People in Britain are forced to work an average of 70 days a year just to pay the interest on their debts – and that’s before making any repayments on the amount borrowed.
That is just one of a raft of shocking statistics released in the days preceding Alistair Darling’s first budget this week.
While New Labour argues that life for the majority is getting better, evidence is mounting that Gordon Brown’s pay restraint policies are dramatically worsening our standard of living.
After this year’s pay “rises” workers will on average be taking home an extra £44 a month.
But, according to figures compiled by uswitch.com, families are facing an average increase of £148 a month in essential living costs – meaning that they are more than £100 a month out of pocket.
Recent energy price rises have pushed the average fuel bill up by 13 percent, adding a further £144 a year to energy bills.
Grocery prices are also rising fast. Increases in the cost of basic food items will result in an average grocery bill rising by £324 this year, up 11 percent on last year.
Drivers will be among the worst hit, with costs increasing by £192 this year, a rise of 18 percent in just 12 months.
The impact of the rising cost of living is further compounding the problem of the growing number of people who are struggling to pay their mortgages.
According to the Nationwide building society the average repayment has risen from £940 to £1,025 a month – an increase of £1,020 a year.
The reality for most working people is longer hours and harder work coupled with the lowest levels of disposable income for over a decade.
Yet not everyone in Brown’s Britain is suffering. Despite the economic slowdown, the rich in Britain continue to enjoy enormous improvements in their own standards of living.
In London, City bankers made an estimated £7 billion in bonuses last year – one of the largest ever for investment bankers, despite significant falls in the value of shares on stock markets around the world.
The Economist magazine’s annual survey says of Britain that income is “distributed more unequally than in almost any big rich country except the US”.
The response of the government’s business secretary John Hutton MP embodies everything that is wrong with New Labour.
He said, “Rather than questioning whether huge salaries are morally justified we should celebrate the fact that people can be enormously successful in this country.”
Hutton may well worry about how to celebrate the success of the rich, but for most working people it is the struggle just to make ends meet that keeps them awake.
A survey by the Cooperative Bank this week found that people in Britain collectively spend 13 billion hours a year worrying about their debts – equivalent to an average of two years per person over a lifetime.