If Norfolk MP Liz Truss becomes prime minister, her most pressing problem is going to be the spiralling cost of living crisis. Her ideas for combatting it have been under scrutiny this week. So what do locals in her own constituency make of them? NOAH VICKERS reports

Whoever wins the race to become PM will have no honeymoon period when they enter Downing Street next month.

The cost of living crisis - already acute - is about to get much worse, with energy bills set to soar still further in the autumn, amid warnings that many households will struggle to cope with the increases.

The two candidates for the top job - former chancellor Rishi Sunak and South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss - have been under pressure to explain how they will help address the issues, if they win the contest.

Mr Sunak has said more support for families will be needed later in the year, but is waiting for the new level of the energy price cap to be confirmed later this month before laying out the details.

He has suggested however that it would involve topping up the existing support schemes by “a few hundred pounds".

Ms Truss has meanwhile said she will focus on cutting taxes and boosting economic growth, rather than providing people with what she called "handouts".

So what do people who have been helping the most vulnerable members of her own constituency make of her plans?


Michelle Marchesi, debt unit manager at Citizens Advice in Thetford, said demand for help had “increased quite considerably” in recent months.

“We’re struggling to cope. We’re looking at a month's wait for an appointment now, which is not acceptable really, and it's not what we want to be offering people,” she said.

“Obviously there’s an immediate response, [to provide] foodbank vouchers and things like that, but to get an actual money appointment [for advice on finances], you’re talking a month’s delay.”

She added that people “across all ranges of society, not just people who don’t work” were contacting them for help.

“Even people with good incomes, mortgages, it’s affecting literally everybody at the moment.”

Ms Marchesi said the need for help in South West Norfolk was particularly severe because of the area’s lower than average incomes - as well as its elderly demographic who tend to be less able to access information about support via the internet.

Asked about Ms Truss’s focus on avoiding further “handouts”, Ms Marchesi said: “People will not be able to afford to eat…

“Tax cuts are not going to help people who are on the lowest incomes, or the pensioners.

“45pc of people’s pensions are going to be spent on energy - how are they going to pay for anything else?

“It’s just unrealistic to think that having no help is going to be maintainable for the majority of people.”


In a recent tweet, the End Fuel Poverty Coalition of charities claimed that some 40pc of households in Ms Truss’s constituency were facing fuel poverty this winter - a total of some 44,046.

They pointed out that Ms Truss’s majority, which is the largest Conservative majority in Norfolk, is only 26,195.

Dave Pearson, who manages the Mid Norfolk Foodbank, which runs a centre in Ms Truss’s constituency at Swaffham, said there had been a 28pc increase in demand for their services from January to June, compared with the same period last year.

While Mr Pearson said he couldn’t be drawn into discussing politics, he did point out: “There was a reduction in referrals to us which coincided with the payments [from government].

“This could indicate a link, reinforced by the fact that more and more cases cite low income as the main reason they come to us for help.”


Sam Apeh, from the charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind said that while he couldn’t give a view on the Conservative leadership race, it did appear the cost of living crisis is fuelling mental health issues in Thetford.

“We’ve had quite a lot of people that have come through requiring support with their mental health - and finance being one of the root causes for that. Stress leads to anxieties, anxieties lead to even worse mental health difficulties”.

Mr Apeh said his organisation had been working closely with Citizens Advice to link people up for support with their finances.

And Sharon Thompson, who has been running Thetford’s Meet 'n' Eat Community Cafe for the last eight years, said the last year had been “by far” the busiest.

She asked how Ms Truss “plans on people surviving” without further financial support.

“People are wondering: how are we going to give the kids a Christmas this year?” she said.

“And I get it, because if you’re struggling with electricity, they’re struggling with gas, they’re struggling with food, where are you going to find the extra £200, £300 for Christmas?”