Don’t do it! Panicked Tory MPs urge new Chancellor not to commit major own goal

The group of 18 MPs, largely from the newly-conquered ‘Red Wall’ in northern England, issued the warning to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget on March 11. It follows reports Mr Sunak, who took over from Sajid Javid earlier this month, was looking at ending the freeze on fuel duty rates which has been in place since 2010.

The MPs from the Blue Collar Conservatism group insisted a rise in fuel duty would “send the wrong message” to Tory voters, including those who backed the party for the first time in December.

The MPs told Mr Sunak: “If the decision was taken to raise taxes on fuel, hard-working people and businesses in blue collar communities – many of which lent us their support at the General Election for the first time in generations – will suffer.

“We appreciate that levelling up local transport in blue collar communities across the country is firmly at the top of the Prime Minister’s agenda.

“As a Yorkshire MP, we know you will, too.

“But clobbering these communities with a tax rise in our first Budget would send the wrong message about this Government’s priorities.”

The group of signatories includes more than a dozen Tory MPs who won seats in 2019.

They added: “Any decision to scrap the fuel duty freeze must be seen for what it is: a tax rise which would hit our blue collar communities hardest.

“Increasing fuel duty would show these communities that this people’s Government does not actually have, at its heart, the priorities of the people.”

Meanwhile, the Chancellor is also under pressure from consumer campaigners to protect access to cash.

Which? has written to Mr Sunak calling for legislation that protects cash for as long as it is needed.

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The letter says: “The UK’s ATM network is on the verge of collapse.

“In the past two years, 9,000 free cash machines and 1,200 bank branches have vanished.

“We’re even being charged a fee to access our own money at 25 percent of the cash machines that remain.

“Understandably, millions of people are unhappy about this.

“They rely on cash. For many of them, cash is the only option.

“If things carry on as they are, cash as we know it will cease to exist in just two years.

“Yes, digital payments are good, but right now the UK isn’t ready to go cashless.

“If you don’t act now, free access to our own cash will soon be gone forever.”

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, added that the Budget will “decide the future of cash”.

He said: “Many people have been left struggling from the double blow of cashpoint and bank branch closures – and suffered at the hands of industry mismanagement that has left Britain’s cash landscape on the verge of collapse.

“This Budget will decide the future of cash.

“The Chancellor has a huge opportunity here to protect cash for the millions of people who rely on it.”

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