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Editorial: Plan to tackle cost of living crisis cannot wait

It seems incredible that at a time when huge financial issues are piling up and the public is becoming increasingly apprehensive, there is effectively a vacuum at the top of government.

Boris Johnson has been barely visible since he was unceremoniously ousted by his party, which is now in the throes of a protracted leadership contest that will determine the next occupant of 10 Downing Street no sooner than September 5.

While Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are taking their cases to a tiny electorate of Tory members, the economic situation is deteriorating, inflation is soaring, recession is looming and energy price forecasts are climbing to unheard of levels by the day.

Mr Johnson has now returned from his much-criticised holiday and has made some brief pronouncements that will fail to inspire confidence that he has everything under firm control.

It did not help that drought was officially declared in large swathes of England, with people enduring the heatwave now facing restrictions on water use with warnings in place over the increased risk of wildfires.

Although the present boiling temperatures are the immediate focus of attention, wider public concern is on the colder weather and how families will be able to pay runaway costs that are well beyond their current incomes.

Yesterday Mr Johnson insisted households can expect extra help to tackle the cost of living, regardless of who succeeds him, while also signalling that he believes the current package of measures are not enough.

He has asked senior officials to plan for a 'meaningful ministerial meeting with heads of devolved governments to consider how best to further support hardworking families'.

It is not clear when this meeting will take place but the lack of a fully functioning devolved administration in Northern Ireland is clearly deeply unsatisfactory at this time of crisis.

Mr Johnson has been widely criticised for his detached approach and for going on holiday at this time, but he is not alone.

Sir Keir Starmer was yesterday forced to defend Labour's response to the crisis, promising that comprehensive proposals on tackling rising costs will be unveiled on Monday.

People know the next few weeks and months are going to be extremely difficult and asking them to wait until a new prime minister starts work is adding to what is an already heightened sense of alarm and anxiety.

There needs to be reassurance now and a clear plan to help hard-pressed households make ends meet.

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