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What advisers can expect from Rishi Sunak as prime minister

What advisers can expect from Rishi Sunak as prime minister
 

As the leadership contest comes to a close, the likelihood that Rishi Sunak will be appointed the next prime minister is becoming slimmer by the day.

However, there is still a chance that come September 5 the former chancellor, whose resignation led to the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership, could find himself in the top job.

So what would a Sunak government look like?

The main difference between Sunak and his opponent, Liz Truss, is Sunak’s refusal to cut taxes before inflation has been brought under control.

He has warned these cuts would “put fuel on the fire” of price rises, which hit 10.1 per cent last month.

Earlier this summer, Sunak told the BBC’s Today programme that “of course” he wants to deliver tax cuts, but these would be done in a “measured way”.

“I will get taxes down in this parliament, but I’m going to do so responsibly because I don’t cut taxes to win elections, I win elections to cut taxes," he said.

Income tax

In a move some saw as a subsequent u-turn, in early August Sunak promised a cut in the basic rate of income tax.

The current rate of 20 per cent would be cut to 19 per cent in 2024, and down to 16 per cent by the end of the next parliament in 2029.

Sunak called the plans a "radical vision", but he was criticised by chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, who said the UK "cannot afford to wait" to help families, who need support now.

Figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility showed that even with the tax cut in 2024, households' tax burden would still be the highest since just after the second world war.

Energy bills

Sunak has also pledged to cut the 5 per cent VAT on domestic energy bills as a temporary measure, to combat the rising cost of energy. 

This is despite previously rejecting calls to get rid of the tax, telling MPs in February that this would “disproportionately benefit wealthier households”.

Sunak also said he would be concerned that any tax cut would become permanent.

IR35 reforms

Truss recently gave an interview where she indicated she would review the IR35 reforms.

The reforms were introduced in April 2021 to the private sector, and means that the responsibility for assessing whether a contractor is self-employed or employed is now with the end client, and not the contractor themselves. 

The liability, and therefore financial risk, was also transferred to the fee-paying party.

The changes have been branded “a mess”, “unpopular” and “puzzling”.

The controversy surrounding the changes prompted the former chancellor, Sajid Javid, to pledge a review of IR35 as part of the Conservative party’s manifesto in the lead up to the general election.

However Sunak is unlikely to renege on the reforms.

Pensions/triple lock

Sunak has previously confirmed the triple lock for pensions will return in 2023.