Soaring cost of living is forcing families in Milton Keynes to cut back on heating and essentials

Many families across Milton Keynes are feeling the pinch as energy and living costs rise.

New research pinpoints areas of the UK where struggling families will be least able to withstand the cost of living crisis.

Many households in major cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester have been left financially “scarred” by the coronavirus pandemic, with high-cost debts and little in the way of savings.

It means they are far more vulnerable to the further economic shock of the cost of living crisis, according to the study by debt collection company Lowell and the US-based Urban Institute think-tank.

Volunteers are seen packing food parcels with food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, estimating more than 5,100 food parcels are provided to households every day.

The study shows the Financial Vulnerability Index score for every UK constituency, compared with the UK average. The Index scores an area from 1 to 100, with higher numbers signifying greater financial vulnerability.

The national average in the index score is 45.1% with Milton Keynes North scoring 41.9% and Milton Keynes South 42.4%. The figures also show 12.8% of adults in MK South are claiming social benefits while the figure in MK North is slightly higher at 13%.

The figures also showed 15.2% of consumers in MK South while the figure for MK North was 15.4%.

The researchers said people in these areas are still grappling with the effects of the pandemic, despite the recovery seen elsewhere.

“Many constituencies in these cities saw high levels of vulnerability before the pandemic, something that was exacerbated by successive lockdowns,” the study said.

“These areas have become ‘scar tissue’, immune to the general upswing in the economy seen as the pandemic ebbed.”

Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester and Newcastle are the biggest cities with this scarring effect, only seeing marginal improvement in their financial vulnerability since the peak of the pandemic.

John Pears, UK CEO of Lowell, said: “Right now, everyone’s talking about the increased cost of living, but the impact won’t be the same everywhere.

“There are lots of communities that still aren’t back to how they were before the pandemic and they are being hit again.

“With rising energy and food prices, we hope that these areas get the support they need, or the Government run the risk of levelling down in some of our biggest cities.”

Signe-Mary McKernan, Vice President for Labour, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute, said: “While the United Kingdom overall experienced improvement in financial vulnerability, gaps remained in several regions, and high financial vulnerability persisted in places like Liverpool, Middlesbrough, and Birmingham.

“As policymakers look to guide recovery, supporting the financial health of residents can help families cope with inflation and stabilise communities.”

The researchers’ Financial Vulnerability Index scores an area from 1 to 100, with higher numbers signifying greater financial vulnerability.

It combines analysis of Lowell’s 9.5 million customer accounts with official statistics from the UK Government and Office for National Statistics.

It is based on six components that capture a household’s ability to manage daily finances and resist economic shocks: carrying debt in default, using alternative financial products such as payday loans, claiming work-related benefits, lacking emergency savings, holding a high-cost loan and relying heavily on credit.