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Food up, fuel up: how can we afford this Christmas?

This article is over 11 years, 6 months old
Tories are gloating over austerity. Stuff’em!
Issue 2333
Food up, fuel up: how can we afford this Christmas?

Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration and happiness. But for Nina Hammill, it’s yet another source of stress.

Nina works for a SureStart nursery and has an 11 year old son. The scale of the Tories’ attacks are making her life harder every day.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas,” she told Socialist Worker. “We haven’t put any decorations up—not because
we couldn’t, but it just doesn’t feel like that’s the mood.”

Like millions of workers in Britain, Nina constantly struggles to make ends meet. “We’ve had the letter from the fuel company saying their prices are going up,” she said. “Food prices are going up. It all looks pretty bleak at the moment.

“I’m on a low wage and I’ve effectively had pay cuts for years because we’ve had no rises. At Christmas time there’s an expectation for people to go out to socials and meals. But we can’t afford it.”

But it isn’t simply low-paid work that is the problem. It’s also that the Tories’ austerity agenda is driving people further into poverty.

“I’m worried about a lot of things,” said Nina. “I’m worried about my husband. He used to be on incapacity benefit—he’s an ex-miner and has rheumatoid arthritis. But they took him off that. And the Employment and Support Allowance he’s on only lasts a year. From January he might not have any income.”


The Tories plan to snatch incapacity benefits from a million people—regardless of whether they can afford to survive without them. And they’ve slashed funding for SureStart, making Nina fear for her job.

On top of that, they are making it harder for poorer workers to claim the tax credits that can top up their wages. “We get a small amount of tax credits,” said Nina. “But now I don’t know if we’ll keep getting it.”

The Tories are attacking workers on all fronts, so uncertainty creeps into all aspects of life. Nina is concerned about whether the Tories could even try to force people like her out of their homes.

“We live in social housing,” said Nina. “If you’d asked me a couple of years ago I would have said we’d be here for years. Now the Tories are changing the rules on social housing so I don’t know how long we’ll be able to stay.

“It all feels very unstable and uncertain. It feels like everything could be pulled from under our feet at any minute.”

Nina said she feels more stressed and is worried that her son will pick up on it. She’s worried about what the future holds for him too.

“I’m 51 now,” she said. “I’m looking at retiring when I’m 66. But the longer I work, the fewer jobs there are for younger people. Why should people be worked to death when young people need work?”

But one thing is for sure—the Tories’ propaganda over the cuts isn’t fooling the millions of people who are suffering the impact of them.

“My husband is in his 60s,” Nina said. “By all rights he should be retired. If he was a banker he’d have retired at least ten years ago on a massive pension. I don’t think there need to be any cuts. There’s plenty of money—it’s just in the wrong hands.”

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