Protest against cold and hunger

by Daphne Liddle

HOUSEHOLDS in Britain face a difficult winter as soaring domestic fuel prices have pushed up inflation figures.

The rate for September according to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI0 is now 5.2 per cent and according to the Retail Price Index (RPI), which includes mortgage payments, it is 5.6 per cent.

This compares to a CPI rate of 4.5 per cent in August and is way above the Government and Bank of England’s target of two per cent.

The Office for National Statistics, which released the data, said in a statement: “By far the largest upward pressure to the change in CPI... came from increases in gas and electricity charges.

“There were also large upward pressures from air transport and communication services.”

The Office of National Statistics reports that: “Gas and electricity costs have risen 9.9 per cent in the past month, and are up 18.3 per cent on the year.

Transport has risen 12.8 per cent on the year, and food was six per cent higher than 12 months ago.

Latest figures from Ofgem — the regulatory body — suggest that annual profits per customer had risen to £125 - from just £15 in June.

The average increase in wages is just one per cent so it is obvious that all workers are enduring a serious drop in living standards.

Many are already paying half their earnings or more in rent or mortgage payments. Now most of what is left is going for domestic heating and travelling to work.

Fast-food restaurant chains are report big drops in sales and charities that supply food parcels have seen a sharp increase in demand

20 per cent rise

In the past year FareShare, which redistributes waste food from major food manufacturers and supermarkets to social care charities, has seen a 20 per cent rise in the number of people it is feeding — from 29,500 a year to 35,000.

Many of those, blighted by rising unemployment and business failures, are coming from the sorts of stable family backgrounds once considered immune to the worst effects of recession.

The chief executive of FareShare, Lindsay Boswell, said: “People in our communities are going to bed hungry because they can’t afford to feed themselves.

“This is a huge problem and it’s right here, in our neighbourhoods, on our streets.”

Brendan Barber the general secretary of the TUC, commenting on the inflation statistics, said: “The cost of living is now rising three times faster than wages — squeezing people’s living standards even tighter. But instead of standing up for hard-pressed families, the Government is making things worse by hiking VAT and cutting vital tax credits...

“Today’s figures also confirm that the Government’s CPI stealth cut will reduce the value of benefits and pensions by 0.4 per cent next year. This cut could slash public sector pensions, as well as many in the private sector, by nearly 30 per cent over the next three decades, and send many more people into poverty in retirement.”

Prime Minister David Cameron last week held a meeting with the chiefs of Britain’s major energy companies to give the impression he cared about what the soaring prices are doing to people.

The meeting was a farce. These are multinational companies and he has no power to command their pricing policies. It produced an agreement that the energy companies would write to all their customers with advice on insulating their homes and to shop around the different companies for a better deal.

Since they are all raising their retail prices — while the price they are paying the producers for the fuels is falling — shopping around will make little difference. And most people, who can, already have insulated their homes.

Currently about 100,000 people a year, mainly pensioners, are dying from hypothermia due to fuel poverty, according to figures released last week.

Workers should not sit back and suffer. Save heating bills by taking to the streets in protest. Join the protesters in St Paul’s Churchyard but above all support the unions in the national day of strike action and protest on 30th November. This is looking set to be the biggest strike in British history and it needs to be to bring this government down.