Faced with inflation, disadvantaged Blackpool are worried about the return of austerity

Aerial photo on September 4, 2021 of Blackpool, a popular seaside town in northwest England famous for its winter illuminations (Paul ELLIS / AFP)

‘He needs to do more to help us’: In the popular seaside resort of Blackpool in northwest England, residents and small business owners hit by the cost of living crisis are anxiously awaiting announcements from the government’s budget on Thursday.

“The basic groceries of eggs, bacon and sausages that I serve to my customers have gone up by 10 to 15 pounds (12 to 18 euros) in the last two weeks,” said Tracy Applin, manager of a city center hotel.

“We will suffer. I don’t know how long, but (the government) must do more to help us,” she told AFP.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt will on Thursday unveil a bitter budget drink consisting of tax increases and cuts in public spending.

Even if he promised to be “fair” to the poorest hit hard by inflation exceeding 10%, many Britons fear this announced return of austerity.

Tracy is worried about the impact of upcoming tax increases on tourism in the city of about 140,000, which sees around 3.5 million people come to admire its famous lights each year, between September and January alone.

“Usually at this time of year I already have about 40 reservations for next year. But right now I only have five or six,” she notes.

She could close her hotel for the winter, but she says she can’t afford it with the bills to pay.

Julie Newby and her husband Kevin, two pensioners, also say they are very concerned about their energy bill, which has more than doubled in a year to reach £220 (€250) a month.

Julie is hoping for “just more help for people living in poverty” and some respite for herself as she has to care for her husband and son, who are both disabled.

“I keep turning off the lights, we try to do our machines at night instead of during the day because it seems cheaper. We try not to use the dryer but sometimes we have no choice,” said she.

“The Breaking Point”

According to official statistics, Blackpool, located north of Liverpool and a former mecca for British tourism with its casinos, is the worst-off of the 317 local units in England if we take into account average income, unemployment rate, crime and health.

At a food bank in London on October 31, 2022
At a food bank in London, October 31, 2022 (Daniel LEAL / AFP)

“People find it difficult to eat, also find it difficult to heat their homes. This has effects on their health and general well-being,” Maggie Cornall, an official at Blackpool City Council, told AFP.

This situation also has other consequences, such as an increased consumption of alcohol and drugs, which is felt in hospital emergency departments, she adds.

She hopes that, in addition to the support that has already been released for the most modest ones, the government will intervene in the energy market to limit the price increase.

According to the Trussell Trust, which runs more than 1,200 food banks across the UK, the cost of living crisis hitting the country is putting enormous pressure on these centres, which are now at “breaking point”.

Between April and September, a further 320,000 people approached the association’s food bank for the first time. It delivered almost 1.3 million food parcels, a third more than in the same period last year.

“You have to realize that people living in places like Blackpool, who are the most vulnerable, have much less resilience and need massive help,” warns Maggie Cornall.

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