Reports that some pensioners are taking buses to warm up and limiting themselves to one meal a day as energy prices soar is “totally shameful”, a shadow minister has said.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth has accused the government of being so ‘out of touch’ with the cost of living crisis that some retirees have “no choice but to sit on the bus all day to avoid racking up heating bills or shivering in blankets and eating only one meal a day”.
His comments come after Boris Johnson responded to reports by taking credit for introducing free travel for pensioners during his time as Mayor of London, and acknowledged that there was more to be done to help relieve the growing cost pressure of life on households – but insisted the government was doing ‘everything we can’.
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The government is doing “everything it can”
Many people in Britain are facing rising energy bills, council tax and the effects of a rise in National Insurance tax – as well as inflation hit a 30-year high of 7% last month.
Asked about ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the Prime Minister heard of a 77-year-old pensioner called Elsie who saw her energy bill skyrocket so high that she cut down to just one meal per day and spends the day traveling on the bus with his free warm up pass.
Asked what other sacrifices vulnerable people such as Elsie might possibly make, the Prime Minister replied: ‘The 24-hour freedom bus pass was actually something that I actually introduced.’
Mr Johnson said there are ‘a lot more things we are doing’, adding: ‘What we want to do is make sure we have particularly struggling people supported by their advice, so we invest a lot more money in local councils.
“We have special payments to help the elderly, especially with heating costs.”
PM “out of touch”
But work Mr Ashworth criticized Mr Johnson’s response.
“It’s utterly shameful that pensioners have no choice but to sit on the bus all day to avoid racking up heating bills at home, or shiver in blankets and eat only one meal a day,” the shadow secretary for work and pensions said in a statement.
“The fact that Boris Johnson responds by bragging about the London bus pass reveals how out of touch this narcissistic Prime Minister is.
“The simple truth is that Boris Johnson has just imposed the biggest real pension cuts in 50 years and charities like Age UK are warning it will be one hell of a year for British pensioners.”
He added that a windfall tax would “provide real help to families facing the Tory cost-of-living crisis”.
Prime Minister warns against windfall tax
But the Prime Minister warned that a windfall tax on energy companies would discourage investment.
“If you put a windfall tax on energy companies, that means you’re discouraging them from making the investments that we want to see that ultimately will keep energy prices lower for everyone,” said he declared.
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The Prime Minister also warned that increasing state support beyond its current levels could lead to even higher inflation.
The government has rolled out a £9billion loan package to cut energy bills and municipal tax refunds, but faces growing calls to go further as households across the UK are beginning to feel the pinch of the rising cost of living.
“I accept that these taxpayer contributions — because that’s what it’s all about, taxpayers’ money — won’t immediately be enough to cover everyone’s costs,” he said. at Good Morning Britain.
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“More Than We Can Do”
The Prime Minister continued: “We can do more. But the main thing is to make sure that we manage prices in the medium and long term.”
Last week, Downing Street announced that the Prime Minister would chair a committee with the aim of tackling the cost of living crisis “within the next two weeks”.
A future childcare announcement aimed at easing the financial burden faced by many families was also mentioned by Number 10.
According to figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week, almost nine out of 10 adults say they have seen their cost of living increase – compared to 62% in November last year.
Meanwhile, supermarket groups Asda and Morrisons announced efforts to help struggling buyers during the cost of living crisis.
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