LONDON (AP) — Jennifer Jones keeps paying her energy meter, but it never feels like enough. And when she can’t pay, the consequences are felt immediately.
The power in her London home went out three times recently, once while her partner was cooking eggs.
Like millions of people, Jones, 54, is struggling to cope with skyrocketing energy and food prices. During Britain’s worst cost-of-living crisis in a generation. The former school superintendent has health problems and relies on government benefits to get by, but her welfare payments are nowhere near enough to pay her skyrocketing bills..
“I’ve always struggled, but not as much,” she said. “Everything is going up. I can’t even pay my rent, my council tax, I can’t afford to do anything. … I keep asking myself, what should I do?
And things are getting worse. UK residents will see their annual household energy bills rise by 80%, the country’s energy regulator announced on Friday, following a record 54% increase in April. This would increase the cost to the average customer from 1,971 pounds ($2,332) to 3,549 pounds a year.
The latest price cap — the maximum amount gas suppliers can charge customers per unit of energy — will come into effect on October 1, just as the colder months begin. And bills are expected to rise again to £4,000 in January.
Rising prices of wholesale natural gas are responsible for this increase Started by Russia’s war in UkraineThat is boosting consumer prices and boosting economies across Europe which depend on the fuel to heat homes and generate electricity.
That includes the United Kingdom, which has the highest inflation rate Among the Group of Seven wealthy democracies and saw disruptive strikes Months as workers scramble for pay to keep pace With the increasingly expensive cost of living.
Energy increases with rapidly increasing food costsInflation is expected to push above the 40-year high of 10.1% recorded in July and begin to slow down later this year., the Bank of England predicted. Charities, public health leaders and even energy companies warn of catastrophic consequences for poor people already struggling to afford essentials. As wages fall behind.
John Taylor, who helps Jones and others at the debt counseling charity Christians Against Poverty, said a growing number of people who have never had debt problems are turning to the group’s helpline.
“What I’m seeing right now is personal tragedy, loss of loved ones, emotional health issues,” he said. “The pressure of not knowing how to pay the next bill or not having enough food to survive adds to what they’re already doing.”
According to a May study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on UK poverty, nearly 1 million low-income households have had to take out new or additional debt to pay essential bills.
The decline in living standards is “at a scale we haven’t seen for decades,” said Rebecca McDonald, the charity’s chief economist. “This really warrants large and creative national policy interventions to avoid what is shaping up to be essentially a disaster for some low-income families in a difficult year.”
Britain’s Conservative government is under enormous pressure To help people and businesses – and fast. Officials say they are sending around 1,200 pounds to low-income people. Every household, regardless of their financial situation, will get £400 off their energy bills this winter.
Many say the subsidy needs to be doubled — at least — and some have called for an immediate freeze on the amount suppliers can charge for energy. The opposition Labor Party has called for the government to raise a temporary tax on oil and gas companies’ windfall profits. To help pay for aid.
But the government has said no further measures will be announced until the Conservative Party announces a new leader to replace Boris Johnson. On September 5. Neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak, the two politicians looking to become the next prime minister, appear to support taxing the energy giants.
Treasury chief Nadim Zahavi admitted that the rise in energy prices would cause “stress and anxiety”. But he insisted the government was ready to develop more options to support households.
“As (Russian President Vladimir) Putin raises energy prices to retaliate for our support of Ukraine’s courageous fight for independence, I am flat-out working to develop options for further support,” he said. “This will mean that the incoming prime minister can hit the ground running and support those who need it most as quickly as possible.”
Unions in many important sectors have responded by going on strike to demand a pay rise which keep pace with inflation. A series of national rail strikes brought the UK’s train network to a standstill on peak travel days this summer and postal and port workers.Garbage pickers and lawyers have all staged a walkout over a pay dispute.
Meanwhile, a grassroots movement called “Don’t Pay” is campaigning to mobilize 1 million people who will pledge not to pay their energy bills on October 1 if prices rise. The group hopes that massive defaults will force energy companies to end the crisis.
“Everybody we talk to feels that the price hikes we’ve seen and the ones that are going to go up on October 1 are beyond a joke and will put people on edge,” said Jeffrey James, one of the organizers of the campaign.
“We are being pushed into poverty, while others who are already in poverty will be forced into a life or death situation this winter,” he added. “That’s the level of discontent and frustration we’re talking about.”
AP reporter Danica Kirka contributed from London.