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Ofgem has proposed updating the energy price cap quarterly

   News / 16 May 2022

Published: 16 May 2022
Location: London, UK

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Ofgem has proposed updating the energy price cap quarterly rather than every six months from October. The regulator said the move would allow customers to benefit sooner when prices begin to fall from their current highs, and also help suppliers more accurately predict how much energy they need to purchase. The cap jumped 54% in April and is expected to rise again in October.
An increase in massive cargoes of liquefied natural gas, delivered to UK ports and passed on to Europe through pipelines, have led to UK prices dropping 13% since the start of the year. However, The Telegraph revealed critical shipments of natural gas are being turned away from British ports because National Grid fears it will be overwhelmed by supplies intended to tackle the energy crisis and run out of storage at its Milford Haven terminals in Wales.
Scottish Renewables has calculated that business rates payments in Scotland amount to more than £106 million a year. CEO Claire Mack said the payments are “just one part of the onshore wind industry’s contribution to Scotland’s economy”.
The Valuation Tribunal, an independent judicial body, is to hear a series of 26 test cases on Wednesday concerning changes to the business rates system. Around 170,000 businesses in England, across all sectors of the economy, sought to argue over the past year that the heavy impact of the pandemic on their operations means that their rateable value, which the property tax is based on, should be reduced.
Boris Johnson has ditched his plan to ban “buy-one-get-one-free” supermarket deals and pre-watershed TV advertising for junk food because it could fuel the cost-of-living crisis. However, he is facing a backlash from campaigners such as Jamie Oliver and MPs on his own backbenches who say the delay risks heaping more pressure on the NHS and contributing to serious disease.
The Prime Minister has issued a renewed call for a return to the office, saying working from home does not work. Boris Johnson said staff were “more productive, more energetic, more full of ideas” when they are in the workplace alongside their colleagues. “My experience of working from home is you spend an awful lot of time making another cup of coffee and then, you know, getting up, walking very slowly to the fridge, hacking off a small piece of cheese, then walking very slowly back to your laptop and then forgetting what it was you’re doing,” he told the Daily Mail.
Bank of England (BoE) Governor Andrew Bailey is due to appear before the Treasury select committee today. He is likely to face criticism, given that The Telegraph over the weekend reported one Cabinet minister as warning the Bank had been failing to "get things right" and another suggesting it had failed a "big test". The newspaper report one senior minister said: “[The bank] has one job to do – to keep inflation at around two per cent – and it's hard to remember the last time it achieved its target." The other said government figures were "now questioning its independence", suggesting Chancellor Rishi Sunakshould do more to hold Bailey to account. Asked about Bailey’s record on Sunday morning, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "It is a very difficult time and I think he is doing a reasonable job. But it's true to say that that 2% is part of their mandate, they have to keep it to 2% - inflation."  Harriett Baldwin, one of the Conservative MPs on the select committee, is reported in The Guardian as saying there are serious questions for the Bank to answer on inflation. “I have been flagging up for a long time now the risk of them misjudging things and putting in too much monetary stimulus into the economy for too long,” she said. Inflation is expected to rise as high as 9% when April’s figures are published on Wednesday, and the BoE has predicted it will surge above 10% later this year, the highest level since 1981, despite previous assertions that elevated prices were merely “transitory”.
The Treasury is pressing ahead with plans to legalise cryptocurrenciesknown as “stablecoins” as a form of payment in Britain, despite a market meltdown this week, The Telegraph says. The department said it would include plans to regulate stablecoins as a payment mechanism in financial legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech. It comes despite the collapse of Terra, one of the best known stablecoins, earlier this week, when it lost 85% of its value.
The government's decision to reject mandatory ethnicity pay gap reportingfor firms has been criticised as "nonsensical" by Conservative MP Caroline Nokes who said it also showed a lack of will "to foster a fairer and more equal society". Nokes chairs the cross-party Commons Women and Equalities Committee which had called on those firms to publish pay differences between ethnic groups in their employment. But the proposal was rejected on the grounds that publishing statistics on the ethnicity pay gap "may not" be the "most appropriate tool for every type of employer seeking to ensure fairness in the workplace," and that the government does not want to impose any new reporting burdens on business.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) and the UK Door Security Association are warning that 75% of their members – which include nightclubs, bars and pubs – feel that security staff shortages are impacting on their ability to protect the public. Kill said: “The sector has been raising the alarm about security resource concerns for the last few years and we are only now slowly starting to engage with the Government on this crisis...The current Private Security Act is not fit for purpose, the regulator is struggling to control the market without the relevant tools and we are about to embark on one of the busiest event seasons for the last decade following on from the pandemic.” “Government needs to act – and act fast,” he added.
