Families speak out about struggling with rising living costs in borough
Alastair Lockhart Local Democracy Reporting Service
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Families in Barking and Dagenham, one of London's most deprived boroughs, have spoken of their struggles with rising living costs.
The borough is one of the top 10 most deprived areas in the UK, according to London Councils, but has seen the cost of council tax, bills and shopping rise consistently in recent years.
Barking and Dagenham is the second most impoverished borough in London in terms of income deprivation, according to a report by the Centre for London.
However, official government statistics reveal Barking and Dagenham’s average annual council tax is £1,713 - almost £300 more than neighbouring boroughs Newham and Tower Hamlets, where the average is £1,467 and £1,477 respectively.
A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham Council said it had put in place a number of initiatives to help and support the community, and encouraged residents to get in touch at an early stage about any financial worries.
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Residents have reported that council tax is just one of several costs to have steadily increased in recent years.
Harriet Yeboah, who lives in the borough, said: “It’s pretty expensive in Barking and Dagenham – compared to central London, it’s different.
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“Recently it’s been high – costs are going up.”
Central London has some of the cheapest council tax in the whole of the UK – Westminster is the country's cheapest local authority with an average of £828 a month.
Barking resident Lucia Foster added: “Every year they put up the rent, house prices have gone up.
“Gas has gone too high, electricity has gone too high.
“I don’t think [prices] are stable – if you ask me how much petrol costs I couldn’t tell you, because it changes all the time.”
Barking and Dagenham house prices increased by 6.8 per cent in the last year, although they remain the cheapest asking prices in London at £319,220.
This is notably lower than the London average of £510,299.
Shannon Peters has lived with her family in Barking for just over a year.
She said in that time, she has already noticed a rise in living costs and has concerns over the difficulty of parking in her area.
“It’s our first year living here but our bills have gone up," she said.
"Everything – bills, service charge, council tax.
“Shop prices have definitely gone up as well.”
MPs this week voted to raise National Insurance by 1.25 percentage points to fund a new health and social care levy.
A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham Council said the borough was supporting residents through tough times using an approach not used anywhere else in the UK.
“Like councils up and down the country, Barking and Dagenham council is aware of the financial challenges a number of our residents are facing, something which has been further confounded by the pandemic and the imminent plans to scrap the £1,000 a year boost to universal credit next month.
“This is why over the last few years we have put in place a number of initiatives to help and support our residents.
“Three years ago, we brought together 16 services and 400 staff, organised around ‘lifecycles’ that better reflect the journeys of residents and service users.”
They added that the council had also helped residents through its homes and money club, community food clubs, financial hardship scheme through the Covid-19 pandemic, and aiding employment and skills through jobs shops.
They said: “We continue to encourage our residents to get in touch at an early stage to talk about any financial concerns they may have in order to help them resolve it.”