Suffolk/Essex: Pensioners feeling the pinch as cost of living rockets

Cost of living rising faster than pension payments

Cost of living rising faster than pension payments - Credit: PA

OLDER people are being hit the hardest by a huge increase in the cost of living, our 10-year study today reveals.

Despite the basic pension paid by the Government increasing by 30%, in the last 10 years household utility bills have surpassed this rate in Suffolk and Essex.

Household bills for gas, electric, water and council tax in Suffolk are now, on average, a total of £1,259 more per year compared to 2003 – a 62% hike – with increases in food and fuel further adding to the overall bill. In Essex, the increase is around £1,226.

This is mainly due to soaring increases in gas and electricity prices, which have gone up on average by 116% and 128% respectively since January 2003.

The average price rises were calculated by energy comparison website uSwitch.

Anglian Water also released figures showing the average water and sewerage bill has leapt 59% in the last 10 years – from £273 in 2003/04 to £434 in 2013/14.

And the average cost of petrol has risen by 78%. Drivers paid £38.95 to fill a typical 50-litre tank in 2003 at 77.9p per litre – today it costs £69.16 at 138.32p per litre.

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Food prices in Britain have risen by 32% since 2007, double the EU average and nearly triple the rise in France and Germany, according to figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) last September.

The average increase in council tax bills across Suffolk and Essex, rising at 32% and 29% respectively in the last 10 years, remained in line with the pension rise – which is determined by the annual price inflation rate.

But the rise in utility costs remains a growing concern for Age UK Suffolk, who warned vulnerable pensioners can become detached from society and suffer a deterioration in health.

Martyn Green, chief executive for Age UK Suffolk, said: “In many ways these rising costs hit pensioners the hardest.

“Utility cost rises have an incredible impact and the older and more frail pensioners who are less active are more vulnerable because they are at home during the day.

“It can potentially lead to isolation and loneliness for older people, particularly in rural areas. This has a detrimental effect on their health and affects their social life.

“Their spending powers are also being squeezed. They are eating into their capital savings but even these are not performing the way they would have imagined.”

Last year the government announced the basic state pension will increase by 2.5% to £110.15 per week from April 2013 – an extra 38p a day.

Barbara Williamson, chairman of the Colchester Pensioners’ Action Group, said: “Pensioners are definitely being hit hard, especially with utility bills. Everything is going up and you can’t buy as much. We are being restricted and it forces us to go without. It affects everything completely.

“Savings are becoming less of a benefit because interest rates are poor and rising living costs are not being reflected in pension increases. Pensioners aren’t angry – we’re just totally disillusioned with it all. We feel a bit cheated.”

Michael Ossei, uSwitch personal finance spokesman, added: “Consumers are anticipating next week’s Budget with a mix of dread and despair. Spiralling living costs are stretching household budgets to their absolute limit and people are running out of ways to fund their ever-increasing bills.”

Sir Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, said: “We are living in a world where there are rapidly increasing prices and it is affecting everyone, from working families to senior citizens. It is a burden for everyone.

“That is why the coalition Government is giving the highest pension increases and is supporting senior citizens with the triple-lock system to make sure they don’t get discriminated against, unlike under Gordon Brown’s Labour government.

“For some senior citizens the rise in fuel bills will impact them more than others, and that is why we have brought in the winter fuel allowance for them as well.”

Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, added: “We recognise that it is difficult for people but we are helping pensioners with the ‘triple-lock’ system.”

See our website for live coverage of the Budget 2013

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