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The press is dubbing today “Bleak Friday”

   News / 01 Apr 2022

Published: 01 April 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

The press is dubbing today “Bleak Friday”, because the cost of living is rising dramatically at the beginning of the new tax year. The Guardian’s Hilary Osborne catalogues the shock coming to household budgets:

  • Energy bills - up 54%, £693 a year, on average
  • Council tax – up 3.5%, up £67 a year to £1,966 on average, for a band D property in England
  • Water bills – up 1.7%, £7 a year, to an average of £419.
  • Broadband, phones, and TV – going up about £42 a year
  • Vehicle excise duty – up about £10 a year in line with RPI, with the most polluting cars are subject to a £30 increase.
  • Pint of beer – up 5%, 20p, because a temporary VAT cut on hospitality from 20% to 12.5% comes to an end today
  • Social housing rents – up 4.1%, £202 a year on average
  • Lateral flow tests – chargeable from today at around £1 each

On April 6, the Government’s National Insurance tax rise will also come into force, meaning employees, employers and the self-employed will all pay 1.25p more in the pound. A break to the business rates property tax also ends today. Businesses had received a 66% reduction of their rates up to £2 million per firm over the past nine months, to help them cope with pandemic stress, however, this has now reduced to a 50% reduction with a cap of £110,000 per business. Both the minimum wage and the national living wage also go up today, however. The former by 6.6%, about £1,000 a year, the latter by 59p an hour to £9.50 for workers aged 23 and over.
The 54% increase to Ofgem’s price cap – the biggest jump in living memory - means the number of English households in fuel stress – those spending at least 10 per cent of their total budgets on energy bills – was set to double overnight from 2.5 to five million, the Resolution Foundation think tank said
British Gas, EDF, E.ON Next, SSE and Scottish Power websites all crashed yesterday as customers raced to provide meter readings ahead of the midnight deadline after which prices were likely to rise by 54%.  
The British Chambers of Commerce said its latest quarterly survey found almost two-thirds of firms expected to raise prices over the next three months, the highest since the survey began in 1989.
The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) has withdrawn its demand that UK fracking firm Cuadrilla permanently seal its two test wells in Lancashire. Cuadrilla had faced a June deadline to fill the wells with concrete after fracking was effectively banned by the government but made an application to have the order overturned on the grounds that the two wells could help lift domestic gas production at a time of record prices because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine threatening supplies. Cuadrilla CEO Francis Egan said in a statement: "I would like to thank the prime minister and the business secretary for seeing the light and realising - just in time - how absurd it would have been to force us to pour concrete down Britain's only two viable shale gas wells in the middle of an energy crisis”.
Activists from Just Stop Oil have this morning blocked the entrance to ten oil terminals across England and clambered onto oil tankers, forcing companies to suspend operations. Essex Police say they have arrested six protesters at three locations in Thurrock. Extinction Rebellion supporters have apparently joined the protests. Just Stop Oil released a statement saying: “The Just Stop Oil coalition is demanding an end to the Government’s genocidal policy of expanding UK oil and gas production and is calling on all those outraged at the prospect of climate collapse and suffering from the cost-of-living crisis to stand with us”.
The Planning Inspectorate has approved the development of two offshore wind farms off the Suffolk coast, East Anglia One and East Anglia Two, which will have a combined capacity of 1.7 gigawatts fuelled by up to 142 wind turbines. They will be developed by Scottish Power Renewables.
Russia President Vladimir Putin threatened yesterday to cut off European gas supplies and ignore standing contracts unless "unfriendly" states pay in roubles from today. "To buy Russian gas, they need to open rouble accounts in Russian banks,” he said. “It is from those accounts that gas will be paid for, starting 1 April. If such payments aren't made, we will consider this a failure by the client to comply with its obligations," he said in a televised appearance. According to an order signed by Putin, gas buyers should open accounts with the state controlled Gazprombank to facilitate currency exchange on purchases. So far, the G7 nations have refused to meet his demand.
A plan to ban Russian nationals from holding more than £50,000 in their bank accounts is "rushed" and illegal, financiers are warning. The measure – proposed by Boris Johnson last month as part of a crackdown on dirty money following Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine – would break equality laws which prevent discrimination based on nationality, banks say. A source told Reuters: "This feels like a rushed announcement where the consequences haven't been thought through." Banking industry executives have reportedly asked for reassurances that they will not be sued if they enforce the measure, as any breach of laws such as the Human Rights Act will leave them at risk of lawsuits and potential compensation payouts. The plan would also require significant updates to technology, account opening processes, and may be too complex to implement.
Russian tech giant Yandex is trying to sell its British grocery deliverybusiness, Yango Deli, which operates from four London warehouses and allows up to 1.4 million users in the capital to order groceries and hot food and drinks within 15 minutes. However, campaigners have warned about links to the Kremlin, as use of the service requires users to consent to their data being transferred to Russia, and the Russian government is said to wield influence over the company through a government-linked public interest foundation that has a golden share in the company which gives it the right to appoint directors.
Edinburgh Councillors have voted to ban strip clubs in the Scottish capital from 1st April next year. The move is linked to Scottish Government policy of preventing violence against women and girls, a definition which includes commercial sexual exploitation, defined as lap and pole-dancing as well as stripping. Councillor Cameron Rose said: “It’s inconceivable to me to profess support for this policy and hold it compatible with having whatever number of sexual entertainment venues”. However, the vote has angered sex workersand one union has vowed to seek a Judicial Review of the decision. Danielle Worden, legal caseworker for United Voices of the World, said: “The union is extremely disappointed that the council has chosen to disregard its legal obligations and the relevant evidence by adopting a policy that discriminates against women. Not only does this violate the Equality Act 2010, it is an act of cruelty to remove the livelihoods of hundreds of workers as we enter the worst economic crisis since the 1970s.”
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has outlined plans for a £71.2m compensation scheme for 1,400 British Steel workers who were misled by financial advisers on their pensions. An investigation into the scandal involving workers at the Port Talbot steelworks in south Wales between May 2016 and March 2018 showed about 46% of the advice given by advisers was "unsuitable". The FCA has frozen the assets of one firm and is investigating 30 individuals or businesses involved.
Croda International has been awarded a £15.9m grant by the UK government to expand its manufacturing facility in Leek, Staffordshire. The specialty chemicals company will also invest £15.9m in the expansion.
British emergency vehicle manufacturer Venari UK has started building military grade ambulances on a not-for-profit basis which will be imminently deployed to Ukraine to support medics working on the frontline.
Easter holidaymakers are being warned of longer than usual queues at airports over the period because to staff shortages. The Airport Operators Association said its members had been trying to hire for new roles following job losses and staff departing to other industries during the coronavirus pandemic, but recruitment problems and Covid-related staff absences were putting operations at airports under strain.
A US federal judge has dismissed a long-running antitrust lawsuit accusing 10 of the world's largest banks of pursuing two interrelated conspiracies to suppress competition in the now $23.2 trillion market for U.S. Treasury securities. The defendants include Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, NatWest Group and UBS, as well as trading platform operator Tradeweb Markets. Traders accused the banks of colluding from 2007 to 2015 to use chat rooms to swap confidential customer orders and coordinate strategies in a so-called "auction conspiracy." They also accused some of the defendants of exploiting their market power by boycotting electronic trading platforms that offered "anonymous" trading and better prices. But Judge Gardephe said there was not enough evidence to establish illegal collusion.

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