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On Monday, after a fierce political battle against former chancellor Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss was announced as the next prime minister of the United Kingdom.
She received 81,326 votes to Rishi Sunak’s 60,399 to become the Tory party’s new leader, meaning she won by 20,927 votes (57.4% of the vote).
Tackling the cost-of-living crisis
The biggest task Liz Truss will face over the coming months is the cost-of-living crisis and rising inflation, as households and small businesses are set to suffer this winter.
Martin McTague, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), commented, “I congratulate Liz Truss and her team on a campaign that included small businesses, the self-employed and unleashing enterprise at its centre.
“The challenge now is to deliver action that is big and bold enough to match the scale of the crisis threatening the existence of many small firms, and the jobs, livelihoods and communities which depend upon them.
“Small firms, not protected by an energy price cap, are seeing bills soaring out of control. This is at a time of sky-high taxes, rampant inflation and supply chain disruption, creating a toxic mix which must be addressed urgently.
“Small businesses are crying out for a comprehensive response which cuts taxes, limits spiralling bills, and provides direct cash support for the smallest businesses.
“During the leadership campaign, we were pleased that Liz Truss listened to our calls to reverse the recent hike in National Insurance and to look at lifting more small firms out of business rates.
“As she prepares her full package of emergency plans, we are ready and willing to work with the new prime minister and her team to protect the UK’s 5.5 million small businesses and the 16 million jobs within them, in communities in all parts of the UK.”
These sentiments were also felt by the British Independent Retail Association (Bira), as CEO Andrew Goodacre, added, “We hope that as well as campaigning to secure the votes, the new prime minister has also been working on plans to address the immediate economic challenges, both short term and medium term.
“Bira has been raising concerns since last October and we have continued to work with government departments to help them understand the challenges faced by retailers and the high street in general.
“Independent retailers are integral to high streets. High streets are integral to communities and so they need support and protection from this toxic economic situation. For many smaller retailers, Covid-19 has drained them of cash and we must not let perfectly viable businesses disappear from the communities they serve.”
The rural sector
During her election campaign, former environment secretary Truss vowed to increase food security and ‘unleash’ British farming from EU red tape to make the industry more competitive.
She also revealed her plans to free farmers to grow more sustainable and high-quality British food through an extension of the seasonal worker’s scheme which is due to expire in 2024, and intentions to slash Brexit red tape.
This appealed to the farming sector, as Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) explained, “I would like to welcome Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister and I look forward to working with her and her government on its priorities for British food and farming.
“British farmers are critically important in providing the nation with a supply of home-grown food and it’s essential that British farming has a vibrant and sustainable future, particularly as it moves into a new domestic agricultural policy and continues to grapple with the rising costs facing all farm businesses.”
However, according to Mark Tufnell, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), “No Prime Minister in the last 20 years has had an ambitious strategy for the rural economy. This has to change.
“Years of neglect have led to an 18 per cent productivity gap between the rural economy and the national average. Closing this gap would add £43bn to UK GVA (Gross Value Added).
“As PM, Liz Truss must go for growth, laying out in detail her plans to deliver genuine planning reform, full connectivity, a simpler tax system for diversified businesses - and a Whitehall shake-up to encourage cross-departmental cooperation. Otherwise, her party risks losing the hearts and minds of 12 million rural voters.”
The climate emergency
The baton of dealing with the effects of climate change have also now been passed to Truss, and environmental groups are hoping to see strong measures from her.
Ross Matthewman, head of policy and campaigns at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), said, “[Liz Truss] takes over the running of the country at a vital time, with concerns about inflation, soaring energy bills and the ongoing war in Ukraine threatening our energy security.
“We at CIEH urge Prime Minister Truss to prioritise strengthening environmental health measures as a means of both meeting these urgent challenges, as well as ensuring the UK remains a world leader in meeting our climate change objectives.
“Whether through immediate policies such as freezing energy bills, reversing the quarterly price cap, and targeted energy efficiency measures to better insulate the poorest households, or through long-term measures such as enhancing air quality targets, tighter regulation of water companies dumping raw sewage in our waterways, or ensuring new trade deals either meet or enhance or food standards.
“Prioritising environmental health policies should be at the forefront of this new administration and we at CIEH look forward to proactively engaging the new government on these urgent and important issues.”
Similarly, in an open letter to the new PM, the Soil Association wrote, “Economic and environmental shocks are now so commonplace, it cannot be business as usual. This year’s rising input costs coupled with drought conditions, as devastating as they’ve been, are symptoms of the disrupted climatic and political environment that are unlikely to stabilise and farmers are going to need help to adapt, and then thrive.
“This means nurturing a resilient and diverse agricultural sector, one underpinned by the principles of agroecology which allows us to move away from the use of toxic agrichemicals and synthetic nitrogen inputs.
“Setting ambitious pesticide and nitrogen reduction targets in law would send a bold signal about the direction of travel in this regard.”
With all sectors of the fine food industry looking to Liz Truss to tackle the issues facing it, she has a difficult job on her hands.