Future-proofing society

Cost of living crisis is hitting households

The majority see no light at the end of the tunnel.

27 Mar 2023

Meet our experts

John Godfrey

Director of Levelling Up (2006 - 2023)

Group Communications

The latest findings from our Rebuilding Britain Index (RBI) show that 66% of people believe the cost-of-living crisis is far from over and they see no light at the end of the tunnel. Our research revealed that 95% of working UK adults have experienced a real terms pay cut over the last 12 months. 

With this backdrop, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that nearly one in two (47%) respondents are concerned about keeping up with their mortgage or paying their rent. As a result, 51% expect to spend less in the coming year and 54% have already reduced day to day spending.

Levelling up

The RBI was created in 2021 to track progress in efforts to level up left-behind communities so that everyone can enjoy the same opportunities. We survey 20,000 people annually and capture data from sources such as the English, Welsh and Scottish governments. So far, the RBI has revealed that the levelling-up efforts have failed to make a material difference and in many cases inequalities across the UK have widened.

The cost-of-living crisis and the difficult economic situation both add complexity to levelling up and how the government can tackle regional inequalities. People don’t want quick fixes. Our data shows that respondents would prefer long-term structural reform to services, rather than immediate government support. We found significant support for solutions such as more investment in energy-efficient homes and the creation of higher wage employment. Quality of life is also affected by the community where people live but less than half of respondents rated their local high street as either good or very good.

Jobs and housing

The RBI focuses on 52 measures across seven key areas including: Jobs & Economic Prosperity; Housing; Health; Energy & Environment, Education, Transport, and Digital. Each area is given a score out of 100 and these make for concerning reading in our latest report. The improvement in the important Jobs & Economic Prosperity score, for example, has stalled while housing continues to be the worst performing metric, with its score falling for the seventh consecutive quarter.

Within the Housing index, all measures have continued to fall, including the perceived extent to which local housing meets local needs and the perceived availability of starter homes. It is particularly concerning to see that not only are the key RBI measures such as access to housing and healthcare stalling or falling nationwide, but that cost of living pressures are widening social inequalities.

Falling scores

In Health, there has been a fall in sentiment across primary, secondary and tertiary care services since April 2021. The staff strikes and increasingly lengthy GP appointments and hospital waiting times are all contributing to a poor perception of UK health services.

The Energy & Environment score also declined, largely because of the lack of transition to more renewable sources of energy. Factors concerning our respondents included the amount of renewable energy per household. The lack of evidence of a transition to more renewable energy challenges whether the UK will be able to reach its climate and net-zero commitments by 2030 and 2050.

Scores for Education and Transport were also relatively flat, with Digital being the bright spot of the report and an upward trend in its score.

Investing in Britain

Our research shows that access to jobs, economic prosperity and housing are the key drivers in boosting a household’s perceived quality of life and economic wellbeing. Other factors, such as health, social care and education are clearly important. But they have less of a daily touch point on people’s lives and have a weaker influence in determining a person’s sense of quality of life and economic wellbeing.

We are playing a major part in trying to level up the UK, with hundreds of millions invested in urban regeneration in towns and cities from Cardiff to Newcastle. We are also building thousands of affordable homes each year and have invested in renewable infrastructure, including three offshore wind farms. There is a long way to go, and it will require both the government and the private sector to build a fairer Britain for everyone.