According to the Office for National Statistics, prices have gone up at their fastest rate in nearly 30 years, making the cost of living unachievable for people across the country. Inflation has been driven up to 5.4% in the 12 months leading up to December; the highest inflation has been since March 1992 when it was 7.1%.
The price cap on energy bills could increase by another 50% in April, according to Cornwall Insight. During a media webinar on the energy bills crisis, Emma Pinchbeck, the chief executive of Energy UK, said bills were expected again in October.
She stated: ‘We haven’t seen anything like this, not in my career or in any of the people who sit on my board.’
What is inflation?
Inflation is measured by the Office for National Statistics, which notes the price of hundreds of everyday items, which they call the ‘basket of goods.’ Every month, the ONS releases its measure of inflation showing how much the prices of those items have risen since the same date last year. This is the Consumer Price Index.
The BBC reported that average pay rises are not able to keep up with the rising cost of living, and regular pay actually fell 1% this November, compared with November last year. Director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank Paul Johnson said: ‘Everyone, particularly those on modest incomes, has had a long period of wages not really growing any faster than prices over the last decade, so another increase at this point is going to be particularly painful.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak explained that the government was providing support worth about £12 billion this financial year and next to help families cope. He said: ‘I understand the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, and we will continue to listen to people’s concerns as we have done throughout the pandemic.’
It is not just energy prices increasing. Regulated rail fares in England will rise by 3.8% in March, and TV and broadband prices are also set to increase. The usage of foodbanks has also increased, with the Trussell Trust UK reporting that between April 2020 and March 2021, food banks in their network distributed 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis. This is a 33% increase on the previous year, with 980,000 of these going to children.
Many students have been anxiously anticipating leaving university and finding a job in a climate where living costs are so high and competition for jobs is much more challenging due to the pandemic.
One student told Freshered: ‘There aren’t many job prospects where my parents live, so it’s paramount that I am able to move to a place with more opportunities which will be hard to do with the increasing cost of living. Also, it’s really important to move out to feel a sense of independence and, if it’s too expensive to do so, I will feel like I’m not moving forward with my life.’