Almost 90% of British households reported an increase in the cost of living last month, as they were hit by rising costs for fuel, food and loans.
Adding further pressure on Rishi Sunak to step up his support for low- and middle-income people, the Office for National Statistics said a quarter of all respondents were struggling to pay their bills and 17% had taken out loans. or credit card loans. to make ends meet.
Debt charities and anti-poverty campaigners said the figures, which cover the last two weeks of March, were a shocking reminder that households this year face the biggest decline in their living standards since the 1950s.
Jack Leslie, a senior economist at the Resolution Foundation think tank, said the combination of shrinking wage packages and rising costs meant pressure on households was mounting.
The ONS said that while rising bills affected the majority of households across the country, “it is more likely to disproportionately affect those in the most deprived areas.”
More than a third of the bottom fifth of households in England had had difficulty or a great deal of difficulty paying their regular bills.
“East [situation] it will get worse, with an estimated number of households experiencing fuel shortages reaching 5 million this month,” Leslie said.
“Going forward, the government must do everything it can to protect those who will be hit the hardest, with support for low-income households as a priority.”
Inflation spiked to its highest level in 30 years in March, fueled by the rising cost of gasoline, gasoline, food, shoes, furniture and clothing.
Wages have risen in recent months but have failed to keep pace with rising prices as employers try to rein in costs.
The ONS said that among those who pay energy bills, around four in 10 (43%) reported that it was very or somewhat difficult to absorb the higher costs.
Illustrating the growing divide between the poorest and wealthiest areas of England as the cost of living crisis worsens, more than half of adults (57%) living in the most deprived places reported difficulty paying their bills. of energy compared to about a third of adults. (35%) in the least disadvantaged.
Sunak has claimed it is spending £22bn to ease the pressure on households, mainly through a 5p cut in fuel tax and a reduction in gas bills through a council tax rebate of £150 already in place and a £200 cut in October, although this is currently a loan that has to be paid back over the next four years.