Welcome to our cost of living blog, bringing you the latest news on help for households, energy prices and the economy – but also practical advice on saving money. Listen to our A Year Of The Cost Of Living Crisis, which follows the story of three families, while you scroll.
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The monthly cost of mortgage payments for some first-time buyers has doubled over the past year, a housebuilder has said as it warned about a slump in housing sales in recent months.
Persimmon revealed that its sale took a hit over the last three months of the year because of weaker customer demand.
Concerns over the economy, mortgage rates and the cost of living “weighed heavily on consumer confidence”, the British builder said in its latest trading update to investors.
It has been particularly tough for first time buyers to get on the housing ladder, having seen the government’s Help to Buy scheme end last year and borrowing costs soar for new home loans.
First time buyers make up about half of all Persimmon’s customers.
The builder said that a property costing £250,000 had an estimated monthly mortgage cost of £753 in March, based on a Help to Buy customer with a 5% deposit, a 75% loan-to-value mortgage at a rate of 1.53% over 25 years.
Whereas in December, the same property had an estimated monthly mortgage cost of £1,488, based on a buyer with the same deposit and mortgage term, but at a 95% loan-to-value and a much higher mortgage rate of 5.71%.
By Ed Conway, economics and data editor
Good news has been such a rare supply in economics recently that it’s worth dwelling on it when it arrives.
This morning, on Friday 13th of all days, the Office for National Statistics announced that the economy had grown by 0.1 per cent in November.
This is hardly especially strong gross domestic product growth, but it’s considerably better than what economists had expected: a 0.2 per cent contraction.
And it’s significant because of what it implies.
Unless the economy contracts by 0.4 per cent in December, the UK could avoid falling into technical recession.
This is no mean feat. We are faced with one of the biggest price shocks in modern record.
The majority of economists, including the Bank of England and Office for Budget Responsibility, assumed that the economy would shrink in the final quarter of the year and, given a recession is typically defined as two successive quarters of contraction, that would mean we had formally succumbed to the R-word.
It’s now quite plausible that Britain avoids that fate – for the time being at least.
That final clause matters because whether the UK falls foul of this somewhat arbitrary economic phenomenon, its economy is still barely growing.
Households are still squeezed and the squeeze is due to continue for some time to come. Much of the extra growth in November came courtesy of spending in pubs and hospitality during the World Cup.
Still, alongside other positive news – that wholesale gas prices are falling and that profits at many leading consumer-facing companies are holding up – this economic data might be the beginning of a more positive story for the UK economy.
Question now is how long that positivity lasts.
Megan Baynes, cost of living reporter says:
Up and down the country, people have been given £400 in energy support payments, but the catch is this is currently only available to those with a domestic energy supply contract.
But households who live off the grid, or who use alternative fuel, should qualify for government support – although how this is being rolled out is not yet clear.
I contacted the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to find out what support is available – and when you’ll be able to get your hands on it.
Provided you meet certain eligibility criteria – including being able to show proof of address – you should qualify for £600 in support.
This is made up of the Energy Bill Support Scheme alternative funding (£400) and the Alternative Fuel Payment (£200).
But, households in Scotland, England, and Wales that are eligible will need to apply for it and these applications open in January.
The Energy Bills Support Scheme Alternative Funding will provide support of £400 for energy bills to around 900,000 households without a domestic electricity supply.
I had a look and it seems like the portal to apply isn’t live yet, so you’ll need to keep an eye on the British government website.
Just be wary of scams when you are applying – don’t give out your details over email and text, and make sure you only apply through the official Gov.Uk website.
Are you living off grid and struggling with the cost of living? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Analysis by Investec suggests energy bills will drop to £2,478 on average from July due to a fall in wholesale gas prices.
Last week, consultancy firm Cornwall Insight predicted bills could settle at about £2,800 from July.
A fall in wholesale gas prices has helped ease predictions – although they are still much higher than before the start of the energy crisis in 2021, when households were paying about £1,200.
Under the government’s energy price guarantee, household energy prices are capped at £2,500 for a typical household.
However, there is no limit on the amount a household can be charged as this depends on usage.
From April, the cap will rise to £3,000 for a further 12 months.
The online gift retailer has warned staff it is planning to cut jobs, according to the Retail Gazette.
The company employs roughly 220 staff and says it has struggled as consumers are more conscious of spending during the cost of living crisis.
Chief executive Leanne Rothwell said the business has an “ambitious strategy” but needs to “ensure it is structured to mobilise us for success”.
“Over the next few weeks I will be working with our teams to organise ourselves differently. The shape of the business will change in some areas and it is likely that a number of people will leave the business,” she said.
By Megan Baynes, cost of living reporter
The cost of applying for, or renewing, a British passport will increase next month for the first time in five years.
From 2 February 2023, the fees will now be:
The cost gap between applying for a passport online compared to the post has grown – it will now be £10.50 cheaper to do it via the GOV.UK website, up from £9.50.
In a statement, the government said this would help the Home Office “move towards a system that meets its costs through those who use it, reducing reliance on funding from general taxation”.
It said the government does not make any profit from the cost of passport applications.
The fees will also contribute to the cost of processing passport applications, consular support overseas, including for lost or stolen passports, and the cost of processing British citizens at UK borders.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said the government will provide “an average of £3,500 support for every household” in 2023 and 2024 following the release of the latest GDP figures.
As we told you in our previous post, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures showing the economy unexpectedly grew by 0.1% in November.
Responding to the news, Mr Hunt said the government will “stick to the plan” to halve inflation and continuing growing the economy.
“We have a clear plan to halve inflation this year – an insidious hidden tax which has led to hikes in interest rates and mortgage costs, holding back growth here and around the world,” he said in a statement.
“To support families through this tough patch, we will provide an average of £3,500 support for every household over this year and next – but the most important help we can give is to stick to the plan to halve inflation this year so we get the economy growing again.”
By James Sillars, business reporter
The economy grew by 0.1% in November, partly aided by the football World Cup, according to official figures which call into question predictions the UK is already in recession.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed pressure on demand from the effects of high inflation but a boost from people packing pubs and bars to watch events unfold on the pitch in Qatar.
Economists had predicted a negative growth figure – of around 0.2%.
The figure for November came on the back of a positive growth reading the previous month, largely explained by activity getting back to normal after disruption to output from the late Queen’s death.
The additional bank holiday for the funeral in September saw most businesses close.
The Bank of England is among public bodies to have forecast that the UK fell into recession during the third quarter of 2022.
Welcome to our cost of living blog.
We’ll be bringing you the latest news on energy prices, inflation and the economy, along with practical advice on saving money, throughout the day.
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