Cost-of-living news in brief

Food price hikes

30% – The increase in the price of unleaded petrol in the year to April. A pint of milk is up 21%, and a tub of margarine is up 24%. We are paying more to eat, and more to get to work. It will take a serious fight against the bosses to win pay rises close to those figures.

The increasing numbers of NHS  staff forced to go to food banks to feed their families has been much reported. Now, an NHS trust has set one up to feed its own staff! A spokesperson for Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said it would “do everything [it is] able to to help”.

A decent pay rise for staff would help, accompanied by a campaign directed at the government to demand the money needed to ensure a decent service and an NHS that doesn’t pay poverty wages.

Foodbank network the Trussell Trust has seen demand increase 14% since last year. No doubt it will continue to rise while the cost of living spirals upwards.

Fuel poverty to double

Boss of energy supplier E.ON, Michael Lewis, says 40% of its customers will be in fuel poverty by October when the government is set to lift the energy price cap further, doubling the current rate. Perhaps Mr Lewis should consider his company’s pricing structure?

Soaring wholesale gas prices have seen a number of smaller gas suppliers go under. But the ‘big six’ energy companies, which includes E.ON, raked in billions in profits over the last decade.

Can’t pay

Mr Lewis went on to suggest that the government’s one-off Warm Homes Discount scheme should increase from £140 for three million households, to £600 for six million. The suggestion is unlikely to be motivated by concern for his customers; more likely  a concern about the tidal wave of unpaid bills from customers who simply cannot pay.

The energy price crisis displays a failure of the capitalist market. Working-class people increasingly can’t afford to buy goods and services. In this instance that equates to people facing up to a winter freezing in their homes, or riding buses and sitting in libraries to keep warm.

Nationalise now!

Even Tory voters back nationalisation. 65% of 2019 ‘red wall’ Conservative voters want energy in public ownership, according to polling by campaign group ‘We own it’. 66% want nationalised water, 63% rail and 63% Royal Mail.

Those voters are very unlikely to get what they want with a Tory government, just as they won’t be ‘levelled up’. Then again, Labour won’t offer public ownership either. For socialist nationalisation of energy and other utilities, we need a new mass workers’ party to fight for it.