UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday promised to do more to tackle the rising cost of living, with the issue centre-stage at local elections this week.
But he again rejected calls for a one-off windfall tax on major energy companies, to offset soaring bills that have squeezed household incomes.
Voters go to the polls to elect new councils in much of England, as well as Scotland and Wales on Thursday, with the results seen as a referendum on Johnson’s premiership.
Opposition parties have been focusing on eye-watering price hikes for food and heating, claiming many people were now facing a choice between one or the other.
In an interview on ITV, Johnson was told about a 77-year-old viewer who said she was now only eating one meal daily because her energy bill had risen so much.
She reportedly now spends the day travelling on buses — using a so-called “freedom pass” which give pensioners free travel in London — to stay out of her house and keep her bills down.
Johnson, a former London mayor, responded by saying: “The 24-hour freedom bus pass was actually something that I introduced.”
Labour’s work and pensions spokesman Jonathan Ashworth called the situation “shameful” and Johnson’s response showed he was “out of touch”.
Johnson maintained there were “plenty more things” the government was doing to help hard-pressed householders, as part of a £9-billion ($11.3-billion, 10.7-billion-euro) package of support.
Elderly people were eligible for hardship payments, but opposition parties maintain these do not go far enough.
But the prime minister conceded that, in the short term, “those contributions from the taxpayer… isn’t going to be enough immediately to cover everybody’s costs”.
Inflation is at 30-year highs in the UK, with rises blamed on the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the squeeze on global energy supplies.
Johnson said increasing state spending risked driving up inflation even further, and blamed the war in Ukraine for a lack of feed that was increasing the cost of chicken.
He also hit out at previous administrations for failing to invest in new power plants to ensure the country’s energy security.
BP announced soaring underlying profits despite taking a $20.4-billion hit in the first quarter after pulling its business out of Russia.
Revenue jumped 40 percent to $51 billion, as the conflict in Ukraine pushes up oil and gas prices.
But Johnson said a windfall tax on big energy firms would deter investment and make it harder to meet the country’s net-zero environmental goals.