Rishi Sunak has promised to give “hundreds of pounds” more to people for energy bills while Liz Truss refused to commit to extra support for struggling families.
Mr Sunak said he is “confident” he could find the money needed to support people with the rising cost of living from government efficiency cuts if he were to become prime minister.
He told ITV News that it “would be wrong” to put a precise figure on how much money he would give people, as we don’t know how much their energy bills will rise after Analysts warned that energy bills could top £4,200 in January.
But when asked if it would be “hundreds of pounds more”, Sunak said: “Yes. I want to make sure that pensioners and the low-income households that I care most about get the help they need.
“And I want them to have peace of mind.”
Elaborating on how the additional funding will be paid for, he said: “I’m sure we can find the money from across government.”
Last night his team said he would get Whitehall departments to cut back by using underspending from their capital budgets to fund energy bills.
The underspending has been around £3 billion a year recently.
His pledge came after the two candidates faced renewed talks to explain how they would help after Cornwall Insights forecast average bills could reach £4,200 in January, up from £1,971 today.
Mrs Truss insisted her priority was pushing through tax cuts to jump-start the economy and would “see what the situation is” in the fall.
But Sunak said he was concerned that his rival Truss’ plans for tax would not help low-income and pensioner households.
He also criticized her for suggesting there should be no more “handouts” this weekend, with his spokesman saying she is “divorced from reality”.
The pair will face more questions from Conservative MPs at a hustings meeting in Darlington tonight.
“Bury Your Differences”
On Tuesday, Money Saving Experts’ Martin Lewis called on the two contenders to bury their differences to tackle the problem together, warning that the country was facing a “national disaster”.
He said the “zombie government needs to wake up sooner than September 5”, when the new Tory leader and prime minister will be announced, as the new bills are “unaffordable for millions”.
Mr Sunak on Tuesday doubled down on controversial comments he made last week in which he told Conservative members that “deprived urban areas” were being given too much money at the expense of wealthy Royal Tunbridge Wells.
“My point is that there are pockets of poverty that exist everywhere,” he told ITV News.
“They’re not just in big urban cities. They’re in small towns. They’re in rural areas. There’s poverty everywhere that we have to deal with and make sure we get the investment it needs.”
He insisted he was talking about big cities and talking to people “in a wider rural area” and it was “not about Tunbridge Wells”.
“I think it is incredibly wrong to suggest that there is no poverty or inequality in rural areas. It is absurd,” he added.
Mr Sunak said he would be “absolutely” happy to repeat what he said in Newcastle city center and said as chancellor he “focused a lot of attention on Teesside”.
The former chancellor added that he is “definitely the underdog in this race” after several polls since the candidates were whittled down to two have put Mrs Truss as the front-runner.
But he said he is “giving it absolutely everything I’ve got” and believes the message “really resonates with people”.
It was Sunak and former health secretary Sajid Javid’s resignation that prompted a number of Cabinet members to quit, forcing Boris Johnson to resign a month ago.
And Mr Sunak said he has not spoken to Mr Johnson since then.
Asked if the situation is “quite raw” between the pair, he suggested Johnson may hold grudges, telling ITV: “Well, that’s a question for him rather than me.”