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Corporations make billions in profits from hiking food prices 

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Troublemaker looks at the week's news including food inflation and why you can't ask a Tory about sewage
Issue 2834
Buying lettuce in a grocery store becomes difficult as food prices go up

Food prices in Britain have increased by an ­average of 16 percent

The world’s biggest food companies have paid out nearly £15 ­billion to shareholders as spiralling prices leave desperate people struggling to afford to eat. Nestlé, Unilever, Associated British Foods (ABF),  Mondelez and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) have raked in £20 billion in profits in the space of a year while all raising average food prices.

Four of the five ­multinationals—which between them own thousands of brands, such as Twinings, Kingsmill and Cheerios— have also signalled that consumers should expect further price rises. The firms’ profits would be enough to fill the  £9.8 billion funding gap twice over that is currently facing the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP).

It aims to provide food for 160 million people facing poverty by the end of the year. The WFP said it costs 44 percent more for it to buy food than it did in 2020.

The bonanza for food corporations comes at the same time as a 40 percent increase in the number of people in Britain forced to turn to food banks since April, according to the Trussell Trust. Food prices in Britain have increased by an ­average of 16 percent in the past year, with the costs of some staples—such as bread and milk—rising by a third.

The prices of vegetable oil and pasta have soared by more than 60 percent. Britain’s highest ­grossing food company, ABF, has paid out £500 million to shareholders. Recently ABF’s chief ­executive George G Weston, who will grab £2.2 million this year, told investors at the firm’s annual results presentation, “Revenues benefiting from price increases and ­operating profit was solid. We’ve had to recover a huge amount of input cost from customers that don’t like giving you price rises and we’ve done that job  really well—but it’s not finished.”

Sajid Javid jumps ship

Former health secretary and chancellor Sajid Javid is the latest Tory to decide to step down from politics to spend more time with his bank account. Javid is standing down as MP for Bromsgrove, in Worcestershire, at the next election. He has held talks with investment house Pimco about his career after politics. This included preliminary discussions with Manny Roman, Pimco chief executive, and Andrew Balls, the group’s chief investment officer.

Balls is the brother of Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor, and the asset manager also counts former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown as a member of its global advisory board. Javid has conducted a series of lucrative speeches within the banking sector. According to the latest register of MPs’ interests, he earned £30,000 for a speech in London to executives at HSBC in September. He is set to receive a £36,000 payment from Deutsche Bank for a speech to clients in October.

Don’t ask about the sewage

Two women who raised questions about sewage pollution with West Dorset MP Chris Loder have had police visits to their homes. Fran Swan, of Fishpond, and Beverley Glock, of Lyme Regis, had registered for a public meeting for residents of the village of Chideock. They had to give their questions in advance in which both raised their concerns about sewage pollution. Loder contacted them by email to say the meeting was specifically for Chideock residents but, “let me know which villager has invited you and I will come back to you to see what we can do”.

Then, the evening before the meeting, Swan received an after-dark visit from a Lyme Regis police officer. She said the cops had received an email from Loder’s office and that she had been directed to find out Swan’s intentions in wishing to attend the meeting. Glock and Swan are involved in the Bluetits swimming group and the River Lim Action group, both of which campaign to clean up the River Lim and the beaches in the town. The Bluetits had previously asked to meet Loder but he had failed to appear.

The age at which workers get a pension may have to rise faster than planned, a cabinet minister has suggested. Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, said that the state pension age would have to adapt to “cost”. The state pension age of 66 is set to rise to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2039. However, a review of the pension age that is due to be published next year is thought likely to recommend bringing forward the increase to 68 to 2033. In France unions are beginning to gear up for mass strikes against a scheme to raise the pension age to 65.

The head of the tame police watchdog was forced to resign last week after becoming subject to a criminal investigation into a historical allegation. Michael Lockwood left his post abruptly. He told staff at the Independent Office for Police Complaints (IOPC) that he was leaving for “personal and domestic reasons”. In fact he was sacked.

Councils slash cash on families in crisis

Councils have slashed emergency help for families in crisis to just 98p per head of their area’s population, with one-quarter of authorities axing schemes altogether.New research by poverty campaigners has exposed how badly funded and “chaotic” local welfare schemes are failing to reach residents in need, even as the cost of living crisis grows.

It reveals that help with emergencies such as a lack of clothing or furniture, or a broken washing machine, has plunged by a quarter to only 98p per head in England—with one Conservative-run authority spending just 2p. Almost a quarter of English councils—35, covering 14 million people—have no crisis support. The government scheme meant to plug the gap, the Household Support Fund, is a poorly targeted “sticking plaster”, the End Furniture Poverty study finds. Claire Donovan, from the charity said Local Welfare Assistance schemes introduced as an austerity cut in 2013, are failing “the most vulnerable people.”

Tories ensure no more vaccine success for NHS

The NHS’s record of rolling out the Covid vaccine is one of the very few British successes during the pandemic.  But the Tories seem determined to make sure that won’t happen again. Former Vaccine Task Force chair Kate Bingham told the joint Commons Health and Science Committee last week that, “Our vaccines currently are not good enough.” She then described the sale of British-based manufacturers and research, and the mothballing of key sites. “Systematically, things are being dismantled that we put in place,” Bingham warned. “All of that has gone.”

The government has sold off the Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (Vmic) to a multinational. It was set up with £200 million of public money before the pandemic as a non-profit, joint venture involving Oxford University, Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  The title of Vaccines Minister doesn’t even exist anymore.

Things they say

‘Where do you really come from, where do your people come from, when did you first come here?’

Prince William’s godmother Lady Susan Hussey to Ngozi Fulani, of the charity Sistah Space, at a Buckingham Palace event. Fulani comes from Hackney, east London

‘Even in the UK it was 40 degrees in July this year, which may explain some of the irrational decisions that you saw in Westminster’

Boris Johnson tells an audience in Singapore why he was dumped

‘If I were the secretary of state for health today I would not be able to give that kind of pay award’

Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on the RCN union’s pay demand

‘A nurses’ strike is exactly what Putin wants to see’

Tory chair Nadhim Zahawi

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