Boris Johnson eyes £5bn welfare spending spree as Jeremy Corbyn narrows poll gap
Boris Johnson has promised to end the benefits freeze as part of a multi-billion-pound pre-election welfare spending spree.
Working-age benefits will rise in line with inflation for the first time since they were frozen by George Osborne in 2015, while pensioners are set for the biggest rise in their incomes for eight years.
The Government is pledging to boost the state pension by 3.9% - a move worth an extra £344 a year - while working-age benefits will rise by 1.7%.
The promises - which the Mail on Sunday reports will cost £5bn - come as a YouGov survey for The Sunday Times appeared to show Jeremy Corbyn gaining ground in the race for Number 10.
While Labour still trails the Conservatives by twelve points, it is now on 27% - climbing by six points between Wednesday and Friday.
The Tories have gained three points since the campaign began, according to the YouGov study, while the Brexit Party has slipped from 13% to seven percent support and the Liberal Democrats have fallen by three points to 16%.
A separate study by ORB International gave the Conservatives a lead of just eight percent - although an Opinium study puts the Tories 16 points clear of Mr Corbyn's party.
TV LICENCE HINT
Both parties have now launched bids to woo older voters as the race for Number 10 continues.
And the Prime Minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings is said to have urged the Tories to do more to target voters in working-class communities by shearing off the remaining elements of the David Cameron-era austerity programme.
In an interview with The Sun on Sunday, Mr Johnson declared: "It’s time for prosperity and not austerity."
The Prime Minister also vowed to sit down with BBC bosses in an effort to save "crucial" free TV licenses for the over-75s.
Mr Johnson said he would try to thrash out a new funding formula for the corporation before the free £154-a-year licences face the chop next June.
"I'll be talking to the BBC about how to sort that out," he told the Sun on Sunday.
Announcing the welfare increases, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey meanwhile said: "We're clear the best way for people to improve their lives is through work but we know some people require additional support.
"Our balanced fiscal approach has built a strong economy, with 3.6 million more people in work since 2010.
"And it's that strong economy which allows us to bolster the welfare safety net by increasing benefit payments for working-age claimants now."
LABOUR WARM HOMES PLEDGE
Labour has also begun laying out its pitch to older voters, with a pledge to undertake the biggest upgrade of UK housing since the end of the Second World War.
A new Warm Homes for All scheme will see loft insulation, double glazing and renewable technology installed in most of the UK’s 27m homes, the party said, in a move it claims will create 450,000 jobs over the next decade.
Low-income households will be able to apply for a grant under the scheme, which Labour said would be part-funded through a £60bn public subsidy.
Mr Corbyn said: "By investing on a massive scale, we will usher in a green industrial revolution with good, clean jobs that will transform towns, cities and communities that have been held back and neglected for decades.
"At this election, the choice is clear – we can either take action to protect future generations, or allow the Tories to help fuel our planet’s destruction."
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