There is “no golden bullet” to solve the cost of living crisis, a minister has warned, as Boris Johnson prepares to ask his Cabinet ministers to help him find solutions to ease the pressure on household finances.
Armed Forces minister James Heappey told Sky News there is “no doubt” that any interventions by the government will be “expensive”, but added that “cumulatively” a range of measures could “start to make a difference”.
It comes as the prime minister prepares to meet with his top colleagues to discuss “innovative” ways to tackle the cost of living crisis that do not solely rely on increased government spending.
Many people in Britain are facing an increase in energy bills, council tax and the effects of a National Insurance tax rise – as well as inflation hitting a 30-year-high of 7% earlier this month.
“There’s no doubt about these interventions are expensive – £22bn of government intervention to assist with families with their cost of living is already huge,” he said.
“There’ll be other levers that government can pull and, you know, not one of them will be a golden bullet.
“But cumulatively, if you can provide people with lots of small savings across their cost of living, then cumulatively that does start to make a difference.
“So I wouldn’t sniff at the removal of a tariff on a particular food type, because if that sits alongside a reduction in fuel duty at the pumps, which has happened, that sits alongside a raising of the personal allowance, an increase in the national living wage, cumulatively you can start to see and assisting people with their energy bills.
“You can start to see how that starts to ease the pressure on the families who are struggling the most.”
Emergency budget needed, Labour says
Labour has reiterated its call for an “emergency budget” to tackle the rising costs households are facing, warning that “soaring” prices are putting the squeeze on working families.
It says this emergency budget should include a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to allow energy bills to be cut.
Number 10 has said the government is renewing efforts to raise awareness of the “strong package” of financial help already on offer and warned that “private companies must play their part” in helping to bring down costs.
Ahead of Cabinet, Mr Johnson said: “With household bills and living costs rising in the face of global challenges, easing the burden on the British people and growing our economy must be a team effort across Cabinet.
“We have a strong package of financial support on offer, worth £22 billion, and it’s up to all of us to make sure that help is reaching the hardest-hit and hard-working families across the country.
“We will continue to do all we can to support people without letting government spending and debt spiral, whilst continuing to help Brits to find good jobs and earn more, no matter where they live.”
PM calls for creative ideas
But the Lib Dems have accused the government of being “completely out of ideas”.
“What the British people need now is proper leadership – that means an emergency budget, a cut to VAT and a windfall tax on the super profits of the oil and gas companies,” the party’s leader Sir Ed Davey said.
Mr Johnson is believed to have asked his Cabinet to attend the meeting on Tuesday morning with their proposals for helping ease the pressure on household pressures.
Mr Heappey told Sky News he could not say whether any plan of action to reduce living costs had been agreed to, but stressed that the government is taking the matter “seriously”.
“The cost of living is getting to such a point now where even people on good wages are struggling to make ends meet and they are looking to the government to help them with solutions,” he told Sky News.
“Now, what they will decide in Cabinet this morning is for them, and it’s certainly not for me to try and trail, but already for this year alone, the government has put £22bn of targeted funding in to support those who are struggling most with the cost of living.
“And the fact that Cabinet is meeting today to discuss more shows you just how seriously this is taken by the prime minister, the chancellor and the rest, their colleagues in Cabinet.”
Supermarkets cut prices
According to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics this week, almost nine out of 10 adults say they have seen a rise in their cost of living – compared to 62% in November last year.
On Monday, supermarket groups Asda and Morrisons announced efforts to help struggling shoppers during the cost of living crisis.
Asda, Britain’s third-largest supermarket after Tesco and Sainsbury’s, said it will invest more than £73m to keep the prices of more than 100 essential items low until the end of the year.
The items include some fresh fruit, vegetables, fresh meat, and frozen food.
Morrisons, the country’s fourth-largest supermarket, said it has reduced prices on more than 500 products, including cereal, cooking sauces, chicken and sausages as well as flour, bread and ham.
Asda said prices on affected items would come down by an average of 12%, while Morrisons said its reductions would average 13%.