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Sunak says unaffordable pay rises are ‘short-sighted’ amid Cabinet pressure

The Prime Minister was facing calls to accept the public sector pay rises recommended by the independent review bodies.

Rishi Sunak insisted giving unaffordable pay rises would be “short-sighted” as he faces pressure from Cabinet ministers to accept the recommendations of pay review bodies.

The Prime Minister said on Saturday he could only give public sector pay rises that abide by his principles of “fairness, affordability and responsibility”.

Mr Sunak and his Government had spent much of the last year arguing that they had to abide by the recommendations from the independent bodies during a wave of strikes.

Jeremy Hunt
The Chancellor said tackling inflation is ‘going to be more challenging than we thought’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

But now struggling to fulfil his pledge to halve the rate of inflation this year the Prime Minister said “no decisions have been made” on whether to abide by the proposals.

“It would be incredibly short-sighted of the Government to do something that might sound great today but ultimately just make the inflation problem worse for everybody in the long run,” he told broadcasters during a by-election campaign stop in Selby.

“So that’s what we’ll be guided by, we want to be fair, we want things that are affordable and responsible.”

He said we are “working incredibly hard, night and day, to bring inflation down”, but warned it requires “difficult decisions”.

“Ultimately if we don’t do that it will just make the situation worse and it will last for longer, that’s not going to do anyone any good,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be the right kind of Prime Minister if I took the easy course. I’m going to do the right long-term thing for the country and that means bringing inflation down.”

Rishi Sunak
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to halve inflation to around 5% by the end of the year (Jack Hill/The Times/PA)

The Times reported that Mr Sunak is facing private pressure to accept the rises set out by the pay review bodies, with a range of recommendations believed to centre on around 6%.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and Home Secretary Suella Braverman were said to be among those lobbying Mr Sunak to accept them.

Jeremy Hunt has warned he must “double down” on high prices and cannot take actions that would “pump billions of pounds of additional demand” into the economy as he appeared to rule out major tax cuts this autumn.

In an interview with the Financial Times, the Chancellor said achieving that promise was “going to be more challenging than we thought”.

The Prime Minister has pledged to halve inflation to about 5% by the end of the year as one of his five priorities for the nation but it has stubbornly remained at 8.7%.

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