Market traders in north London say the cost-of-living crisis has hit business

London (AFP) - Scanning the normally bustling north London market where he runs a fruit-and-vegetable stall, David White lamented the “scary” consequences of the cost-of-living crisis afflicting the UK economy.

“Drive around and the roads are empty, there’s not a lot of footfall, it’s like something’s happened and nobody’s told us,” the 65-year-old told AFP in front of his stall at Chapel Market.

White spoke as finance minister Jeremy Hunt announced the government’s annual budget, where he revealed an extension to energy bill support measures and more free child-care for two and three-year olds.

His government is grappling with spiralling energy costs that have fuelled double-digit inflation, with many basic food staples jumping in price.

“People haven’t got as much money as they used to have and things like fruit, it used to be a necessity and it’s not anymore,” added White. “It’s got to be a luxury.”

“There’s a lot of people I know personally in the fruit-and-veg game who’ve turned it in because of the prices.

“It’s scary to be honest,” added White, who blamed Brexit, energy prices and transportation costs for huge rises in wholesale prices.

Lucia Antonio, a 30-year-old mother-of-two from Angola, said she felt that prices for everything now were high.

“I remember, three years ago when I first came, with £50 I could buy many things but now it’s very difficult,” she told AFP, while rocking her one-year-old daughter in a pram.

She would consider using food banks in the future “if I really needed… but right now I manage,” she added.

- ‘They don’t care’ -

The government move to extend a subsidy on energy bills for a further three months was largely welcomed by shoppers AFP spoke to.

Shoppers said they were still worried about spiralling prices despite government measures to ease inflation

When asked if he could have got through the winter without the support, Stardious Christie, a 60-year-old cleaning operative, responded: “No, no, no.”

“I only put the heating on two hours for the day. Usually my coat and tracksuit kept me warm,” he told AFP, resting on his bike while wearing a cap of local football team Arsenal.

Despite support for the energy policy, Christie criticised the government’s attitude towards the crisis.

“If you’re not on top of your game with (the) way the system is running, you can’t catch up,” he said.

He was not the only one who said they had taken measures to cut the winter fuel bill.

”(The heating’s) always off, I’ve got a little radiator, it just keeps one room warm,” said 68-year-old retired welder James Geoghegan, outside a budget supermarket.

The extension of free care for younger children would help parents “because child care is very expensive in London,” said 35-year-old nanny Alexandra, as she pushed a buggy towards the nearby playground.

“But it’s not particularly great for the nannies in general,” she added.

Foster carer Jennie, 57, also welcomed the move, but said it “depends how much it’s going to be” worth.

She also called for energy subsidies to be extended further.

“It’s okay doing that for a while, but then they take that away, which is always the case with the government. They give with one hand, and take away with the next,” she said, as her three foster children play-fought among themselves.

“They don’t care about us. They’ve got their big houses and big wages.”