TODAY The Bolton News lays bare the impact of the soaring cost of living in a special report which reveals that families are sleeping in the same room and meals are being skipped as people struggle to balance the books.

Fuel prices, both at the pumps and in homes, are increasing, leaving people fearing for their financial futures.

In Bolton, figures for February show that advice about fuel debt has overtaken that relating to council tax, a phenomenon that CEO of Citizens Advice Bolton and Bury, Richard Wilkinson said is “very rare.”The Bolton News: Richard Wilkinson Richard Wilkinson

He said: “A big concern is that prices are increasing everywhere but wages aren’t.

“We’ve had reports of people having to sleep in the same room because they can’t afford the heating, and parents skipping meals so they can feed their kids. There are a whole catalogue of issues.

“People are really, really struggling to make ends meet and are having to go to food banks. We can almost certainly say we are nowhere near the worst of the situation.”

Domestic Fuel prices for the average household set to soar next month, rising by £693 from last year.

Mr Wilkinson said: “I don’t think people have got their heads around what’s going to happen with domestic energy prices yet, and they are likely to go up again.”

The Bolton News: Credit: PA Media Credit: PA Media

This all comes at a time when many in the area are already struggling financially, particularly when it comes to fuel related costs. Citizens Advice Bolton and Bury has seen a 33 per cent increase in people requiring assistance relating to domestic fuel debts compared to this time last year.

The people of Bolton have shared their concerns about the cost of living, which is already having a real impact on their lives.

William West, 67 from Deane, who was filling his car up at the petrol station at the time, said: “It’s bloody ridiculous. Where’s the money going? That’s what I want to know.

The Bolton News: William WestWilliam West

“I’m only on the pension now and it’s taking all of it. My wife still works, and I had two strokes last year, so we need the car. It’s getting dearer, and dearer, and dearer.

“We’re, at the moment, on the bread line and I have a son at 15-years-old, [my wife] has a sick relative that we have to go and see – it all mounts up.”

Patricia Vazquez, 38, said: “It’s not easy for anyone because electricity and everything is going higher, but our wage will be the same.

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“We’ve got kids at home, and you can’t just say don’t put the heater on because they don’t understand about these things.

“The idea is use just for necessities. Sometimes we stay too long with the phone charging when it’s not necessary, but we can’t change everything.”

Seventy-two-year-old retiree Jack Hobbs said: “I just feel sorry for these youngsters. When are they going to get a start in life?

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“Everything is going to go up, isn’t it? Gas, electric, price of steel, all the foods going to go up, price of fuel, fertiliser. It’s looking grim. I don’t hold much hope, really.”

Kearsley resident Janet Carss, 58, said: “[Diesel] has gone from £1.66 to £1.79 in the space of a week. How can they get away with putting it up like that?

The Bolton News: Janet CarssJanet Carss

“If you’re going to pay for all that fuel, there’s something else that you’ve got to cut back on. What do you pay for? What do you not pay for? What do you do without?”

Alan Cookson, 80, told The Bolton News: “I don’t know how pensioners are going to manage. I’m a pensioner and I just received, this morning, my council tax bill and it’s gone up by £10 a month.

The Bolton News: Alan CooksonAlan Cookson

“I’m on basic pension, which is £154 a week, so how they expect me to live I don’t know.”

“I’ve had to cut my driving down. I only go in the car twice a week now, and that’s only for shopping. I’m fearing gas and electric. Fearing it.

“We turn the lights off. I sit in the dark of a night-time with just the television on. I don’t have the heating on of a morning. I have it from four o’clock to eight o’clock and when I feel as though I don’t need it anymore, I go and turn it off, so it may only be on two hours.”

Last month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a support package, which includes a mandatory £200 ‘rebate,’ meaning all electricity bills will be reduced by that amount in October, with £40 automatically added to bills annually over the next five years.

This means that the total amount that would be required to be paid back to the government by the people of Bolton would stand at around £23m.

A similar scheme will also be introduced for council tax to the tune of £150, which will automatically apply to those paying via direct debit in qualifying tax bands, but people who pay using a different method will have to sign up manually when they are notified by the council.

Martin Lewis calls for £200 energy 'rebate' to be scrapped

Mr Wilkinson said: “Any help is welcome but we’re not quite sure how it will work in the medium-term future.”

“They are attempting to flatten the curve, ie giving out £200 while hoping prices would go down. The problem we face is if there’s an increase of prices stay the same.”

Mr Wilkinson is calling on the government and councils to assist with more direct financial help but also increase necessary provision like Citizens Advice to help people improve people’s situations.

“We help priorities debt and advise people how to help increase income,” he said.