Your Money Matters: Times launches cost of living campaign

Households are facing a cost of living crisis with higher energy bill and rising fuel and food price

Your Money Matters: Households are facing a cost of living crisis, with rising energy, food and fuel prices - Credit: PA

The UK is in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and the situation is only getting worse for millions of households across the country. 

Fuel, food and energy prices are all going through the roof, prompting fears that many will have to make a difficult choice between 'heat or eat'.

Fuel PovertyHeating billsHeatingBillsByline: Sonya Duncan

Many households in Norfolk are having to decided whether to 'heat or eat' - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Combined with rising taxes, families are facing the biggest squeeze in household budgets in living memory.

That is why the Dereham Times and Fakenham and Wells Times has launched 'Your Money Matters', a campaign dedicated to shining a light on this increasingly desperate situation. 

Over the next few weeks, we'll be telling your stories, highlighting different means of support and asking what is being done to ease the burden on hard-working people. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak outside 11 Downing Street, London, before heading to the House of Commons to

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pictured before giving the Spring Statement - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

But just where exactly is your money going, and how did the financial security of a huge portion of the population reach such a precarious position? 

Energy bills 

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A huge part of the problem is the rising cost of energy. 

A huge jump in domestic energy bills came into effect at the beginning of April, when regulator Ofgem was forced to hike the price cap by 54pc as gas prices soared to unprecedented highs.

It means typical households on default tariffs who pay by direct debit will see their annual bill rise from £1,277 to £1,971.

Charities have warned one in four people could fall into “fuel stress” if the price cap rises again in October based on current predictions.

Norfolk Citizens Advice said it had seen an 18pc increase in people seeking help for fuel debt, adding that a repayable £200 rebate on energy bills - available from October -  was unlikely to help.

Norfolk Citizens Advice chief executive Mark Hitchcock.

Norfolk Citizens Advice chief executive Mark Hitchcock - Credit: Simon Parkin

Its chief executive, Mark Hitchcock, said: "Whilst we welcome measures announced by the government, which will offer some support to people in our area, the proposals do not go far enough.

"If the government doesn’t at least increase benefits to match the current rate of inflation, many more households will be pushed to crisis point and forced to make 'heat or eat' choices."

It's not just the cost of gas and electricity where people are being hit hard, but heating oil too. 

Residents in Norfolk - which relies heavily upon oil due to being such a rural county - have been met with eye-watering quotes when placing their routine orders. 

Bernie Marsham, who lives in Swanton Morley, reported last month that he had been quoted £1.20 per litre for oil - up from 62p in January.

Bernie Marsham, who lives in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, said his quote for heating oil had almost doubled

Bernie Marsham, who lives in Swanton Morley, near Dereham, said his quote for heating oil had almost doubled - Credit: Sally Marsham

He said: "How on earth are pensioners going to afford their oil unless they have got really good savings?

"They are going to be sitting in the cold."

Many rural households have seen prices triple over the past six months, but 76,000 in Norfolk are left with no choice as they do not have access to mains gas supply.

Grocery shopping 

The cost of groceries is now 5.2pc higher than it was a year ago and, according to the latest data, inflation has hit 6.2pc - its highest level for three decades.

Prices for items including savoury snacks and pet food are among those rising the fastest. 

woman shopping

Food prices are on the rise due to inflation - Credit: PA

Inflation is resulting in more shoppers turning to cheaper products and supermarket own-brand labels, while customers are also making fewer trips to stores to save on petrol costs, said analysts Kantar.

Dave Pearson, project director of the Mid-Norfolk Foodbank, revealed the service had experienced a dramatic upsurge in demand in recent months. 

"Since Christmas we have seen a real surge in demand and we can only think that is going to get worse with the cost of living going up," he said.

"We saw a 100pc increase between summer 2021 and the end of the year, and then an even higher increase over the last couple of months.

“That is before the latest increase in the cost of living, which is now working its way through."

Mid Norfolk Foodbank project manager Dave Pearson said it has had a significant increase in demand o

Dave Pearson, project director of the Mid-Norfolk Foodbank - Credit: Archant

But Mr Pearson emphasised how lucky the foodbank has been when it came to donations. 

He added: "We are very fortunate to have a good number of donors who have been giving us food. All during lockdown the supermarkets were giving us food, and we are still working through a lot of those donations now.

“We have been blessed by the local community supporting us."

The price of petrol 

Drivers were hit by the largest monthly spike in fuel prices on record in March, according to new analysis - despite a cut in fuel duty.

Ffuel prices are still cheaper now than they were at the start of June

The price of petrol has been rising rapidly - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The RAC said the average cost of a litre of petrol on forecourts rose by 11.6p to end the month at 163.3p. Diesel prices rose even more sharply, up 22.1p per litre to 177.3p.

The increases came despite the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, implementing a 5p per litre cut in fuel duty on March 23. That was worth a saving of 6p per litre owing to the impact on VAT.

Rising pump prices are being driven by surging wholesale costs caused by the war in Ukraine and rising demand as fewer people work from home. 

The price of fuel has been on the rise amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine

The price of fuel has been on the rise amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine - Credit: Archant

And the rest...

  • Families in Norfolk are facing higher water bills after Anglian Water announced increases of more than 6pc from this month.
  • Norfolk County Council blamed a lack of government funding as it approved a council tax hike of almost 3pc. It means a £44 increase for Band D properties and £30 for Band A. 
  • Pay packets have been hit by the National Insurance tax rise, which came into force last week. Employees, businesses and the self-employed will pay an extra 1.25p for every pound. Payments will only be collected on wages above £9,880, although this rises to £12,570 in July.
  • The cost of buying a pub meal, event ticket or hotel stay could become more expensive from this month as the temporary VAT cut on hospitality has come to an end. This dropped to 5pc to support the industry during the pandemic, but rebounded to 12.5pc in October and has now returned to 20pc. 
  • The cost of various mobile and broadband bills, as well as TV subscription services - such as Netflix - have all risen in recent weeks.
County Hall, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norfolk County Council blamed a lack of government funding as it approved a council tax hike of almost 3pc earlier this year - Credit: Archant