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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 11:25 UK

How The Economy Got Personal

Jeremy Vine speaks about some of the people he has met who have been personally affected by the economic downturn

As Britain stands on the brink of recession, Panorama gets behind the headlines to tell the real stories of how people are coping with the current financial squeeze.

It's a timely look at the economy following this weekend's comments by the chancellor Alistair Darling that the UK's facing its worst economic crisis in 60 years and that the downturn would be "more profound and long lasting" than most people had feared.

During the making of the Panorama, the

programme team posted a short questionnaire online asking people how they had been hit by the slowdown, what cutbacks they were making if any and where they were feeling the pinch most.

Chip and pin terminal

In just over two weeks, nearly 9,000 people (8,770) took the time to fill it in and their answers provide a current - if unscientific - snapshot of the economy.

One of the questions Panorama asked was whether respondents were spending less money on some activities than before.

Of those who answered 2,607 said that they were spending less on eating out.

In How The Economy Got Personal we meet John and Lynn Peckett, a couple who have been running the Rose House pub in Sheffield for 17 years. The pub - which used to be a nice little earner - is now losing money as regulars, cutting back on their spending, are coming in less often and the pair are now using their life savings to keep the pub going.

The Panorama questionnaire also asked which items respondents believed had risen most in price. Of those who answered 2,176 cited energy bills.

Borrowing money

Unlike their customers, John and Lynn can't make cutbacks. They still have to have the lights and heating on to welcome in any customers - even if no one comes in. They are now so desperate to get out from under the financial drain on their savings - they are offering to sell their five year lease (valued three years ago at 50,000) for just a penny. But will the brewery approve the potential buyer?

Panorama's questionnaire also asked people if they were managing to survive on their monthly salary or whether they were having to borrow money.

People talk about their experiences of the credit crunch

Two thousand one hundred and twenty two people said that they were having to borrow money each month - just to get by.

In How The Economy Got Personal, Panorama speaks to a number of people who have been coming up with different ways to try to make ends meet.

Paul Latham, a development officer in Cheshire, has taken to growing his own fruit and vegetables and keeping chickens in a bid to cut his food bills. But he is worried that if things continue to get worse, even this may not be enough and he is contemplating moving back in with his parents.

The credit crunch has led to more expensive mortgages which people have been struggling to pay as other household costs rise.

The Council of Mortgage Lenders says the number of repossessions across the UK has risen 41 per cent in the first six months of this year.

Drastic measures

After crying herself to sleep at night worrying about losing her home, single mother Samantha Otton, from Bournemouth, tells the programme she now rents out bedrooms to foreign students to make ends meet.

Samantha with her child and student lodger
Single mother Samantha now has lodgers to help pay the mortgage

With two children of her own this has meant some drastic changes to the internal arrangements of her standard three bedroom house. To free up the space for three students - who on average mean an extra 95 a week each - Samantha's children share what was her room and she now sleeps in what was the dining room - leaving her son and daughter's old bedrooms for the students.

With two children of her own this has meant some drastic changes - in order to free up the space for three students, her children share what was her room and she now sleeps in what was the dining room.

With the slowing economy taking its toll on the labour market, the Office for National Statistics has reported that the number of people out of work rose by 60,000 in the three months to June, taking the official unemployment rate to 5.4%.

The Panorama questionnaire asked people whether they feel more or less secure in their job than last year.

Three thousand six hundred and thirty seven people responded by saying that they now feel less secure in their job.

Reduced wages

The building trade has been particularly hard hit over the past year as the squeeze on mortgage finance has severely reduced demand for new homes.

This month, house builder Taylor Wimpey reported a 1.54bn loss for the past six months after having to reduce the value of assets.

Malcolm Poole looking at order board in his brick cutting company
Brick cutter Malcolm Poole has had to lay off staff this year

The company is cutting 900 jobs in the UK and other leading property developers have also been forced to streamline their UK operations in response to the malaise in the market.

But as How The Economy Got Personal shows it is not just the big firms which are suffering.

Malcolm Poole who owns a brick cutting company in Warwickshire has already had to make five of his workforce redundant, while his remaining three employees and one driver are down to a four-day week and having to manage on reduced wages. While the Panorama team were filming with the brick cutters, a salesman arrived with a potential big order. It is a possible lifeline which fills Malcolm and his struggling staff with new hope. But will the order come through in time to save the business?

As the programme finds out, for a small minority of businesses even the current economic gloom is good news.

Peter Coleman, of Fish Brothers' pawnbrokers in Essex, says he has seen a 10% rise in trade in recent months, and tells the programme he is seeing a diverse mixture of people coming through the door, from those seeking small amounts of cash to get them through the week to people needing larger amounts to help pay private school fees.

How The Economy Got Personal will be on at 8.30pm on BBC One on 1 September.

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How The Economy Got Personal

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