24thMay
News article

Government 'refuses to rule out windfall tax' on oil and gas companies

A Treasury minister has stated that the government 'cannot rule out' a windfall tax on gas and oil companies in order to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

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A Treasury minister has stated that the government 'cannot rule out' a windfall tax on gas and oil companies in order to help with the cost-of-living crisis.

Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that any action the government decides to take will be 'targeted and effective', and that it 'certainly will not rule out a windfall tax' to help tackle the increasing cost of living.

A handful of MPs have voiced their support for a windfall tax, putting pressure on the government.

Mr Clarke commented: 'We are looking at the situation with real urgency and intent, and it is against that backdrop that people can be reassured the government is on the case.

'We are not going to rush into action but at the same time nor are we going to sit here and not provide the support that is needed given the severity of the situation.'

23rdMay
News article

Ofgem proposals aim to avoid price shocks on energy bills

Household energy bills could change every three months under new plans proposed by the energy regulator Ofgem.

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Household energy bills could change every three months under new plans proposed by the energy regulator Ofgem.

Currently, gas and electricity bills are updated every six months and the increased frequency would aim to avoid price shocks. The plans would mean price falls and rises would be passed on to customers more quickly.

The price cap – which is the maximum price per unit that suppliers can charge customers – is updated twice a year in April and October.

Last month, a typical energy bill jumped from £1,277 to £1,971 and is forecast to rise a further 32% when the cap is revised again in October.

For people on prepayment meters, the price of energy has now risen by an average £708 to £2,017 a year.

Ofgem's Chief Executive, Jonathan Brearley, said: 'The proposed change would mean the price cap is more reflective of current market prices and any price falls would be delivered more quickly to consumers.

'It would also help energy suppliers better predict how much energy they need to purchase for their customers, reducing the risk of further supplier failures, which ultimately pushes up costs for consumers.'

20thMay
News article

CBI chief calls for cost-of-living help for people on lower incomes

The government should immediately support those hardest hit by the cost-of living crisis, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

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The government should immediately support those hardest hit by the cost-of living crisis, according to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The CBI also called for help for struggling firms with cashflow, as well as further investment to promote growth.

The business group says an emergency Budget is not necessary to announce support for the most vulnerable households, nor to outline steps the government can take to get firms investing now.

CBI Director General, Tony Danker, said: 'There's a lot of debate right now about whether the economy needs a boost, an emergency budget, or action on the cost of living. At the CBI we think it's vital that the government moves on two fronts right away.

'The first is to help people facing real hardship now; it's the moral underpinning of our economy and society. Recent surveys suggest more than one in ten households have skipped or had smaller meals in the past month because of a lack of affordability, while around half a million more households are expected to face choices between heating and eating. Putting pounds in the pockets of people struggling the most should not be delayed.

'Secondly, start stimulating business investment now – we will need to ensure that there is economic growth in the pipeline to avoid any downturn in our economy that could worsen or prolong the cost-of-living crisis.'

19thMay
News article

HMRC issues £14 million in penalties for minimum wage offences

HMRC issued 580 penalties totalling over £14 million for minimum wage offences during 2020/21, according to a report released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

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HMRC issued 580 penalties totalling over £14 million for minimum wage offences during 2020/21, according to a report released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The penalties given out for National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) offences have dropped by £4.5 million from the year before, which saw 992 penalties worth £18.5 million.

Last year, the Low Pay Commission (LPC) – which advises the government on minimum wage rates – released a report that said more needed to be done to build workers' confidence in the enforcement regime and to support employers to comply with the rules.

The BEIS's report says that HMRC has adapted its communications to make it clear to workers that they have the option to remain anonymous if they make a complaint, and that they can report a previous employer for minimum wage breaches.

It also says it will be more transparent about the most common minimum wage breaches it finds, which include deductions from workers' pay and unpaid working time, to help organisations remain compliant.

The report said: 'The BEIS therefore publishes an educational bulletin with each naming round to help raise awareness of minimum wage rules and improve compliance. Bulletins include analysis of the most common breaches in each naming round; examples to ensure understanding of how such breaches can be avoided; and links to the government's 'Calculating Minimum Wage' guidance for further details.'

18thMay
News article

Inflation hits 40-year high of 9%

Inflation has hit its highest level in 40 years amid the deteriorating cost-of-living crisis, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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Inflation has hit its highest level in 40 years amid the deteriorating cost-of-living crisis, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The rate shot up to 9% last month – its highest level since comparable readings in 1982.

Data released by the ONS showed a broad-based hike in prices for everyday goods and services during April, with almost three-quarters of the increase accounted for by the unprecedented 54% increase in the energy price cap which kicked in at the start of the month.

The highest prices on record for both petrol and diesel were other major factors.

Commenting on the data, Rain Newton-Smith, Chief Economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: 'Inflation was always likely to hit hard in April given the energy price cap increase.

'Looking ahead, inflation is likely to stay high, with a resulting historic squeeze in households' incomes and a tough trading environment for businesses.

'It is critical the government explores options to help people facing real hardship now, and support cashflow for vulnerable firms. Stimulating business investment is also crucial, to both plug the near-term gap in growth and to shore up the economy's potential to withstand future shocks.'

