It’s secondhand market day in Harpurhey and Lauren O’Rourke is pushing her young son across the precinct in his buggy. The stay-at-home mum, 27, says she budgets fastidiously, but she’s still finding it hard to make ends meet.
“I’m on Universal Credit, but there used to be about £200 leftover at the end of the month, now I’m lucky if there’s £20,” she says.
“I plan and budget for everything. I know when I go shopping exactly how much it’s going to cost down to the last penny. I used to be able to do a fortnight of teas for a family of four for somewhere between £14 and £ 20. That’s planning everything and not wasting anything. Now I’m lucky if I can get a week’s worth of teas with cheap ingredients for £25. And that’s really budgeting. It’s awful.”
Readmore: The 70p a head budget family meal from Aldi that even the kids lapped up
A Jeremy Corbyn supporter, Lauren admits she wasn’t expecting much help for people in deprived areas like Harpurhey from the Chancellor’s spring budget this week. But she described measures such as raising the National Insurance threshold, which won’t benefit the poorest in society, when the cost of essentials such as food and energy are soaring as ‘pathetic’.
“You have to love the way they put petrol down by 5p when it’s going up that much every week,” she said. “They’re not doing enough. They don’t care about people like us. All they care about is their mates and staying in power.”
Former solider and paramedic Derek Hannah, 70, lives alone in a one bed flat in Harpurhey.
He says he’s being treated for prostrate cancer which has spread to his left kidney, and admits the energy price increases are hitting him hard.
“Every time I have a spare few quid I save it to put on my gas card,” he said. “I kind of panic. It’s terrible.”
“I used to spend £20 a month on gas and electric, now it’s more like £45,” he said. “I need to put the heating on sometimes because I’m ill, but I’m always thinking about it.
“I like to read, I don’t put the telly that much. It’s probably the Scot in me but it’s got to the point where I’m worried about putting the reading lamp on. I’ve got the state pension and I get a small pension from the Scottish Ambulance Service, but I’m living hand to mouth.”
On his market stall selling curtains, duvets and rugs, Daniel Macintosh, 37, says petrol prices are having the biggest impact on his family budget.
“Petrol is the killer at the minute,” he says. “It’s just gone through the roof. I moved to Bacup six months ago, but I’m here four days a week. If I knew petrol was going up like it has I might not have moved.
“About four months ago it was costing me about £45 to fill up the car, now it’s about £70.
“That 5p (the fuel duty cut announced by Rishi Sunak) will do nothing. What about the 30 odd pence it went up by the previous month?”
Sat by the side of his stall Stephen Dresner, 65, said he believed the living wage should be increased significantly. “Rishi Sunak didn’t give anything away, did he? It’s been tough for a long time. Even working people are having to go to foodbanks,” he says.
“The living wage is not a living wage. £8.50 or whatever it is is not enough nowadays. It doesn’t encourage people to go out and get a job. It should be more like £15.”
But Stephen, who also owns a picture framing shop and an electrical store, doesn’t believe things are going to get easier any time soon.
“A lot of my customers I’ve known for 30 years. If they haven’t got the money to buy something I say pay what you can and give me the rest later. This is a poor area, but it’s not a crime to You have to be sympathetic to people because you don’t know from one person to the next how bad things are for them.
“But it’s (the cost of living crisis) not going to go away so you just have to get on with it. I think the Government has done wonders for us during covid with the support for small businesses. They kept us afloat, so I have to be thankful for that. Without that we would have gone under.”
Jacqueline Stanley has worked on the markets for 40 years and says she struggles to remember a time when it was so tough to make a living. “It’s bad all round,” she said. “The markets are going down because people haven’t got the money. My takings are down about £100-£150 a week because people just haven’t got the money to spend.
“Everything at the wholesalers is going up so that goes onto the customers. People come onto the market for a bargain, but if prices are going up all the time they’re not going to be happy. It’s not a bargain any more.
“Some days you’re lucky if you make your rent. The rent’s £30 today and a good day would be taking £150. But a few weeks ago I took £80. On Tuesday it was £65. I don’t know how some people are existing.”
Read more about the cost of living crisis: ‘I was born poor and it looks like I’m going to die poor’: The hard reality of the cost of living crisis on the estate with a motorway in the middle
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