Like millions of others, residents of Carmarthenshire in the Welsh Valleys are facing the biggest rise in the cost of living for a generation.
And it seems voters here don’t think the upcoming local elections will necessarily solve that problem anytime soon.
Rising fuel and food costs bring back memories of leaner days for Grainne Connolly and her seven-year-old daughter, Matilda, who are feeling the pinch.
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A few years ago, Grainne was just making ends meet, claiming benefits and using food banks. But since then, she got a good job with regular income.
“The last two years have been the most stable of my entire life. Before that, I had no money. So for me, I just feel like I’m going back to a place I’ve been before. “
That’s because Grainne is laid off in a few weeks and his partner Joe, a drilling engineer, has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and can no longer work.
The family have started using the local pantry, where 10 groceries cost £3. This is the only way for the family to buy food at the moment.
The rising cost of living could be an important factor for voters in the upcoming local elections. But time will tell if politics closer to the centers of power, such as handling the pandemic or parties in Downing Street during lockdowns, will influence how people vote locally.
“I don’t feel at all that local councils are a big reflection of parliament,” says Grainne. “Councils are interested in local issues. I am interested in local issues. I don’t know what’s going on in Westminster or the Senedd [Welsh Parliament] trickles.”
A father of five, David John, also uses the pantry. David has been coming here often lately to help cook cheaper meals from scratch.
“I think right now, with energy costs, people are going more and more into debt instead of getting out. There’s only a few things you can reduce before the life does start to get a little dark.”
David isn’t thinking too much about local politics at the moment. He sees the solution to people’s problems closer to home.
“I think it’s more about the community helping each other to alleviate the problems than the people at the top.”
The pantry, named Yi Pantry, is funded by the local council, which has invested money to ensure it can offer support to residents who need it.
Organizer Marissa Sweeney Aris says she sees firsthand how the rising cost of living is affecting people.
“It’s becoming a desperate situation. You have young families, old people, middle-aged people; they’re all concerned about what’s going on.”
Marissa says the food pantry allows its members to buy weekly groceries for their families while keeping the bill at a fixed and affordable price.
“People are already looking at how they can save money, how they can consider affording themselves things, but with less income.”
And the collective tightening of the belts has a ripple effect elsewhere in the area.
Riffat and Tahir Ali own a restaurant in town. The business was doing well until the pandemic forced them to shut down. Things were just starting to pick up speed when the cost of living crisis hit.
Now their recipes are down as many people seem to be choosing to eat at home to save money. At the same time, their own costs are skyrocketing. Riffat says they take it a week at a time.
“At the end of the week, I ask Tahir if everything will be okay this week. And this question scares me because I don’t know what he will answer.
“The amount we are currently paying our suppliers is absolutely insane. We need the government and councils to take action to get us through this.
“Councils could do something to reduce our business rates. Governments need to do something to reduce fuel and food costs. Otherwise this cost of living crisis could cost us our businesses.”
The Welsh government said it had invested more than £380m to support struggling households since November, including a £200 payment to help pay bills over the winter.
But that might not be enough for many families, as costs continue to rise.
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