Nearly 90% of British households reported a rise in the cost of living in the past month as they were hit by escalating costs of fuel, food and borrowing.
Further increasing pressure on Rishi Sunak to increase his support for low- and middle-income people, the Office of National Statistics said that a quarter of all survey respondents were struggling to pay their bills and 17% had resorted to borrowing or borrowing in credit cards. to meet expenses.
Charities and anti-poverty activists said the figures, which cover the last two weeks of March, are a shocking reminder that this year families face the biggest cut in their living standards since the 1950s.
Jack Leslie, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation thinktank, said the combination of shrinking salary packages and rising costs meant the pressure on families was mounting.
The ONS said that while rising bills affect most households across the country, “they are more likely to disproportionately affect people in the most deprived areas.”
More than a third of a fifth of England’s poorest households found it difficult or very difficult to pay their usual bills.
“This [situation] is set to get worse, with the estimated number of fuel-stressed households reaching 5 million this month,” Leslie said.
“Going forward, the government must do everything possible to protect those who will be hardest hit – with support for low-income families a priority.”
Inflation hit its highest level in 30 years in March, driven by rising cost of gas, gasoline, food, footwear, furniture and clothing.
Wages have increased in recent months but have failed to keep up with rising prices as employers try to keep costs in check.
The ONS said that among those paying energy bills, about four in 10 (43%) reported that it was very or very difficult to absorb the higher costs.
Illustrating the growing divide between England’s poorest and richest areas as the cost-of-living crisis worsens, more than half of adults (57%) living in the poorest places reported difficulty paying their energy bills in compared to about a third of adults (35%) in the least deprived.
Sunak said he was spending £22bn to ease pressure on households, mostly through a 5p cut. it is currently a loan that must be repaid over the next four years.