May 13, 2022
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John Lewis chief says UK needs pandemic-style cost-of-living support package

May 13, 2022

John Lewis boss Dame Sharon White is calling on the UK government to introduce a financial support package to protect families from the cost of living crisis, similar to the one delivered during the Covid pandemic.

Dame Sharon White - John Lewis Partnership

Dame Sharon, a former second permanent secretary at the Treasury, said the government “needed to act urgently because families were struggling to pay utility and food costs” as energy bills and inflation soared.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston show this week, she added: “The time has absolutely come for action whether it is an emergency budget or whether it is another vehicle.”

The chair of John Lewis Partnership, which also owns the Waitrose supermarket chain, said 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.”

Dame Sharon added that the UK faced “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.”

She becomes the latest prominent retail leader to publicly call for urgent government action, after supermarket Tesco's chair said on Tuesday there was an “overwhelming case” for a windfall tax on energy companies to help those struggling the most with the cost of living crisis.”

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