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Despite a significant slowdown in inflation, the economic situation remains difficult for millions of Britons. The issue will be at the heart of the legislative elections scheduled for later this year.

In the United Kingdom, an economic horizon that is slow to improve

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Across the United Kingdom, heated spaces welcome Britons who are having difficulty paying their energy bills.

  • Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair (View profile)Raphaël Bouvier-Auclair

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In a small room in the church in Wellingborough, England, a game of cards is in progress, while a little further away retirees share a meal, not far from portable heaters.

Welcome to one of the many warm spaces in the country, these places which open their doors to Britons who struggle to adequately heat themselves during the colder winter months.

According to a report produced by an association which brings together thousands of these hot spaces, more than 500,000 UK residents spent time there last year.

On this coldest day in January for this region of the Midlands, north of London, this Wellingborough premises and the warmth it offers to the population are highly coveted.

That way, we don't have to use our resources at home, explains Ren Haynes, who came with two of her three children.

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On Wednesdays, Wellingborough residents gather in this heated room of a town church.

This single mother must deal with sky-high energy bills herself.

This year, she pays an average of 280 pounds sterling per month, the equivalent of CA$475, an amount which, she says, has almost doubled in two years.

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Faced with these prices, all means are good to try to reduce energy consumption, hence the regular presence of Ren Haynes in the heated space of the church, during which she can turn off the heating at home and enjoy a free meal for his children.

Those ten pounds can be used for other things, such as paying for other food or paying water bills, says Ren Haynes.

But the savings she manages to make by going outside are not enough.

At home, Ren Haynes leaves the curtains closed all day to prevent air from passing through the window seals. Inside, blankets and warm sweaters are essential.

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To try to limit the use of heating in her home, Ren Haynes closes the curtains, keeps her coat on and uses blankets.

Then, in order to limit energy consumption, the mother assures that she no longer uses the oven for cooking.

Sometimes I don't eat to make sure they [the children] can eat and stay warm.

A quote from Wellingborough resident Ren Haynes

In recent years, Britons have faced a significant cost of living crisis. By October 2022, inflation had reached 11%, a 41-year high.

Since then, inflation has slowed sharply to reach 4% in December 2023.

Nevertheless, for many Britons, the picture remains bleak.

A report from the TUC trade union federation argued in January that the United Kingdom remained the only G7 country where household budgets have not recovered its level before the pandemic.

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Michelle McGrady is a manager at Happy Days Daycare in Wellingborough.

A growing number of parents are struggling, even when they are working, notes Michelle McGrady, who runs the daycare located a few meters from the heated space in the Wellingborough church grounds.

Food, energy, she estimates that 80% of the families who attend her establishment encounter difficulties to varying degrees.

While she claims to be trying to help families in difficulty, Michelle McGrady criticizes the country's political leaders for not doing enough.

We shouldn't have to do this. You were elected, do your job!

A quote from Michelle McGrady, daycare manager

In addition to immigration, the issues economic issues should be central in the electoral campaign which will begin by the end of the year.

The date has not yet been set, but Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has hinted it could take place in the fall.

Wellingborough could give a taste of the electoral mood regarding the record of the Conservatives, who have formed the government for almost fifteen years.

A by-election is due to take place on February 15 in this constituency, considered a stronghold of the ruling party.

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Labor activists are stepping up door-to-door canvassing in a bid to win the Wellingborough by-election.

According to James Blitz, independent journalist and former head of the political pages at the Financial Times newspaper, the precarious situation in which we find ourselves many households could push voters to support the Labor opposition.

Poverty for families, particularly in the north of England, has become something unbearable.

A quote from James Blitz, independent journalist

If he does not see overwhelming enthusiasm for Labor, who do not say much about what they are going to do, the journalist nevertheless believes that many voters say to themselves that there is no problem in changing government , because the Labor Party cannot do worse than the Conservatives.

The polls, which have systematically placed Labor in the lead for several months, seem to be moving in this direction. The latest survey carried out by the Yougov firm gave 44% of voting intentions to the Labor Party, far ahead of the Conservative Party with 23% of support.

If she intends to go to the polls and hopes for a change of government in London, Ren Haynes has no illusions about her situation and that of the other people who frequent the heated space of Wellingborough church.

Even if Labor forms the government, I don't think there will be improvements, she says, while the risk of A recession, narrowly avoided at the end of last year, still looms over the British economy.

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