The Deputy Prime Minister said he would “much rather that we didn’t have to do it” but added the 1.25 percent increase would help tackle strains on social care. Former housing secretary Robert Jenrick had said the new levy should be postponed while the country is facing a cost of living crisis. Mr Raab said: “I think it is because there’s an absence of an alternative to deal with social care, which is a critical issue facing families up and down the country.
“I would much rather that we didn’t have to do it. But, given the pandemic and the walloping of the public finances, we do. And what I do not want to do is duck, as successive governments and prime ministers have, the issue of social care.
“And we’re making sure that we deal with the ageing population, the dementia challenges we face. And we’re the first government and this is the first prime minister that has grasped that nettle. I do not want us to go slow on that critically important social reform.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is facing intense pressure from backbenchers to delay the increase, which will come into force at the same time as the cap on energy bills rises. Mr Jenrick, who approved the hike last year, said it should now be delayed and the Government should “exploit Britain’s gas reserves”.
He said: “Alleviating the cost of living challenge requires us to confront hard realities. First, it means recognising the need for the Government to intervene to help those facing brutal decisions as to what they must do without.
“But these should be targeted measures that are focused on low and middle income families. The size of the state is already the largest in my lifetime, and growing. In the medium term we need to address our exposure to volatile energy markets by increasing domestic output, and this involves utilising the oil and gas our islands have been blessed with.”
He said the quickest way to “alleviate pressures on household budgets would be to postpone the hike” which would “show the Government’s Conservative instincts remain”.
A Government spokesman said: “The NHS and social care levy will be brought in to ensure the NHS gets the funding it needs this year to clear the waiting lists caused by the pandemic.”