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Household budgets, cost of living, election: Data Insights Latest

Household budgets were in the election spotlight at a Citizens Advice Data Insights event on 18 January. With Professor Sir John Curtice and CA Chief Executive Dame Clare Moriarty.
Research & Campaigns Team (2 minutes)

sir John Curtice
Sir John Curtice

If you’ve never watched a Citizens Advice monthly cost-of-living briefing this might be the moment. All you need is an interest – perhaps for work or community concern – in the overlap of family finances, social policy and the economy.

These events have run for 18 months now and are businesslike and very informative. (December’s speaker was Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis).

Policymakers know Sir John Curtice always offers fresh insights and so it proved.


Chief Analyst Tom MacInnes used our data dashboard, to show how the lives of the people we help have changed since the 2019 election. Problems with energy debt, housing costs, homelessness, food poverty and need for crisis support have grown consistently. Despite some recent policy changes the outlook remains gloomy.

Dame Clare confirmed the picture. She pointed to welcome improvements in housing benefit and the minimum wage from April. Yet the main cost-of-living indicators were still worsening; and the need for help was deepening with more clients returning for help on multiple occasions.

Issues and votes

In response, Sir John used his unmatched knowledge of past elections and current polling to address the big question for many in the audience: how might the salience of key social issues influence votes in the election. He spoke about the economy and cost of living but also public services and immigration.

You can watch back now* but here’s a taste of why people find his commentary so valuable.

Not just personal

Sir John spoke about the importance of ‘retail’ offers to improve voters’ personal circumstances. But at the same time he pointed to growing concern about inequality, citing awareness of the crisis facing private renters. He said voters assess the general situation in the country, not just their own, before deciding who to vote for; and he referred to a recent poll** showing some voters more concerned about the state of public services than the level of taxation.

Citizens Advice predictions

Looking ahead the CA policy team sees mixed news in three predictions:

  1. Cost-of-living crisis gets worse at the start of the year: energy bills and private rents rise; mortgage costs stay high.
  2. Some respite mid-year: increase in minimum wage, uprating of local housing allowance and all benefits; energy bills fall significantly.
  3. At year-end the crisis is far from over: in October 2024 energy costs up nearly 30% on Oct 2021; private rents still rising; no further cost-of-living payments announced for winter 2024/25.

Next Citizens Advice Data Insight: Measures of Hardship. Measuring absolute poverty and defining hardship for effective policy making. Guest speaker: author and broadcaster, Polly Toynbee. Register now

* Watch back January here. All previous recordings are now available
** Lord Ashcroft Polls, 18/01/24

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