People not profit must be looked after as we rebuild post-pandemic
- Credit: PA
January is the worst month. The days are short and cold. Christmas – and all the expenses that come with it – has been and gone with the bank balance still paying the price.
And this year, for many people, the money worries are worse than ever.
The cost of living is rising rapidly everywhere you look.
Dire warnings over the cost of everything from food and fuel to clothing are all over the place.
Inflation – how much prices are going up – is currently running at 5.1% as of November, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
And some experts are predicting it could peak at well above 6% later this year before falling back.
This is being driven by a number of factors. From the global supply chain problems caused by Covid, to a lack of workers in certain professions – such as lorry drivers – causing bosses to pay a premium for more staff.
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One of the biggest drivers of inflation is the huge spike in the price of gas across the globe. This spike has caused firms to go bust, and left cash-strapped families donning extra layers.
Unfortunately, there are further price rises coming down the track.
In February the government is set to revise its cap on how much firms can charge for energy.
Experts forecast it to leap upwards may be as much as 50%. These new, higher, charges will then start being charged from April.
Bosses at the independent think-tank The Resolution Foundation recently said each household can expect outgoings to increase by £1,200 this year.
Alongside rising energy bills, there is also a National Insurance rate rise due in April.
And, on Wednesday, data analysts at Kantar revealed grocery bills rose £15 on average in December and are likely to continue rising this year too.
In a hugely complicated economy, where pulling one metaphorical lever will set off fifteen unintended consequences there is a limited amount that can be done.
But some things must be done.
Because while some costs have gone up, not all of them have.
According to the RAC, petrol retailers have been taking advantage of customers by not passing on lower fuel wholesale prices.
RAC figures showed the price of unleaded dropped from 147.47p a litre to 145.48p in December.
However, bosses at the motoring organisation added that drivers should have witnessed prices “nearer to 135p”.
Simon Williams, fuel spokesman for the RAC, said: “December was a rotten month for drivers as they were taken advantage of by retailers who rewrote their pump price strategy, costing motorists millions of pounds as a result.
“Their resistance to cutting prices and to only pass on a fraction of the savings they were making from lower wholesale costs is nothing short of scandalous.
“The 10p extra retailers have added to their long-term margin of 6p a litre has led to petrol car drivers paying £5 million more a day than they previously would have.
“In the past, when wholesale prices have dropped, retailers have always done the right thing –eventually – and reduced their pump prices.
“This time they’ve stood strong, taking advantage of all the media talk about ‘higher energy prices’ and banked on the oil price rising again and catching up with their artificially inflated prices, which it has now done.”
Throughout the pandemic, many people have struggled.
Not everyone has, however. A report authored in 2020 by Swiss bank UBS found that billionaires’ wealth had increased by more than a quarter from April to July that year – at the time, the worst period of the pandemic so far.
Especially at a time like this penny-pinching businesses – whether they're petrol retailers or profiteering PPE suppliers – are forgetting their responsibility to look after the people who make up the society their prosperity is built upon.
As the country recovers from Covid it is important that people, and not just the economy, prosper.