John Lewis boss calls for Covid-style cost of living aid package

The boss of John Lewis has urged the governmentto intervene with a financial package of support to protect families from the cost of living crisis on the same scale as it did to help the nation deal with the Covid pandemic.

Dame Sharon White, a former second permanent secretary at the Treasury, said the government needed to act urgently as families struggle to pay utility and food costs as energy bills and inflation soars.

“The time has absolutely come for action whether it is an emergency budget or whether it is another vehicle,” said White, speaking on ITV’s Peston show on Wednesday night.

The chair of John Lewis Partnership, which also owns the Waitrose supermarket chain, said that action needed to be taken before summer with consumers facing another increase in energy bills of as much as £1,000 annually from October.

She said: “The decisive action we saw, 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.”

White added that the UK faces “at least as pressing a challenge with the cost of living crisis” as it did with the pandemic, making the cost to public finances an “imperative”.

“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 … actually a temporary hit on public finances is worth it.”

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White is the latest prominent retail leader to publicly call for urgent government action, after Tesco’s chairman John Allan said on Tuesday there was an “overwhelming case” for a windfall tax on energy companies to help those suffering the most from the cost of living crisis.

Allan warned that the country was facing “real food poverty for the first time in a generation.”

Johnson, who has persistently argued against a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, failed to rule it out when he was interviewed on LBC radio on Thursday morning.


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