Inside Britain's cost of living crisis

STORY: Skipping lunch and using blankets to stay warm is not how Ann and Keith Hartley envisaged their retirement.

The couple live in Burnley, a northern English town that has been hit hardest by Britain’s cost of living crisis.

Now in their 70s, the Hartleys are even rationing cups of tea in the face of soaring energy bills and double-digit inflation.

“I've noticed a big difference in the cost of living in Burnley and with you know, every time you go out to the shop I'll get a basket of things and I think it's only be so much and it ends up being nearly double and it's crazy. The prices are just going out of control.''

Millions in Britain are facing a difficult winter.

But the Centre for Cities think tank says the nearly 95,000 residents of Burnley are most exposed to the shockwaves ripping through the economy.

Residents here are facing the highest effective rate of inflation in mainland Britain.

Centre of Cities estimates a 11.7% rise in prices in the year to September. That’s compared with 10.1% nationally.

With Britain sliding into what is expected to be a prolonged recession, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will announce a raft of tax rises and spending cuts on Thursday.

The government says it will ultimately deliver a quicker return to economic growth.

But few households here are looking that far ahead.

Alex Frost is a vicar at St Matthew the Apostle church in the center of Burnley.

The church runs a breakfast club and Frost says he has seen an increase in residents asking for hot meals and help with fuel bills.

“These are people who have to make a decision that if their toaster packs up or their children's shoes wear out, they have a choice, then, it's do I replace the shoes or do I buy food?”

Many here struggle to reconcile Britain's status as the world's sixth-largest economy against the fact that so many face destitution.

Britain is the only Group of Seven economy yet to recover fully from the health crisis slump.

Finance minister Jeremy Hunt has vowed to shield the poor and balance spending cuts with tax rises.

But that is little comfort for Burnley’s locals.

A chronic lack of investment in social services, regional inequalities and an unreliable train network - especially outside London - have added to a sense of malaise.

Opinion polls show a large majority of Britons think the country is heading in the wrong direction.

And with the Bank of England predicting a lengthy downturn, things are likely to get worse before they improve.