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GIVE US A BREAK.. You beg the Chancellor not to make it even tougher for those struggling to get by.

Byline: TRICIA PHI LLIPS

SOARING petrol prices, fears over benefits cuts, rising VAT, tuition fee hikes, few job prospects and little incentive to get back to work...

A miserable catalogue of gloom, these are the worries and concerns that ordinary Mirror readers are battling with. And, as George "Slasher" Osborne announces his emergency Budget next week, we meet a cross section of readers who are all struggling to make ends meet and hoping that the Chancellor won't Con-Dem them to further financial pain.

Here's what they say...

THE LOW EARNER

JACK French, 25, was in a band after leaving school. He hoped that it would become his full-time career but he has now gone back into education, hoping to increase his earnings potential. He's studying music technology at uni in Middlesbrough.

He earns pounds 80 a week, working in a bar two nights a week in Newcastle and pays pounds 50 a week in rent and pounds 40 on travel to uni.

Jack says: "I just exist as it is so I'm really hoping I won't end up worse off. Rumours of increases in tuition fees are a big worry as all my student loan goes on paying fees, rent and bills now.

"My part-time earnings go on everyday living costs.

"I really don't want to end up any more in debt when I finish my studying. I'm already on track for years of debt repayments.

"My only treat in life is a couple of beers with my mates so I'm hoping alcohol prices don't shoot up and put a stop to that."

THE SMALL BUSINESS

SIMON Duffy, co-founder of men's toiletries maker Bulldog, fears the Chancellor will raise VAT. "Anything that pushes up prices risks hitting sales," he said.

"If money is tight, our products aren't as essential as feeding your family."

Mr Duffy, whose London-based firm employs six people, also warned increasing capital gains tax could kill entrepreneurship.

THE AVERAGE EARNER

VICKI Hill, 24, is an assistant guest services manager with Carnival UK. She has been working for almost three years, after studying in Plymouth, and earns pounds 22,440. She rents a one-bed flat, which costs pounds 115 a week, and is saving for a deposit to buy a home.

Vicki says: "I'm hoping the increase in the tax personal allowance will go ahead. That would put extra cash in my pocket.

"But I think it will be giving with one hand and taking with the other if VAT goes up, along with a 1% rise in National Insurance contributions.

"And I don't want petrol to go up any more. I only use my car when really necessary but it still costs a fortune.

"I hope the Stamp Duty holiday for firsttime buyers continues long enough for me to get on the property ladder."

THE UNEMPLOYED FAMILY

JAMES Sullivan, 25, lost his job with a finance company in March 2008 and has struggled to find a permanent position since.

He's happy to try anything and has done stints in factories and worked as a delivery driver, though that job ended in April.

He lives with his partner Samantha Dunster, 30, and her four pre-teen children in a rented three-bed house in North Tawton, Devon.

The family relies on benefits of pounds 343.44 a week and pays pounds 30 in fuel bills, reduced rent of pounds 11 and they spend around pounds 140 on food.

James says: "We are really grateful that we get this help or we'd be in serious trouble. But we don't want to have to rely on benefits.

"I'm a firm believer that people should work and I'm frustrated that I can't find a job. Samantha is finding it impossible to get work, too, as it really is a tough jobs market.

"I'm concerned that the help we get will be cut and then we would really struggle. We can just afford the basics - we don't have any money to buy things like clothes or shoes.

"I really hope petrol doesn't go up. Living in a rural area we need a car for trips like the supermarket shop, which is seven miles away and public transport is so unreliable.

"I'm hoping to go back into education in September to get a degree. That seems the only way we can get any sort of fresh start and will give me a much better chance of landing a decent job that will let me support my family myself."

THE PENSIONERS

RON Green, 76, and his wife Sue, 65, have three children and five grandchildren.

Living in their three-bed home in Thetford, Norfolk, they both get State Pension and Ron gets pounds 21 a week private pension, which gives them pounds 241.55 a week in total.

Sue says: "We really hope we won't be any worse off, it's a struggle to make ends meet now. We know they need to get the economy back on track but we already have to scrimp and scrape.

"Petrol is too expensive. We don't use our car that much, only for essential journeys, but it still costs us pounds 10 a week in petrol.

"And road tax has shot up, too. Why don't they base it on mileage? Surely that would be fairer."

THE SINGLE MUM

PART-TIME healthcare assistant Dawn Harrison, 41, rents a two-bed house in Sidcup, Kent, with her daughters Jodie 15 and Melissa, 13. Dawn earns pounds 147 a week and gets benefits of pounds 387.86, including pounds 60 back-to-work bonus that ends in September.

Dawn says: "It's mad that I'm just It's pounds 30 a week better off going out to work four days a week. I can't work full-time as the girls are still too young to be left alone but I don't want to be trapped in this low income cycle. There should be better incentives to get back to work."

CAPTION(S):

TRAPPED Dawn and her girls SCRIMPING Ron and Sue Green READY AND WILLING James, Samantha and their kids STUDENT LOAN Jack works to pay his living costs
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 16, 2010
Words:1008
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