Viral Twitter thread says inflation figures ‘ignore the reality’ of cost of living crisis

·4-min read
Inflation increased to 5.4 per cent in December, to the highest level in nearly 30 years (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Inflation increased to 5.4 per cent in December, to the highest level in nearly 30 years (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe has highlighted the stark reality of the cost of living crisis in a now-viral Twitter thread, after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that inflation rose to 5.4 per cent in December 2021.

The latest figures from the ONS showed the consumer price index measure for inflation increased from 5.1 per cent in November, to the highest level in nearly 30 years.

The current figure is the highest rate since March 1992, when inflation reached 7.1 per cent.

This means that prices of everyday items such as groceries have seen a steep increase, as highlighted by Monroe in a lengthy post to Twitter on Thursday 19 January.

Monroe, who started her writing career sharing cheap recipes she had created as a single parent with a young son, is an active campaigner for poverty and hunger relief.

She said the index measure “grossly underestimates the real cost of inflation” and what it means for people in poverty.

Monroe went on to list some examples of how the increase in the cost of living has affected prices of everyday food items in supermarkets, such as pasta, baked beans and bread.

She said she shops at one of the “Big Four” retailers – Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Morrisons – but didn’t name which one.

“This time last year, the cheapest pasta in my local supermarket was 29p for 500g. Today it’s 70p. That’s a 141 per cent price increase as it hits the poorest and most vulnerable households,” she said.

“Baked beans: were 22p, now 32p. A 45 per cent price increase year on year.

“Canned spaghetti. [It] was 13p, now 35p. A price increase of 169 per cent.”

She also listed a change in the price of bread, which has increased by 29 per cent from 45p to 58p. Meanwhile, a bag of small apples now costs 89p, 51 per cent more than the previous price of 59p.

“Mushrooms were 59p for 400g. They’re now 57p for 250g. A price increase of 5 per cent,” she said.

“This practice, of making products smaller while keeping them the same price, is known in the retail industry as ‘shrinkflation’ and its insidious as hell because it’s harder to immediately spot.”

Monroe said she believes the index is “fundamentally flawed” as it “ignores the reality” of how price rises affect people on minimum wages, zero hour contracts and those reliant on food banks.

She also highlighted that the retailer’s upmarket ready meal range had remained at the price of £7.50 for the past ten years, while its value range had decreased from more than 400 items to 91.

“If the price of that [ready meal] had risen at the same rate as the cheapest rice in the supermarket, that £7.50 lasagne would now cost £25.80,” she wrote.

“The margins are always, always calculated to squeeze the belts of those who can least afford it and massage the profits of those who have money to spare.”

The government is facing increasing pressure to tackle the cost of living as experts predict that energy regulator Ofgem could raise the current price cap by 50 per cent in April, the same month that the National Insurance hike comes into force.

In an interview with the BBC earlier this month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the rise in the cost of living was a result of “global price spikes and the economy coming back from Covid-19”.

“It’s making life very tough. I understand how difficult it is and we are certainly looking at what we can do. We’ve got to help people, particularly those with low incomes.”

A spokesperson for HM Treasury told the Independent: “We understand the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, and that a range of factors mean individuals may experience cost rises differently.

“We recognise how challenging this can be and are providing support worth around £12 billion this financial year and next to help people.

“Support is being targeted towards the lowest paid, by cutting the Universal Credit taper and increasing the National Minimum Wage. We have also frozen alcohol and fuel duties to keep costs down and there is targeted support available to help households with their energy bills.”