Andrew Neil has warned of “hidden nightmares” slipping “under the radar” in Jeremy Hunt and Rishi Sunak’s autumn budget. The Chancellor will unveil his and the Prime Minister’s economic blueprint to plug a huge black hole in the nation’s finances next Thursday.
Mr. Neil highlighted how “all manner of un-Conservative tax rises” have been trailed ahead of the highly-anticipated fiscal event, including raising the top rate of income tax to 50 percent.
But the veteran journalist suggested the move may be a deliberate strategy by Mr. Hunt and Mr. Sunak.
Writing for the Daily Mail, he said: “Pile up the horrors that might be in store. Then, when most of them don’t materialise, slip some real but hidden nightmares in under the radar, while the air echoes to sighs of relief. that the worst of what was trailed didn’t happen.”
But Mr Neil, widely regarded as Britain’s toughest political interrogator, warned the “biggest stealth tax grab in the nation’s history is in prospect” with the freezing of income tax thresholds.
When he was Chancellor, Mr. Sunak froze income tax thresholds until 2026 rather than increasing them in line with inflation, which has soared to 10 percent crippling households across the country.
In the autumn statement, there is expected to be a deep freeze until 2028.
Mr Neil said: “This stealth tax will be doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to filling in the £50 billion-plus fiscal black hole facing the Government.”
The veteran journalist also warned that the inheritance tax and capital gains tax thresholds are also likely to be frozen in the upcoming budget.
Mr Neil’s comments come after the Chancellor on Friday warned he would be making “eye-watering” decisions after the economy shrank in what is feared to be the beginning of the longest recession on record.
Mr Hunt admitted there is a “tough road ahead” for the UK as gross domestic product, the measure of national income known as GDP, contracted by 0.2 percent.
He said: “I am under no illusion that there is a tough road ahead – one which will require extremely difficult decisions to restore confidence and economic stability.
“But to achieve long-term sustainable growth, we need to grip inflation, balance the books and get debt falling. There is no other way.
“While the world economy faces extreme turbulence, the fundamental resilience of the British economy is cause for optimism in the long run.”
Mr Hunt warned of a “very substantial gap” as he seeks to find up to £60 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts.
And he suggested Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget – which spooked financial markets with its sweeping unfunded tax cuts – had forced the UK into learning lessons about the need for balanced budgets.
He said: “When we produced a fiscal statement that didn’t show how we were going to bring our debts down over the medium term, the markets reacted very badly and so we have learned that you can’t fund either spending or borrowing without showing how you are going to pay for it and that is what I will do.”
Mr Hunt was parachuted into Number 11 to replace Mr Kwarteng following turmoil in the wake of the September mini-budget.