Priorities for the prime minister: what Liz Truss needs to tackle now - from the energy crisis to levelling up

The cost of living crisis is the biggest challenge that any prime minister has faced in a generation, and today NationalWorld and our sister titles are urging Liz Truss to take radical action to ensure people can heat their homes and feed their families this winter.

<p>Liz Truss is the new Prime Minister after beating Rishi Sunak to become Tory leader (Getty Images)</p>

Liz Truss is the new Prime Minister after beating Rishi Sunak to become Tory leader (Getty Images)

Soaring energy bills and eye-watering inflation not only threaten everyone across the four nations of the UK, but pose an existential challenge to many of our smallest businesses too - on whom our communities and many of our jobs depend.

Add to that an NHS in crisis, public transport services unfit for the 21st century, a woeful shortage of affordable housing, law and order in disarray, sewage being discharged into our seas and rivers, and a desperate shortage of skilled labour - and the outlook for the most seasoned of political leaders could not be more daunting.

So today, we spell out some key changes that should top the new prime minister’s to-do list.

They include meaningful emergency support for energy bills, punitive sanctions on utility companies that don’t protect their customers and a real levelling up and empowerment of local communities.

A failure to move swiftly and decisively in all these areas will not merely be a lost opportunity - it could cost thousands of lives and cause untold hardship this winter.

Instead of constantly pointing out the problems, this title and our sister publications have a reviving manifesto that the new Prime Minister - any prime minister - should take to heart.

Emergency support for energy bills

Dealing with the energy crisis is of course the number one priority for the new PM, as people face the prospect of unprecedented bills from next month - and businesses, not protected by a price cap, already feel the impact. This isn’t just a political issue, it’s a moral one.

Truss has now hinted at emergency support, but people desperately need reassurance from her that they won’t be left with the choice between heating or eating this winter. We only need to look to other countries in the western world to see how they have already taken action while we’ve been waiting on the Tory leader to be decided.

Backing the NHS

We all cherish the NHS, and it’s time to fix it. The service is on its knees, with doctors, nurses and other staff, still exhausted from the real trauma of the Covid pandemic, now contending with the backlog. We’ve seen this manifest in the recent NHS England ambulance crisis and millions of people languishing on waiting lists.

Truss has said she’d like to divert money away from the NHS to social care. While there is clearly a need to modernise aspects of the system, the reality is that both health and social care need proper funding, not more cuts.

Getting tough with irresponsible private companies

People should be free from worry about the essential services - utilities, transport and communication. The providers, usually private enterprise, need to be held accountable.

There should be zero tolerance for the excuse that poor service and high prices - and windfall profits in circumstances completely devoid of any initiative of the operators - are necessary in order to re-invest. Government must prevent providers of essential services from taking advantage of the tolerance of the British consumer.

The limit has been reached - polluted beaches as the dirty man of Europe, airport and rail chaos and energy companies making out like bandits on the back of human misery. There must be a real threat to these suppliers that they need to fix it or face punishing taxation and/or being taken into public ownership.

Stronger local government

There is too much at national level and not enough locally and regionally. Cities the size of some European countries, like Manchester and Birmingham, and other parts of the country, need devolution max that will drive levelling up.

To balance this, central government needs electoral and constitutional reform to slim down. A House of Commons a third of the size would suffice, presiding over a more federal structure, and the undemocratic House of Lords should be replaced or abolished.

Getting real on levelling up

This cannot be achieved by the tokenism of central government which has hitherto twisted arms to get businesses and institutions to relocate from the South East. Devolved administrations with energetic local leadership, empowered with incentives including taxation to attract businesses, will do a much better job.

The people of the UK deserve leaders that can imagine and deliver a fairer and more equal future.

Levelling up, but in all its forms - economic, social, cultural and geographical. This will only happen if there is a new structure of government, heavier on expertise and public service and lighter on personality and party in-fighting.

Perhaps that is the only thing that the past turbulent and fumbling years has taught us - personal political ambition is unavoidable but the people and public duty must come first if the nation is to grow strong. The new Prime Minister should test herself against that measure.