He insists that firing up the economy and cutting out waste is at the heart of his plan to overcome the inflation surge. Downing Street officials also signalled that extra help for the hardest-hit households is on the way.
In an article for the Daily Express on the eve of the crunch local elections, the Prime Minister says: “I know that families across the country are feeling the pinch as the cost of living rises.
“That’s why we’re focused on growing the economy to address the cost of living, and it’s why keeping bills down and cutting council waste is more important than ever.
“It’s why we gave over 20 million households a non-repayable £150 council tax rebate this month, paid straight into people’s bank accounts.”
He urges Express readers to stick with the Tories today to keep council tax bills low.
With concerns about the cost of living squeeze intensifying, the Prime Minister’s spokesman yesterday promised that there would be “more help coming” to help address cost-of-living pressures.
“We’ve introduced billions of pounds of support – £9billion to help with energy bills alone – some of that support is phased in and comes in throughout the year.
“So, there will be more help coming and as the spring statement said, we will obviously keep this under review given the volatility in things like energy prices, and we’ll step in as necessary if required,” the spokesman said.
He said there was work going on across the Government to identify what departments could do “to ease some of the immediate pressures” – suggestions reported so far have included annual MoT tests being dropped in favour of one every two years – along with the overall £22billion package of support already announced.
In a series of broadcast interviews yesterday, Mr Johnson insisted the Government was doing “everything we can” to help with the cost-of-living crisis.
But he acknowledged the country was going through “a difficult time we’ve got to get through”.
In a BBC interview, he said: “What we’re doing is making sure that we help people right now with the cost of living, help with a £9.1billion in support for people’s energy budgets.
“And I know it’s tough, look I’m not going to minimise this… people understand that this is a difficult time we’ve got to get through.
“There’s been a spike in energy prices around the world, that’s driving increases in inputs for goods, you can see it in the cost of chicken – everything – so you need to help people in the short term.”
He added: “The most important thing is that we’ve got an economy that is absolutely bursting with high-wage, high-skilled jobs, and that is the difference between this problem and the real economic crises I remember from my youth.”
In an ITV interview earlier yesterday, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the energy price surge was driving up costs of weekly shopping baskets, he said, adding: “The cost of chickens is crazy.”
On energy, Mr Johnson said: “This country is in the insane position of having to take in, pipe in, electricity from France and elsewhere because we haven’t done enough to invest in our own security of energy and electricity.”
Setting out help already on offer, the Prime Minister pointed to his Government’s £9 billion package of loans to cut energy bills and council tax rebates.
But he conceded that the measures would not go far enough to ease the squeeze on millions.
“I accept that those contributions from the taxpayer – because that’s what it is, taxpayers’ money – isn’t going to be enough immediately to cover everybody’s costs,” the Prime Minister said.
He added: “There is more that we can do.
“But the crucial thing is to make sure we deal with the prices over the medium and long term.”
On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, broadcaster Susanna Reid confronted the Prime Minister over the impact of the cost-of-living squeeze on pensioners.
She raised the case of a 77-year-old viewer called Elsie, who had seen her energy bill increase from £17 to £85 a month.
She had cut down to one meal a day and travelled on buses all day to stay out of the house and reduce her bills,
In response to the case, the Prime Minister said: “I don’t want Elsie to cut back on anything.
“The 24-hour freedom bus pass was actually something that I actually introduced.”
Mr Johnson said there were “plenty of things more that we are doing.”
He said: “What we want to do is make sure that we have people who are in particular hardship looked after by their councils, so we are putting much more money into local councils.
“We have the particular payments to help elderly people in particular with the cost of heating.”
Mr Johnson also rejected opposition calls for a windfall tax on energy companies to raise extra funds for helping families. He said the levy would deter investment.
“If you put a windfall tax on the energy companies, what that means is that you discourage them from making the investments that we want to see that will, in the end, keep energy prices lower for everybody,” the Prime Minister said.
Challenged about benefits failing to keep pace with rising inflation, he said: “We have a short-term hit caused by the spike in energy prices across the world.
“If we respond by driving up prices and costs across the board in this country, responding by the Government stepping in and driving up inflation, that will hit everybody.
“And that will mean that people’s interest rates on their mortgages go up, the cost of borrowing goes up, and we face an even worse problem.”