Opinion: How Rishi Sunak failed to take any action over cost-of-living crisis and why he needs to catch up

In recent months, much has been made of the ‘perfect storm’ pushing people across the country into poverty.

With the £20 Universal Credit cut, rising food costs, soaring energy bills, and the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the term has become ubiquitous.

But it’s a misleading phrase. Storms are naturally occurring events. They can’t be prevented, only protected against. That they have the potential to wreak damage is something we all accept as a fact of life on planet Earth.

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But the growing hardship being faced by households across the country shouldn’t be accepted. It can be prevented.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak must do more as cost-of-living crisis gets ever deeper. Picture: Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not an inescapable state of being that people must simply endure. The rising tide of poverty sweeping across the country is a direct result of how our economy is designed and is a direct result of the action – or rather the inaction – of government.

Never has this been clearer than in Rishi Sunak’s recent Spring Statement, which singularly failed to take any action to protect people from the waves of hardship that are sweeping them up.

He doesn’t see it as his responsibility to stem the rising tide of poverty; instead, he sees it as an inescapable outcome of our unjust economy.

That’s an ideological position he is entitled to hold. But not only is that position inflicting poverty, it’s also entirely out of step with the UK public.

Across a whole range of issues, it is clear that people do believe in a government’s duty to prevent poverty. Recent Survation polling commissioned by the Poverty Alliance, for example, showed a majority of people being in favour of scrapping the unjust and cruel benefit cap.

This compares with 2013, when over 70 per cent of people were in supportive of the cap. The public’s views have evolved and their compassion and understanding of the issues faced by people in poverty is growing. The Chancellor needs to play catch up.

The ’perfect storm’ is man-made – a natural consequence of government inaction, and of an economy that urgently needs redesign.

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- Neil Cowan is the policy and campaigns manager for Poverty Alliance

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