A Conservative councilor in her 70s has said she has been forced to take on three jobs to make ends meet in the cost of living crisis. And Pam Smailes has hit out at Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying she is ‘really disillusioned’ with his leadership.
The 72-year-old, who lives in Teeside, works with an estate agency, provides online tuition, and marks exam papers. She has also reduced the use of her car to a minimum because of her monthly mortgage payments of £460 from her £790-a-month pension, the MirrorOnline reports.
She said: “I cannot see an end to it. I am lucky that I have the skills to do it, I am not complaining.
“There are millions like me. These jobs are not about keeping up a standard of living. It is about paying the bills.”
She added: “I used to be for Boris, but I am getting really disillusioned. He comes out with a national food strategy, which is really good but how much will be used? How much of it will be implemented?
“I am sick of hearing about Partygate, there are bigger problems in this world. It has got us away from the important issues, which are food, fuel and bills.
“I am really going to have to think about what I do at the next election.”
Pam, who lives in Yarm, said she has also been reduced to ‘living on vegetables’ in her weekly shop rather than steak or chicken, and grows her own tomatoes.
Separated from her husband and fiercely independent, she added: “I don’t think any of the career politicians are any good.
“Very few MPs are there for the people. There are former doctors, lawyers, they retire and go into Parliament and become millionaires.”
MirrorOnline reports how Conservative Party voters in the North East are furious with the PM’s handling of the cost of living crisis. The region has the highest rate of eligibility for free school meals in the country. Queues at the ‘People’s Kitchen’ on Tyneside, a free hot meals service, have more than doubled.
Analysis by YouGov claims the party is currently on track for large scale losses in key “Red Wall” battle ground seats if nothing changes before voters next head to the polls.
The research firm estimates that, of 88 key swing seats, just three would stay in Conservative hands if a vote were held now. Food banks in cities and rural communities are running short of supplies due to unprecedented demand.
Chris Zarraga represents 1,150 schools as Director of Schools North East and is trustee of a school in nearby Middlesbrough which lays on free school meals in the summer holidays.
He said: “Many families struggle out of term time. School budgets are under so much pressure due to fuel costs and heating. It is quite a horrendous issue in urban areas and rural locations.”
The jump in the cost of living is putting household budgets under pressure, with some having to choose between heating and eating.
Here are some resources available if you need help.
Citizens Advice is an independent charity offering free, confidential support with legal, consumer, housing, debt and other problems. Its website details what help is available and where your nearest bureau is, for face-to-face advice.
Helpline: 0800 144 8848 (open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)
The Trussell Trust
The Trussell Trust supports a national network of more than 1,200 food banks, providing emergency food for free to those who need it. You can use its website to locate support wherever you live.
Helpline: 0808 208 2138 (open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)
Turn2us is a national charity providing practical support to people who are struggling financially. Its website includes a benefits calculator and details of schemes and grants in your area, including for energy and water bills.
Helpline: 0808 802 2000 (open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)
MirrorOnline also spoke to widower John Rowland, a lifelong Tory voter, who lives in a remote stone cottage high on the North Yorkshire moors in Rishi Sunak’s Richmond constituency.
Heating for his 600-year-old property has rocketed to £3,000-a-year, even ‘turned down to the lowest setting’. His pensions add up to around £1,300 a month and in the past three years, he has had to draw down on savings just to make ends meet following the death of his partner.
He needs to take out £500-a-month to meet his basic shopping and fuel bills but says: “My heart bleeds for the people who don’t have that money to draw on.
“Single old aged pensioners are finding it very difficult and even couples are having to be careful. Do we start selling things? That is one of the questions – I have started selling assets.
“This country is in one hell of a state. I have always voted Conservative. But I don’t particularly like Boris Johnson. I don’t think his morals are quite what they should be.
“Is there anybody better at the moment? My MP here is the Chancellor Mr Sunak and he has been accused of a lot of things as well. So has Mr Starmer.
“I think MPs live in a different world, do they really understand how the ordinary man and woman lives? I don’t think they do. People are concerned about it.
“Paying half a million pounds to take people on a plane to Rwanda with seven people on it. Just to hire one plane. It just does not add up.”
He spends around £50-a-week on food, his telephone bill is £36-a-month, he has to pay an annual council tax bill of £1500, and spends £115-a-month on transport costs.
He does voluntary work for Age UK, who spent hours helping him receive support even though the charity has been hit by cuts to funding. But even their vital charity work is facing unprecedented demands.
Helen Hunter works in Age UK’s Darlington HQ in Co Durham where pensioners, including army veterans, gather for companionship, hot food, and advice from the charity’s key workers.
They helped one pensioner in Harrogate who was riding around on a bus all day, worried about heating her home. Yet they lost £135,000 in local authority funding over lockdown.
She said: “For us, we can stay with people for many years, they will get frailer and more vulnerable, we can improve their circumstances and everyday life, but we need to stay alongside them.
“You cannot do it in just a few weeks, we can do it differently, but not without funding.
“We are being innovative, trying to raise awareness, and looking for money from trusts and foundations.
“But charities are having to work very hard to get the funding they need to survive.”