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Britons feel the pinch as cost-of-living crisis bites

Inflation has surged to a 40-year high on soaring energy costs

By AFP - May 18,2022 - Last updated at May 18,2022

Inflation has hit a 40-year high in the UK due to soaring energy costs (AFP photo)

LONDON — Standing outside a north London supermarket clutching two shopping bags, Gerald Pursey bemoans Britain's burgeoning cost-of-living crisis which is impacting everything from the weekly shop to his energy bills.

"It's ridiculous! Every time I get out of here [having] bought some stuff, it's more than I thought it was going to be," he told AFP. "Everything's more."

Pursey, 62, drives one of the British capital's iconic black taxis, and notices rising prices most when filling his cab with diesel.

After recently finding a receipt from last August, he calculated the cost at the pump had shot up nearly 30 per cent since then.

"It's depressing that everything's going up... someone's doing well out of it," he complained in pleasant spring sunshine that contrasted his mood.

Inflation has surged to a 40-year high on soaring energy costs, official data showed on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, charities warn increasing numbers of people are being pushed into poverty, and forced to rely on services such as foodbanks.

"Today's inflation figure shows just how price rises are impacting on household budgets, with many already feeling the pinch from the pandemic and furlough," said Lindsay Boswell, head of FareShare, which works to alleviate hunger.

She noted a recent survey of the 10,500 UK charities and community groups in its network found the crisis was having a "big impact" on their ability to deliver care and services as well as on families themselves.

"Demand for our food is higher than ever," Boswell added.

Meanwhile, in a sign of people's increasing desperation, Turn2Us, a London-based national charity helping those in poverty, said its helpline had received more than 100,000 calls in the past year from people looking for support.

The main issues people were facing included accessing state benefits and financial help to buy basic goods like a fridge and pay household bills.


'Right on the edge' 


Britain's economy is already showing signs of slowing, with fears it could now slip into recession later this year as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

At a Sainbury's supermarket in London, Crispin Warwick, 52, said simple pleasures like going to a pub for a few beers were "simply not affordable".

Housewife Mary Havens, who has two children, noted she had started to curb her overall spending — exactly the kind of steps that dampens economic growth.

"I've had to cut down on luxury items, on entertainment and stuff like that," she explained.

"Unless we need it, we're not gonna buy it... I'm very worried because obviously it's not going to be easier anytime soon, is it?"

Shoppers' pessimism contrasts with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who reiterated Wednesday that he sees runaway inflation as temporary and the underlying economy as sound.

He is facing persistent calls for an emergency government budget and windfall tax on energy firms reaping record profits, but is reluctant on both fronts, arguing they could exacerbate the crisis.

The government's efforts to confront it so far, including a small cut in fuel duty earlier this year as part of a promised $22 billion in various forms of support, has been seen as woefully inadequate.

"It's frustrating that the Tory government doesn't do anything for the underprivileged," said Brian Elliott, a 54-year-old shopper unable to work for health reasons and also feeling the financial squeeze.

"They don't care," he added, noting he too had pared back his spending on things like clothes.

"[I'm] right on the edge of not being able to afford things... it's depressing."

Pursey is similarly scathing about the government's efforts.

"They've got a lot to answer for," he said, noting the party had been in power nearly a decade-and-a-half.

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