Some islanders choosing whether to ‘heat or eat’

MORE than half of Guernsey residents have struggled to make ends meet over the last 12 months, a cost of living survey has found.

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Some islanders are facing the choice of whether to ‘heat or eat’, and nine out of 10 feel there has been a moderate or major increase in the cost of living over the last six months.

The survey carried out by Island Global Research across Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man found that 6% could not afford all their living costs and often had to go without essentials in Guernsey.

But things were worse in Jersey, where 11% could not meet all their outgoings.

‘We found it striking that across the three islands, half of people categorised themselves as less than comfortable, including 8% who say they cannot usually afford their [living] costs, and often have to go without essentials like food and heating,’ said Lindsay Jefferies and Lily Guille of Island Global Research.

The remaining 50% comprises 42% who said they were ‘relatively comfortable’ and 8% were ‘very comfortable’.

It was also identified that the 6% unable to fund their expenses were more likely to be women under the age of 65, with more than half having children in their household, and those less able to afford their costs appear to include a greater proportion of under-40s, families with children and women.

In Guernsey, 1,214 islanders took part in the survey, and respondents were often concerned by what they believe to be a widening of the gap between the richest and the poorest in the community, with calls for more support to be made available to those who are financially vulnerable.

Some felt that the island catered towards the rich, and only those who work in finance could afford to meet the cost of living.

‘Wages for those who do not in the finance industry but work in industries that support the island infrastructure [tourism, hospitality, care, teachers, utility workers, tradesmen] do not reflect the cost of living and should be supported more financially,’ wrote one participant.

‘If you don’t have children or are not a pensioner but still struggle there is very little help available.’

Another participant described the costs of housing and medical care in Guernsey as ‘immoral and unsustainable’ with added concerns that it would drive young people from the island.

The survey found that 64% of Guernsey respondents had struggled to meet their living costs, leading them to pay late or cut back.

While some of these were discretionary, such as eating out, holidays and clothes, more than a quarter struggled with essentials like home maintenance and medical costs, 23% on food and 22% on power and heating.

Struggles with mortgages and rents affected 14% of respondents.

‘There is concern about young people moving away, and indeed, one impact of rising costs reported by respondents is that they are looking to move away from our islands in order to afford a better standard of living,’ said the report’s authors.

There were also indications that some participants were having to choose whether to ‘heat or eat’, including middle earners, with some comments noting that there is a lack of ‘cheaper’ food brands such as Aldi.

It was also noted that there was not enough competition between the supermarkets, which makes food expensive, and that the salaries of many were not rising in line with the cost of living.

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