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The ban on forced instillation of prepayment meters not only stays but is extended by Ofgem

   News / 14 Sep 2023

Published: 14 September 2023

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Energy suppliers have been banned by Ofgem from forcibly installing prepayment meters for people over 75 years old with no support at home, and for families with children under the age of two. The regulator has also made the previously voluntary code of practice for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters (PPMs) mandatory while also extending protection against forced installations for the most vulnerable households. Initially, the no-install rule applied to customers aged 85 and over with no other support in their home, or households with residents with severe health issues, including terminal illnesses or those with a medical dependency on a warm home. Ofgem said dropping the upper age limit to 75 and adding homes with very young children will ensure more people are protected this winter. The new rules will come into effect on 8th November and require suppliers to ensure they are acting in a fair and responsible way, and that involuntary installations are used only as a last resort, with substantial fines for non-compliance.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said yesterday he was committed to the Government's 'triple lock' policy which sets the size of increases in the publicly funded pensions. "This is the government that introduced and remains committed to the triple lock," Sunak told parliament. The pension triple lock is a government promise to raise publicly funded pensions by whichever is highest out of the level of earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) house price balance, which measures the difference between the percentage of surveyors seeing rises and falls in house prices, slumped to -68 in August from -55 in July, the weakest reading since February 2009. Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said the survey pointed to a sluggish housing market with little sign of relief in prospect. "Prices are continuing to slip albeit that the relatively modest fall to date needs to be seen in the context of the substantial rise recorded during the pandemic period," he said.

Meanwhile, the value of mortgage arrears has climbed to its highest level since 2016. Bank of England data has revealed the total value of residential mortgages in arrears to be £16.9bn, which is 1.5% of the outstanding mortgages, 28.8% greater than a year ago.

The cost of mortgages has also contributed to a steep rise in the cost of renting a property, a new study from Zoopla shows. The online property portal reports an average rise of £110 a month over the last 12 months, saying the supply of rentals has fallen 30% below the average for this time of the year sue to increasingly large numbers of landlords selling up. Estate agents surveyed by Zoopla reported having only 10 rental listings available compared to 16.5 when surveyed pre-covid lockdowns. In London, tenants were paying a yearly average rent of £24,636 a year in July this year, up from £20,148 in the same period in 2022 – £4,488 or £374 a month more.

Is cash use on the way up, or on the way out? Both, it seems, according to a report from UK Finance. Although cash payments increased for the first time in a decade last year, by 7% year-on-year to hit £6.4bn, debit card use also rose to account for half of the 46bn payments made by consumers and businesses. Among consumers, debit cards were used in 57% of transactions in 2022. 65% of UK adults now using credit cards more frequently, the report says, adding that 12% of us also use Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) to make a purchase.

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has charged four people, including a former director, in connection with the financial collapse of Patisserie Valerie in 2018, which led to the closure of almost 200 high street stores, significant investor losses, and the loss of more than 900 jobs. Those charged Christopher Marsh, the former CFO and director of Patisserie Holdings and his wife, accountant Louise Marsh; financial controller Pritesh Mistry; and financial consultant Nileshkumar Lad. All four are accused of conspiring to inflate the cash in Patisserie Holdings' balance sheets and annual reports from 2015 to 2018, including by providing false documentation to the company's auditors. During that time, the firm also reported holding £28m in accounts, but concealed £10m in debts from investors and creditors. The defendants are summoned to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 10th October.  

Value retail chain The Range has reportedly struck a deal to buy the Wilko name from its collapsed rival's administrators. According to Sky News, The Range has agreed to pay about £5m for the brand. Wednesday. 120 stores - more than a quarter of Wilko's estate - have been sold to B&M European Value Retail and Poundland's UK owner Pepco.

Heathrow Airport is facing being brought to a standstill this autumn half-term because 170 baggage staff are planning to walk-out on 13 separate days in an ongoing dispute over pay, including for ten consecutive days starting on the 20th October. Equipment supplier Vanderlande Industries, who operate baggage carousel services at the airport, is in a dispute with Unite, whose members have now rejected a below-inflation pay offer. Unite said previously that if its members decided to launch the strike, it would “bring all terminals and airline baggage handling to a standstill.” Unite regional officer, Russ Ball, said that “Vanderlande is treating its workers appallingly and Unite’s complete focus on jobs, pay and conditions will mean that our members at Heathrow will receive the union’s unflinching support during their strike action.”

British chip designer Arm Holdings has secured a $54.5bn (£43.6bn) valuation in its initial public offering (IPO), the largest of the year, with shares priced at $51 each, at the top of the range that had been indicated to prospective investors. Arm will start start trading on New York Nasdaq stock market this afternoon. The company says 95.5m shares were sold, raising $4.87bn for its Japanese owner SoftBank Group. Arm estimates that 70% of the world's population uses products that rely on its chips, including nearly all of the world's smartphones.

“Big Four” accountant Deloitte is restructuring its business in a move that is likely to lead to around 600 redundancies in the UK, some 3% of Deloitte’s total British workforce. “Today we announced some targeted restructuring across our businesses, which may – subject to consultation – put some roles at risk of redundancy,” Deloitte CEO Richard Houston said in a statement the move “follows a slowdown in growth, which, combined with the ongoing economic uncertainty, means we have to consider the shape of our business and may mean we have to make some difficult decisions.” Rival accountant EY has also warned of job cuts and smaller bonuses as it battles with rising costs, while PwC has warned of possible pay freezes.

Broadway Partners, a fibre broadband infrastructure provider which called in administrators in May, is being sold to Macquarie and Tiger Infrastructure Partners, Sky News has learnt.

Celebrity chef Rick Stein has come under fire from some customers for charging £2 for mayonnaise, tartar sauce, gravy, curry sauce or mushy peas at Stein's Fish & Chips in Cornwall. The restaurant group said it had held prices steady since 2020, but had put them up recently due to soaring prices. A spokeswoman said: "Our homemade condiments using Rick Stein's special recipes are prepared in Padstow by our team of chefs. Food inflation, energy costs, along with rising wages, have driven up the cost of production significantly. We have reluctantly, along with many others, had to pass on some of the costs to our customers," she added. However, mixed in with a number of good reviews, some customers said they were "very disappointed" by the charges on the TripAdvisor website, the BBC says.

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