Star comment: Difficult choices for Jeremy Hunt as he delivers mini-budget

Not many people would want to be in Jeremy Hunt’s shoes as he presents his mini-budget today.

Jeremy Hunt in Downing Street
Jeremy Hunt in Downing Street

Inflation has risen to 11.1 per cent. That is the highest rate since October 1981, and up from 10.1 per cent in September. It is also higher than experts had expected.

Today we present the reality of that figure with a shopping list that nobody welcomes.

This is not an exercise on dry economic data – it is a very real stretching of budgets that for many families is now reaching breaking point.

Low-fat milk has risen 47.9 per cent in a year, margarine and other vegetable fats have risen by 42 per cent and pasta by 34 per cent. These aren’t luxuries, but staple foods.

Add on the necessities of gas, electricity and fuel for our cars and the crisis deepens further. And then there is the issue of mortgages and rents, both of which have spiralled.

This is the reality of the situation for millions and the challenge facing Mr Hunt over the next months and years.

There are no easy options for Mr Hunt, yet the choices he makes will be political. He can choose to tax those with the broadest shoulders, or he can choose to make cuts in public services and pass on the burden to all tax payers, including those on low and moderate incomes.

It is a time for compassion and a time to think about the impact that the first round of austerity had. Mr Hunt must strike the right balance between balancing the books and protecting those who are already at the end of their tether and have run out of money.

The UK must tighten its belt and find savings. The question is, where’s the best place for savings to be made?

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It’s easy to be flippant about the Loo of the Year Awards. But they serve a purpose in celebrating businesses that take pride in giving their customers the best experience and also the importance of keeping toilets accessible to the public in our town and city centres.

Too many public toilets are either being shut up or left in disrepair, which leaves it up to businesses like the Jewel of the Severn, on High Street, in Bridgnorth to provide them.

Today we rightly congratulate the Jewel of the Severn for maintaining its high standards and going that extra mile to ensure visitors are well served.

Spending a penny used to be easy, as people were able to use public conveniences in town and city centres. Those days have gone as local councils have shut down their amenities. And so we should celebrate the public spiritedness and benevolence of those willing to put others first.

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