Liz Truss will become the next UK prime minister tomorrow (6 September), after winning the Conservative Party leadership contest earlier today (5 September). Truss secured 81,326 votes to Rishi Sunak’s 60,399.
Throughout her leadership campaign, Truss repeatedly said her priority as the next prime minister would be to cut taxes – including reversing April’s 1.25% national insurance rise and scrapping corporation tax rise from 19% to 25%.
She also promised to announce a plan to deal with soaring energy costs within a week of becoming prime minister, on top of a ‘fiscal event’ to set out longer term action on the economy within a month.
However, over the past few weeks Truss has been accused of making U-turns on some of her policies throughout her leadership campaign. Last week, she pledged to provide “immediate support” to help households with rising energy costs, after having previously said she would not be giving people “handouts” in early August. She also dropped a plan to link public sector pay to local living costs after receiving criticism from unions at the beginning of August, Labour and some Conservative MPs. A spokesperson for Truss later said her policies were “misinterpreted”, but confirmed she would not be going ahead with the plan.
As a result, fashion retailers and brands have called for urgent clarity on the new prime minister’s policy commitments.
“Her policies sort of change every five minutes, so we will have to see what they actually are once she has settled in,” the CEO of one menswear brand said.
The CEO of one high street multiple agreed: “She keeps changing her mind – I’m hoping we can get some clarity on her policies as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, the CEO of one womenswear etailer said. “[Liz] has a really tough job ahead, but there has been no clarity on her policies and I’m not particularly optimistic about her plans for businesses.”
She added: “Liz Truss needs to tackle the rising energy costs for businesses, which hasn’t been talked about enough.”
Several other fashion businesses are also urging Truss to tackle the cost of living crisis as a priority. Last month, the Bank of England said Britain would enter a recession at the end of 2022, and warned inflation would hit 13% in October. Inflation rose to 10.1% in July – the highest level since February 1982.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Businesses need clarity on the government’s intentions as soon as possible so they can understand the inflationary impact of any policy decisions. One immediate way the government can help retailers support their customers is to freeze the business rates multiplier for all retail businesses for the next financial year, protecting the industry from rates increases linked to inflation, and giving greater scope to hold down prices, protect jobs, and support the economy.
“The retail industry is ready to work with the new government to shore up consumer confidence and help deliver economic growth”.
The CEO of another clothing multiple agreed that something needed to be done to fix rising energy costs: “The whole energy pricing system is broken and there needs to be intervention, for both households and businesses.”
Truss said in her victory speech today that she would “deliver on the energy crisis”.
A government spokesperson said: “No national government can control the global factors pushing up the price of energy and other business costs, but we will continue to support businesses in navigating the months ahead.
“We are currently providing a 50% business rates relief for businesses across the UK, freezing alcohol duty rates on beer, cider, wine and spirits, and reducing employer national insurance. This is in addition to the billions in grants and loans offered throughout the pandemic.”