Opinion

Fridges are expensive. This winter I may have to finally turn mine off

The news is seldom positive, but it used to be that the bad stories we heard came from faraway lands. Now, every bulletin reminds us of the pain we’re in close to home and the suffering on the horizon.

The cost of living crisis, inflation and recession are apparent every time I visit the supermarket for groceries, every time I top up my electricity meter, every time a payslip comes through my letterbox.

Four pints of milk used to set me back a quid; now, it’s twice as much for twice as less. And now I learn that the energy price cap could rise as high as £6,000 by next year, and 45 million people are going to be plunged into fuel poverty as a consequence – that’s 60% of the population.

I’m currently on an old-fashioned pay-as-you-go meter. I wish I could switch to a direct debit; that way, I could enjoy more leverage over the energy companies, but I know my landlord won’t agree, and I don’t want to antagonise them for fear of a no-fault eviction.

I’ve not yet had to turn off appliances like my fridge and freezer to save energy, but I know people who have, and maybe it is something I’ll have to consider because this winter it will be even harder to keep warm.

Martin Lewis has said the country is on the brink of catastrophe and we are experiencing a “national crisis on the scale of the pandemic”. Of course he’s right but I think people like him are only waking up to the struggles many of us have faced for more than a decade because it’s starting to squeeze disposable incomes. That’s not a crisis in my book. Life’s luxuries are privileges I’ve never had the chance to take advantage of. I’ve subsisted on next to nothing for the past three years.

While parents like me face the difficult task of explaining to our children why we can’t enjoy the things we used to, some of the country’s richest bosses are pocketing colossal salary increases, sometimes as high as 40%. We have water company executives receiving six-figure bonuses despite raw sewage spilling into the rivers.

Meanwhile, people like me continue to bear the brunt of price rises. There’s never been a greater need for a freeze to energy bills and a raise to the benefits cap. However, Liz Truss, the favourite to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, will prioritise tax cuts for businesses, leaving fat cats richer and working people poorer.

Sometimes I wish I could trade places with people like Rishi Sunak and Truss, so they could get a taste of the daily struggles faced by people like me. Perhaps then they would understand the cruelty their view of the world inflicts on us.

At the beginning of the last decade, we saw how quickly civil unrest can spiral out of control when authorities push local communities to breaking point. In 2011, riots broke out in London and throughout the country after Mark Duggan was killed by the Metropolitan police. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. If this injustice continues, if extortionate food prices, energy bills and rents continue to rise, I fear something like that could happen again unless those in power do the right thing.

  • As told to Daniel Lavelle. James is in his 50s and lives in London. His name has been changed

  • The Trussell Trust is an anti-poverty charity that campaigns to end the need for food banks. Show your support at: trusselltrust.org/guardian

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