Social Justice

9 in 10 people say their cost of living had already increased before bills went up in April

New ONS figures show the scale of the cost of living crisis in the UK.

Signs at the cost of living protests in London on February 12, 2022. Image: Garry Knight / Flickr

Nine in 10 adults reported a rise in their cost of living even before the energy price cap was hiked and national insurance increased this month.

New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show 87 per cent of adults said they’d seen an increase in their monthly cost of living between March 16 to March 27. That’s up from 6 in 10 (62 per cent) adults in the first two weeks of November.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of adults said it was “very difficult” or “difficult” to pay their usual household bills compared to a year ago.

The price of food shopping was found by the ONS to be the most common reason cited for the increased cost of living, followed by gas or electricity bills, and the price of fuel.

Inflation rose by 7 per cent in March 2022, but with average wages rising at an annual rate of 4.8 per cent from November 2021 to January 2022, pay is not keeping up with soaring costs

“The combination of shrinking pay packets and rising costs means that the pressure on households is building, with lower-income families set to feel the squeeze the most,” said Jack Leslie, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation.

Over a third of the most deprived households in England are already saying it has been difficult or very difficult to pay their usual bills, and “this is set to get worse, with the estimated number of households experiencing fuel stress hitting five million this month,” he continued.

The Foundation is calling on the government to prioritise increasing support for low-income households, who will be hardest hit by the cost of living crisis.

The energy price cap was raised by 54 per cent on April 1, meaning that some families face paying an extra £700 per year on gas and electricity. Energy bosses from E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power and Centrica have admitted that the volume of calls from customers worried about energy bills has placed immense pressure on the companies. 

At the same time, controversial reforms to England’s social care system saw a 1.25 percentage points rise in national insurance contributions rolled out across the UK. 

A third of renters said that their rent had increased in the last six months, compared with almost one in five home-owners who reported increased mortgage payments.

Increasing costs are pushing people into higher debt, with 17 per cent reporting borrowing more money or using more credit than they did a year ago, the ONS has found.

Many are finding it increasingly difficult to put aside savings, with 43 per cent of people reporting that they would not be able to save any money in the next 12 months – the highest this percentage has been since the ONS first asked this question in March 2020. 

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