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Bury St Edmunds taxi driver Mark Goodchild, Citizens Advice, Suffolk Community Foundation and REACH Community Projects in Haverhill on cost-of-living crisis



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A taxi driver and father-of-four is considering working up to 80 hours a week to cope with rising costs as Suffolk communities face a ‘perfect storm’.

Mark Goodchild, 46, of Goodchild Cars in Bury St Edmunds, recently paid £340 to fill up his Mercedes taxi with diesel for a week as fuel prices hit new records in March, 2022.

With UK inflation already at a 30-year high, today the energy price cap is to rise by a huge 54%, which will be a worrying hit for families’ finances.

Mark Goodchild, of Goodchild Cars in Bury St Edmunds, has spoken about the impact of rising costs, including fuel, on taxi drivers Picture by: Mark Westley
Mark Goodchild, of Goodchild Cars in Bury St Edmunds, has spoken about the impact of rising costs, including fuel, on taxi drivers Picture by: Mark Westley

Tim Holder, head of public affairs at the Suffolk Community Foundation charity, said people were facing a ‘perfect storm of exceptionally difficult challenges’ all at one time, which would push many, many thousands more into deprivation.

Citizens Advice West Suffolk said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about the increase in the price of oil and the impact this would have on rural communities who rely on oil for their heating.

In the St Edmundsbury area 8,073 households use oil for central heating, while in Mid Suffolk this figure is 14, 163, according to the nongasmap.org.uk website.

One Pakenham resident said their most recent heating oil bill for 929 litres was £819, which would cover them for two months.

'I do worry about paying the bills, but I just keep working'

Mr Goodchild, who has a Hackney carriage vehicle using the rank in Bury St Edmunds town centre, is among taxi drivers calling for West Suffolk Council to increase fares - something the local authority has not done since 2019.

He said he was using the taxi rank in the town centre less and less and has been taking on private work, and increased his hours, to keep his head above water financially.

Mark Goodchild of Goodchild Cars is considering increasing working 70-80 hours a week to stay afloat financially Picture by: Mark Westley
Mark Goodchild of Goodchild Cars is considering increasing working 70-80 hours a week to stay afloat financially Picture by: Mark Westley

Mr Goodchild, a single parent, said: “I’m currently working 60 hours a week and [it] now looks like it will have to be between 70 and 80. I’m never at home. I have four children and two living at home, they are 21 and 16 now.”

He added: “I do worry about paying the bills, but I just keep working and working and doing as much as I can really.”

He is taking on more and more private work and said he rarely goes onto the taxi rank on Saturdays now, adding: “Sometimes you [customers] can wait up to an hour-and-a-half on a Saturday for a taxi.”

Mr Goodchild is even considering licensing his vehicle with another council, which - in his words - 'are more in touch with reality than the council I’m currently licensed with'.

At the taxi rank in Bury St Edmunds town centre: Mark Goodchild with drivers Gunter Bartsch and Rafaqat Hussain Picture by: Mark Westley
At the taxi rank in Bury St Edmunds town centre: Mark Goodchild with drivers Gunter Bartsch and Rafaqat Hussain Picture by: Mark Westley

As well as the issue of Hackney carriage fares, he claimed additional rules and regulations brought in by West Suffolk Council were costing the taxi drivers money, such as the requirement since 2020 that new vehicles must be less than five years old.

He said: “The biggest challenge at the moment is the cost of fuel is going up, the cost of maintenance is going up. Everything is going up.”

Mr Goodchild said he knows of Hackney carriage drivers who are ‘giving up’ using the rank as ‘it’s just not worth it’, and added: “It’s obviously going to leave the public stranded.”

Mark Goodchild (right) said some Hackney carriage drivers are leaving the rank in Bury St Edmunds town centre as 'it's just not worth it' Picture by: Mark Westley
Mark Goodchild (right) said some Hackney carriage drivers are leaving the rank in Bury St Edmunds town centre as 'it's just not worth it' Picture by: Mark Westley

Speaking at the last full West Suffolk Council meeting, councillor Andy Drummond said they plan to review passenger charges this summer.

Mr Drummond said: "We all value and appreciate the key role taxis play in supporting the night-time economy and vulnerable people in our communities.

"We also recognise the challenges many communities face in the months ahead with the rising cost of living."

'We are extremely concerned' about the cost of heating oil

The cost of heating oil - which is not covered by a price cap - was highlighted as an area of concern by Citizens Advice West Suffolk when they spoke with us about the cost-of-living crisis.

Carol Eagles from Citizens Advice West Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill and Simon Clifton from Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk (55809455)
Carol Eagles from Citizens Advice West Suffolk, Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill and Simon Clifton from Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk (55809455)

Its CEO Carol Eagles said: "We are extremely concerned about the increase in the price of oil and the impact this will have on people living in the rural areas who rely on oil for their heating.