The National Federation of Fish Friers (NFFF) is warning that a third of fish and chip shops face closure because of a shortage of and subsequent price hikes in four key ingredients caused by the on-going conflict between Russia and Ukraine: sunflower oil, cod, potatoes, and flour.  50% of the sunflower oil used by fish and chop shops comes from Ukraine. 40% of cod and haddock usually comes from Russia, but sanctions on Russian white fish are making North Sea supplies scarcer and pricier. Fertiliser for potatoes, also mainly from Russia in usual circumstances, has significantly risen in price, as has flour, used in batter mixes. Some 30% of wheat used in Britain usually comes from Russia and the Ukraine. The NFFF is now calling on the government to offer a "long-term strategy" to their food shortages crisis - or face a third of chippies closing.
An investigation by The Guardian has found that while supermarkets have taken steps to signal their solidarity with Ukraine, rebranding their chicken kievs as kyivs and taking Russian vodka off the shelves, they have carried on buying its fish. Big brands such as Birds Eye and Young’s, as well as most major supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda, still use Russian-caught fish, the newspaper found. When approached for comment, many deferred to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which said the UK relied heavily on Russia for whitefish and that “complex supply chains” meant it was “difficult to find other sources”. Of the major supermarkets, only Marks & Spencer and Waitrose said they had stopped using Russian-caught fish in their own products, though Waitrose still stocks brands that use it.
A ban on wheat exports by India has pushed up the price of the cereal crop still further on international markets: the benchmark wheat index rose as much as 5.9% in Chicago, the highest it has been in two months. Wheat prices have now soared by around 60% on world markets this year. India made the decision to ban exports after a heatwave curtailed wheat crops and took domestic prices to an all-time high. The Indian government said it would still allow exports backed by letters of credit that have already been issued, and to countries that request supplies "to meet their food security needs". Agriculture ministers from the G7 nations meeting in Germany criticised India’s ban.
Accountants Grant Thornton, the administrators for the collapsed rent-to-own firm BrightHouse, which specialised in loans for big-ticket items such as fridges, TVs and sofas, is warning they may not have enough money to compensate thousands of customers left with unaffordable debts, The Guardian reports. Grant Thornton originally set aside up to £600,000 to deal with more than 11,000 affordability claims from customers who fear they may have been mis-sold loans. But its latest report, published in late April, reveals they now plan to seek court permission to scrap the compensation pot. Before it went bust in 2020, BrightHouse charged interest of up to 69.9%, which, on top of service and insurance fees, could mean customers were paying two to three times the cost of the item on the high street.
EasyJet is offering new and existing cabin crew a £1,000 bonus at the end of the summer holiday season to acknowledge their contributions to what it expects to be a busy summer, with travel at near pre-Covid levels. Last month, British Airways said it would offer the same amount to new joiners as a "golden hello".
British Airways’ pilots meanwhile are rebelling over a scheme that siphons thousands of pounds off their salaries to compensate colleagues left out of work by the Covid crisis. Nearly two-thirds of pilots opposed a mechanism forcing them to accept pay cuts in a ballot organised by their union Balpa, The Telegraph reports. Under a deal struck in July 2020, pilots accepted temporary pay cuts of 20%, falling to 8% over the following two years, but have now refused a deal to continue taking lower salaries until 2028. The cuts were designed to mitigate job losses: only 270 pilots were made redundant, compared with 1,255 originally expected to be laid off.
Home improvement business Screwfix is creating 800 new retail jobs by January as part of plans to open 80 new shops across the UK and Ireland. The chain, owned by Kingfisher, opened 70 new shops in 2021, and the additions this year will take its total stores to 870.
Three in every 10 homes let in London this year so far have gone to people who were previously living outside the capital, according to sales and letting agent Hamptons. This is the highest figure in at least a decade and compares to a five-year pre-Covid pandemic average of 23%.
Sky News understands that property investors Queensgate Investmentshas joined Bain Capital, Epiris and TDR Capital in the race to buy Butlin'sthree remaining sites at Minehead in Somerset, Bognor Regis on the south coast, and Skegness in Lincolnshire, from Bourne Leisure. The brand, created by Billy Butlin in 1936, saw its fortunes wane as low-cost overseas travel boomed, although it has recently enjoyed a resurgence from the pandemic popularity in staycations. In its heyday, the holiday camp chain operated from nine sites across the UK, entertained one million holidaymakers each year, and became famous for its knobbly knees and glamorous granny contests. The brand was the inspiration for Hi-de-Hi!, the long-running BBC sitcom. City sources expect the chain to fetch roughly £600m.
