Downing Street rejects calls for Boris Johnson to take immediate action on cost of living crisis

·4 min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being examined by the Privileges Committee (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being examined by the Privileges Committee (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Downing Street has rejected calls for Boris Johnson to step in and take immediate action to ease the cost of living crisis.

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the outgoing Premier to sit down with the Tory leadership contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to discuss new measures to support struggling families as inflation and energy bills soar.

Mr Brown has also said he believes the government should set up daily meetings of its emergency committee Cobra to set out ways of dealing with what he described as a “national emergency”.

But while the Prime Minister returned to No10 on Monday morning after a short summer break in Slovenia, his official spokesman said it was up to the next Tory leader to decide any future action.

“You will understand by convention it’s not for this Prime Minister to make major fiscal interventions during this period,” the spokesman said.

“It will be for the future Prime Minister. Both candidates have talked about further support of varying means that they plan to introduce.”

No10 pointed to the £15bn support package announced by Mr Sunak while he was still chancellor in May which includes £400 off energy bills over the autumn as the energy price cap is set to rise.

The spokesman said Mr Johnson would be meeting with current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi to discuss the roll out of the “billions” of pounds of support being phased in over the coming months, but repeated that it was not for the Prime Minister to intervene. He also ruled out Mr Johnson meeting with Ms Truss and Mr Sunak to discuss a cost of living plan.

Mr Brown on Monday called for a new budget to help alleviate the pressure on struggling households.

“This is the time to take action and that's why I'm saying that government ministers should be meeting with leadership candidates so that they can agree a package that can be implemented immediately,” he told Sky News.

“If not, Parliament should be recalled to look at what is a national emergency.

“And at the same time, of course, the special committee should be meeting to look at all these plans.”

Mr Brown said Tory leadership hopefuls Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak should be announcing plans now to help steer the most vulnerable through the crisis.

Analysts have predicted energy bills for the average household will hit £3,358 a year from October, up from £1,971 a year in April.

The Bank of England has warned the UK will lurch into recession later this year and the escalating cost of gas and food prices could send inflation to 11 per cent before the beginning of 2023.

The government has announced a £400 payment for all households, paid between October 2022 and March, to help with energy bills.

But Mr Brown said that will not be enough to help families struggling with rising cost.

He said: “You could be looking at a cap on energy prices...you could have better social security support.

“But all these things aren’t really being discussed by government ministers at the moment, even the leadership candidates who are obsessed about tax cuts.

“We've really got to deal with this cost of living crisis, supply of energy, shortages of storage facilities and also deal with the cost of living costs that people are having to pay."

He added: “I talk to charities in my area of Scotland quite a lot. And they are dreading October.

“They are stocking up on duvets, sleeping bags, hot water bottles with sheets and pillows and blankets because they know that people can't afford to heat their homes anymore.”

Former Tory party co-chairman Oliver Dowden said there was a need to be “realistic and honest with people about the scale of the challenge that we’re facing”.

Asked if there was a need amid the rising cost of living for daily emergency Cobra meetings, he said: “Of course we need to be on top of this situation and we need to be realistic and honest with people about the scale of the challenge that we’re facing.

“Both with the scale of inflation that’s coming down the line, something we haven’t seen for almost 40 years and with the fact that energy bills are going to go up, possibly towards £4,000.

“I would say though I don’t take enormous lessons from Gordon Brown, remember this was a man who gave us a 75p rise for pensioners, so he’s not really got a great record on this sort of thing.”