Ex-police officer: 'I'm selling my house to cope with cost of living'

Hand with money and Paul Rice

Former police officer and county councillor Paul Rice, from Potter Heigham, has had to put his house on the market to cope with the rise in the cost of living. - Credit: PA / Archant

Paul Rice has lived a full life - serving as a county councillor, police officer, local volunteer flood warden and starting up his own businesses.

But now, the Potter Heigham 62-year-old says the cost of living crisis has hit him so hard he must sell his home to help pay the bills.

Mr Rice, who was a police officer in London until 2008, has been unemployed since suffering two heart attacks in 2020, having run his own gardening business.

The rise in utility bills and difficulty finding work has now pushed him to take drastic measures, and he is calling for more support from the government.

"As a result of the heart attacks, I've never been back to normal," Mr Rice said.

"It's been a struggle.

"Surely if we can find funding to help people during Covid, we can do the same to help people now. And I firmly believe the government should look back at this energy cap and say 'enough is enough' - the energy companies are taking too much money from people."

Paul Rice

Paul Rice

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Mr Rice is currently receiving Universal Credit, which he sees as a "stop-gap".

As he struggles to pay for his weekly food shop, the rise in the cost of living has added to his problems.

"It has got to the stage where I have had to borrow some money just to get some shopping in until I get some Universal Credit money through," Mr Rice said.

He has now resorted to putting his three-bedroom house on the market, with hopes to move to a smaller property to support himself.

As a self-employed gardener, Mr Rice was able to continue working at the start of the pandemic.

However, after suffering a heart attack in 2020, he has been unable to return to work.

While he was being treated at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Mr Rice discovered he had previously suffered another heart attack which had gone undiagnosed. He has since had a stent put in.

As his gardening business had not been in operation for a year before the pandemic, Mr Rice said he was unable to apply for furlough funding and had to sign on for Universal Credit for support.

Over the past few months, Mr Rice said he had applied for more than 30 jobs but had been unsuccessful.

He said: "I think I'm getting knocked back because of my age - even though employers could never admit that."

Mr Rice believes his way out of his current situation is by working for himself again.

"I feel everything's going against me. But I'm trying to get out of my problems myself," he said.

"I've had to rely on Universal Credit - and I'm not ashamed to admit that - and I have had family and a few close friends help me out. But now my only way forward is working for myself."

Paul Rice, chief officer of Broads Watch, and chairman of the Broads Society, at Potter Heigham. Pic

Paul Rice, chairman of the Broads Society, at Potter Heigham - Credit: Archant

Being a former police officer, Mr Rice has recently been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to his experiences while on the force. But he said being able to talk has helped him stay positive.

He said: "I'm all for resilience and self-reliance. And talking to others is a part of that.

"With my current situation, I'm trying to see the positives and I am trying to be prudent and not buy anything I don't need.

"I sold my truck, paid some of my old debts off and bought myself an old banger. I own it outright, so my only outgoings are insurance, tax and fuel.

"I can't afford to run the car too far, so I plan my journeys. I shop locally where I can and I only buy the basics. I don't go for luxuries."

Mr Rice said he lives off around £20 a week for food.

Brent is the second most affected UK authority by the government’s benefit cap (Pic credit: PA)

People on universal credit stand to lose more than £1,000 per year under the planned cut. - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

"There's no point in spending money on luxuries," Mr Rice said. "Times will change and hopefully we will get back to where we were - particularly if you're determined.

"You've got to keep going and just bide your time. Look at what you're spending your money on.

"You have to think, 'do I really need that this minute?'"

Ways to manage your spending

Mr Rice said he has recently been looking through some of his household items and questioned whether he needed them.

Mr Rice said: "Look around your house, find things you can sell online.

"I realised I have three dinner sets in my cupboards and I'm going to sell two of them."

He added: "You've got to keep to thinking about what you're spending your money on.

"I only buy essential things and if I need something, I shop around.

"I needed a pair of boots last week and instead of spending £100 on a pair of boots, I went online and found exactly what I was looking for, but for £25."

Mr Rice endorses the use of budget supermarkets to save money on food shopping, as well as buying in bulk. Planning meals for the week can also help you keep track of how much food you need to buy.