Poorest people 'made to balance the books': Food campaigner explains cost of living crisis

21 January 2022, 12:12 | Updated: 21 January 2022, 18:56

By Sam Sholli

Food campaigner Jack Monroe today highlighted the cost of living crisis that thousands of Brits are facing in shops, saying "the people who have the least are once again being asked to balance the books".

The campaigner and food writer's spoke to James O'Brien about the cost of living crisis grips families across the UK.

In a hard-hitting exchange, Monroe highlighted how the price of basics such as rice and even stock cubes has shot up, but the price of more expensive ready-made supermarket meals has hardly increased.

The anti-poverty campaigner argues this shows how people on lower incomes are being made to shoulder the cost of living burden, while people who are better off, who can afford pricier ready meals, won't be affected.

Monroe told James of how a ready meal "was £7.50 in 2011 and is still £7.50 today".

"Now if we were really all in it together and that ready meal was subject to inflation at the same rate as the cheapest rice at the supermarket, that ready meal would be nearly £26 today," Monroe explained.

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Monroe also said: "The people who have the least are once again being asked to shoulder the financial burdens of balancing the books.

"And it's always, always the case."

The food writer also told James: "Over the last few months, I have been hugely depressed.

"I have been feeling absolutely like nothing ever changes [and] everything is bloody useless.

"I've been shouting into the wind. I've been involved in so many government-commissioned reports and parliamentary inquiries and all-party parliamentary groups...and nothing changes, except the queues at the food banks get longer [and] the number of people who've died after having their benefits cut and delayed gets larger."

LBC has been inundated with calls today from people who are struggling to cope with the cost of living. One caller phoned James to tell him how they are forced to have 'indoor' and 'outdoor' coats and that they can only have the heating on for 30 minutes every evening to 'take the chill' from the air.

A pensioner tearfully spoke to Nick Ferrari earlier today where he said he faced the choice of keeping his house warm or going into debt as he was on a low, fixed income.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng spoke to LBC this morning and did not rule out plans for a one-off payment of up to £500 to help struggling families through the cost of living crisis. But even this faced criticism as callers told LBC that payment wouldn't help them beyond a couple of months.

Mr Kwarteng said: “We are always looking at ways in which we can try and soften price rises, undue hikes in bills.“I’m sure there will be more information about that in the next few weeks.

“There are lots of measures that have been talked about and ultimately it’s a matter for Rishi Sunak and his team at the Treasury. “We are trying to get to some common solution.

“We’ve got the warm home discount, which gives very vulnerable people, people on low incomes, support for bills. There’s also winter fuel payment as well.“We are having conversations across government to see what more can be done.”

READ MORE: Families cry for help as govt considers 'up to £500 cash payouts' to ease cost of living

The Treasury is now said to be investigating whether a one-off payment to the poorest households may be a better solution than slashing VAT on energy bills, which the Chancellor is reportedly concerned would give financial aid to richer households who do not need it.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) - a think tank with MPs from both Labour and the Conservatives on its board - has backed the idea, praising the simplicity of the scheme.

SMF chief economist Dr Aveek Bhattacharya wrote in a blog that many of the more complex solutions being suggested by the industry would encourage households to use more energy, as well as tie the Government into costly strategies that they would not be able to maintain.

"An emergency cash payment would also have the benefit of being a clear one-off intervention, whereas other proposals would risk committing the government to costly ongoing subsidies, that it would find politically difficult to end," he wrote.

He also said methods such a subsidising gas would prop-up energy companies and "muddle [the Government's] environmental objectives".

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