UK's Rishi Sunak pledges £17 billion in tax cuts by 2030, looking to bounce back from D-Day gaffe

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks at the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto launch at Silverstone Circuit on June 11, 2024 in Towcester, United Kingdom.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak released his Conservative Party’s official election manifesto on Tuesday, announcing help for first-time homebuyers and promising more tax cuts.

The pledges come as the Conservatives look set for a drubbing by the rival Labour Party in the July 4 general election, while Sunak has personally come under fire several times during the campaign.|

Sunak apologized for leaving D-Day commemorations in France early last week and has also been accused of misleading the British electorate with a claim that Labour would raise taxes by £2,000 ($2,547) per working household.

On Tuesday, he pledged to cut another 2 pence off National Insurance — a British tax on workers’ income — and reiterated his plan to bring back national service, which would oblige 18-year-olds to complete a 12-month community program or a yearlong period of military training.

He also said that the Conservatives would look to halve migration then “reduce it every single year,” also promising a “Help to Buy” program for first-time property buyers amid the U.K.’s housing crisis.

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Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer are both forefronting economic growth, the cost of living and taxes in their campaign messaging. A Labour win would mark its first parliamentary majority in 14 years. Polls have for some time been pointing toward a Labour victory in a general election after the Conservatives’ ratings tanked following a series of scandals under former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tenure.

Total tax cuts under the Conservative manifesto would progressively climb to an annual £17.2 billion by 2029-30. In an initial response to the manifesto, the independent thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies said that the package is “supposedly funded by reducing the projected welfare bill by £12 billion” among other strategies like cracking down on tax avoidance.

“Those are definite giveaways paid for by uncertain, unspecific and apparently victimless savings. Forgive a degree of scepticism,” Paul Johnson, IFS director, said in the statement.

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Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said pledges left many issues without clear resolutions such as business rates and work apprenticeships.

“This manifesto fails to take the bull by the horns. … On a brighter note, the Conservatives commitment to tackling retail crime remains firm in the manifesto, with a pledge to toughen sentences for those who assault retail workers,” she said in an emailed statement.

— CNBC’s Jenni Reid contributed to this article.

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