THE CHANCELLOR of the exchequer has refused to put a timeframe on when taxes will be cut in his keynote speech to the Conservative conference.

Speaking to delegates in Manchester Rishi Sunak said he could only consider lowering taxes, which will be raised next year to fund social care in England, when the country's pubic finances are on a "sustainable footing".

He also used his speech to announce an extension to the Kickstart scheme, a new fund to create jobs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and paint an optimistic picture for the UK's economic future.

Mr Sunak told the conference: "Our recovery comes with a cost.

“Our national debt is almost 100% of GDP so we need to fix our public finances.”

He acknowledged that tax rises, such as the planned rise in National Insurance were "unpopular, some will even say un-Conservative" but added:  "I’ll tell you what is un-Conservative: unfunded pledges, reckless borrowing and soaring debt.”

"Yes, I want tax cuts. But in order to do that our public finances must be put back on a sustainable footing.”

Mr Sunak said Brexit – “despite the challenges” – meant that in the long term the UK would have “agility, flexibility and freedom” and help create “a renewed culture of enterprise”.

The Chancellor also said that "tackling the cost of living" wasn't a "political soundbite" but rrather one of the "central missions this Conservative Government".

It comes amid warnings from charities, campaigners and opposition politicians that the country ois walking in to a cost of living crisis, with rising energy and food bills, as well as a cut to Universal Credit and the tax rises from next year. 

Mr Sunak announced an extension to the Kickstart scheme, which was launched to help young people get into work during the pandemic, and said it would be continued for another year.  

He also pledged to make sure the UK was a "globaL leader" in AI, saying the industry could be worth as much as £200bn a year to the economy

Announcing a new AI jobs scheme, he said: "We will create 2,000 elite AI scholarships for disadvantaged young people and double the number of Turing AI world-leading research fellows, helping to ensure that the most exciting industries and opportunities are open to all parts of our society.”

Ahead of his speech, he faced questions about whether he would have to add to the historically high tax burden beyond April’s planned 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance.

The Chancellor was asked repeatedly about whether he would approve further tax increases, including a hike to council tax to help fund social care after a warning from local authorities.

Mr Sunak told Sky News he would not “pre-empt” the local government finance settlement later in the year and added to LBC he “never can comment about future tax policy”.