The government has delivered a “tin-eared and slow” response to the UK’s cost of living crisis, according to the chair of Asda.
Tory peer Lord Stuart Rose said chancellor Rishi Sunak should put together a new package to ease the pain of soaring costs for households, adding that “the main problem that the government has is that it’s been handing out millions and millions during Covid so it’s now very hard to explain to people why they can’t hand out more money”.
Soaring inflation, including massive energy price rises over the past nine months, is putting the squeeze on household budgets across the country.
Average annual energy bills increased by £700 this month, with Sunak giving most households £350 to help with the rise.
The energy price cap is now expected to increase another £1,000 throughout the year, leading to calls from think tanks, pundits and opposition parties for more government support.
Stuart, the former executive chairman of Marks & Spencer, told GB News: “I think the government has been fairly slow to recognise some of the problems many people are facing. They’ve been slightly tin-eared and slow in putting some actions in place to put in place policies in response.
“I would do something as a short term package to help people. It’s a tough one but I would also be saying to people who are doing well that it’s time for you to put your hand in your pocket.”
Sunak announced last week that he would cut fuel duty by 5p for 12 months and cut National Insurance, after increasing it in October, in a bid to ease the cost of living squeeze.
Paul Johnson, director at the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank, said the average British worker will still be £400 worse off next year despite Sunak’s interventions.
When pushed by a Westminster Committee this week on whether he will offer more help to households later this year if energy prices rise by predicted amounts, Sunak said: “None of us know what the [energy] price cap will be in the autumn.
“We’ve said very clearly in the spring statement document that we will continue to monitor the situation and as we know more, we are prepared to act if necessary.”
A Treasury spokesperson said: “We understand that people are struggling with the rising cost of living – we can’t shield everyone from these global challenges but are taking action worth over £22 billion this financial year to help.”