The Cost of Living crisis is affecting many residents across Kent, so much so that it is frightening the sh*t of out some residents, as there purses and wallets do not have enough money in them to make ends meet.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council called a cost of living summit, on the 20 Sept 2022, then went and had the “summit” behind closed doors, so not a single resident could know what they aim to do, or how they intend to help; which kind of defeats the purpose really.
In stark contrast to this, Kent County Council discussed the cost of living in public and how it is likely to impact on residents across the County on the 20 Oct, 2022. There conclusion were bleak for many households.
See here Item 8
Disposable income is set to fall by 3.7% over 2022 and 2023 – the biggest fall since records began in 1963. The Resolution Foundation calculates this as an average fall of £2000 for households during this period. For household income, the BoE has forecast that “real household post tax income is projected to fall sharply in 2022 and 2023.” This is on top of the fall in real- terms growth in total pay and regular pay in the year from April to June 2022, that the ONS has reported, at 2.5% and 3.0% respectively. This is the fastest fall in regular pay for 20 years. Coupled with this, the unemployment rate is forecast to rise from 3.5% to 5.5% by 2024.
This is why so many trade unions members in part, are striking for higher pay.
For more vulnerable groups, the picture looks worse. ONS reported that disabled people were more likely reduce their spending on food and essentials due to increased costs than non-disabled people (42% compared to 31%). The overall price of budget food items in supermarkets has soared by 17% in the year to the end of September, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). These figures highlight how poorer households are being hit disproportionately by the cost of living crisis.
People aged between 55 and 74 years were more likely to be cutting their gas and electricity use (just under 60%), which, considering this was reported in warmer months, does not bode well for the winter. People renting who experienced rising costs were more likely to reduce their spending on food and essentials (46%) than those with a mortgage (33%). People living in the most deprived areas were more likely have cut back on spending on food and essentials (42%) than the average (35%), while more likely to be using credit more than usual:18% in most deprived areas compared with the average of 13%, and 8% in the least deprived areas.
Research has identified 243 energy crisis hotspots across Kent’s local authorities. In many cases, energy use is high in these neighbourhoods because homes are poorly insulated, meaning they require more energy to remain warm. Swale and Thanet have the highest number and proportion of neighbourhoods identified as energy crisis hotspots in the county, ranking 44th and 52nd out of 331 local authorities in England and Wales.
The number of Universal Credit claimants in Kent peaked in March 2021 when 132,131 people were claiming (13.8% of 16–64-year-olds). Since then, the number of claimants has fallen slightly; however, the latest data (Sept 22) shows that the number of claimants has increased slightly. This is true in all Kent districts except Dover and Folkestone & Hythe. All districts have seen an increase in claimants who were in work, while in all districts except Gravesham and Sevenoaks claimants who were not in work fell.
Pay has fallen further behind the rising cost of living, according to the latest official data. While average wages rose 4.7% between April and June, that was outpaced by inflation – or price rises – which is growing at a much faster pace. As a result, the “real value” of pay fell by 3%, according to the Office for National Statistics. Arrears have increased and families have been pushed to
take on more borrowing. At the end of May and early June 2022, 4.6 million low-income households (40%) were in arrears in at least one type of bill or had fallen behind on their borrowing repayments. This is an increase of a fifth (21%) since the October 2021 survey.
Independent Food Banks are struggling to cope with increases in demand for their services. 93% of organisations reported an increase or significant increase in the need for their services since the start of 2022. More than 80% of organisations reported that they have struggled with food supply issues over the last four months. 78% of these organisations saw a drop in food and/or financial donations and half of these organisations have needed to dip into their financial reserves to pay for food or vouchers. 95% of organisations reporting increases say that the cost-of-living crisis is the reason behind this.
Prior to Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis, Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) on average received a little over 7000 applications a year, with the service receiving 7112 applications in 2018/19, averaging 136.8 applications a week. Due to the financial pressures that have impacted communities since 2019, service demand has increased exponentially. KSAS received 28,728 applications during 2021/22, averaging 552.5 applications a week, this is an increase in service demand of over 300% (303.9%). This financial year, KSAS demand has been similar of that in 2021/22. With seasonal pressures and a further and significant uplift in the energy price cap in October, the service is expecting similar applications volumes as to those seen in last financial year. KSAS has administered a voucher scheme funded by the Household Support Fund Extension which saw unprecedented demand with over 4,000 applications received in one week. This further highlights the increasing financial pressures on Kent residents.
The findings reveal residents within the County already at breaking point.
They also reveal profound inequality. And they reveal that the inequality in question is exacerbated by discrimination on the basis of race and disability.
Further Austerity will only make every aspect of the Cost of Living crisis very much worse. And it will do nothing to solve any problem that this County actually faces, whether that be real (inflation) or imagined (the need to balance the books).
The new PM has a job to do. It is to make life better for those living in the bottom half of our County and Country, for whom life is becoming intolerable (if it wasn’t already).
His success in doing that should be the principle indicator on which he should be appraised. That, alongside tackling climate change, should be the principle against which every proposal by every political party should be tested.
What matters is making the lives of most people in this County and Country better.
The test for success or failure is easy to establish. Right now those earning less than average command 9% of the resources of the UK. That has to increase or policy has failed.
There are organisations which can help if you are facing economic hardship for example.
KSAS – emergency welfare scheme for people experiencing a short-term crisis
Citizens Advice Bureau (use Google)
Your local Council who can offer discretionary awards for if you are behind in rent and council tax debt write off.
Kent Community Hubs (use google if you can’t find yours on the list)
We wish you and yours all the very best in these difficult times.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful