'Long winter' for households as prices rise across the board

'Long winter' for households as prices rise across the board

There has been a 10% hike in transport costs, and more than a 7% rise in housing, water, electricity, and gas prices over the past year. 

Households are in for a "long winter” with rising bills, and inflation at its highest in 10 years, economists and consumer organisations have warned.

There has been a 10% hike in transport costs, and more than a 7% rise in housing, water, electricity, and gas prices over the past year. 

Research by KBC Bank has found 58% of consumers have already felt significant price pressures impacting their living costs.

Austin Hughes, chief economist at KBC, said there is clear evidence of a ‘noisy and nasty’ upward trend in price inflation.

The sense of weakening spending power may intensify as inflation is likely to rise further in the near term and, with higher heating costs eating into spending power, a notable rise in living costs could become a notably more important feature of the economic climate in coming months," he said.

Dermott Jewell of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland said that talk of a forthcoming spending splurge among households who built savings during Covid-19 restrictions was wide of the mark for most families.

“This may be the case for some, but not for the majority who continued to try to meet high rents and, working from home, increasing energy and food prices, while any ‘savings’ were to provide for back-to-school costs and all related bills that all families endure,” he said.

In reality, every budget will be affected negatively by increasing costs, specifically in transportation, housing, fuel, and energy, he said.

In circumstances where we await a budget focused upon management of an enormous post-Covid national debt, it becomes clear that there will be little available to help the average consumer offset these costs,” he said.

It will be a “long winter”, he said.

Social Justice Ireland said the largest inflation increase in a decade — up to 2.8% in August — is very concerning.

Research and policy analyst Michelle Murphy warned of the impact of rising utility bills. 

“These are essential costs that people simply cannot avoid," she said. 

"For people on a fixed income such as jobseekers payment, State pension, or disability payment, it is very challenging, as these increased costs must be paid for, which means they will be cutting back elsewhere, on whatever discretionary expenditure they have.

Or, in a worst-case scenario, they will end up falling in arrears on utility bills, or rent or mortgage, and face the prospect of having no heating or losing their accommodation.” 

Central Statistics Office figures show that one of the largest monthly increases was in the cost of clothing and footwear, at a time when families all over the country are trying to cope with the back-to-school costs.

“Worryingly, one in four children in Ireland live in a household experiencing deprivation," said Ms Murphy. 

The CSO figures indicate that as prices increase, deprivation figures will increase, as more and more people and families cannot afford the basics. Things look very challenging for these families as we head into winter.” 

Consultant Laura Erskine of the Parenting Experts said the price of housing and childcare has “long been a thorn in the side of families across Ireland”.

“The halo effect of the pandemic is that flexible working conditions will allow many parents to work from home for at least a proportion of their working week into the future," she said.

“While this is good news, housing costs have increased in urban and rural locations alongside cities across the country, so the options to find a more affordable alternative are decreasing, together with poor housing supply.

“The future doesn't look bright on the new or housing renovation front either, with services and building materials increasing at rates of 30-40% due to supply issues from the double blow of Covid and Brexit.

"Utility bill price increases will continue to cause parents a headache when it comes to their household budgeting due to the increasing dependence on technology to support home, school, and work life."

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