A worldwide concern, but how did it become so severe so quickly?
The approach of summer might, for the time being at least, alleviate the “heat or eat” anguish for numerous householders. But multiple stories of parents surviving on their children’s leftovers while charities, food banks and citizens’ advice centres report a massive increase in desperate requests for help, prove that the cost of living crisis is blighting millions across the UK. The situation is as bad as it’s ever been in modern times and is predicted to get worse. Food and drink price inflation figures are at their highest for more than a decade and experts fear the rate will top 7% in the coming months, with some saying it could reach a staggering 12% over the summer. In practical terms this means the cost of milk alone could rise by 30%.
Staples like eggs have risen in price by 5.5%, with further increases predicted, while the knife-edge situation in the pig farming industry means the cost of sausages has risen by up to 13% over the past year and bacon by over 20%. And these are not isolated items, the weekly food and domestic goods bill is rocketing, with no sign of slowing down. Then there’s energy. Household gas and electricity bills are at least doubling, and in some cases tripling, meaning the increase alone will exceed four figures. And is the government helping those unable to pay? To date, not much. Despite the four major energy suppliers calling for further, urgent aid for consumers, government strategy so far is to credit every electricity bill with £200 in October. The cash is described as an “energy rebate” to help particularly the most vulnerable. But no matter how ministers spin it, the paltry pay-out is no genuine “rebate” as even those most in need will have to repay the full amount through future bills.
The cost-of-living crisis is undoubtedly a worldwide concern, but how did it become so severe so quickly here in the UK? Farmers and others in the food industry battling to stay in business reckon a “perfect storm” of Covid, Brexit and the war in Ukraine have combined to wreak havoc. Covid, with its lockdowns and shutdowns, was disastrous for the economy, and with Brexit caused the labour shortage which has never been rectified. And though the government, like the BBC, has mainly stopped mentioning Brexit, the detrimental changes it brought to border controls and trade with the EU community are undeniable.
There are no lorries queuing for miles on the other side of the channel, and no apparently unresolvable issues with imports and exports between the remaining countries of the EU. With supplies of gas and oil from Russia halted following its onslaught on Ukraine, prices have soared, and the issue of precisely where these currently essential commodities will come from in the future is taking centre stage. Alternative energy sources, once common in this government’s rhetoric, appear largely to have been put on the back burner with government policy focused mainly on surviving the here and now. And surviving the here and now is increasingly in the minds of millions across the UK, as prices surge and concerns multiply daily.