Martin Lewis blasts minister for 'patronising' advice on buying own brand food

by 24britishtvMay 5, 2022, 9 a.m. 12
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Struggling households have been told to try own brand foods to help ease the pain of a cost of living crisis, in advice that has been labelled ‘out of touch’ and ‘ridiculous’.

Environment minister George Eustice told shoppers they could “contain and manage their household budget” by purchasing “value brands, rather than own-branded products”.

He even suggested that British families actually had it pretty good.

“If you look at household spending on food in the UK, it’s actually the lowest in Europe,” he said. “Partly because we’ve got that very competitive market.”

But residents in his Camborne and Redruth, constituent in Cornwall felt insulted by the advice.

“This isn’t about tightening belts,” said Tarn Lamb, chief executive of the Cornwall Neighbourhoods For Change charity based in Redruth.

“People’s belts are already as tight as they can be. They’ve been buying home-brand products for years. What they’re doing now is going hungry or not heating their homes.”

Ms Lamb said: “It’s a crisis that is getting deeper, and suggesting buying value brands is the solution suggests that he doesn’t have any understanding of the extreme hardship people are experiencing because of this crisis.

“We’re seeing a lot of pensioners now. They are saying they cannot afford to buy a full week’s worth of groceries, and they find it deeply painful to come to us but they have no other choice.

“But there are also children going to school hungry because they have not had enough to eat, and people on benefits, who have been scraping by for years, who now don’t know where to turn.”

Money Saving Expert founder Martin Lewis described the advice as bulls***.

He told LBC: "What is wrong is the concept that the people that are on the lowest incomes who are choosing between whether they freeze or starve, don't know that and don't do that, that's the bulls***.

"The advice is perfectly reasonable, if you are going supermarket shopping and you are buying the most expensive brands and you need to cut back, then drop down a brand level or two.

"But the idea that that is some panacea for the working poor and the non-working poor in this country who don't have enough income, don't know that, that's what comes across as patronising and difficult.

The suggestion was echoed by Chris Wallace, who runs the St Ives food bank, based in Chy an Gweal in Carbis Bay.

“The idea that someone already eating only one meal a day can save money this way is ridiculous,” he said. “Foodbanks in Cornwall are under severe pressure because people cannot afford food full stop.”

He suggested the crisis had added to a homelessness surge in Cornwall, which has seen the number of people in temporary accommodation rise from around 270 last winter to 660 this year.

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