A thoughtful report in The Guardian on Monday 19 November highlighted the growing levels of food poverty faced by poorer sections of the population as food prices rose by 32% over the last 5 years. Prices for fresh fruit and vegetables have soared, leading to real concerns about nutrition levels amongst a large proportion of the population as the least well-off consumers try to stretch squeezed budgets by switching to frozen and processed food.
Ben Stevenson, the Communist Party candidate for the Croydon North by-election, said, “This is outrageous. At the same time as ordinary working people, pensioners and others on low incomes see their real wages falling and benefits cut, something as basic as a regular, nutritional meal is now beyond the reach of many. Children are going hungry, parents are missing meals to compensate, and we’re creating health problems for future generations as poor nutrition in early years impacts on life chances in later years.”
In parallel, fuel poverty is now affecting many (with five of the big six energy firms putting up prices between 6% and 10.8% this autumn). 65 people died every day last winter as a result of illnesses caused by cold homes. Many were pensioners and disabled people. In the meantime, soaring rail fares (train fares rising by up to 11% in January 2013, on top of years of above-inflation price hikes) will increasingly make commuting unaffordable for many. While rising rents (up 4.8% in London this year), as increasing demand generated by the lack of social housing and collapse in house-building really piles the pressure on families trying to keep a roof over their heads.
Mr Stevenson commented, “It’s well understood that the inflation rate for those on lower incomes is significantly above the official rate, which itself has just jumped to 2.7% for CPI and 3.2% for RPI. This is because, amongst other things, of the high proportion of staple items in people’s budgets. What we’re seeing is blatant profiteering by big business and the monopoly corporations that dominate our energy, food and transport supplies. And with wages stagnating, life has just got significantly grimmer for many people, including those who used to see themselves as reasonably well-off.
Given levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation in Croydon North, this is a real issue for local voters. It’s vital that we raise awareness of this problem and take action to defeat this rotten Government that is only interested in feathering its own nest!”