Mayor John Biggs has written to Tesco chief executive, Ken Murphy, to express his disappointment over the recent price increases that the company has made under the label of changes to store structure (conversion of Tesco Metro to Tesco Express) and the closure of various supermarket price-match offers.

Tower Hamlets residents have reported price increases of specific items up to 33 per cent higher than those items listed on the Tesco website and available within Tesco Extra stores, after the Tesco Metro in Bow became an Express store.

During the pandemic, Tower Hamlets council purchased £1.5million of Tesco vouchers for distribution to our residents facing financial hardship. In the letter, the Mayor Biggs expressed his concern that because of these prices rises, this may no longer represent value for money for taxpayers.

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “Many Tower Hamlets residents are still feeling the impact of the pandemic on their incomes so I’m disappointed that Tesco would choose this moment to make such significant price increases at their stores. Tower Hamlets has the highest level of child poverty in the country and these price rises threaten to push more people into food poverty.”

Cllr Mufeedah Bustin, cabinet member for planning and social inclusion, said: “During the pandemic, our residents followed advice to shop local and many rely on their local stores as they’re unable to reach larger supermarkets. It’s unfair for Tesco to reward this behaviour by increasing prices, particularly when many are still feeling the effects of the pandemic.”

Text of the letter sent to Tesco Chief Executive

Dear Mr Murphy,

I’m writing to you to express my concern and disappointment over the recent price increases that your company has made under the label of changes to store structure (conversion of Tesco Metro to Tesco Express) and the closure of various super-market price-match offers.

Specifically, over the last few weeks I have received many messages from Tower Hamlets residents deeply concerned that the prices of their weekly shopping have risen so sharply; with some reporting price increases of specific items up to 33 per cent higher than those items listed on the Tesco website and available within Tesco Extra stores.

As you will be aware, Tower Hamlets is one of the most densely populated Local Authority areas in the UK, with high levels of low income and disabled residents.  It is these residents that have been disproportionately affected by your price increases; not the commuting customers that your Express stores would appear to be designed to cater for.  Many of those affected simply do not have the option to travel further afield to access one of your larger stores. 

If anything, this position has become more common and acute during the pandemic, with residents restricted and discouraged from travel to protect public health.

Further, during the pandemic, our Council has purchased circa £1.5million of Tesco vouchers for distribution to our residents facing financial hardship.  I had sincerely hoped that choosing Tesco vouchers over those offered by other supermarkets would ensure good value for money for tax-payers.  I’m disappointed to find that the price rises may mean that this is no longer the case.

I am sure that a company such as yours, that has invested so significantly in socially responsible causes, does not want to be seen to be targeting its price increases on the most vulnerable groups in our society; nor profiteering from pandemic-related restrictions.

Accordingly, I would urge you to consider how you can arrest and reverse these price increases as soon as possible.

I look forward to hearing back from you on this matter.

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