According to the latest official Retail Price Index, on average prices are now falling. But a closer look at the figures shows that the working-class cost of living is still rising.
Food prices went up 12.5% between February 2008 and February 2009. Eggs went up 11.2%, vegetables 18.6%, fruit 13%.
Fares and other travel costs went up 10.2% (January-January), gas 33.1%, electricity 18%.
The fall in the overall index comes from cheaper prices on clothing, car purchases, and “consumer durables” of all sorts, and from lower mortgage payments.
Households renting accommodation still saw their rent cost increase 3%. The Government has only just done a retreat from a policy which would have forced councils to increase council rents by 6.2%, to one that increases them 3.4%.
Poorer households spend a bigger proportion of our income on basics. RPI inflation for the poorest 20% of households is estimated at 4.8%; for the top 20% at about -1.5%.
We need serious pay rises, and benefits that are enough to live on.