"Many people cannot afford to purchase the minimum amount of 500 litres which is currently costing over £500. We have been fortunate to have access to some funding to help support our clients with the cost of heating. Since Christmas we have provided fuel grants to 55 households to a value of £13,500.

"The rise in the cost of food, petrol and energy are causing a strain on many people's budgets and we have seen an increase in the demand on our services. Our team of volunteers are working very hard to support clients with maximising their income, managing their debts and accessing charitable support."

She said since August 2021 they have provided 100 clients with one-to-one energy advice and provided a presentation including energy saving tips and information about the Warm Home Discount and Priority Services Register to 105 people.

Tim Holder, head of public affairs at the Suffolk Community Foundation (55809607)
Tim Holder, head of public affairs at the Suffolk Community Foundation (55809607)

Funding from the Suffolk Community Foundation is helping to support Citizens Advice clients.

Mr Holder, from the charity, said: "The cost of living and the record rise in inflation, which is at its highest for 30 years, will hit those families already struggling even more."

He added: "There are families who are in employment who just cannot cover the costs. It's shocking."

He said those who use heating oil face a "real dilemma" over whether to purchase oil now or to wait.

"We will find many people ending up with mental health challenges and also physically ill because they are choosing between heating and eating. It's really terrible," he added.

Surviving Winter appeal logo (55809622)
Surviving Winter appeal logo (55809622)

In a briefing paper, Kimberly Roberts, of Citizens Advice Mid Suffolk, said in March 2021 the price of heating oil was 40.69p per litre, but in March 2022 it reached a peak of 159.54p per litre - an increase of 300%.

"If prices don’t go down to more normal levels, people will be unable to heat their homes or have hot water," she said.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill said she had raised the issue of the cost of heating oil with government ministers.

She said: "The situation in our area is particularly acute as some parts of the constituency have as much as 73% of their homes where heating oil is the only choice for residents.

"Measures have been introduced to help, which include a £150 council tax rebate next month for those in bands A-D in addition to targeted support such as the warm homes discount scheme which is open to eligible applicants.

"The chancellor also announced another £500million into the household support fund, which people can access through local councils."

Some clients ‘can barely afford to go to work any more’

REACH Community Projects in Haverhill believes that the highest rate of inflation for 30 years and the largest overall tax burden since the 1960s has contributed to the biggest fall in living standards since 1956.

And it says that the new records have in no way been matched by generosity in Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Spring Statement for the least well off, which has failed to really help any of its clients.

Volunteer Suzy Campbell working for the Haverhill Foodbank, which has been helping a record number of familes hit by the cost of living crisis. Submitted picture (55805855)
Volunteer Suzy Campbell working for the Haverhill Foodbank, which has been helping a record number of familes hit by the cost of living crisis. Submitted picture (55805855)

REACH CEO Henry Wilson said: "I know I keep saying it, but this really is the ‘perfect storm’. Rents and food prices are soaring, inflation will top 7 per cent this year and energy bills will rise by at least 54 per cent.

"At the same time, wages and benefits are falling in real terms to create unheard of hardship by next Christmas, and 1.3 million, including half a million children, will be pushed below the poverty line next year."

REACH has been busy over the last few months trying to help increasing numbers of families with food and debt issues.

REACH’s community outreach advisor Gregor Purdie said: "It’s a progression of things. They’re hit by one problem, such as the drop in Universal Credit last autumn, so they cut back and cope.

"Then food prices start going up, so they economise some more. Then fuel costs increase, the energy crisis hits, and they simply have no options left.

"They are trapped in poverty, and the impact on their emotional and mental health is huge. Some clients can barely afford to go to work any more.

"The lack of jobs in Haverhill means they’ve had to seek employment further afield, but, if you work in Bury St Edmunds, for example, the last bus back to Haverhill is at 5.15pm, so you may have no option but to drive. and if you’re on a low wage, much of the salary now goes on fuel.

"It’s a crazy situation. Already many of our clients were having to choose between heating and eating and next week, when we’re due a cold snap, they simply won’t be able to afford to put the heating on."

  • Help is available at www.reachhaverhill.org.uk/ 01440 712950/ info@reachhaverhill.org.uk and at (for Newmarket) 07733 674605 or info@reachsuffolk.org.uk
  • To receive support from Suffolk Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter Appeal, you can contact Citizen’s Advice on 01473 219770. To donate to the appeal, visit www.suffolkcf.org.uk or call 01473 602 602.
  • For advice, contact Citizens Advice West Suffolk on 0808 278 7868, email advice@swcab.org.uk or visit www.suffolkwestcab.org.uk

Reporting by Mariam Ghaemi and Steve Barton.