East London families are struggling with rising living costs in one of London’s most deprived boroughs.
Barking and Dagenham is one of the top 10 most deprived areas in the UK, according to London Councils, but has seen the cost of council tax, bills, and shopping rise consistently in recent years.
According to a report by the Centre for London, Barking and Dagenham is the second most impoverished borough in London in terms of income deprivation.
It comes behind only Hackney in this measure, and ahead of fellow East London borough Tower Hamlets.
However, Barking and Dagenham’s average annual council tax is £1,713 – almost £300 more than neighbouring Newham and Tower Hamlets, where the average is £1,467 and £1,477, respectively.
Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham and Rainham, argued this week that the government’s recent hike on National Insurance would squeeze families struggling to make ends meet even further.
Barking and Dagenham residents have reported that council tax is just one of several costs to have steadily increased in recent years.
Harriet Yeboah, who lives in the borough, said that council tax was a huge cost for her household.
She said: “It’s quite high… It’s pretty expensive in Barking and Dagenham – compared to Central London it’s different. Recently it’s been high – costs are going up.”
Central London has some of the cheapest council tax in the whole of the UK,. Westminster is the cheapest local authority in the country with an average of £828 a month in council tax.
Barking resident Lucia Foster also said that the area has seen her rent and bills become more expensive as well as council tax year-on-year.
(Image: Alastair Lockhart)
She said: “Every year they put up the rent, house prices have gone up. Gas has gone too high, electricity has gone too high.
“I don’t think [prices] are stable – if you ask me how much petrol costs I couldn’t tell you because it changes all the time.”
Barking and Dagenham house prices increased by 6.8 per cent in the last year, although they remain the cheapest asking prices in London at £319,220.
This is notably lower than the average London house price of £510,299.
Barking and Dagenham resident Victoria Onwarah echoed Lucia Foster’s concerns about rising bills.
She said: “It’s increasing – it’s expensive here with the council tax and stuff, it’s higher than it was.
“The electricity bill is a bit more because the smart reader is quite expensive – added up it’s very expensive.
“The service charge is going up every year, by £50 or more every year. We have less spending money.”
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Victoria added that the lack of parking was also an extra expense and inconvenience to her household.
She said: “There’s no parking here, you have to pay. Some people get a ticket when they park… They don’t even give us free parking, the tickets are really bad.”
Shannon Peters has lived with her family in Barking for just over a year – she said that in that time she has already noticed a rise in living costs, and she also voiced concern over the difficulty of finding parking in her area and the cost of tickets.
She said: “It’s our first year living here but our bills have gone up. Everything – bills, service charge, council tax.
“Shop prices have definitely gone up as well, it’s everything.”
She added that the parking situation around her home was: “A nightmare. You can’t have visitors over because visitor bays are always full.
“We got a parking ticket in our own bay – it’s happened twice.”
Jon Cruddas MP said that the government’s planned increase to National Insurance taxes would significantly impact those already struggling with rising costs.
He said: “Social care is in desperate need of centralised reform, and with an ageing population this is one of the big issues of our time.
“However, these plans to raise National Insurance, which will hit young people and those on low incomes hardest, is not the way to do it.”
Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP for Barking, also criticised the government’s decision and voiced her concern for those struggling in her constituency.
A spokesperson for Barking and Dagenham Council said the borough was supporting residents through tough times using an approach not used anywhere else in the UK
“Like councils up and down the country, Barking and Dagenham council is aware of the financial challenges a number of our residents are facing, something which has been further confounded by the pandemic and the imminent plans to scrap the £1,000 a year boost to universal credit next month.
“This is why over the last few years we have put in place a number of initiatives to help and support our residents.
“Three years ago, we brought together 16 services and 400 staff, organised around ‘lifecycles’ that better reflect the journeys of residents and service users.”
They added that the council had also helped residents through its homes and money club, community food clubs, financial hardship scheme through the Covid-19 pandemic, and aiding employment and skills through jobs shops.
They said: “We continue to encourage our residents to get in touch at an early stage to talk about any financial concerns they may have in order to help them resolve it.”