“All the worst ideas happen at the pub, don’t they?” said Brett Lucas as he sat on a park bench in Greenwich Park, south-east London with his girlfriend Becky Nolan, a 25-year-old nurse.
They are a few minutes walk away from the Richard the First pub, where the chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, and prime minister Liz Truss reportedly thrashed out the plan for a mini-budget that sparked turmoil on financial markets, and left a lot of ordinary people equally terrified.
“I’m pretty angry,” said Lucas, who works in telecoms sales. “I think they’ve completely lost touch with reality. They mentioned trickle-down economics but in reality I don’t think that’s going to work. They’re making the rich richer – it’s not like they’re going to invest it back into the bottom of society. I was saying to Becky earlier, it’s like walking past a homeless person, saying: ‘No, I’m going to post my £20 through a mansion instead because eventually it’ll trickle down to them.’ That’s how I’ve equated it.”
Like many others in the area, he is also concerned about how the government’s policies will affect his family. “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it,” the 25-year-old who lives in Swiss Cottage, north-west London, said. “It’s my parents I worry about. Combined, they earn less than me and they’ve got a mortgage to pay. It’s going to have a real impact. My mum texted me to say: ‘It’s ridiculous and dangerous, they don’t care.’”
Meanwhile, Paula Nuttall, an art historian and lecturer at the V&A, said she is worried about her two daughters. She said we’re living in a “strange and scary time”, adding: “Up until now I’ve been thinking it’s not as bad as the calamitous 14th century when you had the Black Death … but now I’m beginning to think maybe it’s getting to be.”
When asked about the impact of the mini-budget as she strolled through Greenwich Park, the 64-year-old said: “Deep depression actually, I can’t stop thinking about it. I never thought I would say maybe we were better off with Boris’s lot but I feel we now have a bunch of people in charge who are sending us into the abyss. It’s really frightening.
“Personally, I am lucky, in that I don’t have a mortgage and I’m nearing retirement age. I’m not like people starting out in life and people who are in poorly paid jobs but I have two daughters who are in their early thirties and not in well paid jobs, and they need to find money for the mortgage and the rent. I’m really worried; it’s the recklessness of the whole thing.”
Labour Party member Sally Hughes, who lives a stone’s throw from the pub, described the mini-budget as “complete rubbish”.
“There’s been a run on the pound and I don’t believe what they say about other countries being in the same situation because they aren’t. I see no reason to take off the higher rate tax rate when we need funds in the public purse,” the 69-year-old retired legal aid lawyer said from the front garden of her terrace house.
“Although we’ve reached a point where we’re comfortable, we still think the policies are wrong – it means our wider family is affected and the people we know in need are affected. I’m a church member and they’re doing what they can do keep breakfast clubs, lunch clubs and food banks going.”
Matt Shelley, 32, said the cost of living crisis has left him worried he may become homeless. His rent has increased by £100 a month, while his energy bills have shot up by £90.
“This government doesn’t care, I’ve got no trust in them whatsoever. It seems the rich get richer and the poor stay poor,” the hospital dispatcher from Gillingham, Kent, said as he played in the park with his nine-month-old daughter, Maya. “Everything’s going up in price, it’s crazy and I don’t think there’s any way out of it. Me and my partner are struggling now and we’ve had to apply for council housing because there’s nothing we could do any more. We were told there’s a massive waiting list. We said we’ve got a young baby and they said, ‘You’re housed so you’re not a priority.’ And I said: ‘We won’t be sooner or later because we’re running out of money.’”
Car salesman Chris Price, from Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, said he felt the budget was “oriented around the richer paying less taxes”. The 41-year-old pushed his two-year-old son, Jackson, through the park as he spoke of his concerns.
“I’m worried about my mortgage renewal in February and the thought of going from rates of 1.9% to 6%. It’s going to drastically impact us, on top of all the other cost of living prices going up,” he said. “I was also planning on going to America and the pound has now dropped, and it’s possibly going to be less than a dollar which has never happened around my lifetime.”