Don’t leave us counting the cost of living crisis - Laura Collins, YEP Editor

It is the perfect storm ahead as families across Leeds are set to feel the pinch even further when it comes to stretching their finances.

By Laura Collins
Monday, 31st January 2022, 4:45 am
The perfect storm of rising food and energy bills along with a tax hike look set to plunge many families into hardship this year. Pic: PA

Inflation is at a 30-year high after the coronavirus pandemic and the energy price cap is due to lift in the spring, possibly increasing bills by 50 per cent.

Add in the rising cost of food and the planned tax hike from April and it’s only going to equal disaster for those who are already struggling to make ends meet.

For many hard-pressed families in the city they are already being faced with the ultimate dilemma: to put food on their tables or to turn on their heating.

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There are real fears that this combination of financial hardship is set to tip many more over the edge.

And the figures speak for themselves.

Across West Yorkshire 169,000 households, which is 18 per cent of the county’s 2.4 million population, people are having a difficult choice to make on whether to spend money on fuel or food.

The latest figures held by the Leeds Observatory show that even before the pandemic, fuel poverty was a growing problem in the city.

In 2018, 34,657 households in Leeds were considered to be in fuel poverty and that in 2019, the figure had risen to 57,429.

Organisations, such as Holbeck Together, are seeing the effects first hand.

The social supermarket is having to expand due to a waiting list for services after seeing the tough choices families and older people were having to make over the festive period.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, chief officer Elissa Newman said some of the parents which are supported by the charity were only able to give their children presents at Christmas if they “cut down on food that week”.

And thanks to the dedication of more than 50 volunteers, the charity has been able to support at least 70 families who turn up each and every week for a cooler bag full of items to stock their cupboards.

More than three in five over-65s are worried about heating their home, according to Age UK.

The proportion of those who said in January that they are concerned about the cost of heating their home has increased from 43 per cent who expressed such fears when a survey was carried out in December.

Nearly half of over-65s are worried about having to reduce energy use due to financial concerns, up from 30 per cent in December.

And life is set to get tougher - nobody should be faced with the decision about whether to pick between heating or eating.

Services like this in Holbeck - and the countless other organisations who are supporting people across the city - are a lifeline to many but we can’t rely on them to become a sticking plaster to a much more complex problem.

Ultimately, power needs to be shifted to local communities who know the challenges they face better than any Whitehall pen pusher.

The clock is ticking but until that happens sadly, many more families are going to be counting and ultimately paying the cost of this living crisis.

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