Star comment: Imaginative steps needed over cost of living crisis

Words are not required from our leaders - action is.

Iceland managing director Richard Walker
Iceland managing director Richard Walker

Retailer Iceland has come a long way since it opened its first discount store in the Shropshire market town of Oswestry.

But it has always competed on price as well as the convenience of frozen food.

Today its boss Richard Walker speaks of the difficulties he sees his customers facing. He says that, for many, there is no safety gap – as prices rise, their next stop is the food bank.

As the Government holds Cobra crisis meetings on the rail strike it might be worth adding the cost of living to its agenda.

This is now a national emergency that, with an October energy price rise on the way, is also a ticking timebomb. Ministers must find ways to help people pay for the basics. It might be worth inviting Mr Walker along. He has already suggested help with business rates, which in turn would bring costs down for shoppers. It is time for urgent action and imaginative steps to help ordinary people.

There is little point in pointing fingers at unions or attempting to pin the blame on Labour, a party out of power for more than a decade. Our elected leaders have won power and now have the responsibility to deliver on the people’s priorities. Words are not required; action is. And asking such innovative and successful figures as Mr Walker to get involved – or, at the very least – listening to his ideas, is a first step.

People are already falling into poverty now and things are likely to get worse over the next six months. Some businesses are struggling and the economy is creaking.

The country requires policies that are pragmatic, that can be implemented and that will support business, while also providing help to those most in need.

A minimum pricing policy has been brought in for Scotland and Wales without mass protests or, it seems, a devastating impact on the drinks industry.

And a new study says the move could also save lives and prevent long-term sickness linked to drink - a problem that ruins thousands of lives in our region and also takes up time, space and money within our NHS.

Maybe a new tax on alcohol in England could also raise revenue that could then be used to bring down the price of essential groceries during our cost of living crisis. That would be killing two birds with one stone.

We must get to grips with the scourge of addiction, and pricing people out of self-abusing behaviours is one tool in the nation’s armoury that saves people from themselves, while protecting the NHS. With a stuttering economy, it would also generate much-needed revenue for community use.

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