Rishi Sunak's five biggest promises for 2023 - what he said and what it means

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Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak's five biggest promises for 2023 - what he said and what it means

In his first major speech of the New Year, Rishi Sunak set out the priorities for his Government.

The Prime Minister promised to cut NHS waiting lists, grow the economy and tackle the small boats crisis.

Here are his pledges and a verdict on whether they are achievable or simply Rishi-ful thinking.

Health Service

WHAT HE SAID: “NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.

WHAT IT MEANS:Rishi Sunak has chosen his words carefully. He does not give a target for when waiting lists will fall or by how much.

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The number of people waiting for treatment in England is at a record high of 7.2 million people, this includes 2.91million waiting more than 18 months and 410,983 for more than a year.

Rishi Sunak's five biggest promises for 2023 - what he said and what it meansBritain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers his first major speech of 2023 (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The number is expected to come down anyway after the winter months, allowing the Prime Minister to meet his claim.

But the real test will be whether he can get waiting lists down to the 2.3million when Labour left power in 2010 and end the crisis in social care which is one of the main reasons the NHS is struggling.

Inflation

WHAT HE SAID: “We will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Sunak is seeking to take credit for something that is already going to happen. Inflation is forecast to fall from its current 10.7% rate over the next 12 months to around 5%.

However, it could take longer for food inflation, currently, 13.3% to come down.

Even with a reduction in inflation, the prices of everyday goods are still expected to outstrip wage rises.

At the same time households face paying more in taxes and interest rates.

With support for energy bills also being scaled back the cost of living crisis is set to continue in 2023.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is forecasting real household disposable income to fall by 7.1% between 2022/23 and 2023/34.

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Rishi Sunak's five biggest promises for 2023 - what he said and what it meansPrime Minister Rishi Sunak vowed on Wednesday that the UK will emerge from its winter of discontent (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Economy

WHAT HE SAID: “We will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country.”

WHAT IT MEANS: The Prime Minister is almost alone in predicting the economy will grow this year. The OBR is forecasting the UK will tip into recession, while a Financial Times annual survey of 101 leading UK-based economists found Britain will be the worst performing of the G7 group of leading nations.

With unemployment also predicted to rise by 505,000 this year Sunak could struggle to deliver his promise. The pledge to create better paid jobs does not appear to apply to the public sector where ministers are blocking wage increases.

Rishi Sunak's five biggest promises for 2023 - what he said and what it meansRishi Sunak spoke at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London (Getty Images)

Public Services

WHAT HE SAID: “We will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Again, Sunak has not set any deadline for when these goals will be achieved.

The OBR is forecasting debt to peak in 2023-24 and then start to fall. But debt will still be 30% higher as a percentage of GDP than when the Tories came to power in 2010.

The Prime Minister did not spell out what “securing” the future of public services means and how he will achieve it when he’s planning further spending cuts.

In addition to the NHS waiting lists, nine in ten schools in England need major repairs. The criminal justice system has a record backlog of court cases and one in six crimes are not investigated.

Migrants

WHAT HE SAID: “We will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed.”

WHAT IT MEANS: New laws are in the pipeline but it is not certain they will prevent more people from crossing the English Channel.

Last year 45,000 people made the perilous journey in small boats - 60% more than in 2021.

Mr Sunak has also pledged to clear the backlog in asylum cases which currently stands at 143,377, up 20,000 since June.

What he didn't say

WHAT HE DIDN’T SAY: The Prime Minister said these were the “people’s priorities” “I will only promise what I can deliver. And I will deliver what I promise,” he said.

WHAT IT MEANS: But many people would argue that building more homes, protecting the environment, reducing inequality, fixing the transport system and affordable childcare also the people’s priorities. Mr Sunak did not mention any of these issues.

Jason Beattie

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15.07.2024, 17:44 • Investigation