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  • Published in Opinion
Manchester People's Assembly & Manchester Trades Council Cost of Living demo, 12th Feb. Photo: Neil Terry

Manchester People's Assembly & Manchester Trades Council Cost of Living demo, 12th Feb. Photo: Neil Terry

As bills rocket and poverty increases, Terina Hine explains why it doesn’t have to be this way

Millions are struggling to pay rent, buy food, and heat their homes; energy and food bills are skyrocketing while workers are being hit by National Insurance hikes and real terms pay cuts. We are facing the biggest cost of living crisis in over 60 years.

In April, energy bills will increase by 54% while National Insurance contributions rise by 10%, and food price inflation will reach 5%. At the same time all help is frozen or cut.

Families are being plunged into poverty - fuel poverty, food poverty and just plain, simple poverty.

In 2020 the UK already had one of the highest rates of food insecurity in Europe; in 2022 it is higher still. Almost 5 million UK adults have experienced food insecurity in the past month. Millions queue at food banks through the rain and freezing cold, and as the spring sun begins to shine these queues grow.

Experts have warned that the worst is yet to come. The economic fallout from the Ukraine crisis has not yet fed through. Oil and gas prices are rising steeply, and as summer moves to autumn, Ofgem will set another fuel price cap, expected to add a further £500 - £1,000 to the average UK household fuel bill.

We are witnessing a major assault on the living standards of millions, but as the financial pain bites for the majority, corporations and energy companies are announcing record profits - Shell and BP declared profits of £85m per day in February.

The poorest will hurt the most, but this cost of living crisis will impact on us all. Well, almost all. It probably won’t hurt our billionaire Chancellor, nor his Tory chums who made millions from Covid VIP lanes or lucrative second jobs.

And as for the rest of our representatives in Parliament, they get a nice little buffer with a £2,200 April pay rise, on top of their already generous £84,144 salary.

Few ordinary people have savings to fall back on – after all, this latest attack comes on the back of a decade of lost pay.

Underpaid workers are increasingly reliant on overdrafts, credit cards and pay-day loans to make end meet.

We are told there is no alternative - money borrowed for the pandemic must be repaid, price rises are global, out of the government’s control - someone must pay, and that someone is you.

But this refrain is as familiar as it is wrong, and there comes a point where our finances can be stretched no further.

Austerity is a political choice and it must be resisted.

Photo by Neil Terry. Follow him on Instagram at Neil Terry Photography

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