Waitrose boss calls for government help with cost of living crisis

Waitrose boss Dame Sharon White has joined Tesco chair John Allen in calling for the government to intervene and offer help with the cost of living crisis.

White has specifically urged the government to develop a financial support package to protect families from soaring energy and grocery bills in the same way it approached the Covid pandemic.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday night, White said the government needed to act urgently as families were struggling to survive amid rocketing energy bills, food prices and inflation.

The chair of John Lewis Partnership, which also owns Waitrose, White proposed a Covid-style cost of living aid package. She said action needed to be taken before summer, before consumers are hit by the further increase in energy bills expected in October.

“The time has absolutely come for action whether it is an emergency budget or whether it is another vehicle,” said White, who has previously worked as the second permanent secretary at the Treasury.

“I thought the government did incredibly well at the pace and scale during Covid, I think we need to see the same decisive action taken at speed and at pace.”

Read more: Tesco chairman says customers are ‘extremely overstretched’ 

White added that the UK faced “at least as pressing a challenge with the cost of living crisis” as it did with the pandemic, adding that any cost to public finances would be “worth it”.

“The hit is either going to happen to households, to families, to people on low incomes, or we take a decision that given the scale and everything that’s happening,” she stated. “Actually a temporary hit on public finances is worth it.”

White also echoed Allan’s assertion earlier in the week that a windfall tax on energy firms should be reconsidered to help subsidise the cost of rocketing bills as the UK was facing “real food poverty for the first time in a generation.”

White went on to describe the windfall tax proposal as “not perfect” but added that it was a “reasonable approach”, given the “severity and the urgency of the situation”.

Fuel companies BP and Shell reported bumper profits last week, thanks to soaring energy prices. The cap has been increased by 54% for the average household, putting extra pressure on consumers, at the same time that BP reported underlying profits had more than doubled to £5 billion.

Prime minister Boris Johnson told LBC this morning that government would “look at” the possibility of a windfall tax, which he has previously said could deter energy firms from investing in the UK in the future.

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