Politics

'Out of touch': Chancellor Jeremy Hunt slammed after claiming £100,000 a year 'isn't a huge salary'

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has defended his claim that earning £100,000 a year 'doesn’t go as far as you might think' in his local area

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on inflation

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has defended his comments about six figure wages. Image: Kirsty O'Connor/HM Treasury

Jeremy Hunt has defended his claim that earning £100,000 a year “doesn’t go as far as you might think” in his local area – as critics blast the chancellor for being “out of touch”.

Hunt came under fire last week after he took to social media to air a constituent’s grievances about their six-figure pay packet.

“I spoke to a lady from Godalming about eligibility for the government’s childcare offer which is not available if one parent is earning over £100,000,” he posted on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

“That is an issue I would really like to sort out after the next election as I am aware that it is not [a] huge salary in our area if you have a mortgage to pay.”

Hunt doubled down on the comments on Sunday (24 March), telling Sky News that “what sounds like a large salary” isn’t a high income in his constituency, the relatively affluent Godalming and Ash area.

But critics have derided the comments as “bizarre”, pointing out the huge numbers of people who earn just a fraction of that.

“I don’t understand why he would say this – twice,” said professor Paula Surridge, deputy director of the think tank UK In A Changing Europe.

“Surely he and the rest of the party must know how bad it sounds to most of the electorate who are not close to that even with two incomes coming in? They must know income distributions to know what tax cuts would cost?”

The average UK salary is around £35,000. Anything higher than £81,357 puts an earner in the top 5%. Earlier this week, new data showed that four million Brits are living in “outright destitution” – meaning that they are unable to afford basic essentials like food and energy.

About 1.6 million workers – 5% of all British workers – are paid at or below the minimum wage, which is a little over £10 per hour for most age groups. This amounts to £18,964 per annum for a 35-hour week.

Shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said Hunt’s comments were “desperately out of touch”.

“The overwhelming majority of working people in this country would dream of earning that, yet they are all being made to pay the price of 14 years of Tory failure,” he said.

“It is staggering for the chancellor to complain about mortgage costs when it was the Conservative government which crashed the economy with their kamikaze budget and sent mortgage costs through the roof.”

Social media was particularly unsympathetic to Hunt’s comments.

“If £100,000 is now just about managing, then how does Jeremy Hunt imagine those on an average wage of £35,000 get by?,” political commentator and journalist John Crace said.

“The chancellor’s remarks only highlight the deep inequalities in our country and his lack of understanding of the economic realities of the majority,” said revered Bryce Calder, Church of Scotland minister.

What about high mortgage repayments?

Jeremy Hunt claims he was making a point about high mortgage repayments. Mortgage interest rates reached a two-year average of 6.86% last summer – squeezing people’s repayment schedules. They have fallen slightly recently – but many families are still struggling.

Paul Follows, the Lib Dem standing against Hunt for the Godalming and Ash constituency, said that mortgage repayments were hitting high earners hard – but that the comments were still ill-judged.

“If even those people on £100,000 salaries are struggling, especially with mortgage costs, he should perhaps look to his own actions and that of his government,” he said.

“But the basic point – that if people on that sort of money are struggling – how about the vast majority of people who earn much less and are struggling with the same issues of mortgages and rent costs and spiralling childcare costs?”

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