Relentless cost increases are hitting people and businesses in the here and now - Andy Brown
What is hitting a lot of ordinary working people and businesses is not the 6.7 per cent annual increases in inflation that we are currently experiencing. It is the relentless impact of the increases in costs that have already taken place.
The most brutal of those for some is the cost of borrowing. The average house in Yorkshire is £225,000. Anyone who saved for years to get together a deposit and then borrowed £200,000 will have been dealt a body blow by the increases in mortgage costs.
When interest rates stood at 3 per cent it would have cost £500 a month to service that level of debt. When they reached 6 per cent the monthly outgoings jumped and another £500 was suddenly leaking out of the household budget every single month.
There are very few people who can cope with that kind of increase in their outgoings without experiencing real hardship. When those costs are being accompanied by increases in costs of almost all the other basics such as food and heating , the end of each month becomes a real challenge.
The Bank of England has just told us that this situation isn’t going away any time soon and we must expect the misery to continue well into next year. People can tighten their belts and delay expensive purchases for a while but sooner or later repair bills have to be paid and worn out items have to be replaced.
Week in week out, month by month it is a real struggle to get by for a lot of people who work very hard. There are people who want to start a family who have looked at the economics of it and had to make the horrible decision that they can’t afford to have a child. There are people working in important jobs like teaching assistants or hospital porters who have to go to the food bank.
Businesses are starting to experience the consequences. Lower disposable incomes means lower spending and a serious drop in revenue for companies that sell things that aren’t absolutely essential to buy. Anyone trying to run a business selling furniture, or new carpets isn’t exactly experiencing boom times. A lot of restaurants are finding that they have empty tables.
There were 6,342 bankruptcies in the second quarter of 2023 which was an increase of over 500 on an already high level. Each one of those represents the end of the road for someone who will have worked flat out to make a success of their business and started it with high hopes for the future. Many of those running small businesses will have lost a lot of their life savings in pursuing their dream. Loyal employees will have lost their jobs at a difficult time through no fault of their own.
When life is this difficult those who are experiencing the pain don’t easily forgive the government that presided over it. It doesn’t provide any help in paying the bills to be told that this is all just the product of post Covid difficulties and Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Particularly when the Covid inquiry is revealing quite how badly the way the country was led during the crisis.
The squalid self interest and bitter determination to blame others that Dominic Cummings and others have displayed should make all of us wonder how someone with such dangerous obsessions could have reached the centre of power. It doesn’t inspire confidence that we were all in it together when the Health Secretary was indulging in an affair during the biggest health crisis of our lives and then thought that the dignified way to leave office in disgrace was to cash in on I’m a Celebrity.
As they squabble with each other over who was to blame for the mistakes made during Covid the witnesses to the inquiry seem to agree on only one thing. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wasn’t up to the job, didn’t listen to the facts and was only really interested in his own self interest not that of the nation. That surely calls into question the value of his overall judgement. When he was seeking to become Prime Minister he told us that if we left the EU we’d be able to have our cake and eat it and there would be lots of new money for the NHS. Britain would prosper.
Where exactly is that prosperity? When are the sunny uplands going to arrive? What reason is there to believe that someone who has been shown to be so unreliable in a crisis was giving us good advice on other important topics? There are some, like Liz Truss, who still believe that the right thing to do to get ourselves out of this mess is to double down on policies that contributed to creating our problems.
Dominic Cummings is on record as saying that one of the prime reasons he wanted Brexit was so that he could shake up Britain and create real change. Those who have suffered the consequences of the disruption that has been inflicted on our nation are unlikely to have found the shake up quite so intellectually interesting.
Andy Brown is the Green Party councillor for Aire Valley in North Yorkshire.