Boris Johnson has jetted off for a sunshine break in Spain but the outlook at home is far from sunny.
The Prime Minister travelled to Marbella with his wife Carrie and their young son Wilf on Friday after attending the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.
He is understood to be staying in a luxury villa on the Costa del Sol until Thursday, where temperatures are a balmy 24C.
But Brits back home are feeling the winter chill as millions face soaring UK energy bills, food and fuel shortages, and the impact of the cut to Universal Credit.
A Westminster source told the Sunday Mirror: “It’s fine the PM taking a break, but the timing shows just how out of touch he is with ordinary Brits facing bills, bills and yet more bills.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it was reasonable for the PM to take a break after a difficult year, where he was hospitalised with Covid-19 and also lost his mother.
He told Times Radio: “I believe he has gone away. I’m not sure where he’s gone.
“But what I would say is I am in regular contact with him. He’s also had a year-and-a-half in which he’s almost lost his life to Covid, his mother passed away very sadly two or three weeks ago and he may have decided to take a short break.
“I think that’s something reasonable.
“I’m in regular WhatsApp contact with him, I spoke to him only a few days ago. I’m not sure when he’s supposed to have left the country.”
Here are some of the issues piling up in the PM’s in-tray while he enjoys a break.
Energy costs rising and suppliers at risk of collapse
Brits are facing higher energy costs this winter as soaring global gas supplies have forced smaller suppliers out of business.
Gas prices have soared by 1000% in the last 12 months, according to Ovo chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick.
The surge has been blamed on a number of factors, including a cold winter last year, high demand from Asia and a reduction in supplies from Russia.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng insisted that the energy price cap – which protects consumers from sudden hikes in their bills – will remain in place this winter.
Suppliers are struggling to stay afloat, with trade body Energy UK warning more could go bust in the coming months.
Dermot Nolan, former chief executive of Ofgem, said it was “likely” that many energy firms will start going out of business.
But he assured customers they would be switched to another supplier.
Ofgem boss Jonathan Brearley warned this week that Brits should expect a “significant” hike in energy costs in April when the cap on household bills is reviewed.
Business Secretary can’t rule out energy outages this winter
Mr Kwarteng was unable to guarantee there will be no interruptions to gas supply this winter but insisted he was “as certain as I could be” it would continue.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “I’m very committed and convinced that we will have full energy supply.
“I’m as certain as I could be. Because obviously this is a global issue, we’ve seen right across the world real supply chain pressures, you’ve seen the Chinese have power blackouts, they’re rationing supply, here in the UK our job is to make sure there is minimal disruption.”
Mr Kwarteng said it wasn’t his job to advise people to wrap up warmer when asked if Brits should put on another woolly jumper.
“It’s up to people – it’s amazing how different people’s cold thresholds can be very different,” he said.
“Some people feel comfortable wrapped up in lots of different clothes, others wear relatively little – I think people should be sensible. I think people should do what they feel comfortable with.”
Factories ‘days’ from shutdown over gas prices
Industry leaders have warned that factories are just “days away” from having to stop production due to the escalating energy costs.
David Dalton, of the British Glass Manufacturers’ Association, said some companies were “days” from having to close temporarily, according to the Sunday Times.
Mr Kwarteng dashed hopes from struggling manufacturers and energy firms of more support but said he is working closely with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help industry.
However, a senior Treasury source insisted that no such talks have taken place.
The Government was forced to step in when US fertiliser giant CF Industries temporarily stopped production in its British plants last month due to the hike in gas prices.
The firm produces carbon dioxide as a by-product – triggering shortages of CO2 which is widely used in the food sector to keep products fresh.
Universal Credit cuts begin to bite – as peers aim to force showdown
Millions of people are being hit by cuts to Universal Credit as the Tories refused to drop their plans to ditch the £20-a-week increase.
The temporary uplift was introduced at the start of the pandemic, amounting to around £1,040-a-year.
Tory peer Baroness Stroud has vowed to stage a vote in the Lords over the cruel cut.
She recently told the BBC: “At this moment in time, MPs have not voted on this at all, it’s been a decision taken by the Executive, so my intention is to bring a vote in the Lords, cross-party vote that would say to the House of Commons, ‘Think again on this issue.
“Is this something we really want to do as a civilised nation, putting our poorest people into poverty is surely not the way forward as we come out of the pandemic?’”
Shoppers face empty shelves and told to ‘get used to higher food prices’
One in six adults in Britain have been unable to buy essential food items in the last fortnight, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Some 17% of adults said they had not been able to purchase vital goods as they were not available, while 23% said the same for non-essential food items.
Downing Street has drafted in former Tesco boss Sir Dave Lewis to solve the supply chain crisis.
He will identify “current blockages” and pre-empting potential future issues.
Miguel Patricio, boss of Kraft Heinz which makes baked beans and ketchup, said inflation and the lack of truck drivers in the UK was driving up prices.
“We are raising prices, where necessary, around the world,” he told the BBC.
Army drafted in to drive fuel tankers
Motorists have struggled to get fuel in recent weeks due to shortages of drivers to get petrol to the pumps.
Army tanker drivers have had to be deployed to help fill petrol stations hit by fuel shortages.
Ministers have insisted there is no dearth of fuel but acute driver shortages created widespread issues.
AFP via Getty Images)
The Government is expanding a fast-track scheme to train up to 5,000 HGV drivers to ease the crisis.
But the 2,000 additional places on 16-week courses will not begin until next month, meaning it is unlikely to solve issues this Christmas.