Adding fuel to the fire: the clients of the esplanade react to the Sunak statement | cost of living crisis

The dust had settled a day later Rishi Sunak swept the Sainsbury’s petrol forecourt in south east London as part of a publicity event for its spring statement.

While the finance minister was mocked on social media for posing for publicity photos showing him pumping gas into someone else’s Kia Rio, later telling staff he hoped customers “would be a little happier” with the reduction of the tax on fuel, was the broader cost-of-living reduction that was top of mind for many passersby on Thursday.

Some motorists at the gas station welcomed a 5p-one liter fuel tax reductionthough others who used an adjacent supermarket characterized the spring return as a missed opportunity to help them with potentially crippling daily costs of living and mounting bills.

George, 65, and Geraldine 70 Bridges
Two pensioners on their way to do a weekly groceries at Sainsbury’s, opposite the petrol yard

Geraldine and George Bridges.
Geraldine and George Bridges: ‘It feels like it’s one thing after another.’ Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

Geraldine: “If I had known that Rishi Sunak was here yesterday, I would have gone up to him and really told him that we feel forgotten. We are already fighting for pay our energy bill right now and it’s going to go up to about £585 a year.

“We’re only going to open one store at Sainsbury’s now and we’ve had to change things drastically there too. Everything is yellow label [discounted] items, that we batch cook, like chili, or put in the freezer.”

“George has a pension and I have universal credit and it feels like it’s one thing after another. Our daughter has been paraplegic since she had surgery a few years ago, so we have both children with us. We bought a motorhome some years ago thinking we could use it in retirement but we can’t bring it back to London because they want £300 of the congestion charge. He’s stuck on the outskirts of London.


dave young
Telecommunications engineer and father taking a break before their next job

“The change of national insurance [the threshold at which employees pay national insurance contributions (NICs) will be lifted by £3,000 to £12,570 a year] it was what he recorded with me because it has made me three hundred, four hundred pounds better a year. I’m a conservative and I think what he’s done is generally good since the pandemic, so I have no real complaints about it. Income tax? Well, being seen as a tax cut is an election winner, isn’t it?

“Our gas is up, so we’re not entirely happy with that, so it’s an up-and-down peak. They also have the cap in place. I heard someone say that he would rather pay more in energy than in bombs falling on us.

“I used to have my own car, a big eater, so to be honest I feel sorry for the people who still have a car.”

Alina Davis
A mother of three, originally from Ukraine, returns home after shopping in a supermarket.

Aline Davis.
Alina Davies: ‘There is a lot that could be done’. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

“I didn’t know the chancellor was here yesterday, but there is much that can be done. I personally feel that food should be cheaper, especially for people who have children, and even help with the cost of activities.

“Other things could also change. I’m not working right now because we have three kids and it makes more sense for me to take care of them full time.

“To be honest, I wasn’t that aware of the energy price increase coming up, but everything, whether it’s the council tax or everyday items, seems to be going up in price right now, so that won’t help.” .

Felicia Kekeke
A grandmother on her way to make a supermarket store.

Felicia Kekeke.
Felicia Kekeke: ‘I really don’t feel like the government is doing enough to help people who are being squeezed right now.’ Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

“I saw something about Rishi Sunak and what he was announcing on the news last night, but I didn’t realize he was here. If he had known, he would have told her it’s a real fight.

“Me energy bills especially they’re going up, and I’m concerned at the moment because I recently got a letter telling me it was going to go up, I think it was British Gas, by about 54 percent.

“That’s a lot because right now I’m paying around £1,000 for my energy.

“I really don’t feel like the government is doing enough to help people right now who are being squeezed, or worse.

“It’s just me at home right now, my husband died a few years ago, but I have grown children who come to visit me. We all wish we could spend more on our family, but we’ve had to cut back. I am lucky to be working at the moment (local catering) but I don’t spend anything on clothes at the moment, for example”.

warburton springs
Financial worker and father, returning home.

Piers Warburton.
Piers Warburton: ‘We are aware that it is going to be tight’. Photograph: Alicia Canter/The Guardian

“I’m a green voter who doesn’t really have a lot of time for the Conservatives, so while I was aware of what was going on, I didn’t have much faith that it would be anything different than usual.

“He and Boris are doing their Brexit, or post-Brexit, basically. It is not like this?

“I have four children and that can really be a struggle, especially when you consider the cost of childcare.

“Like a lot of people, it can feel like you’re taking things on a month-to-month basis. We are aware that it will be tight when it comes to the energy bills for example.”

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