In my little office at home I have a television. It isn’t a sleek modern one. It’s from a prehistoric era. It works pretty well although it does malfunction. For example, earlier today it appeared to show that the England cricket team had beaten South Africa in a record run chase. It is also been corrupting the Premiership table showing Leicester City heading towards the league title with just a few games of the season to go. Can you imagine anything so ridiculous?
I could buy a new television but feel it would be an extravagance. I am fortunate that I have the choice whether to do so or not.
Many people do not have such choices and struggle to make ends meet. Many people are forced to use the increasing number of shops on the high street that can exploit the desperation of people who do not have cash in the bank or who cannot borrow. They have little choice but to buy normal household goods at massively inflated prices.
A report from the think tank, the Financial Inclusion Centre, publish this week demonstrated that a washing machine that I could buy for £350 on the high street would cost as much is £1,056 if someone had to pay weekly instalments over three years at shops like Brighthouse.
This illustrates the Poverty Premium – the additional cost someone on low income has to incur compared to someone like me. A further example is the cost of gas and electricity. I attract the maximum discounts by having my gas and electricity provided by the same provider and paid through direct debit. I can easily switch to attract the best deals. People on the lowest incomes, reliant on prepayment meters, do not have a these options.
I am a great fan of organisations like the Hastings Furniture Service and the Lewes-based Furniture Now that also operates in Brighton and Eastbourne. Tenants and clients of BHT have much to thank these fine organisations for.
I’m also pleased to see that the British Heart Foundation has opened a fantastic new store in London Road, Brighton, selling high-quality goods at a fraction of the price charged at the nearby Brighthouse shop.
In the past people could get a crisis loan from the DWP. This is no longer possible and people are forced to use lenders who can maximise their profits on the back of people living in poverty. Sometimes I think that as a society we are going backwards, to an age that shamed decency and forced people to live in perpetual debt which, in itself, exacerbates the daily grind of poverty.