The cost-of-living crisis continues to be an incredible source of stress for families across Britain.
Yes, the twelve month rate of inflation of the Consumer Price Index has fallen, albeit only slightly, to 10.1% in March, having reached a 40-year high of 11.4% in October, and domestic energy bills, which had driven much of the anxiety about the cost-of-living, are indeed forecast to have peaked in April as wholesale energy prices continue to fall.
But the average price of food has risen alarmingly, recently hitting a 45-year high. Meanwhile, the low number of available rental properties has driven the asking price for rentals outside London to £1,190 a month, and in the capital itself to more than £2,500 a month.
We at Redfield & Wilton Strategies find that worries about the cost-of-living are continuing to dictate many Britons’ everyday spending decisions, ranging from what they buy and how much heat they use to whether they can afford to go on holiday. Voters also continue to view the Government’s response to the rising cost-of-living as quite insufficient.
For many British voters, the cost-of-living crisis is an all-consuming issue. 88% have read or heard a ‘significant’ or ‘fair’ amount about the crisis in the past month, while 84% say the cost-of-living crisis has mattered a ‘significant’ or ‘fair’ amount to them, personally.
76% say rising costs have ‘significantly’ or ‘fairly’ affected their lives, including more than 4-in-5 voters aged between 25 and 34 (86%), 35 and 44 (82%), and 45 and 54 (83%).
Many Britons have, due to worries about rising costs, made a conscious decision to reduce their spending. Majorities say that, in the past month, they have purposefully reduced their spending on heating (62%), groceries (59%), clothing (59%), restaurant/take-away food (57%), and entertainment and leisure activities (52%) in response to rising costs.
The record rises in food prices have not gone unnoticed. 84% of British voters say they have seen the price of their groceries increase in the past month, while majorities also say they have seen the price of heating (61%) and restaurant/take-away food (52%) increase in that time frame.
The cost-of-living crisis also threatens to overshadow many British voters’ holiday plans.
Among Britons who are intending to take a holiday in the next three months, 56% say their holiday plans have been affected by the rising cost-of-living.
All this economic pain comes with a political cost, especially when the party in Government has been in office for thirteen years.
Rishi Sunak promised to deal with rising costs in January. As one of his ‘five priorities’ for 2023, he said he would halve inflation by the end of the year.
But 41% say he has thus far made no progress at all towards achieving this priority, while a majority (52%) think the Government will not achieve its goal of halving inflation this year.
A majority of 57% believe the Government is not currently taking the right measures to deal with the crisis, against only 31% who believe it is.
Perhaps most damagingly, Britons still do not perceive the Government as treating the crisis with the required level of seriousness.
Almost one third of Britons (29%) think the Government has taken the cost-of-living crisis ‘not at all’ seriously, with just 20% saying they think it has taken the issue ‘extremely’ seriously. This perceived level of seriousness is in stark contrast to the Government’s perceived seriousness in tackling issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, now largely in the past, and the distant war in Ukraine.
To state the obvious, it is not to any Government’s advantage to have a population which, while struggling to deal with rising prices, does not think the party in power is taking the matter seriously, nevermind with the right or wrong measures. For Rishi Sunak and his Government, with a General Election about a year or so away, easing Britons’ concerns about the rising cost-of-living is an existential issue.