Boss of Deeside based Iceland says “half-baked response” by Boris successors will fail to meet scale of people’s needs
The boss of Deeside-based Iceland says he has contacted Downing Street directly with a plea to prepare an ‘immediate and radical cost of living package.’
In an interview with the Observer, Richard Walker, the managing director of the frozen food retailer, said he had contacted No10 out of concern that the “half-baked response” by Boris Johnson’s potential successors would fail to address the scale of people’s needs.
He warned that a plan mooted by Lizz Truss – the favourite to succeed Boris Johnson – to cut business rates for small- and medium-sized companies “would not meet the size of the challenge.”
He said: “This is absolutely urgent. I’ll happily share our data and findings with [the business department] and with the Treasury. Let’s get a plan up and ready for whoever the next prime minister is, because it really is urgent.”
“Where markets dislocate completely, like they have with the energy markets, it’s time for the government to step in, otherwise what are they for?”
“My fear is that they’ll do a half-baked response. I read that Liz Truss is thinking of further rate relief for small businesses.”
“That’s lovely, but it won’t even touch the sides. What they need to understand is [this affects] big business as well as small, because it’s exactly the same trouble we’re in – there’s just more jobs at stake.”
Over 12 million households (42%) across the UK face fuel poverty this winter, according to predictions from the End Fuel Poverty Coalition.
The estimates take into account support announced by the UK Government so far and are historically reflective of the definitions of fuel poverty used in official statistics.
From the price cap rise on 1 October, the estimates show that 21 million people in around 9 million homes (32%) will be affected this winter.
The figures are then set to grow to around 28 million people in 12 million UK households (42%) from January 2023 unless urgent action is taken by the Government.
During her campaign, Truss said she does not favour “handouts” as a way of resolving the cost of living crunch — preferring tax cuts to ease the burden on families.
However the Observer article states there is “mounting evidence that big interventions will be needed to help households through the winter, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary who is expected to be Truss’s chancellor, has said “help is coming” to deal with the energy crisis.”
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph today, Truss said she would take “decisive action to ensure families and businesses can get through this winter and the next”.
“If elected, I plan within the first week of my new administration to set out our immediate action on energy bills and energy supply,” she wrote.
“A fiscal event would follow later this month from my Chancellor, with a broader package of action on the economy.” She added.
Walker said Iceland stores, which operate in the discount end of the market, were a “barometer of Britain” and were already offering interest-free loans to customers.
He has called for an energy cap for all businesses, he said: “The consumer price cap isn’t working. Those who really need it the most – some of our customers who have got £25 a week to spend on food – they will need direct financial support. That’s obvious.
“But the way for governments to support consumers is also to support business, because unless they do, it will lead to job losses and further inflation.”
“We’ve got suppliers coming to us now saying, ‘this isn’t a negotiation. You have to accept this price increase, or else I’ll just have to close my business’.”
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