with their energy bills, SNP MP Mhairi Black has claimed.

On Wednesday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt kept the Energy Price Guarantee at £2,500 delaying the planned rise to £3,000.

If the rise had gone ahead then the typical household would have seen their energy bills rise by 20%.

But energy bills are still going to rise by around 20% next month with the end of the Energy Bill Support Scheme, which has provided households with a £400 discount on their gas and electricity bills through the winter - equating to £66-£67 a month.

Speaking on ITV's Peston, Black criticised the end of the support scheme and said the government had the money to lower the Energy Price Guarantee, rather than keep it at current levels.

She said: "Young person or a pensioner in Scotland the one thing we are worried about most is our energy bills and this budget just totally went over that."

Jeremy Hunt announced major tax breaks for the wealthiest pension savers on Wednesday. (PA)
Jeremy Hunt announced major tax breaks for the wealthiest pension savers on Wednesday. (PA)

Black said: "Ultimately this is a budget that has totally missed the mark."

"They have the money sitting there to lower the price guarantee to £2,000. You have to remember in Scotland, our energy bills are higher than what the UK average is.

"Even just this morning, people in Scotland were waking uo to -10C, -7C."

Hunt's "back to work" budget has been criticised for giving handouts for the wealthy in the name of attracting more retired people back to the workforce, without doing enough to help struggling families.

The chancellor abolished the tax-free cap on the lifetime pensions allowance, arguing this would attract people back to work.

But analysts have pointed out only a tiny number of the wealthiest people each year hit the cap.

Read more: Martin Lewis: Fixed-rate energy deals to return 'imminently' as prices fall

Mhairi Black said most people were worrying about their energy bills. (Getty)
Mhairi Black said most people were worrying about their energy bills. (Getty)

Read more: When will the cost of living crisis end?

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) watchdog has estimated the policy could increase the workforce by 15,000 people.

It is expected the move will cost £1bn a year for the government.

Isaac Delestre, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said those who will benefit are those with the ability to “build up very large pension pots” or who can contribute more than £40,000 a year to their pensions.

Economists at the Resolution Foundation also warned that the "unneeded tax break for wealthy pension savers" could see some workers choosing to retire early or using their now uncapped pensions savings to avoid inheritance tax.

Labour has said it would reverse the policy and criticised it as a handout for the wealthiest.

Hunt defended his budget pointing out to the BBC that the most expensive policies announced were the Energy Price Guarantee freeze and the extension of free childcare.