On an overcast May afternoon, Leanne Kay pushes her pram across Salford Precinct. Like millions across the country, the mum-of-two is worried about the rising cost of living.
Rising gas and electricity bills for her two-bedroom flat have left the mum-of-two “skint” and fearful that things are only going to get worse. “I put money on the smart meter and it’s just going within a day,” she explained.
“I used to use like £1 a day but now it’s £4. It’s hard, especially when you have a baby. I have to put the heating on and what about food? I’m struggling and I’m worried it’ll all go up again.”
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Susan Smith is another who has been feeling the squeeze. In recent months, she has noticed her household bills creeping up, as well as the cost of petroleum and food.
“My husband travels to work in the car every day and he’s just pumping the petrol in,” the 58-year-old said. “All your essentials and groceries have gone up and the items are getting smaller.
“You’ve got to cut back, especially with the heating in the house. I’m on my own in the day so I don’t turn the heating on until my husband and sons come home.
“Even then it’s only on for an hour at night. I’m worried it’s going to go up again in October.”
From April 1, homes saw a 54 per cent rise in the energy price cap – which limits the amount that can be charged per unit of gas and electricity – came into effect. There are concerns that households could be hit by a further increase later in the year.
Paul Evans described the current situation as “diabolical” and said he believes many people have already had enough. “People were struggling before but now it’s even worse,” he said.
“We’re in a lot of trouble and we’re going to end up with some unrest. I’ve heard of people doing third jobs to pay their bills. Everyone is worried to death. I put the heating on the other day for the first time in ages.
“I put a wash on in the morning and wonder how much it’s going to cost. If something breaks down like a fridge or a washer, there’s no way I’m going to be able to replace it. It’s frightening.”
The impact of the rising costs has also impacted business owners at Salford Shopping Centre. Lily Dwit opened Vera’s Cafe about six months ago but is already worried that she may have to shut.
“Everybody is complaining about the bills rising at the moment,” she said. “If this continues maybe I will have to shut down. People like the food but every single cost is getting higher. I don’t know what to do in the future. We can’t continue to pay the bills.”
Across Greater Manchester, many people are having to make difficult decisions. For some, it is as stark as choosing between heating or eating.
Judith, who would not provide her surname, said that for months now she has been climbing into bed with a hot water bottle to save having to switch her heating on.
“If I put the gas on, it’ll be turning round and round,” the pensioner said. “It worries me because the government isn’t putting pensions up enough to cover each rise in price.
“It might cover some of them but you’ve got your rent, gas, electric, council tax, water and food. I’ve had to go into some of the holiday money I’ve been saving.”
Andrea White is worried about her daughters, both of whom have young families. One has just signed on to Universal Credit, she explains, while another has been working “constantly” in order to pay her bills.
“She used to be well off but she isn’t anymore,” said Ms White. “She’s just working for nothing now.
“Before, they could go out and buy themselves a nice dress and shoes. They can’t do that anymore. Everything is just getting worse and worse.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.