The state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications Group, which recently rebranded from Etisalat to e&, is now Vodafone’s biggest shareholder after confirming a £3.3bn raid on the UK group on Saturday. E& said it did not intend to launch a takeover bid - a statement which blocks the company from making such a move for at least six months – saying it planned to be a “long-term and supportive shareholder in Vodafone and is not seeking to exert control or influence the company’s board or management team”.
The Premier League is considering a formal ban on debt-fuelled club takeovers as part of a far-reaching overhaul of its ownership rules. Sky Newshas learnt that the 20 top-flight clubs are being canvassed by Premier League executives for their views on the merits of a block on so-called leveraged buyouts, in which loans – generally secured against the clubs assets - are used to purchase clubs. Such a ban is not certain to move forward - and would not be applied retrospectively - but would, if implemented, bar the type of deal that saw Manchester United acquired by the Glazer family in 2005. Any changes to the Premier League's ownership test would need to be approved by at least 14 clubs and could be superseded by any requirements imposed by a new independent regulator for the sport, which the government has supported following a review headed by former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch.
University students and graduates aged 40 and under have nearly double the amount of non-student loan debt compared with those who did not attend university, according to credit reference agency Equifax. Those who went to university typically have £12,445-worth of debt, excluding student loans, while those who didn’t owe £7,105 on average. Nearly half (47%) of university students and graduates said receiving a student loan made them more comfortable with other forms of borrowing.
Tesco’s annual report has revealed the supermarket giant paid its boss £4.74m over the last year. Ken Murphy's overall remuneration package was 224 times the total pay and benefits of the median member of staff at Tesco, which was £21,217. Murphy took over as CEO in October 2020. His basic £1.54m salary was bolstered by around £3.2m in performance-related bonuses.  
Convenience food producer Greencore has appointed Dalton Philips as CEO. He will replace Patrick Coveney, who left at the end of March, on 26thSeptember, He currently heads up daa, a global airports and travel retailgroup with businesses in 15 countries.
Russian energy supplier RAO Nordic is suspending deliveries of electricity to Finland. The company said it had not been paid for previous deliveries. Finnish grid operator Fingrid said it did not expect electricity shortages as a result of the shut off, as only around 10% of Finland's electricity is supplied from Russia and that it could be replaced from alternative sources. On Thursday, Russia threatened to take "retaliatory steps" after Finland said it planned to join Nato.Last month Russia cut supplies of gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to comply with a demand to pay in roubles, a change they said would contravene western sanctions. Last week Russia's Gazprom announced it would stop supplying gas via the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline.
Profits at oil giant Saudi Aramco have risen by more than 80% in the first three months of the year. Last week the Saudi-Arabian owned firm overtook Apple as the world’s most valuable company as the global post-pandemic recovery and the Ukraine war increased demand. First quarter earnings showed a net income of $39.5bn (£32.2bn), up from $21.7bn (£17.7bn) during the same period last year. It is the highest quarterly profit Saudi Aramco has posted since 2019. The Saudi government owns 98% of the company.
China's jobless rate rose to 6.1% in April, the highest level since the 6.2% peak seen in the early part of the Covid-19 pandemic in February 2020. Continued and widening lockdowns in dozens of cities have led to a sharp slowdown in activity for the world's second largest economy, with retailers and manufacturers hardest hit. Retail sales saw the biggest contraction since March 2020, shrinking by 11.1% in April from a year earlier, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics. Industrial production fell by 2.9% from a year earlier, the largest decline since February 2020 and a sharp reversal in the 5% March gain. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang recently described the country's employment situation "complicated and grim" following the worst outbreaks of the virus since 2020.
Billionaire Elon Musk has said his Twitter deal is "temporarily on hold" after he queried the number of fake or spam accounts on the social media platform. Musk, who last week secured $7bn from new investors for his $44bn takeover, tweeted: "Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users." He later tweeted: "Still committed to acquisition."
In a memo to employees, Netflix said they must tolerate different points of view or find another job. The note instructed staff not to “censor” content that they disagree with even if they find it “provocative”. The streaming giant – often criticised as being too ‘woke’ – has suffered its first drop in subscribers for a decade.

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