Britons skipping meals in cost of living crisis

A shopper at a supermarket in London on Oct 19, 2022. UK Inflation has hit a 40-year high driven by soaring food prices. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON – Millions of Britons are skipping meals in the current cost-of-living crisis, a consumer group warned on Thursday, having already forecast that many risk fuel poverty after Britain curbed its energy price freeze.

The news came after data showed British inflation jumped back to above 10 per cent in September on rampant food prices, as economic troubles piled up for beleaguered Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Half of British households are cutting back on the number of meals, consumer group Which? said, citing a survey of 3,000 people.

A similar proportion are finding it harder to eat healthily compared with before the crisis, while almost 80 per cent are finding it difficult financially.

“The devastating impact of the cost-of-living crisis is, worryingly, leading to millions of people skipping meals or struggling to put healthy meals on the table,” said Ms Sue Davies, head of food policy at Which?.

Separately, the consumer group stated on Wednesday that the British government’s decision this week to curb its energy price freeze would leave millions unable to adequately heat their homes.

In a series of humiliating budget U-turns, new Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt announced on Monday that he would pull the plug on the flagship energy price freeze in April instead of late 2024.

“The government’s decision to end universal energy support in April risks throwing millions of households across the country – not just the most financially vulnerable – into fuel poverty,” warned Ms Rocio Concha, head of policy and advocacy at Which?.

“The government must clarify how they will support those struggling to make ends meet beyond the spring and ensure that as energy prices remain incredibly high, consumers are not left out in the cold,” she said.

The price freeze was aimed at protecting consumers from sky-high domestic fuel costs, which have rocketed on key energy producer Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Britain has, meanwhile, been blighted by strikes this year, as workers protest over wages that have failed to keep pace with runaway inflation.

The retail prices index – an inflation measure which includes mortgage interest payments and is used by trade unions and employers when negotiating wage increases - leapt to 12.6 per cent in September from 12.3 per cent in August, data showed on Wednesday.

A market trader adjusts items for sale at his stand at the Petticoat Lane Market in London on oct 3, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Ms Frances O’Grady, general-secretary of umbrella grouping the Trades Union Congress (TUC), demanded this week that Ms Truss step down.

“I have a message for Liz Truss: Working people are proud of the jobs we do. We work hard. We work the longest hours in Europe,” she told the TUC’s annual gathering in the English seaside resort of Brighton.

“Yet, thanks to your party’s 12 years in government, millions are struggling to make ends meet.” AFP

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