Fears people on breadline will be pushed into poverty with Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement measures 'not enough'

FEARS have been raised that families on the breadline will continue to be pushed into poverty following Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement.

By Steve Deeks
Thursday, 24th March 2022, 4:55 am
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons, London. House of Commons/PA Wire
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Spring Statement in the House of Commons, London. House of Commons/PA Wire

Sandy Bramley, chief executive officer of Citizens Advice Portsmouth, insisted the new measures were ‘not enough’ and would not impact those already struggling.

The bureau chief said the charity was facing greater demand now than at any point during the pandemic – with her predicting ‘things will get worse’.

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Speaking of her reaction to the chancellor’s statement she said: ‘Families are being squeezed from all sides. It is not enough for those struggling.’

Ms Bramley believes support to those struggling needs to be more targeted with more generous rebates on energy bills and benefits increasing in line with inflation.

While it was ‘great’ the Household Support Fund was being doubled, Ms Bramley questioned why people could not be helped directly.

‘People shouldn’t have to come to us, they see it as begging. It is a hard thing to come to an agency and say I can’t afford to eat,’ she said.

The bureau boss also revealed how worrying figures laid bare the plight for many, with 10,684 in need of food bank support in the south east – more than 2,500 than in the north west

The impact of energy efficiency measures were also thrown into doubt on those most in need with Ms Bramley saying it’s ‘not enough for them, they won’t see that’.

She said: ‘It’s targeted at the wrong people and not those who really need help. Nationally there are five million people who cannot afford the £700 energy bill hike. It is a phenomenal amount.’

According to the latest statistics from the Citizens Advice, one in four adults – or 14.5m – are now ‘unable to afford gas and electricity this year’, the bureau leader said.

Ms Bramley said the move to cut 5p off fuel duty would have ‘no impact’ to low earners who ‘do not have cars’.

Similarly, with the move to cut VAT on green home improvements, Ms Bramley said: ‘It’s a great token but the majority of residents wouldn’t be able to have work done in the first place. They would have to find the money to start with.’

The impact was also being felt at the bureau – with things expected to become even more challenging.

‘We have never seen so much demand and so many people with a deficit budget come to us,’ Ms Bramley said.

‘These are not people paying for luxury things but are finding themselves in this situation after paying their essential bills.

‘People are choosing between heating and eating.

‘Nationally and in Portsmouth we are breaking a lot of unwelcome records with more people looking for one-to-one support with us than during the pandemic.

‘We’ve had the highest number of people come to us for crisis support.

‘I will have to double resources of our front-line staff despite having the biggest team we’ve ever had.’

Ms Bramley said she was pleased with the government’s attempts to help but feared it would not make a difference to those who really needed help.

She added: ‘We are at crunch point but we need to pull together.’

Carole Damper, who for 22 years has served as chief executive of the Roberts Centre, supporting families in need in the city centre, turned to one of Portsmouth's famous sons to sum up the chancellor's budget.

Quoting Charles Dickens 'Bleak House', she said: 'There were two classes of charitable people: one, the people who did a little and made a great deal of noise; the other, the people who did a great deal and made no noise at all.

'The Spring Statement will put more people into a position of having to resort to seeking charitable help – funded by those individuals, companies and organisations who support the most vulnerable through supporting Foodbanks and Charities. This will cause more anxiety and stress at a time when there are so many in difficulties.

'We as a society must take responsibility for those less fortunate. The Roberts Centre along with many other organisations will do everything we can to mitigate some of the worst impacts of the chancellors forecast of an average of 7.4 per cent inflation.'

Meanwhile, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) forecasts that wages will fall in value by two per cent this year, the equivalent to a real terms £552 pay cut.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘In the midst of the biggest wages and bills crisis in living memory, Rishi Sunak’s Spring Statement has failed families who need help now.

‘We did not get the urgent help with soaring bills that families need. And the rise in the national insurance threshold will mostly benefit better off households.

‘The Spring Statement small print shows that pay packets are now expected to fall in value by £11 a week this year.

‘After 12 years of Tory government, Britain needs a pay rise. But this chancellor has no plan to get wages rising and give working people long-term financial security.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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