Strathearn Herald

Cost of living increase could be devastatin­g


As more restrictio­ns ease and our lives open back up again, we should be able to move through these winter months with optimism, knowing that brighter and warmer days are ahead.

What looms for many, though, is far less cheering.

The next few months are expected to bring huge increases in energy bills, a fall in real wages and an increase in National Insurance contributi­ons.

Families are expected to face a £1200 annual hit while rising inflation means real pay levels will stagnate.

The change to the energy price cap is expected to result in the bills of certain tariffs increasing in April by around 50 per cent. Energy prices could hit £2000 a year.

For most households this will have an impact. For those on the lowest incomes it could be devastatin­g. It is just one example of how inequality and poverty continue to control the lives of far too many families across Scotland and the UK, and how those already struggling are the hardest hit.

The food blogger and activist Jack Monroe has recently highlighte­d the difference between the headlines of a five per cent cost of living increase widely reported in the media, and the stark reality for those on limited incomes.

Examples of 141 per cent increases in the cost of a price of supermarke­t own-brand pasta, 45 per cent on baked beans and 29 per cent on bread show that those who can least afford it are having to pay the biggest price.

In measuring inflation and discussing its impacts we need to look beyond the headlines and at the real price increases for those on minimum wages, zero-hours contracts, and using foodbanks.

Supporting the poorest and most vulnerable i society should be our focus, but we are living at a point where the basic rate of benefits is at its lowest real rate for 30 years and foodbanks across our communitie­s are essential providers for too many.

We need to see the drivers of inequality and poverty addressed and policy that puts people before profit.

No family should be in a position where they cannot heat their home or feed their children.

Our government­s have the ability and a responsibi­lity to act.

We must protect households on low incomes by maximising benefits and reducing the cost of living, which starts with a realistic assessment of how price increases are impacting on the most vulnerable.

A VAT cut on home energy bills would provide immediate benefits to all households, expanding and increasing the Warm Homes Discount would help large numbers of working families and older people.

If we want to protect those most at risk from the increasing cost of living there are actions we can take, and we should.

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 ?? ?? Campaigner Food writer and activist Jack Monroe
Campaigner Food writer and activist Jack Monroe

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