17thMay
News article

Charity warns lowest income households will wait longest for council tax rebate

National Energy Action (NEA) has warned that the poorest households in the UK will wait the longest for the government's £150 council tax rebate.

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National Energy Action (NEA) has warned that the poorest households in the UK will wait the longest for the government's £150 council tax rebate.

The rebate forms part of the government's response to rising energy bills and provides a payment of £150 to households living in council tax bands A – D. Payments started to be made from April 2022 and will not need to be paid back.

Eligible households that pay council tax via direct debit will see the rebate paid to their direct debit bank account. Households that do not pay council tax by direct debit will be invited to nominate a method to receive the payment.

NEA stated that typically the poorest households do not pay council tax by direct debit, either because they do not have a bank account or because their finances are managed on a more ad hoc basis.

Analysis of the 331 council tax billing authorities in England and Wales carried out by the BBC revealed that there is a 'clear split' in timings of payments for households that pay council tax by direct debit and households that do not.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association (LGA) commented: 'Some councils have begun making payments this month to allow software to be fully tested and to ensure April direct debit payments are not recalled and many are now also focusing on contacting those eligible who do not pay their council tax by direct debit.'

16thMay
News article

Almost 66,500 filed self assessment returns on 6 April

Nearly 66,500 taxpayers filed their 2021/22 self assessment return on the first day of the new tax year, according to figures from HMRC.

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Nearly 66,500 taxpayers filed their 2021/22 self assessment return on the first day of the new tax year, according to figures from HMRC.

In recent years, there has been an increasing number of 'early-bird' customers filing their completed self assessment tax returns at the start of the new tax year – almost 30,000 more customers filed their returns on 6 April this year, compared to 2018.

HMRC is encouraging others to change their filing habits and do it as soon as they can. Although many wait until nearer the annual filing deadline on 31 January, for some it is an opportunity to beat the last-minute rush and get it done as soon as they can, while they have the relevant information to hand.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC's Director General for Customer Services, said: 'You don't need to wait for the January rush to send us your tax return. More and more people are getting theirs out of the way early – search 'self assessment' on GOV.UK to get started.'

13thMay
News article

Pension regulator running spot checks on UK employers

Employers suspected of failing to meet their workplace pensions duties are being targeted with spot check inspections by the Pensions Regulator (TPR).

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Employers suspected of failing to meet their workplace pensions duties are being targeted with spot check inspections by the Pensions Regulator (TPR).

The majority of employers visited by TPR are those which have failed to make the correct pensions contributions for their staff. The compliance drive marks a return by TPR to larger scale in-person inspections targeting different areas across the UK following the lifting of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions earlier this year.

While TPR has continued with urgent ad-hoc inspections on employers suspected of serious breaches, its routine compliance drives were paused in response to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.

TPR's Head of Compliance and Enforcement, Joe Turner, said: 'Despite the challenges of the past two years, the majority of employers have continued to meet their responsibilities, including paying contributions in full on time and recognising that automatic enrolment is business as usual.

'But where we are aware that an employer is failing to do the right thing, we will take action to protect savers, including on-site inspections. This means we could be knocking on an employer's door in any part of the UK.'

12thMay
News article

Inflation takes its toll as UK economy contracts in March

The UK economy contracted by 0.1% in March as surging inflation took a toll on demand, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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The UK economy contracted by 0.1% in March as surging inflation took a toll on demand, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The monthly figure compares to no growth in February and 0.7% growth in January. The figure for the first quarter of 2022 showed growth of 0.8%, which was down from 1.3% in the previous three months.

The ONS data was released following the Bank of England's warning last week that a recession now looms large as a result of the cost-of-living crisis gathering pace.

Rain Newton-Smith, Chief Economist at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: 'The economy barely kept its head above the water during a volatile start to the year, but times look set to get that bit tougher.

'Cost pressures and rising prices have tightened their grip, with both businesses and households feeling the pinch. The end result is a weaker economic outlook.

'It's clear that the most vulnerable households and energy-intensive businesses may need further support, so the government should keep this under review.'

11thMay
News article

New law to protect access to cash announced in Queen's Speech

New laws to protect access to cash and help victims of financial scams were announced in the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament on 10 May.

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New laws to protect access to cash and help victims of financial scams were announced in the Queen's Speech at the state opening of parliament on 10 May.

The new Financial Services and Markets Bill will ensure the continued availability of withdrawal and deposit facilities across the UK.

The Bill will also enable the Payment Systems Regulator to require banks to reimburse authorised push payment (APP) scam losses, totalling hundreds of millions of pounds each year. This will ensure victims are not left paying for fraud through no fault of their own.

These measures form part of wider plans that the government says will maintain and enhance the UK's position as a global leader in financial services.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: 'We are reforming our financial services sector now we have left the EU to ensure it acts in the interests of communities and citizens, creating jobs, supporting businesses and powering growth across all of the UK.

'We know that access to cash is still vital for many people, especially those in vulnerable groups. We promised we would protect it, and through this Bill we are delivering on that promise.

'We are also sticking up for victims of financial scams that can have a devastating impact by ensuring the regulator can act to make banks reimburse people who have lost money through no fault of their own.'