Families on the brink as inflation reaches 40-year high

Soaring energy prices have contributed to inflation hitting a 40-year high of 9 per cent
Gary McDonald Business Editor

INFLATION has risen at its fastest rate in 40 years to 9 per cent as energy prices soared in April, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown.

The dramatic increase, which will impact on tens of thousands of homes across Northern Ireland, is primarily a result of global supply issues and soaring energy and petrol prices.

And the situation is likely to get even worse, with the Bank of England warning that inflation may peak at 10.25 per cent in the final quarter of this year amid biggest squeeze on incomes since records began in the 1950s.

The increase has also prompted calls for Chancellor Rishi Sunak to hold an emergency budget to plot a route out of these choppy economic waters and provide reassurance for families struggling to make ends meet.

While the overall annual inflation rate change was 9 per cent, the biggest single contributors to that was home heating oil (up 113.9 per cent), gas (up 95.5 per cent), electricity (up 53.5 per cent), diesel (up 36 per cent) and petrol (up 28.9 per cent).

Other notable annual increases were in garden furniture (up 32.8 per cent), second hand cars (up 27 per cent), games & hobbies (up 19 per cent) and garden products (up 16.2 per cent). Food prices were up 6.7 per cent overall.

SDLP South Belfast MLA Matthew O’Toole said news of the inflation spike will come as no surprise to families who have been struggling to get by for some time due to the seemingly never-ending price increases in household essentials.

He said: “What this staggering figure does show is the scale of the challenge people are facing just to get from one week to the next. It simply can’t continue.

“The sad fact is that while the DUP refuse to return to the Executive, their obstinate stance has left us powerless to protect people from this emergency. It’s disgraceful that this is the only part of these islands that has yet to provide a penny in support to working families who are under unimaginable pressures.

“We have made addressing the cost crisis our number one priority. There is currently over £300 million sitting in a Stormont bank account doing nothing, and if we had a functional Executive, we would urge a quick £200 payment to every household.”

Unison union general secretary Christina McAnea said: “For millions of low-paid workers, the struggle gets worse with every passing month. With prices surging and wages slumping, many households don't have enough cash to cover the basics.

“Ministers can’t continue to sit on the sidelines and do nothing. Hard-up families on stretched budgets need emergency support. Boosting benefits and lifting public sector wages above rising costs are a must if families are to have any hope."

Almost half the inflation rise was down to just energy and petrol price rises, and campaigners have said assurances that there may be help for people with these costs would go a long way to easing fears.

While the cost of living crisis is hurting badly, people are being urged to check what forms of support may be available to them - including by claiming every benefit, from Universal Credit to Child Benefit.

People can also go to agencies like Citizens Advice if they need help managing debt.


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