March 10, 2022
From Alternative Bristol (UK)

Has your income – pay, benefits, savings interest, or a combination of these – gone up by 5%, 6%, 7% or more? Nah we didn’t think so! But your bills and overall cost of living has – a lot, and a lot more than any increases to your income.

The Wessex Water bill for 2022/3, seen in our feature image, for a typical Bristol terraced house, shows an annual increase of £27.98, or just over a 7% increase for the coming year. That is just one of many similar increases hitting us all hard right now – all utilities, food, fuel & public transport costs, consumer goods, insurance, holiday costs, plus of course tax increases including NI uplifts. Locally we can add to that horror show the escalating rental costs for homes (and for those able to buy, the price of buying a flat/house). Even where annual cost increases are lower than the current rate of inflation/cost of living increase – reckoned to be currently at least 5.5% –  for example Bristol’s Council Tax which is up by 2.99%, then this comes with a cut in the services we pay for, and/or the ongoing shift of service provision to the private ‘for-profit’ sector. As the RMT Union have said in this petition text regarding rail fare increases:

In March 2022, rail fares increased by another 3.8% and in the last decade they have increased by an eye watering 30%.
While the public are facing a cost-of-living crisis, these fare rises are being used to fund the profits of the private train companies who have paid out more than £2 billion in shareholder dividends over the same period.
Now the Government and rail bosses are looking to slash rail services and cut thousands of jobs. Staffing at stations, on-trains and on safety critical infrastructure are under threat.

Things for the vast majority of us, ‘the many’, were looking pretty shit anyway at the start of this ‘post-pandemic’ period, with pay increases running well below inflation – a pay cut in other words. We were being told that we faced budget-busting annual increases of 54% for gas/electric utility bills from April 2022. Now people looking at fixing their energy bills are getting quotes of £3000+ per year!

Meanwhile savers, yes there are some, are lucky to get guaranteed & secure savers interest rates much above 2%, which means of course that the actual value of your savings are falling, so you get done both ways. In fact those who are savers are hit 3 ways – with the rundown of the NHS (health & personal social care) & escalating waiting times, many who can afford it are turning to the private sector for treatment, using up those hard-earned savings…having already paid for healthcare via rising taxes & NI. Those who lack much or any savings, can only sit and wait out the ever rising waiting lists. Talk about a scam!

At the same time, UK personal debt continues to rise. At the end of 2021 people in the UK owed £1,765.6 billion according to latest figures from The Money Charity. That’s equal to £63,528 per household (incl mortgages); or £33,328 per adult, which is approx 107.8% of average earnings – so if you handed over all your earnings in 1 year you still wouldn’t clear your debts. Interest payments on personal debt amounted to £122 million per day in December 2021, and rising – as we know financial institutions generally do very nicely in times of crisis! That is all before this ‘new’ crisis properly kicks in…

Us ordinary working people, ‘the many’, were already having to deal with the triple whammy impact of the longstanding financial crisis that started back in 2008; rapidly increasing climate change; and the covid pandemic. Now we can add to that the devastating impact on us of the ‘war’ and associated ‘sanctions’ on Russia & its tiny handful of allies. This BBC article ‘The affect of war on food prices‘, which also looks at fuel & energy, makes for very worrying reading. The Independent says that ‘UK faces worst drop in living standards since 1970s, economists warn‘, whilst The Guardian headline is ‘Russia sanctions to cut UK living standards by £2,500 per household’ and suggests it’s the worst crisis since 1955. Eek! And these commentators are not scaremongering troublemakers, their projections are likely to be on the conservative side, the reality will be worse. The Guardian quotes the Centre for Economics & Business Research (CEBR):

Based on the assumption that sanctions would have a marked impact on global commodity prices and inflation, the CEBR said growth this year would be halved – down from a previously forecast 4.2% in 2022 to 1.9%. Its growth estimate for 2023 has been reduced from 2.0% to 0.0%, while after peaking at 8.7% in the spring, inflation is expected to remain above 7% until early 2023. “As a result of higher commodity prices, we estimate that disposable incomes will fall in 2022 by 4.8% with a further fall of 1.4% in 2023. The forecast fall in living standards this year is an estimated £71bn – which amounts to £2,553 per household. The fall in 2022 is the largest since records started in 1955.”

Time for a reckoning
Well fuck that! We can’t pay and nor can many of the population – for some there’ll be a choice: do we pay for heating, or food, or rent/mortgage costs? Some won’t be able to pay for even one of those costs given expected increases. Yet Britain remains 1 of the 6 most wealthy countries on the planet, where £trillions are sloshing around in the pockets & accounts of ‘the few’, those super-rich & powerful who always do even better in a crisis. Why aren’t people seething with anger, and hanging politicians & corporate bosses from the lamp-posts? Those few are the ones who have sucked up the Russian oligarchs money, traded with them, and been silent over the crimes against the people of Russia, and Ukraine since 2014/15 (along with the ‘victims’ in China and elsewhere). Their wealth does not trickle down, they just hoard it & use it to further extend wealth inequality…and then want us to pay when there’s another crisis. Take the current hyper-inflation in fuel costs, leaving us paying close to £1.60+ per litre at the pumps, allegedly due to insecurity & supply issues – yesterday oil prices fell by 17% after a UAE spokeperson said they’d push for OPEC producers to increase supply from reserves, but today prices were back up 3% after another UAE spokesperson contradicted this. So we see that these higher prices are a direct result of oil producers policy of profiteering (we’ll ignore the environmental issues of reliance on fossil fuels for now!).

One day there has to be a reckoning! The neo-liberal policies that have prevailed globally over the last 40 years are responsible for these crisis, not least because those with the power & wealth have consistently ignored the warnings over the climate & financial crisis. Their greed is insatiable and their lack of humanity shocking. They’ll do deals with any old dictator, oligarch, planet-trashing corporation or authoritarian government in order to make more profit & extend power. They’ll ignore crimes against humanity be it in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar or elsewhere. Check their crocodile tears right now over the terrible scenes from Ukraine, but note who’ll suffer the most from sanctions & the rising finacial crisis – not them! It’ll be ordinary Russians, Ukrainians, and working people the world over who pay – financially and with their lives, same as it ever was. What have the West’s politicians and intelligence agencies been upto these last 8-9yrs since Russia annexed parts of Ukraine? Why did they allow this to escalate to the current war? Why didn’t they have their eye on the ball? Putin has been in power 20 years, he hasn’t suddenly become a mass-murdering evil psycho, he’s always been that – but until now he was good for business, and sucessive British Governments starting with Blair’s followed by May & Johnson, have been more than happy to cut deals (and probably take benefits). For how much longer do we let them fuck us over like this, and get away with it?

Is there hope, or is it WW3 and planet over?
There’s always hope, the future remains unwritten! We have seen in the outpouring of support for the Ukrainian people – from donations of £’s, foods & other kit, to the constant demos against war – the natural & obvious desire of many to live in peace and to help their fellow humans. This reflects the outpouring of mutual aid via local networks & groups at the start of the covid pandemic lockdowns. It shows us that despite all the bullshit from policiticans, spin doctors & media, many of us know right from wrong, and most of us actually do care for other humans. We’re not perfect, and we do get led astray by the news management, lies & spin of those with power, but our hearts are generally in the right place.

We need to build on this now, in our local communities, workplaces and friendship groups. We need to build on mutual aid & solidarity, co-operation & friendship. We need to take action against war, climate change, and the profiteering of the few. We need to get rid of the present global elites and fundamentally change how we live, looking after ourselves and the planet. We can do all of that and much more, if we want to, and are prepared to put the work in. We need that day of reckoning before it really is too late.