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Fife man rations toilet paper as cost of living crisis hits

Paul Reilly talks to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar
Paul Reilly talks to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar

A Fife man says he needs to ration his toilet paper and has “trained himself” to go hungry as he struggles to deal with the worsening cost of living.

Paul Reilly, 36, from Burntisland is only eating one meal a day, and even then relies on support from food banks just to get by each week.

For the past couple of years he has been getting support from Toll Community Hub, an action group set up during the coronavirus lockdown to help those most in need.

Mr Reilly shared his experience of struggling to make ends meet with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who was visiting the hub to hear how it is supporting those living in Fife.

‘Almost impossible’ to get by

Over the past few months budgeting has become even harder for people like Mr Reilly.

He said: “I have to budget and count my toilet roll, which I have never had to do before.

“But now I have to make sure everything lasts.

“I am planning meals to the death and portioning it all out.

“I have lost quite a bit of weight because I am literally eating once a day.

“Trying to live on benefits is almost impossible.

Paul Reilly speaks to Anas Sarwar

“I am not sitting getting hungry though because I have trained myself to cope with eating less.

“But that is how tight things are getting.”

He added what he used to pay for his gas and electricity now “doesn’t even come close” to covering his bills.

As a result, he has to go out and leave his flat every single day because it is too expensive to stay in and use up the gas and electricity.

Mr Reilly also said if he isn’t getting a parcel from the food bank he has to make sure he buys the cheapest possible option at the supermarket.

In fact, after speaking to us at the community hub, Mr Reilly left to go to the food bank in the town.

Crisis getting ‘worse and worse by the day’

After speaking to Mr Reilly and others who are struggling to make ends meet, Mr Sarwar called for the Conservative government in Westminster and the SNP government in Holyrood to step up.

He said: “The cost of living crisis is not just a phrase, it is a real lived experience for far too many families across the country.

“And it is getting worse and worse by the day.

“This is the biggest fall in living standards since rationing.”

Yvonne Crombie, development manager at Toll Community Hub, and Anas Sarwar, Scottish Labour leader

He said the Scottish Government needs to use the powers they have at Holyrood to help families who are struggling out, including cutting rail and bus fares, scrapping the increase to water charges, and supporting a windfall tax.

Mr Sarwar added: “The SNP tried to run their council election campaign like they were in opposition, but hopefully they got the message that they are in power and have been for the last 15 years.

“The overwhelming response from people is they want both governments to do more, and I hope they have listened to that message.”

He also hit out at UK government minister Rachel Maclean MP, who told Sky News people who are struggling financially should consider taking on more hours or moving to a better paid job.

Mr Sarwar said this was just the latest in a “line of shameful, out of touch, arrogant and complacent comments” from the Conservatives.

A spokesman for Nicola Sturgeon said measures such as the Scottish Child Payment are only available because of the SNP government.

He added: “We have also mitigated Tory policies like the bedroom tax as well as increasing a range of Scottish benefits by 6%, while average water charges and council tax bills are also lower here than elsewhere in the UK.

“We could do even more to tackle the cost of living crisis with the full powers of independence – but Anas Sarwar and Labour would prefer those powers to remain in the hands of a Tory government at Westminster.”

The UK Government has also been approached for comment.

Boris Johnson tells ministers to ‘go faster’ on ideas for cost-of-living crisis

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